HONOLULU, January 1, 2015 – They say that regret is the worst thing to bring into a new year. Maybe it’s just me, but when I woke up this morning, 2015 didn’t feel any more technologically revolutionary or culturally different than waking up ten years earlier in 2005.
All of this is perfectly normal of course, history reflects that mankind has at times plateaued for decades, even centuries, without major changes in civilization, save for a few minor tweaks (or, in light of today’s Millennial culture, a few “twerks”).
Sure, the screen on your new cell phone might be sharper and more colorful than ever before. You might have even cured your new year’s hangover after using Google voice search on your tablet to find an outstanding how-to guide on CDN.
But Western technology and culture as a whole is stagnating and slowing in pace as a driver for civilization.
Just a few weeks ago, I turned 35 years old. In 1982 when my father was the exact same age as me, only 13 years had passed since America first landed on the Moon, the IBM PC had only been released a year earlier and the revolutionary fly-by wire F-16 fighter plane was only 8 years old.
In January 1947 when my father was born, the sound barrier wouldn’t be broken until October, nuclear weapons were only 2 years old and the world still used paper and slide rules to do math calculations.
If you compare 2015 to 1979, the changes between then and now are nowhere near as staggering as those between 1982 and 1947. In 1974, the fly-by-wire F-16 saw its first flight and initial production models would be 5 years old in 1979.
Today, the 41-year old F-16 design is still in service with the U.S. Air Force and many NATO allies around the world. In 1982, if the West had followed the same pattern of using aircraft that old, President Reagan’s Air Force would still be equipped with clunker WWII P-51 Mustangs as fighters and B-29 Stratofortresses as strategic bombers.
In 1979, we may not have had cell phones with selfie-optimized digital cameras, laptop computers, high speed Internet, cars with reverse camera sensors and other modern niceties, but the frequency of dynamic changes to our world and the discovery of our Universe has greatly slowed.
While high school students today might be turning in assignments by e-mail instead of passing them to the person in front of them to hand to the teacher or asking dates out to prom by sending a text message instead of slipping a note in a locker, the understanding of the world today, save for a few developments, is largely the same and based on discoveries made many decades ago.
It’s been 43 years since an American last set foot on the Moon and almost 4 years since the retirement of the Space Shuttle. Most of the commercial aircraft Americans routinely fly on to travel around the world are “newer” models of older designs built in the 1990s, 80s, and in the case of the 747, the 70s.
All of this is fine, in fact, much of it is to be expected as changes in technology make things less obsolescent, software overcomes hardware and economics changes the way mankind does things. But something seems very different about our world and the West today.
When I was growing up, the youth were so full of excitement, energy and enthusiasm with every year that passed. We were the generation that was destined do all of the things our parents and grandparents never could do or ever go. For every person born in the late 70s, reaching the year 2000 meant entering into a new century where we would outpace every generation before us.
It’s hard to say that in 2015 we’ve outpaced the former generations. Sure, we’ve “out stripped” them with scantily clad selfies on Facebook and Instagram, but we haven’t outstripped their collective progress and technological innovation for mankind.
We have regressed, and in many ways lost technology and culture entering into the midpoint of the second decade of the 21st century.
Some have said that the Millennial generation is at greatest risk in America. I say that the Millennials will be just fine. The generation in greatest peril that stands to lose the most is Generation X, for that group is in danger of being known not for what it accomplished but for what it lost. Like Ancient Greece and Egypt – nations remembered still today for their spectacular ruins – Generation Xers are at risk of being the world’s “remember when” has-beens. “Remember when we had a space program.”
“Remember when we were the world’s leader in science and technology.” “Remember when we were the most free, the most prosperous, the most envied nation of all.”
President Reagan told Generation X in 1984,
“Our progress results from human creativity and the opportunity to put our knowledge to use to make life better … God has given us the ability to make something from nothing. And in a vibrant, open political economy, the human mind is set free to dream, create, and perfect.
Technology plus freedom equals opportunity and progress … We’ve only seen the beginning of what a free and courageous people can do … Your generation stands on the verge of greater advances than humankind has ever known. America’s future will be determined by your dreams and visions. And nowhere is this more true than America’s next frontier – the vast frontier of space.”
Every great nation in the history of mankind rose because its generations had had the foresight to look to the future. Today, Generation X is in danger because all of our greatest accomplishments are still in the past.
It’s time to put away the “been there, done that” shirts and to put on the mantle of responsibility as new leaders for the 21st century. Today is the day and the very hour we were raised for, the appointed era for us to lead and serve and mentor as drivers of the West.
Our new year’s resolution must be to resolve to make this a year of triumph, discovery, accomplishment and victory for civilization and the progress of mankind.
We’ve had more than enough examples laid before us, far too many worthy role models to follow and all the best that time and history could offer to fail as a generation.