Monday, February 17, 2020

What will the future hold?  

     It’s always tempting for a writer to extrapolate some current trend to explore where it might lead us. Horror wizard Stephen King did it to chilling effect in his 2006 novel Cell, for a good example, in which a mysterious pulse signal over the global cell phone network turns people into murderous monsters, a deft and often wry extrapolation built on our current global addiction to the devices—an addiction that is killing Americans at the rate of four or five thousand a year when we insist on using our ubiquitous phones while driving, even though we ought to know better. The story became a video on demand movie in 2016 starring John Cusak and Samuel L. Jackson.

     Plastics have been a boon in many ways, but they’re beginning to choke our oceans and harm sea life and bits of them have even lodged in most of our bodies. Plastics can be thoughtlessly discarded but they won’t go away. As our landfills bloat and our environment blooms with ugly and dangerous durable litter, what dark fate awaits our throw-away society? Recycling is only making an insignificant dent in the problem.

     Nations spend billions on armies and arms that could be far better spent eliminating plagues like cancer and heart disease and poverty and ignorance. Will our warrior instincts eventually turn to devour us in yet another global conflict that is far more devastating than ever?

     Will ignoring the human-caused warming of our only home in the vast universe and failing to take sufficient steps to halt and reverse it before it reaches an irreversible tipping point doom us to premature extinction?

     Will exploding world population outpace our ability to feed and care for and sufficiently educate the exponentially millions more humans being born every year on this finite planet with its dwindling resources, or will we finally take aggressive and effective measures that begin to control it? The city of Tokyo already has thirty-seven million inhabitants crammed together (including the entire metro area). Shanghai 25 million. Mexico City 21 million. Beijing 20 million. New York City with its 8.6 million is only 36th on the list of the planet’s most populous cities. India has one and a third billion people and that figure is rising at an alarming rate. Birth control in impoverished Africa is a rarity. China has another billion and a half people and in some of their cities they’re choking on their own smog, but they’ve at least managed to slow down the growth rate somewhat.

     Any of these subjects are worthy of imaginative treatment by futuristic writers.


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