Bill Coughlan, Futurist

I had a rather unusual dream last night. I was placed into suspended animation for 50 years (the details of both plot and scientific plausibility frequently being absent in my dreams) and awoke into a different world. What made it unusual, however, was that it was not nearly as unfamiliar as I might previously have imagined. Sure, the details were altered, the sitcom stars of today had aged notably (my wife, of course, looked exactly as she had before my slumber), but all in all, the world seemed perfectly navigable.

All right, some details were conveniently omitted — I appeared to suffer no remorse at having missed my daughters’ childhood, for example — but overall, it started me thinking: Just how “alien” will the world of tomorrow be? We hear constant reminders of how much the world is changing, and how that rate of change is increasing exponentially (the “Jumping Jesus” phenomenon, as humorously articulated by guerilla ontologist Robert Anton Wilson). But as to the moderately technically savvy among us (a community to which I assume most readers here belong), just how lost would we truly be?

Much is made of the inability of seniors, for example, to handle a more technological world. But how much of that is our natural inability to adapt to change as we get older and our brains become more “hard-wired”? Would not those who can adapt at the normal rate similarly be able to adapt to a more dramatic shift? In fact, perhaps I spoke too soon in limiting my focus to the technically savvy. Certainly the more technology-averse among us would suffer the less — the denizens of Deliverance can’t handle today’s technology as it is; what would have changed for them? And those between the extremes require varying degrees of assistance with certain aspects of technology — are we to assume that those avenues will have disappeared?

Of course, this is all oversimplification. And naturally, larger issues could radically alter my hypothesis. Should the world evolve into either 1984 or Blade Runner, then basic survival becomes a more grueling task. And in any case, such a transition wouldn’t be without extraordinary difficulty (owing 50 years of back taxes, not having current identification, and so on). But it’s certainly worth challenging the all-too-common assumptions we hear on a daily basis.


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