BitDepth 469 - April 19

The ambitions of today are fueled by the hopes we hold for tomorrow. What do young people hope for today?
Whatever happened to the future?

According to Robert McCall, who paints for NASA, we should be beginning the process of building lunar bases right around now. Well, we haven't managed that, but The Matrix Online is almost ready to launch. Return to the Moon by Robert McCall from The Art of Robert McCall.

Somewhere along the line, the bureaucrats won. Dreams gave way to the cruelty of the practical and we set aside our capacity to imagine a better world in favour of dealing badly with our immediate past.
I grew up in a time of endless possibility. Men were walking on the moon with that goofy bounding gait, Star Trek was telling us that mankind would survive into the future with all its foibles intact (including a remarkable weakness for alien women) and the struggle would continue, elevated to another level of awareness.
Lobsang Rampa hadn't been exposed as a fraud and the oil boom was still to hit.

I wonder what young people of that innocent age look forward to now? I loved rock music when it was still full of the energy of new riffs piled on top of old blues traditions. Now even hip-hop and rap, once so primal and vital, has become cruelly cynical, flaunting the ironies in what its performers say and the way they live.
In the early days of this column, I wrote about a visit to the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, where the public areas were committed to a kind of museum sideshow, The blunt gray metals and shiny foils of early space flight enshrined in a rolling tour of an ageing space locker room that whisked visitors from one preserved spectacle to another.
Who would have believed that by 2001, our great odyssey would not be through outerspace but in digital innerspace, carving invisible pathways through the world, our discussions and evaluations piggy backing on digits without country or race.

Now we live in a time of compression, not expansion, in which distance becomes far less relevant than bandwidth and communication is tersely directional, not gestural.
In this world of convulsive, confusing change, I believe that violence becomes an indicator of how estranged people are becoming as they grow more acutely aware of the growing gaps between uninformed failure and educated success.
If you no longer understand the world in which you live, you can either sink into despair or hit it until it responds. The terrible tragedy that lurks just beyond tomorrow is just how much we need to learn in order to have that basic understanding.
Now the bleeding edge is everywhere. Pick up a new cellphone and realise that you've got to spend some time studying it before you can place a call. The learning curve is becoming steeper for all but the most menial of jobs and this country isn't doing nearly enough to prepare the children of today for the world of tomorrow.

We're teaching next year's fast food chefs and clerks, not unlocking the great minds we're going to need.
In a world in which borders are fictions policed by customs officers and politicians tending constituencies, it's language that poses the last barriers between peoples of different lands.
In that world, individuals will be measured by individual achievement and all of us will be graded on a global bell curve. If a certain percentage of people who are exposed to knowledge can become brilliant, then it's countries like China and India, fiercely beefing up their education systems and leapfrogging the inertia of embedded learning systems that will flood the world's voracious market for intellect and capability.
It is, in a very real sense, every man for himself and individual achievement is what's going to count in the world of the future and it's brilliant individuals working in deadly ninja brain teams who will chart the decades to come.

Trinidad and Tobago has always been very good at individual achievement. Think of Lara, Yorke, Minshall, Naipaul and more. But if we're going to be players in the future, the game has to be raised radically and fast and someone has to place inspiration high on the agenda before desperation becomes the default.
The future remains where it's always been. Just out of reach, tantalising with possibility before it slips into the churn of today and becomes the greasy remains of yesterday.
We have a chance still to slip free of these straitjackets of tradition and dare to dream of an insanely glorious tomorrow. All it takes is a dream and a wish for something not just better, but magnificent.
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