Visualizing The Future

Sequel: What's Next ?

With all this looking and viewing and seeing-is the world a better place? We got museums filled with art, telescopes as big as buildings, microscopes that reveal circling electrons in the blood of an ant, supercomputers and graphics workstations, mega-million dollar movies and interactive VR games, lasers, contact lenses, and…the Internet.

Do all these visualization tools, methods and processes really communicate better than good old fashioned words? The Internet seems a clumsy device, now. Interactive is a euphemism for a lot of mouse clicking and jumping back and forth between hyperlinks. Our backs start to ache, our wrists go numb, and the eye strain could be blinding.

Trillions-if there could be count-of images circulate the globe, pouring through TVs, DVDs, videos and even Smartphones, like a tsunami of unimaginable proportion. Still, there's war, poverty, hate and disease. Are we closer to a world of peace? Or, are we sending the wrong message and is the receiver capable of interpreting it as it was intended?

For instance, how much time did Osama Bin Laden spend getting to know Americans before launching his series of terrorist attacks based on such a deep well of hate? Or, did he watch too much TV or get his impressions based on fashion magazines? In turn, how many Americans know if the war on terrorism is a war on Shiites or Sunnis?

World news headlines rate about the same as advertising commercials or the comings and goings of entertainment celebrities. Power rests in the push of a button on a remote or the click of a mouse. It's "information is power" against "too much information." And it's hard to tell which information is designed to inform and which information is designed to entertain.

Seeing the future for some people is about as dramatic as the one-liner, "Tomorrow's just another day." Tomorrow is just another day filled with the same routines as yesterday. A popular car bumper sticker expresses the most extreme on the negative spectrum, "Life sucks, and then you die."

Hopefully, the person who came up with such a black and white view of life was being funny. If the person was serious, fortunately there are many who disagree.

Some see a beautiful rain forest. Others see a tiger lurking in the shadows. Some see calm ocean waves and palm trees swaying in a tropical breeze. Others see a hurricane on the rise. Some see the end is near. Others see a bright tomorrow.

Seeing with Thought, Seeing with Feeling

Smartphones and iPods that play videos and MP3s. We are obsessed. We just can't get enough audio/visual input. The next step is hardwiring a TV/Movie/Media implant chip in our brain that automatically sends and receives audio/visual data wirelessly. But how will we filter? How will we look inside and outside at the same time? How many things can we focus on at one time? We already do this--we look at something and look inside our schemata to make comparisons. When we see something new, we compare it to something old. Or, it gets entered as new information.

Actually, it appears--and the pun is intended--that we can see everything at once--we see ourselves in the universe. We see all the way into our souls and all the way out into outerspace...or outertime. We imagine whatever we want to imagine. However, describing what we see is not always so easy as, say, pointing our fingers and saying, "Look!"

We even imagine things we can't imagine, like other dimensions. We imagine there are other dimensions, but we haven't a clue what they might be or if they even exist. How can we imagine something that doesn't exist?

It would be curious to see what the world would be like if everyone saw God in the same way. Actually, we do. We know right from wrong, unless we're insane. We know it's wrong to hurt each other.

So just what is it that's out of sync? Is it the madness? We hear voices and see visions that aren't there? Does everyone do this, or just those labeled psychotic?

Is it a table? Can we all agree that the thing we see in front of us is a table? Can we do this without getting caught up in details, like, color, size, or kind of wood? Is it a table for the rich or a cardboard box being used as a table? Whatever, can we all agree--it's a table?

But then, even if we do, where do we go from there? What do we do with the things we see? Is seeing enough, or is it a tool for doing something else?

Can we see love? Or is it that we see the manifestations of love? We see it expressed, shared, and even destroyed. Is love an idea or a feeling? And can we see ideas and feelings? Can we hold them in our hands? Can we see thoughts and feelings in the same way we can all see a table? Or, to be more accurate, we see tables pretty much the same way we see thoughts, ideas, feelings and God.

Is "love at first sight" really possible? Absolutely. We are suddenly mesmerized, dumbfounded, confused and just plain overwhelmed. We see nothing else but the object of our affections. We fall in love and the world disappears. We don't need to see anything else, just this person we love, but probably haven't even met yet. We can't stop looking. We study everything about them, the hair, the face, the eyes.

Songs tell the story: The Beatle's, "I Saw Her Standing There," Foreigner's "Double Vision," Bruce Springsteen's, "Brilliant Disguise," Johnny Lee's, "Lookin' for Love," and on a humorous note, Aerosmith's, "Dude Looks like a Lady." And then, of course, there's Michael Jackson's, "I Always Feel Like Somebody's Watching Me."

Friends and Strangers: Seeing Eye to Eye

What is it that friends see in the same way that makes them friends? Friends do not necessarily sit around and analyze why they are friends. Friendship just sort of happens. When we are kids going to school, we don't think about who is not in the school. We simply make friends with who ever is around us. Step outside those boundaries and everything changes. Or, introduce somebody who for a variety of reasons, just doesn't seem to fit in.

There's a stranger in town. He doesn't quite look like everyone else. He dresses differently. He even has a peculiar accent. Just don't get too close because, well, in this day and age, he could be a killer, or a terrorist, or a madman of some kind. Maybe he was just released from prison or maybe he's on the run from the cops. He's not from around here. He didn't grow up here. Nobody knows his past, his family, his roots.

But what about the stranger? What does he see? A small town riddled with fear because it's never stepped outside its boundaries to see what else and who else is in the world. Some of these people have never been on a plane. They've never traveled outside the state yet alone to a foreign country.

Whatever they know about the world is based on images from school, a handful of books, and more so, from TV. Everybody...looks the same. They're all white. They all talk the same, maybe with a funny Midwestern accent. Nobody dresses out of the ordinary. It's pretty much jeans, t-shirts, and tennis shoes, whether its men or women. Nobody is really rich, so there are no fancy gowns, limousines or mansions on a hill.

The sad truth is that even a scenario like a stranger coming to a small town with everyone gawking and wondering is far from what really happens in life. Small towns aren't so small anymore. Apartment complexes in particular, have opened up a whole new door for a slew of strangers, all living in close proximity.

Apartments are worse in the big city, largely because of transience. People come and go like the wind. If something is going on, like a drug deal, or a beating, or someone dresses up at night like a transvestite, no one sees anything. They can live within a 100 feet of each other and because of conflicting schedules, or even that drapes are always kept closed, they never see each other. There's a stranger in town, and he lives next door.

Behind Closed Doors

What does a killer see in his mind? Alone in his room, he plots and plans for the next victim. Does he see blood, or does he see victory? There's a cop out there who doesn't much care what the killer sees. The killer must be stopped, period. Cops see the world a lot differently than most people. They see the worst. They see things going on in apartments that even next door neighbors didn't see. It's a world full of people sneaking, hiding, cheating and stalking.

It's a world behind closed doors. We can live with someone for years and still never know what is really going on inside their minds. By all appearances, everything looks fine. It's everyday life as usual. Then the bomb drops. Suddenly a loving, devoted wife wants a divorce. She's sick and tired of being ignored; being taken for granted. He never knew.

Meanwhile, a mother wonders why a reclusive teenager always shuts the door to her bedroom lately. But it can last only so long. Pregnancy is not something you can keep on hiding.

We don't see people on drugs or booze, unless they're stoned or bombed out of their minds, and perhaps can't even walk or their eyes look dazed. A little snip here, a little snort there, a couple of drops of Visine, and no one is the wiser. So we randomly issue drug tests. At home, we're convinced something is going on, because someone's behavior suddenly seems out of the ordinary. We don't see sadness, or loneliness or desperation. We don't see feelings of inferiority, depression, or angst.

On the streets of New York, LA, or even Paris and Bombay, someone remarks, "I've seen it all." In the big city, such a comment is most likely true. We see wealthy businessmen stepping over the bodies of homeless women. We see an endless stream of cab drivers and pedestrians screaming at each other. We sit on a subway and don't wonder who all these people are, only that the subway car is ridiculously crowded, and we can't wait to get to our stop.

One thing you definitely don't do is stare. If a look lasts longer than a few seconds, it could start a fight. There are the romantic glances, but on the streets of New York, there are a lot of charmers who look good, but underneath, they are stalking their next victim.

But it isn't just justifiable fear of a madman that warrants our distrust. Sometimes we're just in a bad mood. We want to be left alone. We don't want anybody looking at us, judging us, seeing through us.

So whadda ya lookin' at?

As Robert DeNiro so famously said in Taxi Driver, "You lookin' at me?"

Or maybe it was Humphrey Bogart: Here's lookin' at you, kid.

Ever hear the song, "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades?"

What's Next ?

Evolution is generally viewed linearly. History is a chronological order, with an unknown originating point following century by century, decade by decade, year by year, day by day, second by second.

We have the calendar and the clock to prove this is so. Both move forward. Anyone looking backwards is obviously living in the past. Even the past to the present to the future follows a straight line.

Life is a series of "what's next?" Forget about what happened. If such everyday philosophy were to hold so true, then why do so many people spend so much time digging up the past?

The evolution of civilization goes hand-in-hand with the evolution of technology. But this creates a paradox since the big bang, for instance, can't be viewed from a single originating point in time, although many scientists believe such a point exists. They just can't find it.

What about time? Didn't time exist before the universe? That's a bit confusing, since time and the universe are quite possibly one and the same thing. Time had to exist before there's a point in it.

The simplest answer is, of course, God. But God had to start somewhere too. God created the heavens and earth, so they say. God also proceeded in an orderly fashion, over an alleged period of 7 days. But when God was doing this, there were no people, yet alone calendars and clocks. Apparently the sun rises and sets in a linear fashion. But why 7 days? Why rest on the 7th? Well, it must've been an exhausting experience, creating the universe and all. So maybe God earned it.

Who or how God was created is a non-issue, as far as believers are concerned.

Another paradox--or multiple paradoxes--exists in that the universe is allegedly expanding, or radiating outward without any seemingly real sense of direction. Space and time does not exist linearly; space and time is everywhere. Yet, we follow a straight line to get from one place to the next, and as already illustrated, we move forward in time nanosecond by nanosecond.

The same linear/non-linear debate applies to light. Particles and/or waves move in a straight line, until they are scattered, refracted and reflected. Gravity, magnetism, electromagnetic radiation, light, and even water, the desert and the arrangement of forests have both linear and non-linear properties.

The general public just isn't ready for chaos theory. Most people have to go to work tomorrow and their lives move according to a set schedule. And even chaos theory is an attempt to put things like vast systems into a nice, neat package, where illusive randomness is actually controlled.

Viewing life in a linear fashion has its advantages and disadvantages. From birth to death, we view our lives linearly. Life is a sequence of events--although many times appearing random--where one thing seems to lead to another. The linear view brings order and structure to our lives.

Even wars are basically fought in a linear fashion, with two opposing sides and a line down the middle. But anyone soldier knows the enemy is all around, not just in front.

There is random crime and random acts of kindness. It rains one day and then its sunny the next. Leaves fall and pollen spreads with a wind that randomly changes directions. Examples are limitless.

Love certainly doesn't follow a straight line. We're in and out of love like the wind in the trees, even when its love for the same person. Love does seem to have a point of origin, similar to the Big Bang or God. It's frequently expressed as, "I fell in love from the moment I met you."

If death is a mirror to life, it's curious to know if the other side follows the same patterns of linearity and non-linearity as it does in life. Is death a mirror or a window, and is there a way to get back?

If time travel becomes possible, then we're really in for a ride. But even time travel is constrained by forwards and backwards. There's not a lot of talk about time travel to the side.

And how do we process all these paradoxes and mysteries? For the most part, we ignore them. Such questions are in God's hands, and that's good enough for most people. The best we can do is get on with our lives. Maybe watch a little TV, play a little ball, go fishing, whatever.

The commercial world has absolutely no time for such questions. No one is about to tell their boss they can't come to work because they're confused as to whether time is linear or non-linear. Things have to move in an orderly manner so profits can be made.

Money poses an interesting challenge to the linear/non-linear debate. Clearly, wealth is not equally distributed, nor is the power that comes with it. Wealth, like fate, seems to strike the lucky, even when some claim it was hard work that moved them from poor to rich.

Fate, destiny, God, time, gravity, electromagnetic radiation, nature--is it all well ordered or does it all come in a nice, neat package with a bow on it?

Discoveries seem to happen in a linear fashion, and now we're in a world of nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, the Internet, genetics and colonization of space.

Inspiration is a peculiar thing. It's like a bunch of funny little photons dancing around like fairies in a Disney animated movie, spreading the light of inspiration to all who wonder. Pretty corny, huh? Yeah, well, for all the technological expertise combined in some of the most advanced high tech companies in the world, the primary output is a talking duck, a conniving coyote, a green ogre and brooms that dance.

Communication is the reason why innovation spreads so fast. A bunch of inventors meet at a convention. One of them suggests seeing through a telephone. Another one balks at such a preposterous idea. An artist starts drawing a picture of someone watching a scene projected on a wall with a projecting device. Another inventor with a sense of humor mentions talking animals. It comes time to leave and the race is on. The inventors retreat to their humble abodes where late into the night, under the magic of the stars, the race is on to see who can get the first patent.

Ideas once didn't spread so fast. Without telephones or broadcasting devices, or even cars, an innovator had to travel miles to the nearest town by foot or horse to meet someone with similar whacked out notions about the universe.

Now, crazy ideas aren't so crazy anymore. It's quite obvious anything is possible. The earth is no longer flat, humans can fly, and little robots can sail through the bloodstream like mini-nuclear powered submarines on a mission to destroy the enemy.

Time travel, teleportation, conversations with ghosts-it's all just a movie away from reality. Or, maybe it's just a bit of reality away from a movie. It's hard to tell which comes first, reality or fantasy.

So, the bottom line is...what's next ? What do you see ?

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