“We stopped dreaming.” A mini-rant from Neil deGrasse Tyson.

A small clip from Real Time With Bill Maher in which Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about the budget problems at NASA:


Found over at Atheist Media Blog.

My earliest memories are from the 1970’s — being born in 1967 it took a few years before I could remember much of anything — and I can recall there was still a little bit of that desire to dream about tomorrow hanging around when I was young. Shows and magazine articles about the future did become less frequent as time went on and more often than not were foreign produced instead of home grown. For example, I can remember a TV show airing on The Discovery Channel back in the early 1980s called Beyond 2000 that I used to watch all the time. It was produced in Australia (all the hosts had the most awesome accents) and it covered up and coming technologies and advancements.

I couldn’t tell you why, but as I kid I was very keen on futurism and the promises and advances that new technology would bring with it. I’ve been ready for my self-piloting flying car and self-cleaning push-button kitchen since I was a little kid and saw reruns of the old 50’s and 60’s promotions from companies like GE and General Motors. I can remember the day when I realized that I was going to see the turn of the century and actually live in what a lot of people used to consider “the future.” My love of science fiction is tied into all of this as well. Do you realize that we’re just four years away from the high-tech future depicted in Back to the Future II? When Doc and Marty go into the future to save Marty’s kids they arrive on October 21st, 2015. Some of the stuff depicted in those scenes is already here. Specifically stuff like the huge flat screen television set on which Marty’s son launches a dozen channels at the same time. My AT&T U-Verse cable TV allows me to watch multiple news/sports/kids channels at once. I don’t use that service, but it’s there and it’s not unique to AT&T. Still waiting on that 5 second food rehydrator that they used in the kitchen though. Or, for that matter, my own personal Mr. Fusion. I’m so future-oriented in fact that my biggest disappointment with the BTTF sequels is that so little of them takes place in the future.  I was so unhappy that the third movie took place mostly in 1885.

So yeah, now that I think about it it does seem like we don’t really spend much time thinking about a better future. Most of our really popular science fiction these days depicts it as dystopian and bleak. More often than not the advances of tomorrow in our popular culture are depicted as being our downfall. I can’t really think of a recent show that promotes the idea of dreaming about what good things the future will bring. Perhaps it’s a side effect of living in an age where new technologies comes at such a rapid pace that it’s no longer amazing to us. We carry phones in our pockets that make the communicators on Star Trek pale in comparison in terms of what they can do and they have more computing power than the computers that ran the Space Shuttles. We can connect with almost anyone anywhere on the planet at a moments notice through any of a host of mediums from a telephone call to an email to an instant message to a social network. Most of us carry a music collection around with us that would amount to literally hundreds to thousands of vinyl albums from years past. Our cars, while not flying, are still some of the most highly technologically advanced things we own, safer than they’ve ever been, and only getting smarter with each new model year. And with this simple blog post I will reach more people at one time than any non-celebrity/non-politician/Average Joe of the past could have ever hoped to.

You’d think I’d have something more profound to say.

 

I have a bad feeling this article from The Onion of the future will turn out to be all too true.

Sometimes the folks at The Onion really know how to drive a point home. Take, for example, this news item from Decatur, IL in the year 2083:

Future U.S. History Students: ‘It’s Pretty Embarrassing How Long You Guys Took To Legalize Gay Marriage’ | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source.

The classroom of 15-year-olds at MacArthur High School—all of whom were born in the late 2060s and grew up never questioning the obvious fact that homosexual couples deserve the right to get married—were reportedly “amazed” to learn in their Modern U.S. History: 2081 Edition textbooks that as late as the 2020s, gays and lesbians actually had to fight for the constitutional right to wed.

“Wow, that is nuts,” said student Jeremy Golliver, who claimed he knew gay rights was a struggle “like, a hundred years ago” but didn’t realize it lasted so long. “It’s really embarrassing, when you think about it. Just the fact that people in this century were actually saying things like, ‘No, gays should not be allowed to marry,’ and were getting all up in arms about it, as if homosexuals weren’t full citizens or something. It’s insane.”

“I mean, was everybody just a huge bigot back then or what?” Golliver added.

Think about all the crap from our history that we look back on and are amazed that we, as a nation, ever allowed it to occur. Slavery, forced segregation, Japanese internment camps, etc. and so on. I have no doubts that gays will eventually get the same rights to marriage as everyone else. It’s only a matter of time, but it’d be nice if it were sooner rather than later. As this article points out, it’s already been entirely too long:

“If they thought it was the right thing to do, why didn’t President Clinton or Obama or whoever just say, ‘Hey, discriminating against gay people is wrong, so let’s let them get married’?” said Pete Merriam, 15, who was born in an age with no death penalty and with nationwide approval of a woman’s right to choose. “I get that they wanted to be reelected or whatever, but come on. That is so stupid.”

“And look, our textbooks say civil rights legislation was passed in the 1960s, but then it somehow took another three generations to legalize gay marriage?” added classmate Jennifer Goldberg, laughing. “How does that even make sense? Oh my God, and those civil union things were ridiculous, too. Just let gay people get married already!”

As if this vision of future America weren’t already liberal enough, the closing paragraph cinches it:

After concluding the week’s examination of the history of gay marriage rights, classroom sources in the year 2083 said they would be moving on to the topic of how their grandparents’ generation was too late to do anything about global warming.

Sure, it’s just a bit of parody from some of the finest craftsmen around.

But damned if it doesn’t feel like it’s truer than you’d like it to be.