The best is yet to come — it might not seem that way if you listen to the nightly news, or read the nihilistic pundits of our age, but in truth all things get better over time, some just take longer than others. It’s human creativity, drive, and a wondrous persistentence in discovery that always overcomes adversity and trouble.
We are in a new century, and a new millenium — both will bring great things beyond our current imagining, and that is as inevitable as the sunrise. To achieve those great things however it’s necessary to leverage America’s strengths by setting positive direction. To me the current President’s greatest failing has been in not setting fresh direction and challenges in this new century. To be sure he has priorities with the war on terror and the economy, but to my mind President Bush could have done a better job of challenging the best of us to do even better.
One challenge is certainly clear: there is a dangerous ideology with the potential to put 1.2 billion Muslims under dire tyranny. I speak of political Qutbist Islam, that which is promulgated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the terror groups, and Hizb ut Tahrir. Obviously we must persistently confront them and overcome radical Islamism no matter the time or energy that it takes. 1.2 billion human beings deserve our help in that, for it is a minority that tries to enslave them to the evil ideals of Qutbist shariat.
Technology in all fields is extending at an enormous rate and it’s time to look at not only the latest effects, but to look forward at coming changes– the technology challenges of this century. These are challenges that must go out at all levels of society: to our schools, to our industries, to our government, and to the working populace –all must be challenged to usher in and prepare things to come.
There’s no quibbling about it: nobody can predict the future, and nobody can shape it conciously with a long term plan.
Even though you can’t plan it, you can prepare for it and to do that you must appeal to people’s creativity, their industriouness, and their care about the next generation.
The largest challenge is clearly energy – human productivity and creativity is always greatest where energy is cheap and plentiful. From the earliest form of energy, food, to the latest form of nuclear, we are as dependent on it as air. If we want a good future for our children and theirs, we need more, not less energy for we are a high energy society like it or not. We must continue to enhance our energy future — power must become almost too cheap and plentiful to meter. This is the path to plenty for all as well as a cleaner environment. ( The Greenpeace Luddites will argue with this, but think for a moment on the quantity of energy it will take in 42 years just to clean the sewage of the 9 billion people who will be inhabiting earth then.)
The other great challenge of this century is education, and I’m not talking about failing schools. It’s entirely possible to take a college level course and have the content out-dated by time you finish. New information is piling up faster than we can teach, so we must instead make education about learning how to learn in the modern world. Instead of paying for college, students should be paying for life-long subscriptions to information and teaching in the fields of their choice. Until Universities switch to that, diplomas will continue to decrease in value.
Transport and Infrastructure demands this century will surpass all of that Buck-Rogers stuff. You will see transcontinental high speed rail, bridges between continents, undersea tunnels, large scale sea ranches and farms, and orbital manufacturing platforms. If we are to get that done, shouldn’t we start now rather than later?
Information and communication will or nearly has become ubiquitous — tyrannical rulers trying to keep their people in the 18th century are not the only ones troubled by the challenges presented, and we must start working with freedom of information, and the accompanying freedom of lies better than we are now.
Miltitary and Security Technology — what will we need to defend against in 10 years, 20 years, 50 years?
There are also tremendous things afoot in Robotics, Materials science, Nano-Science ( the new chemistry…), and of course genetics and medical science. I’m not talking about these because they get plenty of press already, but think of the changes coming from them coupled with the changes mentioned above – it sets your mind aswirl if you have more than three synapses.
If you look at all these things to come you can see the challenges they present, especially as you start combining them. How will ubiquitous information and the blogmind work with wearable computers? In fifteen years how will search engines assign authority and credibility? What about internet II? What happens when there are enough IP addresses to assign everyone five or ten unique ones at birth?
What happens when solar power satellites and sea ranching are both in place? What will international treaties be then? Where will people do their learning in an environment where learning is a life-long subscription? What will travel be like when there are transcontinental high-speed rail and inter-continental tunnels?
You can see the challenges our children are faced with, but America is the land of opportunity and as they say, every challenge is an opportunity.