One of the nicer things about getting older is being able to take a longer term perspective on the future.
More specifically; how our lives and those of our friends turn out based on decisions and actions in time past. It is a truism that we often don’t know or fully understand the significance of key events until much later.
The trigger for some of these thoughts was a long term wedding anniversary which is great achievement in itself but the what I really enjoyed was the opportunity to compare notes across a very wide sample of people ranging from 3 to 70+ .
In some case I talked with people I hadn’t seen in 30 years. With so many people it was a series of quick snapshots on what they or I had been up to and the results were often fascinating.
Marshall McLuhan famously said that “Predicting the present” was more difficult that trying to guess the future.
In answer to the question What Are You Optimistic About? Howard Rhinegold started his answer in this way (in a 2007 series.)
“The tools for cultural production and distribution are in the pockets of 14 year olds.
This does not guarantee that they will do the hard work of democratic self-governance: the tools that enable the free circulation of information and communication of opinion are necessary but not sufficient for the formation of public opinion.
Ask yourself this question: Which kind of population seems more likely to become actively engaged in civic affairs
— a population of passive consumers, sitting slackjawed in their darkened rooms, soaking in mass-manufactured culture that is broadcast by a few to an audience of many,
or a world of creators who might be misinformed or ill-intentioned, but in any case are actively engaged in producing as well as consuming cultural products?
Recent polls indicate that a majority of today’s youth — the “digital natives” for whom laptops and wireless Internet connections are part of the environment, like electricity and running water — have created as well as consumed online content.
I think this bodes well for the possibility that they will take the repair of the world into their own hands, instead of turning away from civic issues, or turning to nihilistic destruction.
In my life I’ve been far more motivated by causes and big ideas than anything else.
My Dad always used to say he wouldn’t know how he’d done till he sees how our children turn out. How is that for a longer term view? My daughter keeps me on my toes and we are enjoying the journey of being engaged with the world around us and beyond.
I agree with Rhinegold and the idea that we can choose to repair the present and engage with optimism.
“Some characteristics of this global generation are excessive communication, involving many people in decision making, multitasking, group work, blurring of public and private, sharing, individual expression, and collective identification.
Another important distinction between the generations is that the digital generation take what media theorist Clay Shirky calls “symmetrical participation” for granted.
In other words, they are not passive recipients of media and messages, as in the days when television and print media ruled, but take for granted that they can play a role in the simultaneous production, consumption, interaction with, and dissemination of on-line content.”
There is no doubt that the social connections and amplification of these ideas online has made a huge contribution to a far more optimistic future.