Thursday, August 11, 2011

So, what now?

I guess I'll start with saying hi to all the readers of this blog.

Hi! :)

I am one of the relatives and I said to LS this spring that I felt like starting to write on this blog - I had so many ideas and things I wanted to share. Well, summer got the best of me and my login got left unused in a dark corner of my computer. But LS latest blog about the future and now really got me thinking, so here goes my first blog entry. I guess the next one will be a proper presentation of myself.

So, regarding the future. I recognize a lot of the same patterns, problems and attitudes here in Sweden that LS describes. And from a lot of the countries I have been visiting too. But what strikes me is that this is only true in the Western countries. If you go to Asia - China, Vietnam and even the really poor countries like Mongolia or Cambodia - you will meet a huge optimism, big beliefs and hopes for the future and lots of ideas for how the world will evolve.

I believe that this is natural in many ways. The 20th century has been marked by a huge increase in living standards in the West - we have moved from large families and low life expectancy to smaller families and a very high age. This has been followed by a rocketing in economy and growth - and with this comes of course optimism, dreams and thinking about the future for humanity.

This is what is now happening in Asia, in South America and in some parts of Africa - they are all moving towards a much better life and feel as optimistic as the West did 50 years ago.

The West on the other hand have in many ways reached a plateau of living standards and we also have to face that more and more people reach the same plateau, thus losing the feeling of having a superior life. With this also comes problems of environment and food for everyone - problems caused by us spending a lot more of Earth's resources than we should.

Our economies and societies also seems to be shaped after always growing. They are made to becoming bigger and when we reach the plateau of economical growth we start facing a lot of problems. This can be seen in US now where a lot of tough decisions has to be made and perhaps even clearer in Greece. The politicians in Greece are heavily pressed by the rest of the world to take some very tough decisions and also extremely pressed by their own people who are pissed off - pissed off by having to lower their standards, their salaries and their way of life, due to no fault of their own. But perhaps that's what it takes when a country suddenly reaches the plateau and is no longer growing? In that case, US and many other countries have some very tough times ahead...

So, what will happen? I believe that we will live with this despair for a while. Until we either come up with a way of society, a way of living and an attitude that can handle not growing and not becoming better - or until the next explosion in living standards. What will trigger this? My guess is when we solve the energy problems for good by really getting fusion to work - and when (not if) that happens I also hope that this jump in living standards will reach the whole world within a decade, rather than waiting more than a century to spread over the continents. And with this I also think we'll restart space flight and start having other dreams for the future of humankind.

So it's really a bright future ahead - as long as we learn to deal with living in the now for a while. :)


EH said...

Welcome AI, good to see you here!

Interesting thoughts about economies reaching a plateau, and thus making us feel more vulnerable. Also that more and more people reaches the same level of standard and that this makes us feel less superior. This is so true, but I haven´t thought about it in that way. Are we more shaped by what others tells us we need then our actual needs? And what others have?
Have growth economies made us more sensitive to what others have and we don´t?

AI said...

Yes, I think that it's been a long time since we had any "real" needs in that sense - today our needs are very much driven by marketing and a jealousy of not having the latest, best things. It's not so much about really needing something, but more about wanting stuff. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since it also continues to drive development in all areas.

LS said...

Hi AI - wonderful that you are here. Yes, I think you are right about West vs. developing countries, with one big exception. If you look at how people in the US really live, most of them have a much lower living standard than western Europe. There are a lot of money here of course, but it is very unevenly distributed. The top 1% has 99% of the money, or something like that, and it has never before been this uneven. So in Greece they need to cut down on entitlements, but here in the US a redistribution of resources is what is most needed (and no politician that wants to be reelected dares to say so, except maybe for Bernie Sanders from Vermont).

The idea of ever-growing growth is of course totally unsustainable, just like both of you point out.

EH, that jealousy, I know what you mean. Marketing and advertising drives a lot of that, don't you think? 8-year olds get iphones, every teenager has to have a car, etc.
Lets keep talking, I think these are such important issues.

EH said...

Let's summon up the needs for the western people shall we?
A place to stay, a home . Important for your stability and personal safety.
Money, so an income is good
Some clothes to keep warm and dry, but also to be well respected in the society.
Transportation ( maybe a car or a bike)
Information and contact with others. ( tv, radio, phone, internet)
If things are bought, go for second hand quality stuff.

What you don't need? Designed clothes in bad quality, expensive "latest model" of technology, crappy fast food, plastic toys from McD and so on.

I feel it is important to say that this is not meant as an extreme way of living but an ordinary city life. And for me outdoor equipment is basic needs too, so I can get out there and feel the world.

LS said...

I agree EH with those needed things, but there are different kinds of needs. Physical needs for survival for all people (food, shelter, mostly), and then needs for survival in the modern world (job, transportation, home). Then our social needs (communication, family, friendships, and places to meet, traditions, routines, and love). Finally, each person need one more thing to be happy I think, and that is some control over their own life and their own time so they can pursue just not their job and whatever else they need to do to provide for the basic needs, but also pursue their creativity, interests, dreams, and things that matter to them. But none of this have to cost a lot of money and certainly doesn't have much to do with buying new things all the time. I forgot one thing, we do need healthcare too, because without that many of us would die young. Interesting topic... Marketing and media creates these artifical needs all the time. But is it then bad to want a well-built and well-designed chair, even if it is expensive and new? I don't know. It is not really NEEDED, but it can fulfill the last part, the happiness and fulfillment part. There must be some line there, a gray zone of want vs. need.