Coded gray.

Sunday 11 September 2005

Screenshot Sims2

Pic of the day: In the Sims 2, each generation is much like the other, except for genetic variation. The technological development has stopped somewhere around 2005, and so has the structure of society and its conventions. In real life, it is not like that at all.

Generations

I am 46 years old. If I had a child half my age, this would be a good time for them to have a child of their own. I still have a parent alive, but my grandparents long ago went to their final resting place. Perhaps it is time for me to take a look at the generations of the past, present and future.

My grandparents' generation was born into a world that was simpler but in many ways harsher. Poverty as we think of it was the norm; poverty by their standards meant starvation, and it was not something you just heard about in far-off countries. People had to work hard, mostly with their bodies, for 8-12 hours six days a week. Most people still lived in the countryside, and even in the cities most men worked in the factories. For good measure they had to live through two world wars and the Great Depression in between. But they did get to see such wonders as electricity and telephone becoming widespread, and cars replace the horse-drawn carriage. It was a time of great change, which their own grandparents had not known and their parents had a hard time understanding. The society we live in today was largely shaped by that generation. They were the ones who moved from the countryside to the cities, they were the ones who lifted most western countries up to a level where too much food is more of a danger than too little. But they were also amazingly ignorant and, in fact, stupid. Military enrollment IQ tests have been preserved from around 1914 onward, and the average recruit by then would have been classified as retarded today. Likewise a genius by that time would only be average today. Still, they sufficed for their time. Very few of them are still alive.

My parents' generation grew up during the Depression and World War II, and I guess it did shape them to some degree. A narrow focus on material wealth was typical of the first part of this generation, and inventions were prized if they generated wealth or had a military application. Art and spirituality was seen as luxury. But the tail end of this generation took part in a great change all over the western world: The sexual revolution, the peace movement and preservation of nature were new ideas that came during their time. Movement into the cities continued and pretty much reached its current levels. The movement to the suburbs took over. They also saw much of the change from a purely industrial society to service. Work weeks were shortened and the pay went steadily up.

My generation grew up during the 60es, and took for granted the new ideas that had riveted young adults at the time and offended their elders. Sexual equality, ecological awareness and international culture were as natural to us as they were revolutionary to our grandparents. We were also the first to take material comfort as a given. We took a longer education and expected a safer and more comfortable workplace. The electronic revolution took place in our time, from the transistor radio and the cassette player onward to the personal computer. In the eyes of those who went before, it looked like we had an easy life, free from the hardship of the past. But we grew up in the shadow of the nuclear mushroom, our childhood full of uncertainty and fears that our parents could not protect us from. In so far as our parents were there at all ... they had begun the fission of the nuclear family, and we completed it. For the first time, many people did not even bother to marry, but just lived together. Even among those who married, it was no longer assumed that it would last for life, although many hoped so. We grew up with horror stories about how the world would run full with humans and mass famine would ensue. But we had far fewer children than those who came before us, in Europe not even enough to keep up the native population. And famine is the least of our worries: Obesity is endemic now in the rich world and spreading to the barely industrialized countries such as China and India.

Our children well, not mine, but that's a story in itself grew up with electronics and computers and have a natural aptitude few of us have. College-level education became the norm for the first time. Most of them live in cities, often large cities, and have very specialized jobs. Also hobbies and interests are now very specialized and diverse. Many different "subcultures" arise, some of them inspired by other countries' culture. The steady rise in income and the steadily shorter work hours have come to a stop, if not been outright reversed. But the quality of goods and services is rising instead of its quantity. The arts have exploded to such a degree that it is virtually impossible to even stay oriented on all different genres of music or movies; most concentrate on a limited segment such as techno music or Japanese cartoons. Entertainment is also mixed with spirituality, sometimes of a dark vein, as in "black metal" and related genres often associated with Satanism or worship of old, primitive pantheons. Others take spirituality in more subtle directions: Meditation and aura working are pretty common and no longer cause everyone to sidle away and excuse themselves. A supermarket of religious and spiritual ideas is available all over the world, and the Internet connects everyone who wants to be connected globally. Meanwhile the mobile phone ("cell phone" in America) connects people locally. The young generation is more social than any before, but they socialize sometimes in ways that are hard to understand for their elders.

A new generation is being born now. I wonder what will happen to them? What world will they grow up in? How will their own parents change the world now that they are slowly taking it over from us? I hold a small hope that the babies of this time will grow up to be the first of a new breed of man, with our "hardware" but with a new and better "software". Unless we mess it up too badly, as it seems we may still do. Perhaps it is further off, I don't know. But I think we are still on track that way. A time where nations and ideologies will cease to exist, where each and every person will be unique, free and yet connected to the whole world. A time where fear and hate dissolve as we see ourselves as part of each other, and the loss of even one soul diminishes us all, while the gain of one is the gain of all. A time where science and spirituality are one: for there is only one truth, and you need not believe what you know and experience.

To you who blink against the daylight for the first time, for you who take your first steps, for you who form your first words these days: To you do I entrust my thoughts, my hopes and my dreams. And I hope you shall surpass them. I hope for the day when you will laugh at my ignorance, when all the clouds of misunderstanding will be gone from the skies of knowledge. You are our hope, you are the reason why we lived. May the flame of life burn brightly in you long after we have flickered and faded.


Yesterday <-- This month --> Tomorrow?
One year ago: The unexpected evil
Two years ago: OMG they killed Anna Lindh!
Three years ago: War and rumors of war
Four years ago: Remember this day
Five years ago: Monoculture
Six years ago: Loosening my religion

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