Thousand Year Itch
by Carl F. Gauze
Those who ignore the past are destined for Future Shock, so let's look at the fears current in 1000 A.D. and contrast and compare with the 2001 zeitgeist. Back in the old days, people were pretty darn convinced the world was about to end and the J man was coming to sort the Christians from the infidels and toss then into a pit of burning sulfur or a big fluffy pillow in the sky, depending on how they acted and believed. As a result of the threat of this poorly proven but scary scenario, people went to church, built hospitals, prayed, fasted, and acted just a hair better than they might have otherwise. And they went on and died from perfectly mundane things, like plague or falling from a horse.
And today we tremble in fear of the poorly proven but scary scenario of global warming, which has poked and prodded us to lay off the Freon and separate our beer bottles from the shampoo containers, all in the well-meaning hope that the nasty old ozone hole won't melt the ice caps or freeze over the tropics, depending on whichever model made it to the cover of Nature this week. In other words, we're just lightly neater than we would be otherwise, not withstanding SUV's from hell and a penchant to more icicle lights on our house than the local utility can support. And now we die from Lymphatic cancer and drive-by shootings.
And where will we be in at the wrap of the next kiloyear? Well, certainly there will be technology we can't begin to imagine -- commuting via personal helicopters, shiny robot maids who vacuum everywhere AND do windows, complete turkey dinners in a pill. Yet we should rest assured that people will worry as we do, just about different things. Will they avoid using hyperplastic screwdrivers and preserve precious and endangered Higgs bosons, or will they actually engage in manual sex acts to avoid mutating their children's mitochondrial DNA? We won't ever know, but they still die from the same boring things their neighbors suffer -- snakebite, or getting lost on a weekend climbing trip to some godforsaken canyon on Mars. But their hearts will be in the right place, and they'll be slightly the better for their efforts, which is all any of us can hope for.