Friday, November 21, 2008

Future Shock

"This is a story with no clear outcome," I read last night.

Which story? Twilight? No. The story referred to in this article is the report just brought out by the Intelligence Council, which suggests that the influence that the United States has in the world will decrease in the future.

I don't know about you, but I'm not completely startled by this news. After all, from history we know that empires rise and fall, influence grows and shrinks, and countries that ruled the world 150 years ago have much less clout today. We also know that even a group of people with such an awe-inspiring name as Intelligence Council can't predict what will happen tomorrow, let alone in the next 20 years. Sure, they can look at trends, and they can use their knowledge of the present to infer things about the future. But ultimately, they don't know the details.

The part I thought was most interesting about the report (OK, about the article about the report - I didn't read the report itself, and judging it by the article is a bit like judging a novel on students' notes from a lecture on it, rather than by reading the novel, but never mind that) was that "while American power and influence are projected to decline, America's burdens are not." In other words, while the U.S. will be less able to control outcomes, everything that goes wrong on the planet will still be blamed on the U.S., so things will be pretty much the way they are now. (I know, I know, many of the world's problems are the fault of the U.S., but give us a break sometimes, world, OK? Not all evil is made in the U.S.A.!)

There's more interesting information in the article. It is, I admit, a little bit scary to imagine the kind of world envisioned by these academics, where people fight over resources which are becoming increasingly scarce. (Already happening now, by the way.) However, reading this also makes me think of the guy who visited my elementary school many years ago and talked about the world in "the year 2000," which seemed to us inconceivably far away at the time, and how each person on earth would have about a square foot of space to stand in by then. Or the person who came to my husband's high school and talked about how in the future people would have so much leisure time that they would have no idea how to fill it all. (I'm still waiting eagerly for that problem to develop in my life.) So I'm not going to lose too much sleep worrying about this. I'm sure the future holds many exciting and wonderful surprises, too. And meanwhile, let's all continue to do whatever we can to make the world better.

The future is, indeed, a "story with no clear outcome." But really, couldn't all the best stories be described that way?

1 comment:

Janet said...

Yes, they could. That's a great point.

As a Christian, I believe human history truly is a grand story and not just a matter of chance. But I'll admit that I'm struggling with depression these days when I consider so many things about current trends and events. I'm never sure whether it's a trick of perspective or real insight! :-)

(A smiley face. Right. My lame attempt to whip up some good cheer in the wake of my generally morose tone...)