Rollin' Like Sisyphus

The Next Ten Years — Sección Uno

Posted in A Chronicle Of Decline, The Next Ten Years by Huckleberry on March 26, 2014

Rome sacked Carthage over less.

Rome sacked Carthage over less.

It’s no real secret that the world we find ourselves in today is markedly different than the one we knew yesterday and the one we anticipate tomorrow. Massive, long-term “predictions and prognostications” posts like this are a dime a dozen, and about as useful as a day-old newspaper when you don’t even have a fish to wrap.
Still, though, such forward reflections may be useless, but they have merit, and I’m about to dive down that hole once again, fitted with nothing but a snorkel and a spear.
Make of that what you will.
As I’ve been writing this, since just before New Year’s Eve, it’s become somewhat unwieldy. I’m going to break it up into sections so that I can give it proper treatment, for once in my life.
Let’s call this the Pre-Amble of Assumptions.
Before I begin, let me lay out the five essential themes, or perhaps factors, that I will use to inform my speculation.

    1) We’re getting dumber. Incredibly dumber. Every year that goes by we forget more than we learn, we become further removed from the kind of knowledge of fundamentals that allows for true innovation rather than refinement; as subsequent generations become further removed from what we can term “peak knowledge”* familiarity with fundamental principles disappears and will at some point have to be re-engineered in order to be restored.
    2) We’re getting poorer**, or at least it’ll seem that way when the dust settles. Simply pointing to digits on a ledger and saying “we’re rich!”, sadly, doesn’t make it so. Many points of history are debatable, especially when you’re talking about political or social trends, the underlying assumptions behind them, even the veracity of certain obscure events or documentation. But the two things that history is phenomenally good at documenting*** are wars and money. And to my knowledge, history shows no example, not one, of any political or social structure that has attempted an economic scheme like ours and enjoyed any success.
    3) We’re becoming increasingly divisive without actually dividing****. You can thank human nature, you can thank post-post-modern deconstructionism, you can thank the GOP’s Big Tent or the Democrats’ Coalition of the Unemployed, but the more our social order has tried to cram people together, the more those people resist. And it isn’t just about race. There are more ways to divide Us then there are members of Us to begin with, and many of them sometimes are and sometimes are not mutually exclusive.
    4) We’re getting more impatient. The success and ultimate propagation of a beneficial social order rests on saving things today for the benefit of tomorrow. Whether we will need the surplus to survive an unforeseen problem, or if we can sell that surplus for profit, or simply pass that surplus along to the next generation, the concept of “saving” is one of the most important paradigms of perspective in the human experience, because it is one of the few that must be actively fostered. Whether it’s to save a can of preserves for the winter, save a wad of cash for down the road, or save an important family heirloom to provide hereditary continuity, this is the only mindset that can stave off most, if not all, of the base ills of the human condition. Tomorrow will come, whether you plan ahead or not.
    5) We’re already standing amid the ruins of our own design. Following decades of the best and brightest trying to break down the foundations of social order on an endless parade of grounds, we shouldn’t be at all surprised that they succeeded. We asked for this. We agitated for this. Yet many assumed Step 2 would be the continuation of all the things that make the social order shiny and cool while gutting all the things under the hood that actually make it work. We’re only at the beginning of grappling with this realization.

So this is the basic outline. Each of these sections (at least) will get their own post, and expect much cross-referencing between them. I also expect this series to examine several possible scenarios of where we’re going based on where we’ve been, if and to what extent any of this can or could have been avoided, and the one big, huge whopping development that can stave off all of it, if the best of the best of us is smart enough to get us there before the precipice.
And away we go.
* I don’t like this term, but for lack of a better one, here we go.
** Sure, most of the existing “wealth” is illusory, but hey. Easy come, easy go.
*** At least in comparison to everything else.
**** Yet.


6 Responses

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  1. El Borak said, on March 26, 2014 at 13:53

    Word. Maybe it’s part of #5, but it seems to me that we are moving faster as well – the waves of idiocy and decay and disorder arrive ever more quickly and ride higher up the beach. Just watch out when they seem to peacefully withdraw.

    What I find most interesting is the massive conversion of our idea of the future that has taken place since Star Wars came out. I don’t know what those in 1850 expected from the future – probably not much, as no one bothered to write it down. But as soon as Science was deified, it squeezed out science fiction and the whole future was Meet George Jetson and life on Mars and space battles won by the best video game player in the whole trailer park.

    I’m not sure exactly when that vision failed – or rather, when we came to grok that it failed – but we now smile sardonically at that future. Those who still mosh in the SF pit are more concerned with anuses than Uranus and their readers have moved on to dystopianism, zombies, and the ruins of cities burned out by a plague that began as a vaccine for pyorrhea or something.*

    We are not only growing dumber and poorer, we have lost our optimism. Maybe it was always unfounded, and we are on the verge of discovering all that we have wrought. Or maybe we’ll hit bottom 5 minutes after that discovery. I don’t know. Either way It’s bound to get here sooner or even sooner.

    * A more accurate expectation than flying skateboards, I’ll wager.

    • Huckleberry said, on March 27, 2014 at 13:15

      Yes, it is going faster. More people are catching on even if they aren’t catching wise, feeling the tide wash out with their guts rather than their reason.
      I think we’ve always thought about “the future” in a base sense, as every adventure story is about exploration at its core, and the point of exploration is at its heart an attempt to grasp the future before your competition does. The science that preceded and reciprocated the Industrial Revolution was in part simply a vehicle to take that adventure story and put it on the sea, then under the sea, then into the sky, then into space.
      Also, while sciency fiction wasn’t a household word in 1850, and fiction of any sort was reserved for the dilettantes, that date was only a couple of years away from the beginning of Jules Verne’s literary career, and a good couple of decades past Frankenstein.
      True, we haven’t seen genuine, unabashed optimism like did in the beginning of the 20th century* before or since, but on a fundamental level, I posit that anyone who can even manage to get out of bed in the morning possesses a fair measure of optimism.
      An interesting note, too, about the stories that we tell and when we tell them. In periods of societal flows, our stories are mostly about going out to meet the alien on his own turf. In periods of ebbs**, the alien comes to us, invades us, threatens explorer and landlubber alike. And this is true as far back as there were stories, I wager, before anyone bothered to write stuff down that wasn’t purely functional or academic.
      The one central thing, though, is the Big Thinkers of the 20th century that engineered marvels, and took us from balsa-wood gliders to Tranquility Base in half a century are as rare a breed as the Founding Fathers were – a generation of genius that struck at the right time in the right place that likely won’t come along again for a good long while.
      Optimism goes out with the tide because the acts of preservation are distinctly rearward facing.
      We know which way our backs are turned.

      * Even the 1950s, bright with unabashed giddiness, was laden with fear of a future comprised of communists and nuclear obliteration that simply didn’t hinder the Futurists.
      ** H.P. Lovecraft not withstanding.

  2. Doom said, on March 26, 2014 at 21:17

    El Borak hits on something that I saw. Yeah, it is coming faster, but that wasn’t it. That actually fits with what you are writing.

    I think it is the notion of what people expected from the future. Since I was a kid, there was this deep seeded notion that tomorrow would be better. Because science. Well, science, and tech, can do much. But they require energy. More energy than men can put out. And, while we do have vast reserves yet, it is becoming more difficult to produce, on many fronts. Economic, engineering, and even environmental. I’m not a tree hugger, but I do know that cutting down all the trees at once is not a good idea, k?

    The thing is, beyond the energy issues, people started becoming aware of the fact that science wasn’t God. And not even God is what most people want to believe. He is a loving Father, but a rough necked bastard of a Father. Sink or swim, or fuck off, basically. Heck, He might even kill us, most of us. No problem. Of course, in the depths of things, life isn’t as important as a soul, but try telling that to people who believe in science yet can’t do calculus or understand stats enough to know most of them are false? Actually it works for them, just not when their lives are added to the balance.

    Oh, what I mean is… people no longer believe in that utopian scientific future. They see that no matter how easy tech can make life… first… only the rich will get rich off of it… and second, even if the rich cover the poor through their manipulations, advancements, and automation, men are still men and will do what men do… evil, sometimes good, often just survive at whatever cost. It’s the lack of faith in improvement through advancement that is causing the elders to stop feeding the young the things that will make them go beyond what the elders are, the young to not be interested or willing to work hard to push anyway, and the rest of us to just say “meh”.

    It’s a mess. It’s not going to be pretty. It might be terminal, world-wide, from a number of causes, including God, the four horseman, the devil, and really our own evils. Or… it might just be one more spring forward, fall back, session. The world has never been this big, or done this all at once, before, is all. Popcorn. Oh, and I’m adding peanuts to my list. Damned tasty, and if things heat up, a little extra roasting is just fine. 🙂

    • Huckleberry said, on March 27, 2014 at 13:18

      The world has never been this big, or done this all at once, before, is all

      This is definitely so.

  3. Doom said, on March 26, 2014 at 21:20

    Do I talk too much? Yeah, never mind. I do.

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