Futurists in the late 20th Century, before the technological boom that ushered in the Internet Age, were remarkably prescient in their predictions about the future — which is to say, now, about 50 years after the movement began.
They agreed that we’d all have more free time through automation, and that our notions of recreation would develop. They caught glimpses of what would become the gig economy, and the service economy. And they even foresaw a return to urban living, even as white flight was still happening all around them.
The futurist thinkers of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s — pretty much exclusively white, exceedingly male — did not write much about race relations or social justice. They did not factor in the long-term exacerbations of growing income inequality. They did not train their lenses on the corruption of political parties or world government, and only started extrapolating the coming climate crisis relatively late in the game.
The most important consensus among the futurists was the coming rift between the information-rich and the information-poor, how accurate information, rapidly attained, would be the key to success in the 21st Century.
As it turns out, even that keen insight had a fatal flaw: No one accounted for those who would willingly reject accurate information, even if it had the potential to save their lives.
Consider the nation’s recent coronavirus surge, a proliferation of the Delta variant that’s starting to fill ICUs and ventilator space across the country.
In Utah, 95 percent of those hospitalized with coronavirus are unvaccinated. Los Angeles County health officials estimate more than 99 percent of those hospitalized are unvaccinated. In Alabama, with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the United States at 33.4 percent, the unvaccinated comprise 96.2 percent of all COVID-19 deaths since April.
In North Carolina, the percentage of fully vaccinated residents has yet to reach 50 percent; Guilford County has been stuck at 46 percent for the past three weeks.
Obviously, this information is not getting through to the unvaccinated. Or it is getting through, and they choose not to believe it, even as they are being intubated.
The futurists didn’t realize that you can’t make people believe something they don’t want to believe. And you can’t explain an evolutionary event to people who don’t believe in evolution.
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