Unless we succumb to the forces of chaos and folly, the transition to a planetary civilization is inevitable, the end product of the enormous, inevitable forces of history and technology beyond anyone’s control.
I ran across a book at the JFK airport bookstore recently and had time to only glance through it. When I returned home, I found it at Woodward Library. In his book The Physics of the Future, Michio Kaku, aquantum physicist, writes about science and human destiny over the next hundred years. Although I don’t expect to be around for the next hundred years, or even the next fifty, I thought it might be interesting to see what he predicts based on his interviews with scientists hard at work shaping our future technology.
Kaku surprised me in the Introduction with his conclusion that people have not changed all that much over the past hundred thousand years. We are not different anatomically from our ancestors. He sees our wants, dreams, personalities, desires and thinking as not much different from our ancestors either. He calls this the Cave Man Principle.
Despite the marvels of modern communications technology, we still want to see things with our own eyes and talk with people face to face just as we have over the past several thousand years. Concerts, theater and travel have not given way to instant televised, computerized or smart phone images as some have predicted. If we have not changed in the past hundred thousand years, where are we headed in the foreseeable future?
Once it took almost all our time and energy just to survive. Technology has given us something our ancestors did not enjoy, leisure time. But how will we use our increased leisure? Will we use it to become more self-indulgent and consumption oriented than we already are? What is the alternative? We can head in a more productive direction and use our energy to better understand ourselves and each other.
Kaku reminds us that our brains think in symbols. Words, images and gestures convey our thoughts, fears, needs and wishes. Lately, with limited resources, we are tempted to put the arts on the shelf in favor of the sciences in our schools. The reality is that the advance of technology is worthless without the ability to understand each others’ inner selves. Through the arts, we explore ways to express to each other what it means to be human.
Perhaps someday our technology will find a way for us to communicate with each others’ minds directly. In the mean time, we have the arts to help us share the meaning of our lives through images dance and music when words fail us or when they need a little help. I am waiting to see what you will bring to the future.
Life Lab Lessons
- What does being human mean to you?
- What did it mean to your ancestors?
- What does it mean to your fellow humans?
- What can you contribute to the world community?
- Find constructive ways to share your humanity with others.