When I was a very little girl 50 years ago, there was a song we sang during “Baha’i Children’s Classes.” The words went like this:
The world of tomorrow is promised will be,
A world where all nations are friendly and free.
The world of tomorrow seems so far away,
Let’s make the world of tomorrow today!”
The optimism in that song, which had a lilt to the melody, seems positively crazy now. When I was singing that song, we were embroiled in the middle of the nuclear arms race and the Cold War. We had air raid sirens on the corners of our community. If they went off, it was to warn us of an impending nuclear attack. At school we practiced getting under our desks and putting our hands and arms over our heads to protect ourselves from the blast, heat, and light of a nuclear explosion.
Nobody talked about the aftermath of radiation poisoning and death by fallout. It didn’t matter. I had nightmares for years about being separated from my family and not being able to find them in the hours after an attack. Those dreams became much worse when we moved to Colorado, where I was not so familiar with the neighborhood and environment.
As far as getting to a world where all nations are “friendly and free,” we have a very long way to go. However, that is not what I was really going to talk about.
Imagining what “tomorrow” will be like is becoming more and more difficult for me each day. When I was singing that song, telephones had rotary dials and cords that attached them to the wall. Talking to someone in Europe, Asia or Australia involved making a reservation for time on the Trans-Oceanic Cables, and operators at both ends of the deal. Heck, talking to Hawaii involved that, and it was part of our country! We did not have communications satellites, Sputnik had just barely been launched, and the United States was scrambling to play catch-up with the Russians and get our own satellite in the air, so we could spy on them just like they were spying on us. The idea of the general public using satellites for something so mundane as chatting on the phone was ludicrous! Now we have Skype, for Pete’s sake.
The concept of computers had barely been touched on in Science Fiction. I remember reading in “The Weekly Reader” (a little four page “newspaper” that was given to elementary school children) about ENIAC. When I was in high school, we practiced learning Basic and could test our silly elementary programs (our first assignment was to devise a program that would print out the prime numbers). This involved making a punch tape that was used to communicate via a teletype connection with the computer main frame housed at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The personal computer had not been talked about, as no one in their right mind could visualize anybody having the millions of dollars necessary or wanting to devote a couple of rooms in their house to what amounted to a glorified adding machine.
Dick Tracy had a two-way wrist radio that could receive pictures. It was comic book surrealism for all of us. People could barely imagine a radio that small, much less one you could get pictures on. I mean, when I was about 13 I got a brand new state of the art transistor radio. It was unimaginably small! It was only 1 1/2 inches thick, 4 inches wide and 6 inches tall. Now, everybody and their cousin has a cell phone that can take, receive and send photographs, and you could pack 7 or 8 of them in the space my “tiny” radio took up.
If you want to imagine what will be happening in the future, you should try reading science fiction. I believe the fertile imaginations of those writers are the source of many technological experiments that result in the items we use on a daily basis. Of course, there are “accidents” that result in discovering things like teflon. Those sorts of serendipitous events cannot be planned for, although I suppose informed supposers could probably imagine them.
Meanwhile, I just try to cope with the mind-boggling changes that have occurred in my life time. I don’t try to guess what is going to happen next. I can barely figure out this blog. I have yet to successfully install an HTML badge on my sidebar. Good thing I don’t really want to.
Tomorrow the super volcano percolating under Yellowstone could begin to explode, and life on Earth as we know it would change very quickly from luxuries unimaginable 100 years ago to basic survival strategies.
Tomorrow we could exceed the atmospheric carbon load that could send the Earth into irretrievable global warming, and yet we are still arguing over whether developing sustainable energy sources and/or limiting our use of fossil fuels is a good idea. My very own Senators are saying that something as basic (and actually not very effective) as “Cap and Trade” is unfair to Missouri because then we might possibly have to pay as much for energy here as they do on the “Coasts,” as if the fact that we pay about half as much for electricity here as they do in California is fair. It all just makes me tired.
I do know that tomorrow my tomato plants will ripen some more tomatoes, which I will puree and cook down and can, just like I did the ones they provided yesterday. Then there will be another 8 pints of tomato sauce on the larder shelves to help get us through the winter. And tomorrow the bean vines will produce more beans, some of which we will eat immediately, and the rest of which we will blanch and freeze.
Meanwhile, today I need to water my front flower beds, or they will die in this heat. So I’d best get to it, and let the scientists, science fiction writers, techies and politicians worry and argue about tomorrow.
Catch you then.
A little post script: After a week of fasting, Smokey has decided he can eat again. Not much, but he is taking a bite now and then. So, we’ll see. Anyway, he seems less weak and disinterested than he did a few days ago.