The veil of unpredictability: Our shrouded future vision.
The course of human history is instigated by many factors, perceived and unperceived, gradual and sudden, tangible and intangible too. Thus, the rise of the Buddha, the Christ, or the Prophet Mohammed were among the perceived factors, while the impact of certain viruses and microbes on the course of human history were never perceived as such. The impact of the Copernican-Galilean science was gradual, that of the French Revolution was sudden. The onset of the computer is a tangible factor, while that of the Human Rights concept is an intangible one.
So, when we forge visions about the Future, we can only be approximate in our assessment. And while we may be well-intentioned and enlightened in our planning, there is no telling what the future holds.
We do know that with all its stupendous scientific breakthroughs and marvelous technological achievements, the 20th century has also created horrendous problems, pressing and potential. A population explosion in the face of diminishing oil reserves and mineral deposits, environmental pollution through automobiles and industrial effluents, perilous nuclear wastes, depletion of the rain forests: these are challenges of no mean magnitude. Then there are social and human problems, ranging from poverty and malnutrition to illiteracy and disease.
Thus, though there is much to look forward to in terms of new technologies, increasing economic opportunities, interplanetary adventures, and the promise of cure for deadly diseases, we will be living in a fool’s paradise if we are indifferent to the problems that the human family will be facing in the impending decades.
Added to all this are simmering racial, religious, and economic divides, which, if not bridged or abridged, could lead to explosions of immense proportions. In this context, we must recognize forces within many societies that accentuate the differences, perpetuating suspicions and hatred. They emerge sometimes from the narrow conviction of the superiority of one’s own group or subgroup, sometimes from deep-rooted animosities engendered by centuries of oppression.
There are also idealistic efforts to counteract these by people who see no distinction between one group and another, who preach that every difference is mere illusion, that every prophet and preacher propounds the same message. Well-motivated as this approach is, it is not likely to succeed if only because this simply is not true.
Finally, there is the path that is neither arrogantly self-assertive nor naively all-inclusive, but is rather enrichingly pluralistic. It recognizes multiplicity as intrinsic to the human condition, and looks upon races and religions as a rainbow in the sky: colorful, and majestic, beautiful by virtue of the harmony in the hues. Enlightened pluralism celebrates diversity and arrests mutual hurt that will ultimately not only save our species, but make it all the more creative and resourceful in the decades to come.
The possibilities are immense and unpredictable, for the good and for the bad: The discovery of a new and limitless non-polluting energy source could bring about a golden age of prosperity for all of humanity. The rise to power of a mindless maniac with nuclear capabilities could unleash irrevocable devastation on our species. Education and science could free all humans from ignorance and superstition, but scarce resources could deepen the chasm between the haves and the have-nots. Religious and racial bigotry could fire simmering suspicions into horrendous conflagrations, or perhaps the emergence of an enlightened religious outlook would foster understanding and harmony among differing faiths. Or again, the long and checkered course of human history could be snuffed into a mere glitch in the planet’s saga by the rude intrusion and blind fury of a stray asteroid lured by earth’s gravity. What awaits us in time, no on can tell. Not all the factors that shape the future are within our ken or control.
Recognizing these, let us join hands in our efforts to induce the positive and snub the negative human potentials. Now, as never before in human history, we feel we are all passengers in the only space-ship we have. Fortified by the knowledge and power that come from the sciences we may build on the finer values and wisdom of the ages, and make this our planet an even more rewarding place to be.