Being parents means our job is to prepare our kids for the future, particularly for the unfortunate event of us stopping to be there for them. Whitney Houston made the phrase “I believe the children are our future” famous singing The Greatest Love of All (written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed).
I believe the children are our are future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be
Yeah, well, this is exactly it: we need to stop thinking about how we used to be and focus more on how things are for our kids right now and how they are likely to be for them in the future. Lingering in the past is possibly the biggest disservice we can do for them.
This week, I saw Dr Karl on TV, talking about how genetic engineering may affect humanity. He listed major past events, such as inserting the gene for human insulin into a fungus and starting to make cheap insulin to save the lives of diabetics everywhere. He mentioned a special method to trigger human genes outside the body into growing a fully-functional organ, such as a bladder, which can then be transplanted back into a person.
[The following conversation has been paraphrased]
“But this is nothing”, he said, “In 10-15 years, if you find you have diabetes, you will just drink a cup of ‘pancreas rebuild’ and your body will grow a healthy pancreas to keep making insulin”.
“What makes you so sure it will happen so quickly”, asked one of the hosts.
“It’s very typical of our technology”, said Dr Karl, “It only took 50 years from the Wright Brothers to putting a man on the moon, so this should be no different”.
“So what will happen after that?” asked the host.
Well, the first prediction is that this type of regenerative potions will expand to include our entire body, resulting in humans who look and feel like 25-year-olds and live between 500 and 5,000 years! Dr Karl said he was going to do his best to stick around until that is possible, but for our kids, this may become a reality when they get to our current age.
Now, when you are 46 and your daughter is 9, the difference in appearance and experience is very noticeable, but when you are 446 and your daughter is 409 and you both look 25…
According to Dr Karl, some of these problems will be solved by changing humans to be able to live in the ocean. He was not talking about floating on a big city-raft, he was talking about new and improved people who are able to breathe under water, swim around, tolerate a high concentration of salt and manage in dimmer light. This type of genetic engineering will require some really clever methods, brave volunteers and who knows how far it will go, but he maintains it will start to happen in the next few decades.
Remembering that by then, people will be living for a long time, it is very likely our kids will get to see this change in humanity or even experience it personally.
As if this is not enough, I saw this week some news about “digital drugs” or “iDosing” (follow these links for more). Some clever marketers packaged binaural beats (playing a different sound to each ear to create a stimulus in the brain) as “legal drugs”, referring to them by the name of the drug they mimic. Apparently, teenagers have started using them and even posting videos of themselves getting high by putting on their headphones and listening.
It is not clear at this stage whether listening to these tracks creates an addiction, even when it is done repeatedly, but this is a new thing, so who knows.
The upside is that street drugs may be on their way out. If you can download a file from iTunes for a few dollars and play it into your ears whenever you like and as many times as you like (possibly with no side effects), why would you pay lots of money for every hit, risk your health, live like a criminal and get hooked?
The downside is that addiction is not all physical. If you can keep yourself happy no matter what happens, why should you care about your grades, losing your job, having no friends or anything else? Whenever you feel a bit down, you can just plug in some uplifting binaural beat (it is not music, it sounds pretty awful) and stop caring. Can you see where this is heading?
Another possible downside is that while they are listening to meaningless noises, they may be exposed to subliminal message designed to exploit their artificially-created mood and inspire them into buying more, eating more or voting a certain way. Being downloaded from the Internet, it is not easy to determine the origins of these tracks and verify the integrity of the makers.
A bright future?
Putting all these things together, can you imagine your son or daughter when they are 357, floating in the ocean with a stupid smile on their face? Can you picture them sitting at a family gathering with earphones in their ears, just the way you have been seeing them for the last 400 years?
If you think having a midlife crisis is hard, try 140 with 900 to go! Our kids may have complications we cannot even imagine and problems that have not been invented yet.
Sure, they will be fit and trim, but marriage and monogamy may be a thing of the forgotten past, they may have 50 kids who do not keep in touch and deciding on their life’s mission can seem quite a bit scarier than it does now.
When they will be able to live for centuries, maybe there will be no hurry to do anything, because there is always time to do it later. On the other hand, nobody will retire, so promotions will be nearly impossible. Also, without natural deaths, the population of Earth will grow so rapidly, even the oceans may become crowded and worse, planet resources will be so depleted, all Hell will break loose.
But then again, how can we be sure of anything? Maybe technology will make everything sustainable, a society of happy people with an easy life will limit the birth rate and it will be Heaven.
What is the best we can do as parents right now?
The answer to that is that we must first grasp the idea that our kids’ life is going to be incredibly different from ours and that there is really no way to know for sure what it is going to be like. In fact, it is likely to keep changing all the time and very rapidly, which means we need to build them for change.
To do this, we can love our children with all our hearts, we can let them know how much we love them, we can treat them as “future grownups” and we can encourage them to experience many things and become confident, flexible and responsible.
You see, people who know they are loved already live in a better world. Whatever comes their way is a lot easier to handle when they are nourished by the feeling of being supported, and the good things are so much easier to share and thereby improve even further. Confident people do not need drugs to feel OK. They already do.
Flexible people see change as a fact of life and can adapt to whatever happens. They will cope with the world becoming one big family or with each city becoming a state, because they are adaptable. Flexible people do not need drugs to adjust. It is already their way of life.
Responsible people plan for the future, care for others and handle the consequences of their own actions. They will help direct humanity to the best possible place and take action when things will start falling off track. Responsible people know that awareness should not be tampered with and that it is better to live in the real world than to mask your thoughts with anything external.
Here’s for a great tomorrow for our kids. May they live long and prosper.