Behind Closed Doors

I had no idea what the trigger might be to cause me to write this post, nevertheless I was certain that it would soon become apparent. And there it was, and article on politico.com entitled “How Trump makes us feel.” According to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, 13% of people surveyed decided to delay or to make the decision to not have children.

Why title this post “Behind Closed Doors?” It would surprise me if there weren’t a lot of elder orphans (or potential ones) who have had a conversation with their spouses or partners about the future, and the concerns that we would have for our children and grandchildren if we were fortunate enough to have any. It is however never a conversation that we initiate with our friends who have kids; unless of course they introduce the subject.

In recent comments by Stephen Hawking, the preeminent physicist, he has changed his outlook on the future of mankind to suggest that a catastrophic event for the human race is imminent. Not so long ago he was suggesting that in order to preserve earthlings we should be focusing on colonizing another planet in the next thousand years. Now he is view is that it should be more like 100 years.

According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that publishes the Doomsday Clock, it’s now 2 ½ minutes to “midnight”, suggesting that the end of humanity may be near.

When we do engage in these conversations about the future prospects, it inevitably comes up that in their time our parents probably had a lot of concerns about our future too. Perhaps I was isolated from the consequences of the possibility of a nuclear holocaust but I look back on those days in the 50’s and 60’s as rather halcyon times. Yes, I recall that air-raid sirens were installed and tested throughout the land, and underground bunkers were constructed but I was never counseled to dive under a desk when the siren was activated. Perhaps our parents decided that if a nuclear war were to occur it would all be over quickly. If you survived the blast, the radiation would finish you off soon enough anyway. I suppose too that they looked upon it as completely out of their control, and in the hands of the politicians and the military.

Contrast this with the constant drip, drip, drip of today’s threats. The environment and global warming are high on the list. Whether you agree with all but a handful of climatologists and scientists that it is caused by humans or not, it is still a fact of life. We can expect more droughts and floods and I recently read that the oceans are rising much faster than was predicted just a few years ago. Then there are the social issues. The political left and right factions are coming to blows and protests abound; terrorism is a constant threat. . People all over the world are dying as a result of religious/political differences. The nuclear threat has never really disappeared but lately it has surfaced as a distinct danger on more than one front.

We are now learning about the likelihood that a huge group of people will arise who are referred to as the “Useless Class”. These are the people who will soon be replaced by robots and highly intelligent computers. What will become of them?

According to Oxfam the richest 1% now has as much wealth as the rest of the world combined. They also calculated that the richest 62 people in the world had as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population. Those who control the money also control the resources. What are the consequences of this trend?

Two years ago Stephen Hawking told the BBC that the development of full artificial intelligence, could spell the end of the human race. His was not the only voice warning of the dangers of Artificial Intelligence. Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak also expressed their concerns about where the technology was heading – though Professor Hawking’s was the most apocalyptic vision of a world where robots decide they don’t need us any more.

Although I’m sure that we can conjure up many more potential threats I’ll conclude this discussion with the mention of global pandemics. Experts warn us that we are in the position for a perfect storm for the viral emergence of a global infectious disease.

My disposition is normally that of a “glass is half full” person, and from a personal perspective I am optimistic that I as a Baby Boomer will not be alive long enough to experience the results of these calamities but I confess that do have concerns for the Gen Xers, the Millennials, and their children.

Have you had these conversations behind closed doors?

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4 comments

  • Thanks again, Ray, for a very thoughtfully written commentary.
    ‘Behind closed doors’ is a suitable title, because when these discussions are raised in public, they are quickly shut down and one is ostracized for having a supposedly negative topic at this social gathering (whatever the occasion).
    Just this morning on FB one of my more active Christian friends posted, “Why worry about the future?” We’re here now and that’s all that matters.
    I reject this reasoning! Hasn’t it always been the responsibility of every generation to leave their children with a future at least as promising as the one we were given? Why would this opportunity be taken now and thought of as OK?
    Reasons I can think of can only be related to deep despair: 1) a huge increase in human population, 2) a decrease in resources to provide for the populations, 3) massive, powerful governments that seem to consume the majority of resources. This despair comes from the feeling of overwhelming lack of control of these situations.
    But when has any population in history ever felt like they had control over their situation? Never!
    Therefore this despair is feeling based, without factual evidence.
    Despite the wisdom of Theoretical Physician, Stephen Hawking and other graduates from esteemed universities, there is no reason the next generation will not have a firm footing to present to their children a future of hope. Yes, the financial markets are doomed to crash, catastrophic war is looming, and freedoms are being reduced at an alarming rate. Much of this is history being repeated.
    For the record, since there is NO future for the human race in space.That’s the physical fact. I have a solution for the human race.
    —-Begin the reduction of life span, controlled by all world governments, not excluding anyone.
    If 60 years was the limit, which is plenty of life, I believe, the resources freed up would be immense, governments would have a new cooperation with which to agree with each other, and people would make themselves more productive knowing their fixed limit.
    More thought to chew on and disagree with….I am soooo helpful.

    Herb

    • Hi Herb;

      Thanks for your comment. It seems that you too have had some thoughts about the consequences of our actions for future generations. I’ll let someone else take up the challenge of addressing your suggestion though.

      However your proposition does pose to me the interesting question of what your actions might be if you knew that you would depart this world on your 60th birthday. There would be a lot of “Goodbyes” to offer for sure, and I suspect that I would be working toward ensuring that all of my financial resources would be exhausted on the day before.

      Perhaps one could also explore the idea that for anyone with the courage (or folly) to do so, they could, unless fate intervenes, dictate when their last day on earth will be.

      • Hi Ray,
        You’ve opened a can of worms with this discussion. Will it remain ‘behind closed doors’ or will others embark on the journey? Let’s see…
        When I suggest the solution of limited life, I sound much like the preachers of Climate Change who are all too ready for others to change their habits without considering that they too must engage.
        Thinking about a date that we will cease upon is perhaps a topic worthy of a suspense novelist, but the fact remains that this earth is the domain of the human physiology, and there is no other place in the universe. It becomes incumbent upon us to look after this earth as a possession for the next generation with whatever power we possess. Unless of course, our doom is evident and coming ever closer.
        We might consider the foreshadowing stories of ancient writers that have been long considered fiction, e.g. Genesis 6 of the Bible where the flood destroyed everyone except a small family. Who knows what insight these ancients possessed to write such stories?
        The ancients felt powerless in their limited scientific knowledge, compared to our fantastic secular confidence. To believe that there is an escape in space is a religion unto itself. A slim hope is better than no hope at all for a secular society that has given up on the hope of an everlasting kingdom in the care of a loving creator.
        The spacial escape, if thought about is no solution anyways. Even if, defying all physics as we know it, there is an atmosphere available to transport a few humans to, where does that leave the bulk of humanity? To an ultimate doom on this crumbling planet is assured.
        There is only one solution with a handful of choices — if possible, save the environment to make room for an ever-multiplying population.
        Herb

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