Friday, July 22, 2011

Our Daughter's Future (and Europe's?)

Note: we didn't actually make it to France this week as I said we would. We've had to postpone our trip until November.

When I was a seven or eight years old, my mother was visiting a friend and I went outside to play. I wandered far and got lost in the suburbs. I knocked on a door and a lady answered. I explained that I was lost and could she please point me in the direction of the apartment complex my mother was at. She invited me inside, sat me at the table and said that we would have to wait until her husband got home.

I was scared. Terrified. I didn't want to wait hours for her husband and I didn't know why I was being held here. She made me a sandwich and I asked if I could play in the back yard. She said "yes" and after a few minutes of playing to reassure her, I slipped out the back gate. I ran down the alley and hit a dead end. My terror grew even more. I knew I'd have to run back the other direction and was terrified she'd be waiting for me. She wasn't and the other end of the alley was open and I eventually found my way back to the apartments.

NASA image of things my
daughter will take for granted.
My daughter may never know the terror of being lost. Perhaps I'll tell her the story one day and she'll ask me why I didn't use GPS to find my way back.

When I was born, presumably my mother may have thought that I'd have a nicer car and a few new household gadgets, but playing in a virtual world with people from around the globe? No, I think not.

I can't even imagine what life my daughter will have. I am living in what would have been a science fiction age in the 70s. My daughter will do the same. Perhaps she'll have the fortune to see people land on Mars. Perhaps she'll have the opportunity to leave Earth (I certainly hope so!). In any event, she will grow up in a world completely unlike what I knew.

Our beautiful daughter
I envy her. The future belongs to her, not me.
I grew up in the Cold War. The Russkies were a terrifying threat, promising to enslave the world (or at least, that's what Americans thought). Europe was a fantasy and China was an exotic, far off land that I knew nothing about. Today, China is on the rise, Europe is uniting, the Soviet Union is something we read about in history books and the United States is struggling.

But we still don't know what the future will bring. The spectre of the PIIGS, the economically struggling countries of Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain, threaten the stability of the Euro. Italy's struggle to deal with the influx of Libyans and Tunisians is threatening the border-free Schengen area in Europe. Given that the European Union is little more than a pile of treaties and not a "United States of Europe"[1], the future of the Union is uncertain. I doubt it will go away, but it's going to transform and we don't know how.

We also don't know how China's rise is going to impact the world. We don't know how India's growing economy will change the world. We don't understand the full impact of climate change[2].

All I know is that today things are changing far faster than when I was born and the world my daughter grows up in is likely going to be one which would have been completely unrecognizable to past generations. It's both exciting and scary and I can't wait to see what her life is going to be like.

1. A quick political note: for those American's who are truly keen on "state's rights", take a look at Europe for an extreme example of both the strengths and weaknesses of this concept. Despite some Europeans complaining about being governed from Belgium, this is very much not the case compared to the US federal government.

2. You may not believe in climate change and you may think that scientists are divided on this topic. They're not. 98% of scientists who work in climatology agree that humans are changing the climate and they're pretty pissed off at know-nothing politicians who find it inconvenient to business interests.

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