Wednesday, August 17, 2011

We've Forgotten How to Dream

This video comes to me courtesy of Pharyngula. In it, Neil deGrasse Tyson is sitting on Bill Maher's panel of guests. Here's some quick facts from the video: we spend as much in Afghanistan in one month that we do the entire NASA space program in one year. Did you know that, and more importantly, does it surprise you?

In it, Neil is absolutely right; We forgot how to dream. The 50s was a time when everyone was looking ahead; it was a time when science was wide spread. All of the "futureland" themeparks sprang up during the late 40s, 50s, and early 60s. We had the moon race, Star Wars came out, Star Trek was first developed, Isaac Asimov wrote science fiction with actual science in it. Now, I'm not going to stand here and say those were a golden time. Far from it. The 40s, 50s, and 60s had their share of flaws. Racism and sexism was rampant. Race riots tore apart inner cities. Teacher lead prayer was mandatory in most schools. The era is polluted by the nostalgia filter crafted for it (especially the 50s) during the 70s. They weren't perfect. But they were an improvement on the previous decades. I don't want those decades back. I want improved versions of those decades in the future; with their flaws ironed out, their mistakes corrected, and their issues resolved.

So, where are we now? We haven't been back to the moon since the 1970s. Science fiction today is more concerned with showy, fancy graphics rather than actually providing individuals with actual science (if something like Avatar existed in real-life, I'd become a Creationist). And more importantly, the promise and hope has been removed form that fiction.

You wouldn't be misplaced in expecting a tirade against Romanticism in the face of this. Romanticism does breed cynicism, and it does look backwards on times in the smoky, remote past that we should try to emulate. These are indeed parts of the problem. But even then, Romanticism encourages imagination and intuition. It encourages - nay, it wouldn't even exist - if people didn't dream. So no, romanticism suffers under this yoke just like enlightenment philosophy does.

What's happening here? When did we stop dreaming? Why is it that nobody talks about the future anymore? When was the last time you heard someone say something promising about what lay head - about the wonders that technology and science would lay down for us (that wasn't on this blog)? When did our society become a Quarter-to-Quarter, political-cycle to political-cycle entity? It's like we're scared to see into the future, because we know how ugly it will be. We know we're killing our future right now; we're selling it short, and we know it. And we refuse to see it, because we know how terrifying this monster will be. We're killing our children and grand children. So we look back at so-called Golden Eras and long to have those days back, those exact days as they were "back then," without the change necessary to make them survive into the future. This is our problem. This is why we're failing as a society. This is why we'll fail as a species. We got here, where we are now, by dreaming and looking towards the future.

We stopped looking towards the future. We stopped dreaming.

Anyway, enough of my rant - here's the video. It's funny, but that's to be expected of Maher, who's main job is a comedian but who moonlights as a social commentator (and an anti-vaxx nutcase, but we won't go there).

1 comment:

  1. When was the last time you heard someone say something promising about what lay head - about the wonders that technology and science would lay down for us (that wasn't on this blog)?

    Daily Planet has a fair bit of that, but the fact that I have to give a "Link may not work outside of Canada" warning probably says a lot.