Painful Truth: A reason to live a long life

The first news story I remember is the Challenger disaster, in 1986.

Earlier this year, SpaceX managed to successfully launch and make a vertical powered landing of one of its boosters. It landed on an autonomous spaceport drone ship (a robot barge) named Of Course I Still Love You.

The future is weirder than anyone in the late 1980s could have ever guessed.

In the 1980s, the popular imagination saw government-sponsored space flight as part of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and its communist dependencies.

The Cold War is dead, but we’re afraid of capitalist China and the oft-topless former KGB head of an oligarchic Russia.

As of today, the shuttle program is defunct, but NASA is working on a new generation of vehicles, while private rockets and space tourism efforts are expanding the possibilities of orbital, and possibly interplanetary, flight.

I want to live a long, long life. If medical technology allows me to live healthily past 100, I’ll be very glad to hit that century and see how many more years I can eke out on the far side.

I’m in my late 30s now, so hopefully I’ve got two thirds of my life, at least, still ahead of me.

So what happens next?

Weird stuff.

If you’re old enough to read this column, the volume of strange stuff that has happened during your lifetime is already pretty high. Presidential candidate Donald Trump, Pokémon Go, smartphones, autonomous cars, cheap flying drones, Brexit, and Weird Al finally getting a hit record.

In the 1970s, Alvin Toffler wrote Future Shock, about how people would react to a rapidly changing world with confusion and panic.

Now we live in future shock. It washes through us and our lives are made stranger, but not necessarily worse.

There’s plenty about the future to alarm us. Global warming. Unfrozen Siberian reindeer anthrax. Malicious hackers. CRISPR gene editing. Printable handguns. The dark net.

But for the most part, I think we might actually be doing okay. I think we might actually survive.

The question is, how? And what will we do with ourselves if we fix all those problems and head off the worst of the threats?

That’s what I want to see. I want to live a long, long life, so that I have a front-row seat to the show that is the 21st Century.

Hush now. The overture is just about finished. The main event is about to begin.


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