Toss a Coin…the Future is Nirvana or Doom
Blue States/Red States both have outlined possible visions for the world’s future. Though the former’s path is more difficult (and noble), the latter’s more likely (and brutish)
A sort of best case/worst case vision of the world has been outlined by blue/red states and reinforced by current events. Strangely, both of them are viable in terms of what could actually happen, though the Red State version may be truer to historic form (sadly). The hopeful/Blue State version involves resolution of global warming, the triumph of cooperation in the world, harnessing of hi-tech, and scientific mastery of disease. The pessimistic/Red State version is continued use of profitable dirty tech, populism leading to international strife and/or apocalyptic WW IIIs, and the inevitabilities of pandemic diseases, all of which allow the strong to survive. It is a not-so-bold prediction to say that what really happens is one or the other, or a combination of the two, given historical precedence.
The irony of the above is first and foremost, a nuclear holocaust or world pandemic may obliquely achieve the Blue State vision, as a “nuclear winter” may cool the planet, and the technological reversals caused by these catastrophes may turn back the clock to a simpler, more peaceful “small is beautiful” world. However, it could also fulfill the “Road Warriors” vision, of which Red Staters are uniquely qualified, as they are already turning into highly weaponized survivalist skinheads with plenty of gas driven muscle cars. There could even be a world where the two live side by side, sort of like lusty Vikings living a one day boat ride from plunder-able Northumbrian Monasteries in the 8th century.
This is kinda funny if not more or less true. History has shown that civilization is like a stack of children’s blocks. The more civilization advances, the higher the stack of blocks and the more likely something will bring it down, halfway or all-the-way, depending on its foundation. Well-known examples of this are the bronze age collapse of 1100 BC (think the fall of Troy, when iron-age seafaring marauders from the Greek Isles sacked the bronze-age walled cities of Asia Minor) and the fall of Rome around 450 AD (in which Rome more or less said “we’re tired of this…here Goths…take over!”) and the ag/tech supply chains melted, but the environment recovered during the ensuing “dark” ages. I won’t bore you with similar collapses by the Mayans and Anastazies, but you can read for yourself in Jared Diamond’s excellent book “Collapse”. One can imagine the Trojans sitting there worried about a drought, bubonic plague or whatever, and then…wham! The Greeks arrive and its like “we’ve got a bigger problem now”. So goes civilization…when your stuff is that extended, if one thing doesn’t get you the other thing will.
Never Before in History have we had it so Good…
Never before in history have we been so healthy, had so many freedoms, or so many cool toys like computers, cars and planes. And unfortunately, each one comes with a sort of unsustainable cost. Blue State visions unfortunately depend upon the extension of all these fronts, adding more blocks to an already tall, gangly stack. For instance, medical scientists have bravely held viruses and bacteria at bay for about 70 years now, and would have to be awfully clever to manage the new breeds that are coming from unprecedented world contact and dominion, unleashing previously unlocked rainforest nasties (Ebola, Coronavirus), STDs from a world where the average person has too-many partners and mind blowing drugs (Hepatitis, HIV, HPV, penicillin resistant gonorrhea and syphilis) while meat producers feed anti-biotics like candy to their animals and compromise our protections. The Covid-19 quarantine may be a wake-up call for something worse (like airborne human to human Ebola?) which is unleashed accidentally or by germ warfare. The turnaround time for vaccine may create a too-little-too-late scenario, and no one really prepares for these things as we have all been spoiled by all our vaccine successes (take the anti-vaxers back in time to look at old smallpox or plague epidemics and they may change their tune?)
Nationalism has already created animosities between nations not seen since the dark days of the 30s. Even smaller, weaker rogue nations have scary missiles now, and it’s only a matter of time before they have intercontinental nuclear missiles. Before any of that can happen though, I suppose the US and China (or a kind of democratic West vs autocratic East) will wage a gigantic war, triggered by ethnic rivalries and competition for materials. Meanwhile, hot-headed proxies (like North Korea) may start a chain-reaction of missile lobbing, much of it directed from outer space. All this may possibly make some global warming and national debt issues rather moot, as everyone scrambles to move to safer, cooler climates and reinvent simpler technologies, as supply chains are again compromised (there go those blocks tumbling again). At this point, Red Staters will get the last laugh, as they will have apocalyptically squirreled away much of the gasoline, in cult-like, well-fortified enclaves while Blue Staters will be wondering what happened to Whole Foods, and looking for solar-powered, plug-in Prius outlets that no longer exist (while wanting to include all sorts or oppressed subgroups which is a bad-look when its an every-one-for-themselves scenario). Red Staters will have momentarily won, but with the sad knowledge that their contributions to humanity were similar to a cockroaches gift to the insect kingdom…they simply survived.
We can keep trying to sustain a high tech future, but we may also end up like future beings from “The Time Machine”
It may take a Herculean, barely-sustainable effort by Blue Staters to maintain a scientific edge over rogue viruses or dangerous missiles. They may need to develop search and destroy immune system augmentation pills or anti-gravity anti-missile force fields, 500 mph vacuum tube trains between nations, and automatic electric shock devices for would-be dictators, and like really, really quickly. And even then, this more or less pushes the inevitable collapse further into the future, when the bad guys and the bugs figure out how to penetrate even those defenses, supply systems collapse, all the blocks fall down, supporting the old and sick becomes unsustainable, and we restart in a neo-feudal system, kind of like the Eloi and Troglodytes in “Time Machine”…the Blue State Eloi eating Troglodytes being what’s left of the Red Staters.
Of course, we might also learn from futuristic dystopian AI sci-fi epics (I tried “Westworld”, but it just left me scratching my head). Almost all have an unhappy ending as the machines apparently learn, ala “The Matrix”, “Terminator 3”, and “I, Robot” that the ostensibly Blue State programming that aspires to cleanse the world, leads the robots to start treating humans like a disease, maybe also to the delight of the roguish and Armageddon-loving Red Staters. Perhaps what we need are AI anti-missile, anti-warming, and anti-pandemic robots with a kill-switch operated by one sensible person, like (pick one) Bill Gates, Michelle Obama, or Tom Hanks, or their clones.