|Wired's Wonders of the World|
From Wired Magazine (January 1994)
by Douglas Coupland
From Seven Wired Wonders on Senior Citizens
Among the greatest feats of biosocial engineering ever executed and yet one that remains strangely overlooked is our abundance of senior citizens.
Prior to WWII, an old person was an oddity in Western culture, comprising only an insignificant proportion of the general populace. Now -- and particularly into the next century -- old people and their needs that will dominate political and social debate almost exclusively.
There is no historical precedent for this, in any place or any time.
Because of their relative scarcity until recently, our culture as a whole has tended to sentimentalize and over-revere old people. As events have played out, an abundance of "elders" has in no way shepherded in a golden age of wisdom and knowledge. Any notions of a wisdom-filled, Grandpa-Waltonian utopia were shelved years ago. Life extension has become a monolithic, unstoppable end in itself.
Question: Has it been worth it? Where, exactly, is the "wisdom dividend"?
The wisdom dividend has turned out to be neither spiritual, nor cosmic or slight, but (as with the benefits of space travel or war in this century) played out in a vast technological trickle-down.
The dream of an immortal society is the dominant engine powering the bulk of most 20th-century research in countless areas including medicine, pharmaceuticals, surgery, and life extension techniques as well as developments in politics and finance -- entitlements, pension funds, mutual funds.
The major question society must ask itself right now is, "When does the dream stop outweighing the benefits?" (And what's the deal with all these Bob Hope specials?)
From In the Eyes of Other Wired Thinkers
Lunch on the Concorde: