Steve McEllistrem

The Devereaux Dilemma

If you could see the Future

If you could see the future, would you want to?

Consider that you might see something you don’t want to see – like a world run by cockroaches or your grandchildren in prison for committing fraud or everyone deciding to vote for Democrats. Oh, the horror!

You might see that you’re sickly or dead or lonely or broke. You might see that your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/husband has left you or cheated on you or simply decided to ignore you.

On the other hand, you might see a world in which humanity has managed to conquer its problems and eliminate war or reduce its polluting ways or save nearly extinct species or even bring some of them back.

You might see disease as a rarity and people routinely living to 100. You might see people no longer having to work because computers and robots do everything for you now. You might see people engaged in peaceful and pleasant activities, free to pursue their passions because they no longer have to concern themselves with putting food on the table.

Or you might see things pretty much as they are now: life little changed from its current incarnation – people using more technology but not finding more free time – some diseases wiped out while new ones create problems – some wars eliminated because large countries are more dependent on each other economically, but other wars begun because of inequality or religious or ethnic intolerance.

If you’re an optimist, you likely want to see the future because you imagine all the wonderful things that will exist then. And if you’re a pessimist, you probably don’t want to see the future because you expect it to be horrible. While, if you’re a realist, you might not know whether you want to see it because you can imagine all sorts of good and bad things that might come to pass and you’re not sure if the good will outweigh the bad.

At least with science fiction you can say, “Maybe this won’t happen, maybe we’ll find a way to make things better than they are.” That’s why I like good science fiction, well-written science fiction. It shows us possibilities – good and bad – that await us and allows us to work toward the former.


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