Worlds Reimagined

By Samir Shukla

It's time for reimagining. We are not strolling into the future; we are “skipping" into the future, into the beyond, where every step skips several steps in between toward the awaiting new worlds. Don't sit still for long lest the cobwebs tie you down and leave you there to dry up and blow away. We are creating, with the dissonant and reshaping power of technologies, new worlds that will further unhinge norms, bring ease and unease, and increase rapidity and automation in everything.

New worlds wait around the bend of time, ones that are constantly being molded and created, while remaining unimagined in their potential to dishevel the rootedness of humanity. In the meantime we must reckon with a sense of loss, of simplicity and nature. The challenge for humans will be to strike a balance between the digital and the analog, the natural and the superficial, the habitual and the constantly changing, and most importantly, human intelligence and artificial intelligence, the real and the virtual.

These various balances must be guided by our generation. We are that last line of defense and reckoning, because the rapid pace of incoming technology will make it difficult to realign human values and ethos at later times. Our children are at the cusp of this unhinging. We are the bridge, along with today's digitized kids, for the reimagining of human communities while thwarting increasing tribalism and compartmentalization of tech-infused social ethos. This is the challenge of our generation.

Humanity is incessantly gliding toward unparalleled advances including rapid urbanization, because that is where opportunity waits. Current cities will double or triple in size in the near beyond. But the real unknown is in the cities that don't even currently exist, ones yet unimagined. New cities will be built in the desert, atop mountains, floating on the oceans, lurking on ocean floors, and etched out of forbidding landscapes on the moon. Everywhere we decide to inhabit, we have done it and will do so in unforeseen manners in the beyond, the future.

This will become even more necessary as the numbers of humans on this planet continue to increase and changing climate rearranges natural orders and habitats.

The challenge is to find the balance, between dizzying urban lives and our need for places of solitude and of spirituality. They can and do coexist. New cities will require such spaces if for nothing else than to maintain our sanity. Think of verdant places of escape in the midst of massive cities that currently exist – Central Park in New York, Hyde Park in London, and Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai.

They offer respite to the chaos of urbanism, the isolation of technology.

Our survival has always depended on our ingenuity. Changing climate and increasing population will require more of this ingenuity.

Of course we are a cunning species. If we can survive each other, we can survive anything. We are enterprising, creative, but most important we are adaptable. We adapt or perish. We are unique in that we survive at the peril of all other species.

We are creating a new planet that will require fewer humans to run it. This is the undesirable side effect. This is a dilemma as we continue to increase our numbers and simply will not be able to supply enough jobs for these incoming humans.

There are so many redundant and inefficient “occupations" in the world today, that disruptions to economies around the world are inevitable. Countries will have to adapt. We often hear arguments that technologies replacing human capital will create whole new fields and jobs. Yes, new jobs, sure, but much fewer jobs will be created, while many inefficient jobs will be eliminated. There will be simply not enough jobs for those seeking work. There will be experts, politicians, and economists telling you that obsolete occupations and jobs will be replaced by others. They are wrong and are selling you nonsense. Any logical or common sense analysis will reveal this.

But this doesn't have to be a bad thing. New ways of thinking and living will have to emerge. Families will have to revert to a main breadwinner bringing home the major portion of the income while other members will become part-time workers, volunteers, artists, caretakers, gardeners, musicians, mentors, teachers...pick your personal passion and go for it.

One can argue most families need two full-time incomes to survive. Sure, today that is a reality for many. We cannot possibly employ all the folks in the world who seek work today, forget about trying to employ two billion more workers that will arrive in coming decades. Think of it this way. If we as a society can solve two main dilemmas - affordable housing and affordable health care for all - then a new society can emerge. I don't mean more government sponsorship of people. I mean a combination of players - governmental, corporations, NGOs, and religious institutions that converge to make this possible. It won't be easy, as the first thing required is consensus. Getting past ideological and partisan bickering will take time.

People, men especially, will need to reeducate and retrain themselves to become the workers, no a better word is participants, of the new beyond. I call them “productive participants" and not workers or employees. Women are much more adaptable to rapidly changing social norms. An increasingly autonomous world offers new ways of living. The denizens of this “beyond tomorrow" world won't care about patriarchy or matriarchy, climbing the corporate ladder or wealth acquisition; they will care about what works and productive, creative participation. No one will judge anyone as long as they are participants. That is one possible outcome.

Can we create communities, caressed with nature and humanness, within our tech-infused urban environments while supporting thriving, new means of commerce and living?

Worlds reimagined await the adaptable and forward thinkers of this fast incoming future.