Two intellectual thinkers/philosophers/writers shared videos yesterday contemplating the new year, both with divergent but oddly similar messages pondering man's past, present, and future. One claims in the video description that:
In short, there are many reasons to be hopeful that 2014 might be the best year on record for humans...
Yeah, you over there.
I really enjoy watching John Green's channels on YouTube, of which there are many (vlogbrothers, crashcourse, mentalfloss, to name a few). But his video yesterday got me thinking hard about his tall claim.
Will 2014 really be the best year for humans yet?
Think about all the sci-fi stories you've read. Think about history. We may have been around a long time, and sure, technology has advanced exponentially, and with it quality of life for many people. But here's some other numbers to consider:
- The world has only been at peace for 8% of recorded history, and none of it recent (New York Times, 2003).
- China's stockpile of nuclear weapons numbered 240 as of 2011 (Bulletin of Atomic Scientists).
- In six Asian nations (Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Papua New Guinea), 1 in 4 men admitted to having raped a woman or girl (The Week, Sept. 27, 2013, p. 16).
- 77% of all American adults believe the values and morals of America are declining (The State of the Bible, 2013).
(John does acknowledge that these trends are unsustainable, so I'm not saying he's pie in the sky about it all.)
Based upon his 1994 book of the same name, Carl Sagan's video looks at history with a more critical eye, taking these very inconsistencies and putting them in the limelight.
(yes, this is the same question I asked for the last video)
First of all, sci-fi writers everywhere will be disappointed at Sagan's claim that there is "no hint" that there is any other form of life out there. Underneath both of these videos (and much of science fiction in general) is the assumption that human beings can solve all their problems and should. On the flip side, lots of sci-fi depicts a future in which man remains unchanged--essentially selfish, violent, and unrestrained. Too many stories to count rely on this to depict humanity's future failures and/or destruction.
Cautionary tales? Sometimes, sure.
True? Most likely.
Whole story? Let's discuss it.
In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
Something to think about.
I'm not a pessimist, and I'm not a humanist. Realist? Maybe. Here are a few artifacts that explain well where I'm coming from:
Jedd Cole is a professional writer and author of short speculative fiction. He resides in Ohio where he is completing a degree in Rhetoric & Professional Writing, crafting short stories in every time-nook he can find, all while frequenting the pages of imaginary worlds with his wonderful wife, Heather, and no pets. None.