The Future, and Where We Stand in 2010

Today’s topic of the future was chosen by ChanAn D at UT Austin. Merry Christmas Eve everyone, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHANAN!

Woops, wrong holiday…

ChanAn:

Could you blog about your future home? (details necessary). Where will you be? Who will you be? etc.

That is a really interesting question. I still have no idea what I want to be and no idea what kind of home I will be living in.

If I could choose, it would be a modern home, perhaps postmodern. It must be unconventional. It should be like a creative work of art. It can’t have plain old squares or cubes. (Okay, a few are acceptable.) It needs to be interesting, unpredictable.

A walk through the house should feel like a walk through this:

Okay, well maybe not THAT crazy. But you see the point.

Where and who will I be? Again, I am totally unsure. I would love to be a novelist, writing stories in a fairly isolated place. Or a professor. Probably a professor, teacher, or some academic. Somewhere.

The Future

At the beginning of this year I wrote a post called 2010s: The Decade of Solutions. In this decade, I thought, we would have to start solving the political and environmental dangers that accumulated throughout most of the late twentieth century and which we avoided in the first decade of the twenty-first.

This year, 2010, has been a rough start. Looking at the New York Times’ Year in Pictures, I saw political violence and tensions still strained as high as ever; North Korea’s bombardment of South Korea, even if minor and short-lived, posed the possibility of a horrible future. Natural disasters such as the Haiti earthquake continued to take their toll. Indeed, this year’s album is quite a depressing one.

To the Earth, what 2010 will be remembered for, and what we should try to learn from, is the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

It showed how something that we had never really thought about before could become an enormous problem. A problem that would, after many unexpected delays and difficulties, take many months to solve. And had terrible environmental consequences.

This disaster should be interpreted as a warning. It doesn’t mean 2010 was a complete failure. As I said earlier, it was a rough start. But not too rough. We had the successful Chilean miner rescue. Meanwhile, digital technology continued to flourish. Facebook expanded from 350 million to near 600 million users. In the United States, at least, we are transforming from a society of this:

…into a society of this:

In that image, the white parts lines show ties between Facebook users. America is quite covered.

Let us end optimistically by looking at what was perhaps the most amazing scientific discovery of the year:

That is arsenic life. [wiki]

While 2010 might overall have been a downer, there is certainly hope for the future. 2010 has been wrapped up, its contents bundled away to be stored in the attic and not under the Christmas tree. The present we should instead wish for is that 2011 be a better year than 2010.

Let us see if ol’ Santa delivers.

Alice in Wonderland

This post is about the 2010 film Alice in Wonderland by Tim Burton. (For my post on the book by Lewis Carroll, see Quotations from Alice in Wonderland.)

Alice in WonderlandRating: 7/10

It is difficult to create a bad movie from Lewis Carroll’s ingenious vision of Wonderland, and likewise, it is exceedingly difficult to imitate or surpass it. I read both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass last month, which gave a clear sense of the intended nonsensicalness of the works, and I also saw somewhat recently Disney’s 1951 animation of Alice in Wonderland, which was superb.

Tim Burton’s version takes place in a different time, and is hence necessarily different, but loses much of the fine wit and ridiculousness of the original work.

For example, here is a passage from the mad tea party in Alice in Wonderland, the book (1865):

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.

“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.”

“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter; “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.”

“Nobody asked your opinion,” said Alice.

Even without the context, this exchange of words is fascinating—and nonsensical—as Alice interprets the phrase “Take some more tea” differently than do the March Hare and the Hatter, leading to a pointless argument over semantics.

Here is the mad tea party, as rendered in the 1951 movie (you don’t have to watch all of it—you’ll quickly get the idea):

Most important is that it retains the vigor and pace of the book. Now, here is the beginning of the tea party scene in the 2010 movie:

Note that the events in this rendition happen at a much slower pace, and moreover, the scene contains only occasional wit.

The movie opens brilliantly, and up to the meeting of Alice and the Mad Hatter, it is excellent. There is then a noticeable drop in quality as the plot becomes a commonplace heroic story—though still funny through references to “The Jabberwocky” poem—it seems to lose its creativity. At the final battle, the movie gets good again. The references to lines in the books were all great, whether it was remembering “as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” or “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?”, or the shrinking and enlarging after falling down the rabbit hole, or the flamingo crotchet game.

Lovers of the books should enjoy this movie. I would hold the 1951 film as more accurate to Carroll’s intentions than the 2010 film, but it is nonetheless a great movie.

The Most Common Lie on Census

This certainly goes with my earlier post US Census 2010 Win. A friend of mine, NOT the same one who answered “HUMAN,” took a snapshot of an article by Robert Grove on the April 2010 edition of TIME magazine.

TIME

I thought this was ironic, given that the “Win” image has 170,000 views at the moment. The full article from TIME can be found here.

For the sake of reference, here’s the “Win” image:

2010s: The Decade of Solutions

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.

Earth

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.