Will anything deter us from the future?

Fear of the future is an immutable human condition. Every generation experiences it. As we get older, we push more ardently against change; we suppose everything that will come is a direct threat to that which is. We remember our childhoods as the enshrined golden years when our world-identity was formed – when laughter was more common, friendship and family more absolute and communities more insular.

That’s why we vote anything that promises the past – be it Brexit or Trump – and why our entertainment culture is so voraciously nostalgic. The past was simple; the future is complicated.   

Yet nothing deters the future (time’s arrow only moves forward). Anxiety of it is natural, but its onset is inevitable, bound in a ceaseless flow. We can try to hold onto the past, anxious for what’s just beyond the next bend, but still we float on. Change is transition, not an event. Unless we’re aware of what we do today, we can’t hope for a different result in 10 or 50 years.

We’re caught in a paradox. We fear a future operated through technology, but we’re at odds to change it. We wait for a watershed moment to draw the first battle lines between technology’s advancement and humanity’s wellbeing, but such an event is far from guaranteed. It’ll take a new awareness – a denial of programming – and a cultural shift away from the acquisition of money as the modus operandi of humanity. 

Money is both our how and why – our fuel and our purpose. It’s an addiction because we cannot exist outside its influence (or at least, it’s very hard to do so). So even as a tech-dominated future looms before us, wrapped in grotesque dystopian visions, we’ll still fall into its cold, metallic embrace. We’ll dismiss the warning signs with the selective awareness of a smoker browsing cigarette packets, omitting the details that don’t fit our current narrative.

We’re resistant to talk about technology in negative terms. For most, tech’s progressive mission is unquestionably brilliant, and its exploration is the work of capitalist heroes. To become enormously wealthy through creation is the dream we sell to our children. There are those that innovate for the genuine wellbeing of humanity – for example, in space exploration – but these are a minority. For most, it’s about satisfying a need by creating a need, and entering ourselves into the annals of entrepreneurial history. Too often, we measure tech’s worth by its ubiquity, popularity and success: principles that determine market value and none other.

Many will dismiss the anxiety surrounding tech as those found in every generation. Life is scarier in our imagination (and we’re great at imagining the worst-possible tomorrow). And we adapt quickly. Corporations were scary, but we adapted.

Yet the question of sustainability remains. The more we’re removed from our natural self, the more we’re pulling an elastic band. It could go on forever or another generation – but when it snaps, it’ll snap hard. Change requires desire for change, which can only be found in the present day, when we decide that profitability should no longer be the sole determinate of viability and ‘worth’.