We often ask kids “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
What would happen if I asked a group of adults in their twenties and thirties, “What do you want to change when you grow up?”
“This week, I asked that by email of listserv that I am part of. I wrote:
“What would you like the world to look like when you’re 90 years old? Think big! Take off your grad student hat and put on your dreamer tiara!”
The responses I got back showed a lot about how people see the future , their own versions of heaven or hell.
An English literature researcher wrote about language in the future. He forecasts that “[t]he world will be standardized on a few object-oriented computer languages updated at regular intervals. These will be taught to infants alongside a basic spoken English derived from Internet-speak.” Notably, he also forecasts the death of the blog in the not too distant future.
Others kept really practical and proposed amendments to existing institutions and problems:
“By 2100AD the gap between rich and poor has declined precipitously, and the international banking establishment is managed democratically by the UN council, which has been stripped of the prior veto system,” said one friend.
Our energy problems will be solved because “by 2040 humanity begins mass production of clean cheap and plentiful energy via controlled fusion ,” according to a science type.
Maybe , “[p]eople [will] drink less, fight less, [and] produce more art and music than ever before. Maybe we will have devised a way for the weather to be “sunny everyday, with abundant sources of food in nature, and no…greedy people to ruin it all,” said others.
Maybe we’ll just be old , another friend wrote, always the practical one:
“In my dream world, I am 90 and I can hold onto my own glass of water as I swallow my vitamins. Also, I don’t need a powerful telescope in order to see my vitamins. I wouldn’t say no to a few hairs left on my had and a couple of teeth here and there to keep my smile in place – but let’s not get too picky.”
My own utopia for age 90 looks most like this version imagined by a friend:
“When I’m 90 years old, I’d like to see smaller disparities between the world’s rich and poor. I want human lives to be richer in community and simpler in material desires. I hope for a 35 hour or less work week so people could spend more time with family and friends. Working less would allow more time for creative endeavors, civic engagement, and fun. Health care and education should be universal rights. I want more fish in the sea and bigger forests. My vision is for an economy powered by sunlight, not fossil fuels. When I’m close to a century in age, I hope to see more people gardening, enjoying time in nature, and taking the time to keep old people company.”
A few years ago, someone condescendingly told me that it was okay to be overly idealistic at my age. “Don’t worry,” he said, “it only wanes as you get older.”
I hope he’s wrong. So far, I’m just getting better at imagining a better future.