China unveiled a new supercomputer that is 1.4 times the speed of the world’s next fastest super computer. The new machine completes 2,500 trillion calculations per second, a 40% increase in speed over the old slow poke machine that sits in Tennessee.
Is anyone under the impression that these machines will stop getting faster anytime soon?
This kind of change is taking place wherever you look.
The earth’s population is expected to rise by almost 50% to 9.5 billion people by mid-century, at which point it will hopefully stabilize rather than shoot straight for 12 billion.
In ten years China’s economy will be the size of the U.S. economy. In forty years it will be twice the size. The world economy is predicted to double and double again before today’s kids think about retiring.
The consensus amongst climate researchers is that the earth is heating up, and no one is sure what to do about it. Icebergs are melting, sea level is rising, storms are increasing, and once-frozen waterways are now open for business. In the last few years it has become acceptable for scientists to discuss global climate engineering, engineering projects meant to slow down the earth’s warming, such as proposals to blow up ice damns to free fresh water trapped in fiords in an attempt to influence ocean currents and the climate.
Women around the world continue to take their rightful place in the world, regardless of what some men might think about it.
We seem to be running out of fresh, clean, water.
Oil, well you’ve heard about oil.
Will the divorce rate ever go down?
Will the speed at which our jobs change and demand new skills from us ever slow down?
Will the creatively disruptive technologies ever stop coming?
Is Facebook the last new thing, or Google, or Twitter or bioengineering or nano-technology?
Is anyone thinking that all the applications and disruptions and possibilities of this continually unfolding technological, economic, geopolitical, social, spiritual, and environmental revolution have been thought through, understood, planned for, and ready to be easily digested?
Is anyone thinking any of this is going to stop? Does anyone really know what's going to happen?
It’s not the economy or unemployment or Obama or the Tea Party or terrorists or any one thing or combination of things. It’s everything. It’s the world we now live in.
The amount of data collected in the last five years is equal to all the data collected in the 2000 years prior to that. The new Chinese computer shows that it’s only just begun.
We are no longer in Kansas, nor will we ever be there again.
We used to think of our lives in terms of smooth arcs with rising living standards, increased wisdom, and the right to simply enjoy the fruits of our labor—at least if we were privileged Americans or Europeans. Our lives were predictable, or so we thought. We envisioned a straight-line trajectory towards a better life, but that safe Leave It to Beaver or Father Knows Best world was an illusion. Life has never been safe, predictable, or easy for the majority of the world’s people. Now we have a sense of what that feels like.
We can try to keep out the immigrants. We can fight the terrorists. We can huddle in private armed camps in Montana. We can become reactionary fundamentalists of one stripe or another, but change will find us anyway.
And don’t think it’s going to be easier for the Chinese or anyone else. The dislocations taking place in China right now are mind-blowing. There’s never been a greater migration of people from the countryside to the city in human history.
It’s not that things are bad, or that they won’t get better. It’s simply that from now on change is the name of the game. It always has been, but now it’s in hyper-drive.
The idea is not to fight it, nor blindly accept all of it, but we must stop wasting time and effort trying to live a life that does not embrace change. This is not to say that we should stop working for the causes we believe in. On the contrary, this is the time to really check in with who we are and what we value. But no matter what we want or think, we set ourselves up for wasted energy and suffering if we do not embrace how the world is, and the world is changing--fast.
It’s like we are on a class five river with wild currents and whirlpools and waterfalls and hidden rocks and exciting, dangerous places to hit our heads, be thrown overboard, or have the most thrilling ride of our lives. We may long for those long lazy stretches of river where we can just sit back on our inflated inner tube with a beer and a slice of melon and take in the afternoon sun, but we must accept that those calm stretches will not last.
Sooner than we might like some change will come along and we’ll be in the thick of re-inventing ourselves once again, having to learn new skills, maybe having to re-locate, maybe having to let go of someone we love. And since we're living longer, we'll have to do it for more years than we've ever had to before.
This is not about despair, or loss of meaning or value. It’s not about hopelessness. It is about knowing who you are and where you are and what you need to do to thrive in the world as it is. You have to become an agent of change, a life-long learner in tune with your own deepest values and wishes. You have to be your own best resource. That’s the only thing that can carry you through the turbulent times.
It has become more important than ever to get grounded and centered. “Know thyself,” has never been better advice. We need practices, rituals, relationships, teachings, and inner wisdom and strength, because we can no longer expect our support to come from the outside, because the outside is always changing.
Maybe you meditate or pray on a daily basis. Maybe you go for walk alone or with family or friends. Maybe you retreat to the woods, the desert, or the mountains for a week. Maybe you go for a run, or shoot a few hoops, or hit a few balls. Maybe you meet with like-minded men or women to share what matters in your life. Maybe you play music, or paint. Maybe you take an adult-ed class, or a class online. Maybe you make sure to eat dinner with your family. Maybe you do volunteer work. Maybe you do yoga. Maybe you take a dance class. Maybe you make sure to laugh with your lover and do the wild and lovely as often as you can.
In your own way, you find the quiet center in the midst of the storm, and you nurture it and you get to know it, and it will save your ass during the times of difficult change.
I’m not saying there will be nothing but storms, but I am saying there will always be storms, so stop trying to live a life without them. The best you can do is make sure you have a good sailing vessel, a good crew, and that you know your craft and are resourceful and flexible.
Dylan has a great line. He says, “He who is not busy being born, is busy dying.”
I’m going to have that tattooed on my hands where I can always find it when I need it.
That’s what the world demands of us now, that we be able to continually renew ourselves, that we be able to tap into inner strength and vision and recreate ourselves throughout our lives, as the world keeps demanding new things from us.
You may not like it. You may feel like screaming, “Stop the world, I want to get off.” But this is the world we have, so do the work you need and want to do, but never forget that it will never exactly be the world you want unless you learn to love and want a world that is forever changing.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Namaste.