Monday over Coffee: A Future Cool and Bright

Need Some Words of Encouragement?

A Future Cool and Bright

I love just about anything futuristic in nature. I enjoy articles from magazines like Wired, which explore future mega-trends in innovation and imagined new technologies, as well as websites like space.com that keep me up to date on how the future’s likely to arrive. Science fiction set in the future might be my favorite genre of film as long as it’s not too dystopian. And I’ve always been drawn to architectural renderings of buildings and transport systems of the future. When I was in middle school, bored in class, I’d draw futuristic cities with speeding bullet trains and hovercrafts zipping through the sky. There’d usually be a person with a jetpack too. I really wanted a jetpack. I thought I’d have one by now.

Predicting the future is a difficult task, and I’m not sure that I’ve gotten any better at it since I was a kid. But there’s a sweet spot that seems plausible for me—a picture of the future that is neither far-fetched nor too forbidding. While there’ll always be shadowy valleys in our lives like the one we’re coming out of right now, there’s something in my nature that trusts our future to bend upward. In the end, everything will somehow turn out cool and bright.

I first went to Disney World as a kid in the early 80’s back when EPCOT, Disney’s Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, had recently opened.. My favorite section of the park was Future World with its iconic geosphere beckoning to me as I exited the monorail near the front gate. After exploring the whole park, the attraction called Horizons became my favorite because of the way it geared the mind toward an optimistic vision of the future.

Upon entering the attraction, one glimpsed a series of travel posters advertising futuristic desert farms, floating cities, and space outposts. As you stepped onboard your vehicle (“watch your step on the moving platform”), your adventure into the future began. Elements of science, transportation, energy, communication, and leisure were all synthesized through a series of screens and sprawling dioramas populated by audio-animatronic figures as pleasing atmospheric music and a playful-yet-compelling narration filled your ears. First, you were introduced to a previously arid desert vista which had been transformed by technology into a beautiful farm full of fragrant orange groves. Next, your vehicle approached a marine biology workshop with a mini-submarine, followed by a group of squeaking dolphins and a school of scuba-diving kids swimming through an undersea world. Finally and climactically, you advanced into an immersive scene depicting a bustling space colony where you visited a young family in a zero-gravity home and then a bevy of space-walking astronauts working among robotic assistants harvesting crystallized minerals. When you “returned” to Earth and exited the pavilion, a colorful mural provided a review of your experience, inviting you to join your own vision of the future with the one just imagined. 

Sadly (for me at least), the ride closed in 1999 and was dismantled the next summer, and though it’s now extinct, it retains a cult following among Disney nerds. Apart from the nostalgia, for me the experience and unalloyed optimism of the Horizons ride will always bolster my hope for a future cool and bright.

There’s always a sort of tug of war going on inside of us about the future, isn’t there—a struggle between the forces of optimism and those of pessimism. I can sometimes swing back and forth from here to there within minutes, or within even a single conversation concerning where we are at this moment, but unlike many points last year and some earlier this year, there seems to be real cause for embracing optimism right now. 

No one wants to be caught unaware and unprepared for emergent bad news, and certainly our evolution as a species directs us to pay more attention to the bad than the good. Our ancient ancestors had to, as a matter of life and death, pay a great deal of attention to both real and perceived dangers and risks. Those who paid sufficient attention to the threats were usually the ones who survived and thus handed down their genes to us. Hence, we carry a bias toward negativity within us and face tough evolutionary headwinds to overcome our nature and embrace the optimistic view. However, calibrating our temperaments right now with the actual conditions on the ground, it truly does seem that to picture hope is not too far-fetched. What lies ahead is not too forbidding, but rather a future cool and bright, with or without the jet packs.

God—
 
May I experience the buoyancy of the good news all about me and embrace the fullness of joy ahead.

–Greg Funderburk

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