When the Future Failed
May 8, 2011
As a member of the baby boom generation I was amazed at the vision of the future as seen in Disney’s Tomorrowland. In the near future we would be flying in air cars or at least traveling in vehicles that drove themselves. Building on the miracle of penicillin medical science would vanquish infectious diseases; chemicals would end pestilence and let agriculture provide an end to hunger worldwide. Nuclear reactors would provide the clean energy at a price too low to meter. Automation and robots would finally free humans from drudgery and tedium, allowing us all to purse happiness through arts and science to improve our minds, bodies, and spirit. After all, we never saw anyone mopping the decks of the Starship Enterprise. This Utopian vision had one fatal flaw that was never revealed. All those manual laborers, be they file clerks or factory workers, would never be simply liberated and supported to follow their muse. No, the vast economic savings would not be shared with them, but rather funneled to wealthy. In place of this grand future the displaced were now to be given limited unemployment “benefits” while they pursed not happiness, but their next job. The mantra from the political elite became “Retrain Yourself”. No time for learning nor enlightenment, but only retraining for a job that technology had yet to obsolete. The direction to file clerks was become computer programmers and to factory workers become computer repairmen. Mankind now serving the machine, that stood the future Utopia on its head. No leisure for you, move along. Unpaid vacations and hope for longer hours to make ends meet. A result of these workers being displaced governments no longer derived revenues from income or sales taxes, while they were expect to provide the “benefits” and the retraining. But that’s a topic for the future.