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The pace of human enterprise is not constant. Change is so fast that policy makers and governments are way behind the curve. Climate change is only one example. The result is that we’re overwhelmed. John and Jane Doe are grasping to find any form of security in their lives. The result is alienation, polarization and cynicism — none of which contribute to social continuity.

Photo: W. Douglas Smith

Photo: W. Douglas Smith

The global population has grown exponentially since the industrial revolution. If we apply the law of exponential numbers, there are more geniuses alive today than have existed in the combined history of our species. That would suggest that the human potential has also increased dramatically. There is solid ground for hope.

Today the sum-total of human knowledge is not doubling every century or even every decade; but every 13 months. According to IBM and “the internet of things,” we will soon reach what Buckminster Fuller called the “knowledge doubling curve” every 12 hours. EVERY 12 FREAKING HOURS!

How do we worker bees keep up with that? I’m still trying to learn basic functions on my new cell phone. No sooner do I master the basics than it beeps that there is another upgrade to install.

We should be optimistic about our ability to solve the obstacles to a promising future. At the same time, we are far less optimistic about humanity’s willingness to address those obstacles. Most of us just want enough tranquility to enjoy life and pursue happiness without having to play “catch up” all the time.

Just where the hell is all this taking us? Where are we going? These are dangerous, confusing and frustrating times. Herman Wouk wrote in The Caine Mutiny (1951); “When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.” That was insanity.

It is our failure to dream of a future we want that inhibits us from achieving it.

The closest we can come to predicting the future is to invent it. We aren’t doing that today. Perhaps if we looked farther down the road we might be able to steer more comfortably with fewer surprises. If we work toward the best scenario, much of that bad will take care of itself.

Let’s take a look at a few things that should bring that future into clearer focus. The following is a list of real things that are taking place in science, technology and the business community today.

It’s hard to get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going. Anywhere but here is not a destination.

What is the world we want? Allow your mind to dream and imagine a world filled with the things listed above. You may be surprised how universal those dreams are. In those dreams is the common ground to end the petty bickering. If we look ahead instead of at the insults of the past, then we can set a better course toward a future we can all believe in.

Science is the tool that will capture the future we all want. Science doesn’t yield to insult or emotion, but constantly seeks to clear the path into the unknown.

Science is the dream catcher.

Join the March for Science on April 22nd, 2017.

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4 Responses

  1. Dan Parker says:

    I love seeing what science can achieve, and I love that the sum-total of human knowledge is doubling every 13 months. But let’s not ignore the elephant in the room. Emotions, and not knowledge, are what carry the day for most people, and those emotions show few signs of advancement. If science is to save the day, the only way it will do so is by inventing a better human.

  2. W. Douglas Smith says:

    Dan, I usually describe your observation like this: We are Cro Magnon in the cyber age. We are essentially unchanged biologically from the first Homo sapiens, 200,000 years ago (though perhaps a little less fit). The pace of change has left us crowded beyond our intellectual capacity to maintain social coherence (most say about 150 contacts is all we can handle). We can count but exponential numbers are nearly impossible for us to comprehend. We can anticipate a few hours, days and perhaps even years ahead with diminishing capability; but multi-generational anticipation is as difficult as quantum physics for the average person. That is exactly why we need science to liaison human capability and understanding with the pace of modern life.

  3. Frank Jones says:

    I am pleased to see the evidence of your strong commitment to life today and in the future. though not a “scientist” by training, I get it. I am involved in a variety of issues in the social justice realm, but, am always satisfied that receiving a message from Doug Smith.

    • W. Douglas Smith says:

      And your work with the United Nations Association is also appreciated. Stay well and stay in the fight for justice and equality.

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