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Have times really changed?

Mar 4, 2012 - By Randy Tucker

You hear a lot of rhetoric these days from the fringe political elements. One of the most popular is, "How will you face your grandchildren if you vote for... (Fill in the blank with your least favorite person)."

While the statement is pathetic on its face, think about it for a minute. When was the last time your grandparents were unable to face you for voting for Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower or even Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon or Reagan? The answer is always the same: never.

People don't think that way. Extremist pundits love to utter those phrases, but people capable of thinking for themselves quickly cut through the party line and learn to take such rhetoric for what it is.

Still, the thought of the condition of the world when you were a child can be an interesting one.

Think of your children, grandchildren or even great-grandchildren who are starting kindergarten this fall.

That little 5-year old child will retire somewhere around 2070. 2070? Sounds like something from a science fiction film, doesn't it?

While "experts" will be quick to describe the world they'll live in, the truth is that they really don't have a clue.

The "Baby Boomers" began retiring recently. What predictions would futurists have made about the world of today way back in 1946 when the boomer generation began?

You might remember a few of them. Personal helicopters, flying cars, magnetic roads with cars driving themselves, permanent bases on the moon by 1970, exploration of the outer planets by 1995, meals that cooked themselves, kitchens that cleaned without human hands ever getting involved, and hundreds of other miracles that never happened.

What did happen was a polio vaccine, a miracle drug that saved millions from a crippling disease and that eased the anguish of millions of nervous parents each summer. Microwave ovens, cable television, satellite radio, organ transplants and personal computers were only anecdotally mentioned in science fiction stories.

The miraculous tri-corders and wireless communicators Mr. Spock and Capt. Kirk used in "Star Trek" 45 years ago have come to reality in smart phones, Ipads and other devices.

The world has changed precipitously, and many would have you believe that children have as well.

News media searching for ever more sensational murders, abuse cases and abductions brought unprecedented levels of fear to mothers. A pedophile or serial killer lurks around every corner in the minds of overzealous parents. A terror of everything has created a generation of pampered, overweight people increasingly incapable of making a decision for themselves, much less holding a steady job or contributing to society.

Who would have predicted that?

If we look back to 1912 and try to predict the future for groups of children in 2012, what would we have missed?

Geniuses such as H.G Wells and Jules Verne were quite accurate in their depiction of future technology, but they missed the day-to-day changes that affect common people.

Predicting world wars is one thing. By 1912 the signs were everywhere. Predicting the rise of the Nazi party and a world almost ruled by ruthless totalitarian racists was quite another.

In 1912 Hitler was a frustrated 23-year old art student. Who could have predicted the madness his demented view of the world would create?

Think about the world the 5-year old of 1912 was born into. In 1907 incredibly wealthy "robber barons" had their way with America.

Corporations stomped on the common man. Comprehensive health care was non-existent, unemployment was high, living conditions were cramped, and immigration was the major concern of nearly every working class adult. Politicians preyed on the fears and insensibility of the masses. Voters were manipulated, and even bought and sold by the highest bidder.

In retrospect, though, how much has really changed?

One of my favorite "Star Trek" episodes remains "Space Seed." The episode premiered in 1967 and featured Khan Noonien Singh. Khan was a genetically engineered "superman" who survived the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s (hmmm... did I miss those?) by escaping into space in a state of suspended animation.

Before Kirk cheats and ultimately defeats the genetically engineered super villain, Khan utters an interesting phrase.

"Captain, although your abilities intrigue me, you are, quite honestly, inferior. Mentally, physically. In fact, I am surprised how little improvement there has been in human evolution. Oh, there has been technical advancement, but, how little man himself has changed."

The message is clear. Events change, technology rampages on, but people, particularly children, don't change.

The same quirks that annoy and enamor us today will have the same effect on humans 200 generations in the future.

Futurists don't spend much time on something as mundane as the human condition, but in the end, what else matters?

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