Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How to Survive the 21st Century

There are many people in our schools right now who will live to see the 22nd century. For the first time in history we will have people who will have lived part of their lives in three centuries. One of the fastest growing segments of the population today is people who are over 85.

What will it take to survive the 21st century?

Living longer than 100 years will take specific knowledge, skills and dispositions. We currently know everything we need to know to live through the century - we just have to make sure we learn and apply existing knowledge. Most of the problem will be with our dispositions - we have to get ourselves to do the things we know we should do.

Health - Read Ray Kurzweil's books "The Fantastic Voyage" and "The Singularity is Near". These books provided a blueprint for extending your healthy and vital life well into the 22nd century.

Environment - We know what to do to manage global warming, clean water supplies, healthy air and many natural disasters. Very soon, cities will produce more energy than they use and decrease carbon content in the atmosphere rather than add to it.

Technology - Popular fiction and film play on our fear of machines taking over the planet and trying to eliminate people. To keep that from happening we will have to learn as much as we can about machine intelligence. The solution isn't to avoid technological advances. The solution is to have more people who understand how technology works.

War and violence - We know one thing that could imperil our chances of survival is death by the hands of other people. We know what needs to happen to keep that from happening. One thing is for each person to think like a global citizen rather than a nationalist or tribal isolationist. 150 years ago we encountered war from neighboring states. 100 years ago we encountered wars from other nations. 50 years ago we encountered wars from other continents. Today we are the ones waging wars. 50 years from now there will be no wars sanctioned by any state, nation, or continent.

Work - Loss of gainful employment, jobs being taken over by machines, elimination of the skills we trained for, and a myriad of other conditions that cause us not to be able to survive financially, are on the forefronts of our minds today. The 21st century requires new skills that weren't even imagined in the 20th century. Survival will depend on our ability and willingness to learn new skills. Since we will be living to be 120 we should expect to spend 40 of those years learning new skills, 40 working, and 40 in peaceful retirement.

How can we help the fast-growing population who are students today, but will live well over 100, to survive the 21st century?

1 comment:

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