You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

By Joe Carvalko | 4 February 2020

(Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash)

I got an email from a friend wringing his hands over what’s wrong with America. Too liberal, he says, too diverse, suggesting that if it were more Trumpian, America could be great — and white again. I wrote back that it’s more than black and white. He called me an old man casting his worn out and liberal ideology on others. He may have a point. But words never stopped me, so here I go.

The Trump forces believe they have the power to change things, now that they’re in office. But to be fair, every administration does. Many of us think we have the power to change things. But, that too is a myth. Yes, the Trump forces will change things, at least until the “Resistance” takes over. Politically, they can do damage in the short term, two to ten years out they will: slow down the road to universal health care, wait out the NRA while another 450 kids are shot in schools, help elect officials that degrade norms, grant license to elected scoundrels who support the sex trade by paying off the women they cavort with, to keep quiet, use gutter language so our kids grow up using F…. or P…. without rules, as to when and when not to use expletives in polite company, and operate government as it’s a reality TV show, arcade or candy store, making fun of American dialects, individuals with physical challenges and denigrate American war heroes.

But on the planetary scale, this is small potatoes compared to what’s ahead. It doesn’t take a scientist to appreciate that our climate is changing profoundly and fast. For our children and children’s children’s children, climate will change where and how they live. And, whether they will weather the storm? Many won’t. Doing nothing to reverse global warming, turns the planet into a living hell (think California wild fires, 120 degrees in Texas, like what I drove through a month ago, gangs of F-5 tornadoes, serial Cat-5 hurricanes).

Warning: Anyone claiming a fix for the future is full of crap. Blue-collar, white-collar, priest or politician, most people live in vacuum-packed brains and have no idea about climate change, the implications of foreign takeover of elections, what killing fields feel like in Palestine, Syria, Yemen, South-side of Chicago, mass school shootings. Do you think elected officials give a rats-ass about separating kids from parents, that our criminal justice system jails more people than any country in the world, that gun violence kills a hundred people every day, that we jail Blacks and Hispanics at five times the rate as for Whites.

Folks, we are impotent: look in the mirror. No one of us or a 300 hundred million strong can diminish a military budget that is 10 times the next competitor, can disgorge the one percent, who have 90% of the property and wealth in this free nation, can turnaround a 30 year wage stagnation brought about by corporations that wallow in the riches of a Supreme Court that finds 10 to 1 in favor of corporations over individuals who sue them over workplace discrimination, bank fraud, environmental degradation. Why because big money controls the playing field.

Never in history have we seen wealth concentrated (Apple is worth over a trillion dollars). Money and congressional power answers why legislators: let drug companies squeeze dollars from sick people, refuse to stop a president who winks and nods at Putin, at right-wing agitators, who stoke bigotry, or singles out Black, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees (let’s just lump them together). Fear of others comes from seeds planted early in life. Fear is personal — you don’t feel mine, I don’t feel yours.

But, alas, the future will be like nothing we have experienced. It’s a HUUUGE planet, with decades to come, which, if we lived long enough would from today’s vantage be unrecognizable. What we do know from our lives is that we are but a small part, not only small in terms of our kind or beliefs (political, religious, cultural), but small in influence over the planet’s trajectory (war, maybe atomic, population growth, immigration, climate, economy, racial, ethnic composition, e.g., in the U.S.).

Exceptionalism once stood for the idea that Americans served as an example of progressive values (democracy, justice and humanity), control over their destiny; could tame the environment, extract resources (oil, coal) without limit, and provide jobs for everyone through capitalism. For our successors, what they look like and what they believe in will go beyond change wrought by anything imaginable, today.

Change will be driven by technology, such as artificial intelligence, which in a few decades will render 90% of the world’s population useless, unable to earn a living based on either a strong back or good brain. By mid-century the Singularity that technologists and others predict will run our anatomies, so that we’ll be completely dependent on computer processors to keep us fit, in touch with society via internalized communication, and from dying that is under 200 or 300 years old.

I have not yet accounted for what’s coming down the road (30-40 years away) with synthetic genomes, which will change what it means to be Homo sapiens. Those whom we would like to think will be our successors (our great great grandchildren) will be artificially constructed, inventions coming off an assembly line, designed via visions of future technologists, and thus unnatural by today’s ancient standards.

So, we may wring our hands about the state of things, but my advice, “chill.” As we heard in that famous 1965 single, by The Bobbettes, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Joseph Carvalko is an American technologist, academic, patent lawyer, and writer. As an inventor and engineer, he has been awarded 18 patents in various fields. He has authored academic books, articles, and fiction throughout his career. Currently he is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Quinnipiac University, School of Law, teaching Law, Science and Technology; Chairman, Technology and Ethics Working Research Group, Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, Yale University; member, IEEE, Society on Social Implications of Technology; summer faculty member, Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, Yale University.

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