I just wrote my first word-based post of 2010 a few moments ago. And now, some mysterious force compels to make another one. Except this time, specifically on 2010 and the decade that it starts.
First, reflections on 2009. In a post I made near the end of last year titled Reflections on 2009, I saw how I had basically become, at least in my perspective, more creative. I realized things for what they were, and I was able to look at the big picture. But now, I seek a much deeper task: to reflect on the entire 2000s decade, and then preview the next.
I actually do remember December 31, 1999. I was eight years old (born December 28, 1991) and of course had a disjointed, childish view of the world. But I remember that day, talking with a friend named Bobby, about 2000. We were watching Pokemon I believe. But we came to the conclusion that it was amazing to be able to live in two different millenniums. Basically, all I remember from the general populace was pure joy and excitement. (An eight-year-old had no idea what Y2K was.) Even if the year system was arbitrary, it was still exhilarating, at least in our childish minds, to be born in one millennium and to live our lives in the next.
2000–2009 was a remarkable decade. Before that, I did know what a computer was. But I think I touched a computer twice, at most, before 2000. Yet, I cannot even begin to estimate how many times I touched one in the 00s decade. Probably a couple thousand times.
I’m no tech expert, but I think not many people would disagree if I said the 00s were the decade of information technology. (See my post on The Legacy of 2009 for outside quotes on this.) Computers shrank, and became exponentially faster. Blogging rose to the forefront. Web 2.0 in 2004 was the “official” start of the enhanced Internet that we see today. Facebook launched in 2004, and by the end of the decade it contained 350 million users worldwide—a sizable chunk of the human population. YouTube rose to prominence this decade. Micro-blogging, e.g. Twitter, appeared. So many things happened this decade on the web that it revolutionized the world. It created a truly global society, and it changed how we think.
For myself, I probably can’t say anything of meaning. I mean, a lot of things happen between the ages 8 and 18. Nonetheless, this decade was incredible.
But the next decade, the 2010s, will contain even greater human achievements. Because at this point in time, the growth of digital technology will only continue to accelerate.
Take even the last decade for example. Web 2.0 and Facebook both came around in 2004, while YouTube, Twitter, the Nintendo Wii came around about 2006. And they have increased dramatically in the last few years. They are already, just after a few years, embedded into our daily vocabulary. Of course, Google has also been a key innovator throughout the decade.
The 2010s will see in digital technologies the increase in both scale and pace. This blog might be completely outdated in a few years, and if it does, then we will know that humanity is advancing—fast. I have no doubt that he 10s will be even more record-breaking in technology.
So far, so good. But if we turn away from technology, we find some pressing issues that the world has not dealt with. (Yes, I just ended a sentence with a preposition, but may you care less about it given the content of this paragraph.) Conflicts in the Middle East are not going to end anytime soon. The potential for global nuclear annihilation still exists. Poverty and hunger still rage throughout the world. Diseases still ravage poorer countries, and can ravage wealthier ones. Environmental consequences are sooner or later going to be felt—and when that happens, I’m afraid it will be too late.
I don’t pretend to have any foolproof solutions to these problems. But I will say, it would be a shame if we destroy ourselves out of greed, arrogance, or war. Future species millions of years in the future will be perplexed by our concurrent ingenuity and stupidity, for we had the capacity to sequence the entire human genome, only to have our genome be obliterated by our own futile quarrel.
These problems are by no means new. People have been warning about them for years—in some cases, decades. In our history, we pretty much let them slip by. In the 00s, we made symbolic acts to solve them. But we’re not doing anything. On paper and on television, we are supporting the green movement, yet we still endlessly consume trees and fossil fuels.
It would be indeed a huge shame if the wealth of technological achievements made in the last decade—or century—are destroyed by human apathy. But I have a message for everyone. If the human race is to act some time, the 2010s is the decade in which to do it. At this point, from the accomplishments we made in the previous decade, we have achieved an instantaneous, interactive global communications network. This is a tool that we never had before. And we must use it.
We must augment the advances in technology with applications to our real-world problems. Scientists and engineers will need to work extra-hard. Politicians must be courageous enough to make necessary changes. We will need to be able to not only see the problems, but understand them, and understand what we can do about them. We have had many decades of problems. Let this be the decade of solutions.