quotes The future does not look very bright

06 June 2023
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Updated 06 June 2023

The future does not look very bright

The computer scientist Alan Kay once knowingly said: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” It seems that today’s young generation of tech gurus heard him and bet all their chips on artificial intelligence, only to turn around and warn us that their Frankenstein creation could ultimately destroy human society.

In the meantime, those who are already well-versed at employing technology to confuse, control and subjugate us have been busy sinking their teeth into AI for additional ways to bombard our minds, in what I call the Zone of Confusion. It is a zone of false advertisement, manipulating minds and producing desired behaviors.

It would seem, then, that our future is more manufactured than invented. This has always been the case for our past, which is reinterpreted and remanufactured every time to make a new point. Whatever we may have learned from the past is gradually lost to these reinterpretations, while it is also being employed to build a citadel of future arrogance.

In the Zone of Confusion, neither the past nor the future have any real substance anymore; they are simply employed to serve the goal of false advertisement. And instead of helping us produce a pound of wheat, they push us into wars that disrupt not only the world’s wheat production but the world economy and our global stability.

These developments have again reminded us that the Apocalypse and end of the world, which were always said to be in the hands of God, are now firmly in the hands of us humans. Our atomic arsenals, chemical and biological weapons are capable of destroying our planet several times over, and their use as a threat is ever more prevalent after a post-Cold War lull. We are entertained by a Mighty Mickey Mouse able to destroy the world, by destruction in general. We like to build fantasies of our beginning and our end. From Mickey Mouse to Mighty Mouse, to Superman and Wonder Woman, we enjoy destruction and will regularly react positively to its threat if we interpret it as in defense of our perceived interests.

Destruction, unfortunately, surrounds us every day. Our environment is relentlessly destroyed, day by day. The animal world and its biodiversity are being decimated, and natural disasters are hastened by the planet-heating poisons we continue to release into the atmosphere. The oceans that represent the origin of all life are dying in front of our eyes, their seemingly endless stock of fish depleted and their capacity to provide us with most of the oxygen we need also dropping. Soon our oceans will contain more plastics than life, yet all we hear the oceans saying is a rush of powerful hurricanes that climate-change is extracting from them. Where did we go wrong, I wonder, as I watch an ever-bleaker future form ahead of us.

I want to believe that the new generation will finally shake off our arrogance and finally take seriously the job of reducing emissions, reducing waste, reducing hatred and stopping wars to create better human beings — to be the stewards we never were.

For an old man, the future should not make much difference. Still, I cannot believe the mess that our generation has made of the world. I once hoped the coronavirus would wake us up to what we have wrought on our planet and on ourselves, but I only see more viruses being unleashed by humanity over our future every day since. Whether we consider Ukraine or Sudan, increased emissions and use of fossil fuels, or persistent poverty and famine throughout the world, we are clearly not doing things right. Despite all of the knowledge and technology we have at our fingertips, we are unable to light enough candles of hope to counter the torch of ignorance, meanness and destruction.

The legacy of my generation, I have to admit, is bigger garbage cans, bigger weapons, bigger ways of destroying the world around us. We have done a terrible job as stewards of a bountiful planet, only now to give in to technological whizz kids inventing an AI that they suddenly turn around and say we must legislate if we are not to lose complete control, surrender our minds and souls. It seems we do not have enough time or strength to correct our mistakes and reorient the course of humanity.

My thoughts are mostly with my grandchildren and their generation, who may be reading my words. I need them to know that we take responsibility for the terrible failures, the arrogance and destruction we have brought upon our world. There are always those pushing against these forces with hope and ingenuity, but I fear they are not powerful enough when faced with what we have stacked up against them.

Our job should be to lift hopes, to implement hope, and I would like to believe that the next generation can do a better job of it. As Mahatma Gandhi said so simply: “The future depends on what we do in the present.” I want to believe that the new generation will finally shake off our arrogance and finally take seriously the job of reducing emissions, reducing waste, reducing hatred and stopping wars to create better human beings — to be the stewards we never were.

Hassan bin Youssef Yassin worked with Saudi petroleum ministers Abdullah Tariki and Ahmed Zaki Yamani from 1959 to 1967. He led the Saudi Information Office in Washington from 1972 to 1981, and served with the Arab League observer delegation to the UN from 1981 to 1983.