Kolumnister Alexis Kouros The future is not in the past!

The future is not in the past!

Alexis Kouros

First, there are small earthquakes here and there. Then the crust of the earth starts moving. Los Angeles crumbles into the sea. Huge sand storms swallow large cities in minutes. Volcanoes start erupting and the oceans rise. A mega-tsunami throws aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy crashing into the White House, killing the president. He had just given his last address to the nation and was getting ready to leave for China, where the world leaders have secretly built high-tech Noah's arks to save the elite of the world from the global catastrophe that will kill billions of people. What has caused all these is a dramatic increase in the solar flare activity and a sudden shift in the earth's poles. This is how the world ends in Roland Emmerich's movie 2012.

According to the Mayan calendar, our world goes through cycles called B'ak'tun. Each cycle takes 144,000 days or 5125.25 years. We are now coming to the end of the 13th B'ak'tun, which will end on 21st of December 2012. There is no mention of the 14th B'ak'tun in the Mayan long count calendar, so some people have taken this as an indication of the end of the world. Emmerich's movie illustrates the destruction with apocalyptic special effects.

The 2012 phenomenon is another example of our obsession with the idea that ancient knowledge can explain the present and predict the future. The prophecies, however, are written in cipher or symbolic language, so all we have to do is decrypt them and we will know the future and how the world ends. We look for these secret messages everywhere, from hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt, to the writings of Nostradamus and the holy books of all religions.

Isaac Newton, one of the best analytical minds of the past centuries, the man who first explained gravity and the laws of mechanics, spent much more time on occult studies than on science. In addition to alchemy and searching for the elixir of life, his greatest passion was to decipher the secret code of Bible. What a waste of such a great mind! How many other discoveries could Newton have made, if he had put all his time and effort on true science?

Even a great mind like Newton was a captive of the credulous fabric of our upbringing, where superstition, religion, pseudoscience and factual knowledge are amalgamated beyond separation. Chales Hapgood, a university professor whose theory of earths sudden pole-shifts was also a major part of the 2012 movies plot, spent a decade of his life "contacting" notable figures of the past, such as the Hindu god Vishnu, Jesus and Albert Einstein, through a medium.

Does the supernatural exist? Is it possible that the Mayans or other civilizations of the past had some deeper knowledge about the world and its future? Did some source of alien or divine wisdom grant some knowledge about the future to humans in the past? Is our future predetermined?

There is no doubt that searching and questioning is good. No question should be exempted or looked down at. These are all questions which are worth examining, but until proven otherwise, I would stick to lex parsimoniae, or Occam's razor, that the simplest explanation is probably the right one; or in Bertrand Russell's words: "Whenever possible, substitute constructions out of known entities for inferences to unknown entities."

Human civilization is rich in knowledge and rational thinking, which could help us build and predict the future. As Newton himself taught us, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and our future - spare elements out of our control - is mostly a reaction to our combined actions.

Newton also explained the motion of the planets, according to which everything goes on in cycles. Galaxies, stars, planets, seasons, life, electrons ... there is no doubt that the universe has a rhythm and that rhythm seems to apply to the evolution of the human society. So if there is any truth in the Mayans calendar, it is that we are coming to the end of a cycle, and to me, that means a new beginning.

2011 has been a year of transformations all around the world. Financial meltdown, withdrawal of the US from two wars without any success, the awakenings of people in the Arab countries, the Occupy movements in the US and some European countries: all of these have one thing in common - they are all signs of the end of an era, signs of change starting to happen. There is no doubt that the tide is turning.

We are able to look at the past and see our social evolution from one primordial stage to another. We have studied and named those "ages": stone age, bronze age, iron age and so on. Our time has often been referred to as the age of information.

While it is easy for us to see the primitive elements of the human society when looking back, its hard for us to accept, that sometime in the future, if human civilization persists, people are going to look back to our "age" and perceive us as a primitive society, and I don't mean only in technological terms. But why is this hard for us to accept? Probably for at least two reasons: first, that would mean our way of life and social system is not perfect and developed to its potential despite our belief, and then it would mean that we need to change it, in some cases dramatically.

Hardly anyone would reject progress, but the systems are hard to change because some elements benefit from the status quo. That's why the systems are falling. Our societies are off balance.

So what would the people of the future, those of the next age and cycle think about our present civilization?

Here are a few thoughts:

The most important thing is our identity. Despite global interactions, lots of our behaviors are tribal, or even herdlike. We still don't realize that we are one single global community with a common interest.

Our belief in, and the actual use of violence will look primitive to our future generations. Use of aggression and war to resolve conflicts is going to become a behaviour of the past.

Our educational system is rigid and old fashioned even for today. We still put our youth on chairs with books and pens for the best years of their lives. The school system will surely look totally different in the future.

Our laws and punishments will look as primitive to the future generations as Hammurabi's laws look to us. We know that prison is not an effective mode of punishment, yet we have record numbers of people in jails in many countries. Putting someone who is not dangerous to others (e.g. a financial criminal) behind bars for years is ridiculous.

There are 44 kingdoms and at least 25 dictatorships in the world today. Even a ceremonial monarchy is a primitive trait. But both democracy and capitalism also have a lot to be improved. For one, they result in unfair distribution of both wealth and power, which in turn corrupt each other. For example, all the senators of the United States are from the richest 1%. So the "we are the 99%" slogan of the Occupy moment is not untrue after all.

Then far into the future, our understandings of some basic elements of our universe may prove totally wrong. Scientists are already questioning the existence of time. Aging and death, which we take as granted, will be seen as old diseases that plagued us in the past.

These are just my thoughts, but I'm sure that experts with wider knowledge or imaginative minds could add lots to this list. One thing is certain - we need to free ourselves from the past in order to see the future. We need a Vernean attitude to exploring the future. Jules Verne, another bright mind, born 100 years after Newton in the 18th century, had a different approach to discovering the future: instead of looking for prophecies in the scriptures of the past, he looked at the development of science and human behavior, and used his powerful imagination to project it to the future.

After years of painstaking research and deciphering messages hidden in the Old Testament, Newton put the end of the world in 2060, giving us a bit more time than the Mayans. So there is no rush, even if he was right. However the world ends every day, for those who die. But even if the planet Earth would disappear in an instant, it wouldn't make the slightest difference to the universe. Just like dust in the wind.


1 Kommentarer Add Comment
When is the end of an era?
skriven av Old55 den 8.1.2012
In Japan the earthquake and Tsunami and the nuclear disaster in Fukushima is to be considered as a turningpoint at least for the japanese nuclear lobby.
The Arab Awakening that started 18 december 2010 in Tunisia really has developed into a real turningpoint for arab countries in the North Africa and Middle East,
I don't think that the "Occupy Wall Street" - movement will acheive much until a few of the "one percenters" change sides.
Look how the "Green Environment Revolution" has been transformed into "Green Wash"! We are still polluting too much, but many think that we can get away with it if we pay for the emitted carbondioxide by buing emission rights.
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