I Only Wish

This week, Dan asks:

What 5 events or things would you like to see in your lifetime but are skeptical that you will?

In my lifetime, I’d love to see a controllable form of nanotechnology developed that could be used for general purposes. Unfortunately, I think this will take at least several hundred years, and more likely a few thousand. But it’s be nice to see.

I’d love to see massive reforms to what “free market” means, where the legal incentives for being a good business proprietor—and the disincentives not to be a bad one—were delivered down through the ranks to all employees. Mandatory stock options, voting power for employees (who will be proportionately culpable for any wrongdoing of the company, though of course the main decision-makers would be assigned the bulk of that responsibility) and relatively benefit when the company does well. I’d love to see the world of business move from the model of profit for a few, to a much more reasonable model of what ought to be done with profit. (I loved the model of this presented in Norman Spinrad’s Greenhouse Summer, for example.) I think most Americans, even on the left, would find this far too redistributive for their liking, but then again, they’re still poisoned by McCarthyism,and let’s face it, almost anyone who has the luxury to afford time to think about such an idea probably has a stake in making sure it doesn’t come to pass.

I’d love to see George Bush and his co-conspirators held accountable for their actions. I mean, if Bill Clinton’s sexual dalliances are worth all that was poured into them, in terms of money and in terms of inquiry, and even talk of impeachment, I’m sure Bush’s well-known misconduct is worth a lot more. But as the North American continent slides farther and farther right, I doubt it will happen.

I would love to see a serious effort in the area of space exploration, meaning a real attempt to put a few colonies out there, to work on developing affordable launch technology, a usable infrastructure in the near-Earth region, some space stations designed for further experiments in how to assure quality of life for people living in space, and some work at making use of all the free minerals just floating around out there. I don’t think it will happen, of course, and perhaps it shouldn’t happen until we have a lot more sorted out here on earth, but I’d love to see it.

I’d like to see nationstates take on a different role from the one they occupy today. I can foresee a lot of what governments used to do for citizens (or to citizens) being rendered less than important by the rise of nanotech and of the kind of telecommunications we have now. Not to say governments would wither away, but rather, I think, they’d just sort of take on a lesser role, the way the Church used to dominate European political, artist, social, and economic life, and then that work was ainly taken over by other parts of society. It’d be interesting to see which elements in society took over what, what models of “citizenship” superceded the nationalist model, to see how different models would compete for ascendancy. And I’d like to be around to make sure it isn’t all taken over by companies, of course. However, I think that as Neal Stephenson noted recently during an interview, governments seem even less on the way out now than they did a few years ago:

Much of what has gone on since 9/11, not only here but in other places, like the Netherlands, looks to me like a reversal of the trends of the previous couple of decades. Government is getting more powerful, and its (perceived) usefulness and relevance to the average person is more obvious than it was 10 years ago.

So I really, really doubt we’ll see this happen. Ah well, those transitional periods often sound interesting from far away, and are often more dangerous and frustrating from up close.

And here are five things I would prefer not to see during my lifetime, but expect will probably happen:

  • The collapse of the North Korean regime, and a mad scramble (read: fight) over it by South Korea and China. An outflux of North Korean refugees into China, into South Korea, and a bloody mess that nobody will know how to fix.
  • A slow and continuous rise of “terrorist” style resistance to world hegemony, which will eventually come to be seen from the majority of the world’s standpoint as a form of “guerilla” warfare like that praised by Tolstoy near the end of War And Peace.
  • Globally, a resurgence in anti-Semitism, of the Arab-hating variety, characterised by repeated flare-ups and responses.
  • SF’s transformation, in general, into a minor “classic” genre, a form of literature from back in the “old days”… something like how we would see the magazine fiction of Louisa May Alcott, if many of us actually read any of it. Science is just not seeming as important to the majority of people anymore, which is sad, but it seems to be the case.
  • At least one really, really bad disease outbreak to rival the Spanish Flu outbreaks after World War II The First World War. There’s just too much stupid stuff going on worldwide with antibiotics and with the handling of disease outbreaks for it not to happen within our lifetimes.

Sometime, I’ll try to post about things I think will happen that I want to see, and things I don’t want to happen that I think won’t happen. But for now, I have some more tidying up to do, and an afternoon of fun with Lime to plan.

6 thoughts on “I Only Wish

  1. Hello Gord,

    I like your idea on reforming the “free market” system.

    It reminds me a bit of the vision of Distributism (aka Distributivism), which holds that the means of production should not be centralized in the hands of the state or in those of a few individuals, but should rather be distributed as widely as possible among the populace. The corporations we know today would look more like the guilds of the High Middle Ages.

    The philosophy might be summed up by Catholic essayist G.K. Chesterton’s remark that “[t]he problem with capitalism is that there are not enough capitalists.”

    Of course, such a system would not likely be instituted from the top-down; it would have to be some kind of grass-roots movement. Co-ops and credit unions are examples of the idea in practice.

  2. [embarrassed]

    Gaaa… actually, I knew that, and I even thought to myself I’d better be careful not to gack that up. And then I did. It was in 1918.


  3. And hey, peemil (secret? your identity?), what is Milo? I know nutella (the food, not the network, right?) but what is Milo?

    Oh, wait, is it some kind of chocolate milk? This is my guess.

  4. Joshua,

    Hey, I didn’t see your comment as it was held for approval—because you had two links in it, and anything over one link is held that way.

    The thing you describe would probably be denounced as “Communism” just as quickly as what I described. Of course, this calls into question the idea motivations of those who do move so quickly to use that word. It seems that they’ll only accept a system structured in such a way as to deliver maximum profit to a small elite, maximum exploitation to a majority, and minumum responsibility to the elite. Anything else, and you’re suddenly a communist.

    I’ll have to have a look through some of Chesterton’s writings. I agree that this would never happen from the top-down, though bottom-up pressures could cause some laws to be passed along the way, to help out. And, I think, if a few businesses were founded on the model and thrived—and invested exclusively in the startup of other businesses following this model—it might actually flourish. But I think anything like that is a long ways away.

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