This past weekend I was on a hunting trip in the marshy forests of south Georgia. As I was jostling down the dirt roads on a trailer with several other hunters, I thought, “Wow, this is 2019 and here we are, doing what people have been doing for millennia.” The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that I wasn’t doing exactly what people have been doing for millennia. Yes, going hunting is as old as time, but my circumstances were quite different than those who lived just a few decades ago: I had checked into the hunt online, I had cell phone service even miles away from the nearest town, I could take pictures with my phone, and my clothes, tent, gun, and supplies were all made with materials that would sound like something from science fiction fifty years ago.
This also got me thinking: when does the future arrive? Media, entertainment, and scientists have been painting a picture of the future that almost never lines up with reality when it arrives. Have you ever seen 2001: A Space Odyssey? It wasn’t meant to be a blueprint for life at the turn of the century, but I’m sure moviegoers in 1968 thought that at least some of the fantastic scenarios in that movie would come to pass when the new millennium arrived. Of course, now we know better, but we’re still captivated by visions of life in the mid- or late-21st century. The far future is fun to imagine as well but I think most people are interested in a future that will conceivably come about in their lifetimes.
One thing I have learned as I have lived through a few future “arrivals” is that technology changes while life remains relatively the same. People want to eat good food, have fun, be comfortable, indulge in carnal pleasures, and live as long as possible. This has been the human condition since creation, and this is how God designed us. There have been some seismic shifts in history, especially with the advent of industrialization and now digital technology, but life more or less continues as it always has. Futurists talk of this grand era where everyone is connected and we’re all sharing in one global consciousness and blah blah blah. The truth is that people just want to use the advanced technology available to them for their own goals and comfort. The technology inside a smartphone is mind-boggling, and people use it to take better quality selfies and upload them more quickly. This isn’t a condemnation; it’s just an observation. I grossly underuse the technology available to me, and I really don’t care. I don’t feel the need to drastically alter my life to fit into the “future” I’m supposedly living in, and neither should anyone else. If someone does want to live a futuristic life, that is all fine and dandy, but it shouldn’t be surprising when the train of humanity continues to ride on familiar tracks.
One key feature of the future is that we are less and less aware of how technology is shaping our lives, and this is not something new. What is fresh and exciting and possibly scary for one generation will be normal and indispensable for the successive generation. When we partake in age-old human customs like cooking, building, courting, hunting, and communicating, we utilize technology that would stupefy nearly all generations before us, and likewise we would be stupefied to comprehend how they managed without our current technology. Some things have evolved, such as how we spend our leisure time. Just moments ago, I saw an ad for a radio-controlled toy Ducati motorcycle. The technology involved was probably developed by NASA at some point, and now it’s in children’s toys. The internet opened up a whole new world, both good and bad. Yet at the heart of it all, we still pursue the same ends: pleasure, excitement, curiosity, stimulation, challenges. The medium changes; the endorphins don’t.
I put about as much stock in predictions of the future as I do in predictions for my fantasy football team: next to none. The future is like a tsunami that passes undetected under a boat that’s out at sea, and when the boat comes back to shore, the fisherman are shocked to see what has happened to their familiar village. We don’t realize that while we dream about it, we are actually living in it.