In the movie Back to the Future, Marty McFly returned to Hill Valley in 1955.
He found a curious culture.
The minimum wage was one dollar.
Walt Disney opened Disneyland, Roy Kroc served his first hamburger and a singer named Elvis made his first television appearance.
America tested nuclear bombs in the desert while President Eisenhower sent advisors and 216 million to a jungle no one had ever heard of.
After eighty-six weeks, The Power of Positive Thinking was still a NY Times Best Seller. On the Waterfront won the Academy Award. The year’s number one song was Davy Crockett.
While visiting Mississippi, a young man from Chicago, named Emmett Till, was lynched.
Souls came and went. Albert Einstein died. William Gates and Steven Jobs arrived.
I was seven.
The world I discovered was a frightened place. A war was finished, but the Russians were coming, so it felt more like intermission. We learned to “Duck and Cover,” but even a kid knew it was a joke. Our parents were lost.
A lifetime later, my generation carries permanent traces of that time, like radiation or latent images burned on our hard drives.
We’re a herd – a giant demographic, moving like an air bubble through an artery. We think alike, raised with images flickering from living room TV sets: Kennedy, Khrushchev, Cuba, and Dealey Plaza before a long, black funeral. With dinner each night, Walter Cronkite showed us images of men dying in a place we couldn’t find on a map.
New, souls keep coming. Seven billion share this rock spinning in the middle of… we don’t even know.
Two – thirds live in Asia. And they’re young. 43% under twenty-four – one in four under fourteen.
They are different – connected to each other, with new thoughts raising human consciousness, re-designing commerce, banking, shopping, education, medicine, entertainment, and work – relating, dating, mating – all in a virtual world they created and let us borrow.
We wont hand them control. They’ve already got it – grabbing the reins of civilization, like drivers on coaches with all but the most affluent baby boomers backseat passengers.
English is the planet’s language, a second for most, spraying American culture on every person with a connection. There are more “smart phones” than people, delivering instant, uncensored news, providing information, exposing lies and manipulation – casting aside corporate controlled coverage. Surprising election results and “Arab Springs” are just the beginning.
Today’s seven year olds will grow up to recognize this time as their own inheritance, remembering the wars, imperialism, consumerism and our sloppy ecology. They’ll use telepathy to communicate and be amused recalling wires and the cell phone, fossil fuel and all the fuss over gender, sexuality and who to love – and what Earth was like before extraterrestrial contact.
In another sixty years, people will recognize beginnings of the world they will have created – an evolved, human family interacting in a peaceful, mature way within a galactic community.
They’ll make a Back to the Future sequel. It will be a hologram, with 2016 surely just as curious as 1955.