Atanu Dey On India's Development

12-12-12

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Today is 12-12-12. I suppose none of us reading this will be around for the next 12-12-12 when it rolls around in 100 years on 12th December 2112. It is a sobering thought. We’ll all be dead. You and I, and everyone we know will be dead by then. Sorry to rain on your parade. I wonder what it will be like in 100 years — and I am sure that no one knows today what it will be like, just as the people living in 1912 could not have imagined what it would be like to live in 2012.

It was a world without the two world wars. No phones or computers. No world wide web. No commercial flying around the world. No nuclear power or for that matter no nuclear bombs. None of the conveniences that we take for granted.

Technological progress is speeding up. In 100 years, it is almost certain that there will be no poverty — at least of the kind we know of today. There will be poor people but by then our definition of poverty would have changed. Perhaps the poor of the future will be richer than the richest of today — just like the poor of today are richer than the richest of a hundred years ago.

That’s the nature of our technological world: that on average the world gets richer. No amount of money 100 years ago could have bought you the antibiotics that you can get at the corner drug store, or a flight at 40,000 feet moving through space at 1000 kms at hour in an aluminum cylinder. Heck, aluminium was barely known at that time.

(Did you know that aluminium is the third most abundant element (after oxygen and silicon), and the most abundant metal, in the Earth’s crust.)

The world is richer today than could have been imagined one hundred years ago — and the world of 100 years from now will be richer in ways that we cannot even begin to imagine today.

I am sure that the grinding poverty of the world of today will be a thing of the past. I am certain that people 100 years hence will have a life expectancy measured in the hundreds of years. It sounds fantastic but then if you had told people living 100 years ago that the life expectancy of people will be 80 years or more in 100 years, they would have laughed in your face.

Every of the technological bits we routinely enjoy today could not have been imagined one hundred years ago. To those who lived a century ago, everything we take so casually as a given would have sounded like magic. As the late great technology prophet Arthur Clarke said, a sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

As I said before that no one reading this is going to be around on Dec 12, 2112 but I am also certain that there are people alive today who would be around to witness the next 12-12-12. Life expectancy would grow exponentially. Advances in biotechnology will guarantee indefinite life spans. Many of the children born in the 21 century in today’s developed nations are likely to live for hundreds of years.

In a sense, today is no different from yesterday or tomorrow: it is just that according to the calendar that is commonly followed, today is 12-12-2012. Our calendar dates are merely nominal. What is called “common era” or CE used to be called the “Christina Era” previously. It really does not matter what you call an arbitrary convention. The earth is inconceivably older than two thousand years. It is four or five billion years old — six orders of magnitude older than what the Jews, Christians and Muslims believe.

Talking of beliefs, some nutcases believe that the world is going to end on Dec 21st, 2012 — that is in a few days. They believe this because the Mayan calendar ends on that date. That’s kind of silly. It’s like believing that your world will end just because the calendar on your kitchen wall ends on Dec 31, 2012. The printed calendar ends because it runs out of pages — the publishers of the calendar believe that they cannot sell calendars with thousands of pages.

So anyway, the world is coming to an end — at least according to the feeble-minded. I only wish I knew some of the rich feeble-minded kooks so that I could persuade them to give me some of their stuff since they will not miss stuff anyway.

Of course, regardless of how much stuff I have today, I know that the world for me is definitely going to end in a few short years. That prospect does not fill me with dread like it does for the believers of monotheistic religions. For the deeply monotheist religious, death holds a particular dread that arises out of the uncertainty of whether they are going to heaven or to the hell that Jesus created for the unworthy. (Jesus was a particularly nasty person with a heinous imagination.)

I am out of here. Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

  • Subhas Chilumula

    Atanu, one more instance of great easy-flowing prose with your trademark satire! I like the word ‘nutcases’. That’s what they are! Hope you could find some rich feeble-minded kooks! Rich and also feeble-minded are tough to find!

  • Ashish

    @Atanu

    —Perhaps the poor of the future will be richer than the richest of today — just like the poor of today are richer than the richest of a hundred years ago.—

    I too hope sir, but don’t you think the rapidly changing demographics especially the high increasing population of Muslims will allow this to happen. Future is looking bleak to me sir & perhaps the rich of the future will be poorer than the poorest of today?