Turmoil, Chaos, Division, Conflict?
The only time in recent history that the world went through anything resembling the drastic changes that have occurred in our lives since 2007, were the changes brought about due to the 2nd Industrial Revolution, the one that began around 1875.
At that time the way people lived, worked and played went through major disruptions, much like today. Oil, gas and electricity became widely used. Internal combustion engines were designed and built. They transformed the means of production and transportation of goods and people. The electric lights turned day into night for those who could afford them. People were moving away from their hard-scrabble farms and finding work in the factories in cities.
What resulted from those changes? A lot of people got rich, but a lot of people were exploited. In 1875 kings, emperors, and other dynasties, ruled countries and empires all over Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. By 1960, before the 3rd Industrial Revolution, which involved the introduction of computerized technology, there was only one queen left, and she was the young queen of England.
How well did that work out for everyone? Well, from 1875 to 1915, railroads, roads, cars, trucks, big locomotives, and even some planes were changing the world. But then they were all transformed into killing machines and used to blow apart young men from dozens of countries. That was followed by a world-wide pandemic, and then a decade of excess. The excess turned into the great depression that lasted until the next huge, destructive World War in which millions of civilians were killed, many from the use of nuclear bombs.
Also, the century was spent drilling for and burning fossil fuels which turned out to be a major cause of the destruction of our climate, and the continuing damage to the lives of almost every creature on Earth.
Due mostly to advances in digital technology since 2007, the lives of every creature on earth are again being drastically altered. The ways in which people live, work, play, meet, communicate, reproduce, and even die have been changing rapidly, with no end in sight.
Some people are thrilled by this while others are very upset and confused. It is difficult to adapt and cope when things are different every day. But, we all hope we can do a better job of anticipating what might be coming instead of reliving the mistakes of the 20th Century.
Just for calcification, and because I am running a discussion group for older-learners next week, I have attempted to list many of the disruptive changes that we have had to cope with over the last decade and a half. I am posting them here as a “open source” so that anyone can add the ones I have overlooked. My hope is that our societies will be able to do a better job of anticipating what will result. We can even use many of our new technologies to help us do that.
Below is my partial list:
— The rapid expansion of knowledge; it is doubling almost every day. How can anyone determine what is real, and has real potential? There seems to be almost as much false and distorted information coming at us from all directions. It makes coming to a conclusion difficult.
— Huge, disruptive changes in how people communicate, and receive all of that new knowledge.
— People who were oppressed, repressed and depressed for centuries are now, with the help of new technologies, successfully pushing hard to be included in all the benefits of the new world. There is open discontentment from those who had been the underclass for centuries, and who had been exploited to keep the rich and powerful fat and happy.
This includes BLM, Women at work, Women in Politics, Black women in politics, LBGTQ folks, Russian workers, the youth of Hong Kong, and the Arab Spring.
— These movements for equality and freedom of expression have created a backlash wherever they have begun to have an impact. Many authoritarian governments have taken over places where there had been the beginnings of democratic governments, or what had seemed like the most stable democratic government, the US. There are also racist and nationalist groups pushing back against those who are pushing for equality.
— Science and medicine are creating new way for people to live longer and healthier lives, at least for those who can afford it.
— Robots and Artificial Intelligence have altered or eliminated almost every job and profession in the developed world. The tedious jobs of low wage people will be done by machines. The more complex jobs that require thinking an analyzing, will be aided, or eliminated, by A I.
— Many human tasks have become homogenized and industrialized to the extent that there are toxins from plastics, oil, coal, heavy metals, hormones, and exotic chemicals in the air we breathe, the water we drink , the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the medicines we take. Plastic fills our oceans.
— Many aspects of our new lives are getting us sick and killing us. The suffering and dying is not evenly distributed over socio-economic groups, but it is affecting everyone.
— There are new definitions of families, of who can marry whom, who can be a parent, how to become a parent. That seems to bother some people.
— Too many people act is if they don’t notice, but aspects of Earth’s climate is changing rapidly, altering the way we all live. The oceans are warming, the trade winds may be changing. Many of the warmer areas on Earth may soon be too hot for farming, and even going out during the day. The intensity and frequency of storms, wildfires, plagues, and droughts continues to increase. This threatens more lives, property and stability, but any solution will require a great deal of cooperation, which so far has been totally lacking.
— The changes in political stability and in the environment has lead to huge migrations of people. People are leaving the hotter, drier areas and attempting to go to places that are more fertile and more stable. Will they go to Siberia, which is melting? Will the more stable countries let them in, or become destabilized themselves?
— Many of these people on the move are migrants seeking better lives. Many others are refugees, fleeing repression and persecution, with not place to go.
— The changes in the climate are affecting much more than human lives. Many species have lost their habitats and are dying out or attempting to move to colder climates. Many species of birds, insects, larger mammals, and fish are rapidly dwindling, or are already gone.
— These changes have created a new kind of wealth disparity, with different sources of extreme wealth replacing some of the long-held sources of wealth. In many places this has created conflicts between the old and new rich elites, with half of the population struggling and suffering on the sidelines.
— This has also created a huge health disparity, with the people with more resources living longer, healthier lives, while those who have less live lives full of stress, toxins, chronic diseases, and less access to good medical care.
The questions for our future are clear. If you are paying attention, there are many amazing, marvelous, new developments that can help all of us live longer, better, healthier, interesting, lives. But, who is going to get through this period of transition? How many will benefit? How many will be left out? Can we learn to plan, share, care and cooperate, or are we willing to let half of the humans on Earth suffer and die from rising temperatures and seas, more storms, plagues, wildfires, as the fortunate few hide on the high ground behind high walls?