Yesterday there was an interesting opinion in The New York Times Review section- "The Suburb of the Future" by Alan M Berger, a professor of landscape, architecture and urban design at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. What I found most interesting was his discussion of the use of technology to aid us in our future living environments.
While he didn't describe a "Jetsons" lifestyle (although the use of autonomous cars, delivery drones, smart energy efficient utilities, seems like it to me) rather I felt that what he described seemed to be much like an old-fashioned English village: common foot paths, public access areas, safe pedestrian walk ways, limited car access, car pull overs.
In some ways what he is describing is using the best of all that we know and love about our current existence: choosing the best of our technology yet not losing that which makes us human. We do not have to live like the sterile futuristic apocalyptic portrayals in movies or books.
I sometimes think we feel that in order to go forward there has to be amnesia of what has been past. It is that all or nothing mentality. I know of some people who, once books and information were online, they decided to rid their house and business of all "hard copies" of books, pamphlets, files, etc. They embraced the entire digital lifestyle. If that is what works for them, then by all means, do it. However, I find that doing anything in extremes very rarely results in being satisfied with anything.
I don't think we will ever be the futuristic society we think we can be. We may try to be extremely independent with our non-human encounters, but we still are needy of one another. We need and long for the human connection- to be known to one another. Sometimes the only way to do so is the time immemorial way of speaking face-to-face, eye-to-eye.
For all our trying to tame and control our landscapes, we still have the need to have access to green space and fresh air of nature's "wildness". The concrete jungle doesn't satisfy our inner soul.
We want to be conscientious in our care of our environment yet still have all the modern amenities. Just look at the areas who were hit by this latest spate of hurricanes. We certainly need our human invented alternatives of air conditioning and electricity to better our lives. We don't have to live like it is the 1800's yet if we continue living the way we have without any care to the resources we are using, we might not have a future.
He proposes that we will use technology in smart ways that will be conscientious of our environment, in how we distribute our goods and services and how we arrange our home situations. The future planners will "find beauty in the utilitarian." As Professor Berger says at the end of his article, "Planners need to view cities, suburbs and exurbs...as regions, with one integrated environmental and technological system. It's rare that such a profound change of vision for the future is so close to being achievable."
It got me thinking. Do I embrace the future and its changes? If I did, what would that look like? How can I take the best of what we currently know in science, sociology, medicine, psychology, etc. and still not lose sight of basic humanness? Can I find beauty in the utilitarian? What can I choose to make the most of the future I envision and embrace?
What good things can I glean from the past and tweak them to be used in the future?
What about you? What things from your upbringing or past experiences can help you in your present and future? Did you have a troublesome time as a child? Has that provided strength and resilience as you go forward in your life? What social norms do you like? Do you have to practice all the ones that society currently says everyone is doing? Can you pick the things that resonate with you so that you can create the future you want?
It is exciting to see the future unfold. What I find encouraging is that we live in a time that we can shape some of what our future holds: we can choose what we bring with us.