I was listening to an online discussion about the “approaching apocalypse” if the world does not immediately change its behavior. This is by no means the first time I have heard such dire predictions. In some ways, scientists have been predicting a man-made world-end for decades. Einstein and many of his colleagues were terrified by the power available to mankind via nuclear bombs. I wouldn’t dare get into a discussion about the value, positive or negative, of nuclear energy. I simply want to point out that people of high standing in the world community have been warning of world scale tragedy for a very long time.
Recently, there has been a great deal of talk around the world about the collapse of healthcare systems, due to the tremendous number of elderly people. I was speaking some time ago with a young lady, explaining that world economics have changed. When I was young, there was an expectation that grandpa and grandma would pass away in their 60s to 70s. Their belongings would then be passed down to their children who would use that money to help their own children, i.e. the grandchildren. Today, a 70-year-old is considered young and may even have a life expectancy of another 30 or more years. Why? Why has this change happened?
In the midst of all of the negative talk about our world, many people seem to forget that the “problem” of so many elderly people, is due to improved public health, improved medications, vaccinations, better critical care and more. People are living longer because cardiac angiography allows doctors to stop a heart attack from destroying parts of the heart, which otherwise would have led to death before the age of 70. Due to this technology, people even in their 80s can benefit from an angiography and continue to live many more years. In other words, it is specifically our success in advancing many elements of our world that has led to the abundance of elderly individuals.
World hunger continues to be a daily tragedy, ignored by the vast majority of the world. But obesity is becoming more commonplace in parts of the developing world because of the increased availability of food and the money to buy it. Admittedly, the food choices may not be ideal and the final result ends up being obesity and diabetes. But once again, the reason that diabetes may be increasing in certain areas is because food is now available. If I had a choice between being chronically hungry and even starving to death, I would welcome obesity and diabetes. Of course, we want to find a solution to both. But we are on the way. Increased rates of diabetes are to an extent the sign of success in world food availability. So strangely enough, this is a positive thing, even if it has negative repercussions.
In the near future, we will be witnessing the kinds of miracles that I have talked about many times throughout my blog. At some point in the next few decades, fusion power will finally become a reality. This will fundamentally change our entire lives. The cost of energy will drop dramatically. Many people understandably see this as a very positive thing. Of course, there will be hundreds of thousands to millions of people who will lose their jobs because oil is no longer as effective an energy source. Our world will be better off because of the decrease in fossil fuel use. But there will be far more people who do not have a job and are thus potentially at risk for poverty. Each positive move has repercussions. But overall, the world is moving in a positive direction, not a negative one.
Within the same few decades, we will be 3-D printing food, as I have discussed in a previous blog post. There will no longer be the need to plant and pray, hoping for food to magically appear from the ground. A drought will no longer mean children dying of starvation. For relatively little money, people will be able to buy the raw materials that a 3-D printer will transform into healthy foods. Of course you could ask, where will these former farmers make their money? What types of employment will still be available in a few decades from now, when computers and robots are doing most if not all of the labor? That is a great question. And it is a question that should be dealt with as best as it can, in the present day. But finding a solution for hunger cannot be seen as a negative step, even if the repercussion is that many people might lose their jobs.
I could continue with many more examples, but I think the point is clear. Life is by no means a simple equation. Every positive move we make has real repercussions which may be quite negative and very global. But that should not stop us from continuing to push forward. On a global scale, there are many many indicators that show that our lives are far better than they were 50 years ago. With all of these improvements, have come many new problems. And as we fix these problems, new problems will arise. That seems to be our fate. Nevertheless, there is no question in my mind that I would rather be living today than at any other time in history. And I suspect that in 50 years from now, should I still be alive, I will very much appreciate living in that future time, versus our present day world.
“When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it, only after you’ve had your technical success.”
J. Robert Oppenheimer
Thanks for listening
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