November 11 2019

I’m now beginning day two of adjusting to no social media.  I notice I’m not as easily stressed even after two days.  It helps that I’m not wasting time waiting for friends to respond to my posts.  It’s also good that I no longer see every little post in my former groups that don’t pertain to me or the subjects I care about.  I just got tired of stressing over people I will never meet in person.  Even the college friends I have, I haven’t talked to many of them in person since graduation.  Sure what they are up to is interesting, but I don’t need a moment to moment play by play of their daily lives.  I can easily catch up with them via email maybe a few times a year.  Just because I may not talk to you on a daily basis doesn’t mean I am upset with you.

And in the make believe reality that is fostered by the abuse of social media, that realization can be easily lost.  Most people aren’t going to respond to me within a few minutes simply because they are at work or taking care of their children, etc.  I lost sight of that for awhile when I was spending a few hours a day checking social media.

Since I cut my social media accounts I found I am doing far more writing and watching movies.  I also don’t play as many computer games.  I must have spent four hours just writing down my random thoughts yesterday.  It is far easier to express myself in emails, blogs, journal entries, etc. than I can on facebook and twitter posts.  Besides, it isn’t like my facebook accounts were generating that much more traffic.

At this point in my life I don’t care if I make money off the blog, at least as long as I have my disability pension and can make rent every month.  In almost fifteen years as a renter I haven’t missed a rent payment yet.  I’m not going hungry, even if some days I’m living off hot dogs, ramen noodles, and canned vegetables.  I don’t write for fame and fortune.  I write for a record to be out there somewhere in cyber space.  I suppose it’s like putting a message in a bottle, tossing it into the ocean, and hoping someone finds it someday.  Or maybe like the Voyager probes that will drift through space for ages, silently waiting to be discovered.  It is kind of like my way of saying to the cosmos “I existed for a short while in an average small town with a mental illness.”  That probably is going to be my legacy, if I am going to have one.  I don’t have children and probably never will.  I will probably be forgotten by my own family in a few generations, by my friends and classmates families far sooner.  Yet this blog, this proverbial message in a bottle that is digital driftwood floating through cyber space, who knows how long it will go on.  Maybe in a few generations there will be a cure for mental illness.  Sheesh, in a few generations life today may be completely unrecognizable to the citizens of that time and age.  They may look upon mental illness with as much shock and horror as people today look upon Bubonic Plague, smallpox, and cholera.  Some people live on through their offspring.  Others live on through their work.  A select few are such movers and shakers their deeds and names live on throughout history.  Me, well, if I am to live on after I die, it will be in the words I write in a small blog.

Removing Myself From Social Media and Thoughts on Change

I decided I’m giving up social media.  I cancelled my twitter account and have put my facebook on inactive status.  I spend too much time on facebook and not enough time actually writing and researching.  I have only a couple close friends and a few cousins I really hear from anymore via facebook.  I would have given it up over a year ago if I wasn’t fearful I’d permanently lose contact with my friends and family.  I tired writing more emails several months ago, but got only one response from the dozen I sent out.  I suppose it feeds into my paranoia that my friends and family really don’t like me that much.  Every time I call my parents, the bulk of the conversation focuses on what I can do to improve myself and how to make my apartment more presentable.  I find this irritating.  I really do.  I can’t even just live anymore.  At this point in my life, I don’t care if I impress people or am popular.  I have never been popular, not even in college or high school.  But I had a good time in college because I got to spend time with people even more eccentric and academically oriented than myself on a daily basis.  I know many people condemn academic knowledge, scholarly pursuits, and intelligence.  I have endured this my entire life.  And I have given up on people ever changing their attitudes towards intelligence and wisdom.  I just want to live and be allowed to pursue my goals, which include learning as much as I possibly can about as many subjects as I can.  I don’t give a damn if I ever make a cent off my pursuits of knowledge and wisdom.  As long as I have enough money to make rent and keep my pantry stocked and myself clothed and my psych medications current, everything else is just add ons.  I don’t need a large house, a prestigious career, a trophy wife, lots of kids, a fancy car, designer clothes, or the respect of people I have nothing in common with.  I never have.  I was, like many ambitious teenagers, brainwashed into thinking I needed such nonsense to have a fulfilled life.  It took a serious mental illness and struggling for most of my twenties to realize that wasn’t what I wanted for myself.  And it took a few more years to where I got to the point when I no longer felt shame for not wanting a life I had no say in designing.

I don’t feel shame for not wanting to be rich or famous.  I don’t write blogs every few days with the idea I will get noticed and make a train load of money.  I write for a record of what it like to be a mentally ill man in early 21st century America.  I don’t write just for my current audience.  I write for future generations so there is at least one record as to what mental illness meant in the early stages of the Information Revolution.  And make no mistake, our species and our civilizations are going through a period of transition at very least as profound as the Agricultural Revolution thousands of years ago and the Industrial Revolution hundreds of years ago.  It should be no wonder so many people are afraid and angry.  Afraid of what’s happening and what is going to happen.  Angry that we found that much of what we learned in our youths and what worked well in previous generations is starting to no longer apply.

We are at a point in history when our science and tech is advancing faster than our institutions of government, religion, education, finance, industry, and social norms.  At this point in time (November 2019), the world is far different than the one I went to high school in during the 1990s.  I’ve recently rewatched some of the tv shows that were popular when I was a teenager, and it’s almost quaint looking at some of the tech that was considered cutting edge twenty five years ago.  Even in the Matrix series, there were no smart phones, social media, video sharing platforms, laptop computers, etc.  There were still phone booths in that series and that was made only twenty years ago.  I didn’t notice the subtle changes that were happening over the course of a year or two when things were happening.  But looking at it over the span of twenty years, I am as a 39 year old man living in a world that is foreign to the one I occupied at age 16.  I’m not even sure my niece and nephews have seen a VCR tape anywhere outside of a history show or museum.  I sometimes chuckle when I see older people who don’t research online as much as my cohorts do.  But my teenage nephews would chuckle that I have never run a 3D printer or used a VR headset.  One of my nephews recently bought a VR headset from money he raised working odd jobs for his parents and neighbors.  He set up a VR flying simulator for my father.  As for me, I’m waiting a couple of years for the prices to drop and the tech to get more user friendly.  As crazy as the changes I have seen in the last twenty years have been, I guarantee the next twenty will be even more so.  At this point I’m just content to buckle up and enjoy the ride from my apartment in small town Nebraska.

Rant About Jobs and Finding Meaning

I would welcome a cure to my schizophrenia but I have had bad enough experiences with work place environments that I never want to hold another job again.  I used to vomit from anxiety probably 50 percent of the time when I went into work customer service jobs.  The only job I didn’t do this was my janitor job.  But then, I didn’t work around crowds and I had to see my boss only once a day.  Yet, good luck finding a job that doesn’t involve working with crowds or office politics nonsense even with a college degree.

I would be completely content to be where I had to be around the same group of people day after day and only rarely interact with others outside my work team.  Almost no jobs like that exist anymore.  A significant number of jobs will likely be taken over by machines within the next ten to fifteen years. I have tried to tell people this for several years now.  But almost no one listens or if they do they tell me I am a liar.  The future is coming my friends.  These jobs, at least the ones we fight over now, will be going away.  And there isn’t anything even populist politicians or professional Luddites can do to stop it.  Sure, they can delay the inevitable.  But it will only put their individual businesses and nations at a competitive disadvantage and make the transition to a largely automated economy a lot tougher than it has to be.

Some people think I’m crazy or hopeless dreamer or a liar when I tell them this.  I am not stupid.  I am just ahead of the curve.  And being forced out of the workforce because of my schizophrenia meant that I was forced to find a different way to define myself than what I did for money.  But, in many ways, I am thankful I was forced to redefine myself at age 25 as opposed to age 45 with a family and a mortgage.  I went through my identity crisis when I was still young, flexible, and physically healthy.  It would be much tougher now that I’m 39 years old if I got laid off from a job because a machine can do it faster and more precise than I ever could.  The future is happening.  It just isn’t evenly distributed.  Changes are coming hard and fast in the next ten to twenty years, even more so than they are now.  It is time to stop denying it and adapt.

Worries About My Friends and Our Near Term Future

I worry sometimes.  Namely I worry about my friends and people younger than I am in general.  I worry about most of my friends struggling in life.  Most of my friends are buried in debts, mostly student loans, that they will be lucky if they ever pay off.  And most of my friends weren’t that dumb with their money or life decisions.  Most of my friends went to college because 1) we were told that was a path to a decent career and 2) we looked around and saw that there were no jobs that paid decently requiring only a high school degree.  Long gone are the days when someone could get a job as a factory hand or farm worker in their early twenties and hold onto that job for over forty years and retire with a paid off home, pension, and health insurance.

I’m seeing my friends struggle in their day to day lives.  Most are working a full time job and a part time job or a side gig.  Almost none of them own houses.  The only one of my close friends who owns a house is a high school teacher in a small town.  And he didn’t buy his house until he was in his late 30s.  They don’t own houses simply because they can’t afford a house and student debts.  I also have friends who have had medical emergencies.  One friend had to file for bankruptcy for medical bills.  One friend is fighting cancer, divorced, lost her children, and is still on the waiting list for disability.  Another friend of mine got a master’s degree only to find the best job she could get in a mid sized city doesn’t pay even 40 grand a year.  Her husband also works a low paying job and moonlights as an Uber driver.  He too has lots of student debt.

Now I know some unsympathetic people will be thinking, “well, that’s what they get for not majoring in STEM or going to the military.”  Well, one of my brother’s best friends pulled straight 4.0 all the way through high school and college and still got rejected for a state medical school at least three times before he was accepted.  As far as I know, he now has a decent career working in a medical lab.  Another of my brother’s friends didn’t finish medical school and residencies until he was in his thirties because of finances and run around from the schools.  Now he works as an emergency search and rescue doctor.  One of my cousins went to trade school for two years to become an electrician.  He worked for a couple railroads, got married, has four kids, and owns a small acreage in rural Nebraska.  But, he is now essentially self employed due to the inconsistent nature of railroad employment and his wife has had medical problems to where I think she had to give up her job as a nurse’s aide.  Another cousin works in web development.  Even though he has had to work for several different firms and sometimes take free lance work, he is doing alright because he has skills that are in demand.  At least for the time being.

Can we really expect most people to become doctors, nurses, webpage designers, computer coders, engineers, tradesmen, etc?  Yet that is all I hear out of “experts” and “business leaders.”  While I think it admirable that people like Mike Rowe want to encourage more people to consider the trades like plumbing, electrician, welding, carpentry, etc, I fear that too much emphasis on the trades will eventually lead the same problem that people who majored in business, law, humanities, liberal arts, etc. are facing now.  Twenty years ago, we were told to go to college and get a degree.  Many of us did only to find that every kid in the developed world was given that advice.  Now the degree doesn’t go nearly as far as it did even forty years ago, primarily because of so many people having degrees.  Then the kids were told “get a masters” or “do unpaid internships”.  Many did only to find that they had six figures in student loans to qualify for jobs that will never pay enough to pay off the loans, let alone pay off a house or even start a family in some cases.

Of course, it doesn’t matter if young people or my friends are angry about this setup.  Because while some jobs have been outsourced to cheaper places, many more were taken over by automation.  I have a friend who works in a call center for a bank.  I fear it’s only a matter of time before his job gets automated.  And, of course, no one in power cares about the twenty and thirty somethings struggling.  They didn’t even care about the  forty something auto or steel workers who lost their jobs to machines and outsourcing.

And it’s no longer just the US or Europe that is outsourcing and automating jobs.  Even China is automating and outsourcing.  Just a few weeks ago I bought some shirts online that were made in a small African country I had to look up on a map.  The US and Europe are just further along in this transition to a highly automated economy.

And of course, the US doesn’t have very good social safety nets or any empathy for those who lost their jobs or are struggling to make ends meet.  My elders like to brag about how well America is doing, how well we take care of our own, and how we are a great Christian nation.  If we cared about our own, than we wouldn’t be having an opioid crisis, mass shootings every day, increasing rates of mental illness, increased suicide rates (especially among middle aged men), and protests in every major city on a daily basis.  For our boasting about being such a Christian nation, we certainly don’t care about those who are misfortunate and had a rough go. Such hypocrisy.

I have no idea how many times I was told “get a job you bum”, “man up”, or “McDonalds and Wal Mart are hiring”.  I, and millions of people in my age bracket and lower did everything we were told.  We still struggle.  And we don’t have any empathy from anyone, not our rulers, not our businesses, not our parents, not our schools, not our churches, and not even from each other.

Unionizing is not an option like it was a hundred years ago because most jobs can or will be outsourced or taken over by machines.  Sure we are on the road to an automated economy where most of the grunt work is done by machines and computers.  But, what is the point if 1) we don’t ditch this idea that everyone has to be defined by what they do for money, 2) most people can’t afford anything beyond the basics because most jobs are done by machines, 3) we have few social safety nets to make up for the fact that most people aren’t able to work in fields that can’t be easily automated.

We may need some things like universal health care, universal basic income, free continuing education, complete overhauls of tax systems, and a general overall shift in public attitudes towards work and compassion for others.  But I don’t see this happening anytime soon, at least not in the US.  I don’t think it will happen in the US in my lifetime simply because most of my countrymen don’t have empathy. Our leaders certainly don’t.

I do believe if our species can survive this transition, which is probably the greatest transition since people settled down and started farming instead of hunting, fishing, and gathering thousands of years ago, our descendants can have a really cool future where creativity and science can bloom.  But, I fear the transition will be a lot tougher than it has to be simply because of many people’s attitudes towards work and their fellow man.  I fear we will lose a few generations and much of their gifts in this transition.  But I guess we as a species lost short term to ultimately be better off when the Industrial Revolution began back in the late 1700s.  I do have great hope for the long term outlook for civilization and our species, but I fear it will be brutal getting there.  And the fact that I won’t live long enough to see the fruits of the seeds being planted today fills me with great sadness.

My Online Confessions

I’m going off subject for this article.  It has been too long since I wrote a just for fun piece.  For this one, I’m going to disclose some facts about myself.  Some will be funny, some may be unpopular, but all of them are true.  So here goes:

  1. My three favorite hobbies are computer games, writing, and weight lifting.
  2. I love nonfiction science books.
  3. I can’t stand dystopic novels or movies (which, unfortunately, is most of tv in recent years).
  4. My favorite pizza toppings are pepperoni and Italian sausage
  5. I can’t stand most fast food.  I haven’t even had a Big Mac in over two years
  6. I get very irritated when people ask me “when are you getting married?”  Sometimes I want to retort to them, especially if they are older than I am, “when are you going to die?”
  7. I don’t like watching sports as much now as I did when I was in my teens and twenties.  But I do mainly so I can have something to talk about with family and friends.
  8. I can’t stand most cable news channels.  I like some business news channels, namely Bloomberg, because they report on things like science and tech breakthroughs more than politics and disaster.
  9. I don’t tolerate rudeness from others in my online interactions.  And I never give second chances to people I don’t personally know.  No exceptions.
  10. I often go out of my way to defend younger people, especially college age and those just starting out in adulthood.  I remember how bad it hurt being stereotyped as a “damn kid” even when I was in grade school.  When I was a teenager I promised myself I would never put anyone else through what I was forced to endure.  Certainly makes me unpopular with my elders and even people my own age.
  11. I don’t understand why it’s popular to be dumb.  Never have and never will.
  12. I don’t understand why it’s evil to be smart.  Never have and never will.
  13. When I write, I find writing in the first person point of view far easier than third person.  Always have.  My best material has always been with myself serving as the narrator.  Even most of my early poems and novel rough drafts were in the first person.
  14. I once had an outline for a science fiction series of novels.  It was mainly about humanity several thousand years with various human settlements declaring independence from an interstellar empire.  Pretty much think Star Trek, Dune, and a touch of the American Civil War.  Sadly I no longer have those notes.
  15. I once had the goal of becoming a best selling writer where half of all my writing and speaking profits would go to philanthropy, namely mental illness research and to the college I graduated from.
  16. High school was some of the toughest years of my life.
  17. College was one of the few places I felt that I wasn’t a complete outcast.  It was one of the only places I met people more eccentric than I am.  I loved college.  Kind of too bad I can’t live in a communal type setting with other researchers, academics, and eccentrics.
  18. One of the few parts I don’t like about being an adult is how tough it is just to spend time with friends.
  19. One thing I absolutely love about being an adult is that I don’t have to act like I care what other people think about me, at least as long as I’m not breaking the law.
  20. I don’t understand the whole ‘Oh God It’s Monday’ and the ‘Thank God It’s Friday’ nonsense.  I never thought it was funny.  Never will.
  21. I don’t understand why it’s funny to hate your in laws or argue with your spouse.  My two best friends I’ve known both for over twenty years.  I can count the number of major arguments I’ve had with the two combined on less than five fingers.  And it certainly doesn’t make our friendships sterile or lifeless or meaningless.  The only time I argue with my parents is during psychotic breakdowns, usually only a couple times per year.
  22. I absolutely despise the phrase “man up.”  I think it’s possibly the stupidest phrase in the English language.  I have never heard anyone tell a woman to “woman up” or an old grandfather to “young down.”  I don’t even hear adults tell kids to “grow up” very often.
  23. I get irritated when I present facts and statistics in a discussion only to be blown off or told I am a lair.
  24. My favorite ice cream is vanilla, simply because it goes good with most toppings and favorings.  It mixes with almost anything.
  25. I like poetry, particularly poems about war, struggle, and overcoming challenges.
  26. I don’t understand why many people can’t see that mental health problems are real.  I mean, the human brain is the most intricate and complex piece of machinery we know about.  Yet, too many people act like nothing can go wrong with it.  Shows a lack of critical thinking on many people’s part.
  27. I am extremely distressed by most education systems not teaching kids how to critically think or be adaptable.  We have known our schools weren’t adapting to the challenges kids would face as adults as far back as the 1980s (at least).  Yet we still teach our kids in 2019 like it was 1919.  I am convinced that is why so many people are anxious and depressed about their lives as adults, simply because they weren’t taught how to adapt to the current realities.  In short, we train kids and teenagers for a local and stable world only to dump them out in a global and rapidly changing world in their early twenties.  And then we have the gall to wonder why they are anxious and struggling in their lives.  We trained them for a world that no longer exists, often to the tune of many thousands of dollars in student debts that will take most of a career to pay off.  If that isn’t child abuse, then nothing is.
  28. I am sometimes lonely.  But I don’t socialize because I don’t want to hear my family and friends endlessly complain.  About the only people in my life who don’t unload their problems on me are my two best friends and my mother.  And it weighs on me and can cause me to be resentful.
  29. I hate being told I’m lucky.  I hate it almost as much as I do being told to “man up.”
  30. I don’t understand why the only manliness most people respect comes out things like war and violence.  Personally, I think Einstein and Newton were every bit as manly as George Patton and Napoleon.  Why is being a thinker considered a sign of weakness?  Hell, if it weren’t for thinkers, there would be no civilization and humanity would probably be extinct.  Think about that the next time you condemn someone for resorting to their brains before their fists or guns.
  31. I don’t understand zero sum thinking.  The idea that someone has to lose for me to gain a benefit is a load of crap.
  32. Don’t discuss politics with me.  Ever.
  33. I have never thought having lots of sex makes a man manly or a woman immoral.  Some people just like sex more than others.
  34. I have lost more jobs and friendships than I can remember because I never gave up on trying to think for myself.  Found out the hard way the world doesn’t respect original thinkers, at least not before they make major breakthroughs.
  35. I am convinced societies love their living tyrants but condemn their living benefactors only to reverse it once their children become the leaders of society.  So maybe there is a sense of justice, even if it’s only in history books and the minds of future generations.
  36. I don’t believe in most conspiracy theories. But I do believe that just enough of them have just enough truth to them to make the entire subject a dark, addictive, and dangerous one.
  37. I believe we live in one of the coolest times in human history, at least as long as you don’t watch the news channels.  News channels report only negative news precisely because that is what we are hard wired to pay attention to.  Good news sites fail, not because they are “fake news”, but because no one pays attention.
  38. I believe we as a human society can solve our problems (or at least adapt so to minimize the impact) and have a really cool future that we, even in 2019, will be jealous of.

Changes

Haven’t written in several days.  I guess I really haven’t had much to report lately.  Had a breakdown three weeks ago but things have been going pretty decent since.  I still spend a lot of time at home.  I feel uneasy in public most of the time, usually preferring to stay home and socialize over the phone or via social media.  I’ve also been sleeping more.  I feel more refreshed when I’m awake and I get more restful sleep and stay asleep longer.  I’ve also given up coffee.  I’ve now gone three weeks without it.  I switched over to tea instead.  I think I’ve gotten more sensitive to caffeine as I age.  I certainly feel more irritable and jittery after a lot of caffeine.

I stay home most of the time anymore.  I admit I don’t socialize much in person.  But it works for me.  I don’t get much out of socializing with my neighbors as I don’t have much in common with them.  I don’t have much in common with most people anymore it seems like.  I’m not interested in politics or local gossip.  I guess I never have been.  And I certainly can’t understand why some people repeat the same mistakes over and over and expect different results.  Maybe it’s from not knowing yourself.  Some people get worried that social media and search engine algorithms know us better than we know ourselves. With as little as some people take time to examine themselves, I’m not surprised.

I do enjoy socializing but only in certain situations that rarely come up for me.  I would rather spend my days alone than deal with rude and ignorant people.  Sadly, rudeness and ignorance seems to be valued by many people.  I would rather not deal with that.  I have enough problems of my own with mental illness.  I can talk for hours about things like history, art, science, literature, philosophy, etc.  But if the conversation turns to gossip, complaints, politics, I’m ready to end the conversation after only a few minutes.

I’m fortunate that I have several friends and family members who will at least tolerate my quirks and fulfill my needs for the types of conversation I crave.  I love intellectual stimulation.  I crave it maybe as much as a drug addict craves his next fix.  I admit learning and reading are my fix.  I can spend months on end researching topics online and in books, sometimes even years.  I have spent several years now on science and tech.  Before that, I spent a few years on economics.  For awhile I dabbled in philosophy.  And I’ve always been interested in history and literature.  I enjoy learning and I enjoy talking about things I learn in my day to day studies.

Since I no longer have a “regular job” and can live decently on my disability pension, I have no reason not to scratch my itch for mental stimulation.  I make it my job to inform myself on things that my friends with families and careers may not have time to research.  Sometimes I am frustrated at most of my friends and family don’t research things like I do.  I imagine that is the illness talking.  As I don’t have traditional employment or children or a wife, and I love learning new things, I have no excuse not to inform myself on topics like tech advances and current events.

I have said previously I am not interested in politics.  What I should have said is I don’t appreciate the fighting that goes along with it.   I do find foreign policy and geopolitics fascinating.  Between modern geopolitics, the rapid advances in science and tech we are now experiencing, and the fact I can learn this with a portable computer and cheap wireless internet that is fast enough I can get videos, this is exciting times for myself.  It seems like much of what was science fiction as recently as thirty years ago is becoming reality now.  And the fact I can relatively easily access psych treatments that weren’t available when I was a child in the 1980s, I can watch this unfold in the news sites and blogs and youtube in real time.  I would say we are living one of the greatest dramas ever written right now, expect this is real life.  I find it all fascinating that things I couldn’t have imagined even twenty years ago are now occurring.  Exciting times we are living in, granted quite stressful at times too.  Stay tuned, it isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

Hope After A Mental Breakdown

Had a bad breakdown a few days ago.  I am quite sure, after twenty years with a mental illness, there is a seasonal aspect to my illness.  I regret having breakdowns and I especially regret taking my breakdowns out on people I love.  I had felt it coming on for awhile and then it finally broke a few days ago.  I hope this is the last one for a long time.  I hate the fact that I can’t just sob and cry my way out of a breakdown rather than lash out and be angry.  I don’t know how much of that is just my personal illness, or always being told a man showing emotions is a sign of weakness, etc. But it’s part of the illness and part of the price of admission into adulthood.

In spite of the illness, and the contradictions and nonsense I am fed on a daily basis by society and popular culture, I do my best to not let this crush my spirit or kill my love for my fellow humans.  I know I am often harsh and short tempered with my fellow humans, and my countrymen in particular.  But, contrary to popular belief, I do not hate humans or my countrymen.  It’s the polar opposite actually.  I love humanity and I love my country and my countrymen.  I see the cool things we have accomplished in the past and are accomplishing on a daily basis.  I see the potential for greatness every day.  And yes, it does bother me when I see people not living up to that potential greatness.  I am tough on people, not because I hate them, but because I believe everyone can excel at least one thing and I can’t stand to see a person waste their potential and time.  I am often tough on my family members because I know they are capable of excellence and have often shown it, especially in times of crisis.  I’m sorry but I don’t have much respect for mediocre work and apathy.

A significant portion of the time when I’m reading science journals online or articles on sites like Bloomberg, CNN, Wall Street Journal, etc. I have to remind myself that this isn’t the science fiction it was when I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s.  I saw the movie Fight Club the other night, and even though the movie was popular when I was in college, I was amazed how people still used land based phone lines, phone booths, primitive looking desktop computers, and even how many people smoked in a movie that came out in the late 1990s.  I personally haven’t had a land phone line since 2007 or 2008 I think.  I haven’t had a desktop computer in 10 years.  And even this year, I was able to email my bank statements and tax information and social security information to my landlady to renew my lease.  All I had to do in person was sign a few documents and pass an annual room inspection.  And since I now have a cleaning lady who drops in once a week, spruces the place up, and allows me to chat with her while she works, the whole process took about a half hour of my time.

I sometimes overlook the progress my fellow humans, myself, and civilization in general has made when I’m bogged down in the day to day struggle.  But when I take a step back and look at it over the course of a few years, it’s quite amazing and gives me hope.  I get even more hope and feel in awe when I look back at over what has happened in the life time of our current crop of world leaders and elders in my life.  I know I am often too harsh on my elders.  I know I need to cut them more slack when I look back and think about all the changes they saw since their childhoods in the 1950s and 1960s.  My father can remember his family being one of the first in his hometown to own a black and white television.  And his uncles used to come out to my grandfather’s farm just to watch the test patterns in the evenings.  Both my parents were typing their high school and even college term papers on electric typewriters.  My mother keeps and old style manual typewriter as a decoration in her house and my eight year old nephew is aghast that people used to write on those things.

I also have to remember that, for some of the elders, old Jim Crow laws and criminalization of things like homosexuality, inter racial marriages, and sex outside of marriage were the law of the land in many places until as recently as the 1970s.  Sure, it feels like some people are backsliding at times.  But the forces at work against such backsliding are far more overwhelming than they would have been even forty years ago.

I can’t even begin to imagine what I will see if I make it to age seventy, if I’m privileged enough to make it that far.  That will be in the year 2050.  I’ve seen some scientists predict everything from bases on the moon and Mars, driverless cars being almost everywhere, nuclear fusion based electricity, to where we no longer use oil and gasoline for transport, to even people augmented their physical strength and mental powers through computer based implants and prosthetic and Iron Man type suits.  I guess I don’t know if I want someone rooting around in my skull planting in chips or injecting me full of blood cell sized machines (at least not right now), but I definitely wouldn’t mind something I could wear that would make me smarter or stronger that I could turn off or take off at a moment’s notice.

Even as much as I love science and tech, I am still adjusting to what is happening and what can be.  And only the best minds in science fiction would have even imagined such things that we are working on now when my father was a kid and reading Dick Tracy comic books in the 1950s.  I know eventually I will be the old man that has trouble keeping up.  I imagine even now my nephews would think it odd I don’t know how to run a 3D printer or a VR headset machine.  My twelve year old nephew set up a flight simulator game on VR for my father (a licensed pilot and former Air Force man) recently that my father occasionally uses.

I don’t know what the future holds, certainly not in terms of working.  The only advice I give to my nephews and niece is ‘stay flexible.’  No one knows.  Maybe people like Mark Cuban will be proven right and that the humanities and arts degrees we have called ‘useless’ and ‘worthless’ degrees for a couple generations will be in as much demand in ten years as STEM and medical degrees are now.  Even though I majored in business in college, I am grateful I took some time to read a lot of philosophy and classical literature when I was young and had more energy.  And I was able to do it for free via my college’s library.  Levitt Library on the York College campus was a second home for me when I was college.  If I wasn’t at my dorm room studying, I could easily be found in the library or with a few buddies discussing philosophy, football strategies, history, or even medieval military tactics at the all night truck stop over chicken fried steaks and 99 cent unlimited cups of coffee.

In spite of my recent melt down, I am hopeful again.  Zig Ziglar was right when he said that positive attitudes and behavior is like taking baths every day, it requires daily maintenance.  No one gets mad when they are extra dirty some days, they just bathe for a little longer.  And of course, some days are dirtier and tougher than others.