Looking Forward to the Future
Twenty years from now, those of us still around may begin to look back on the last two decades as a time of seismic global change.
These profound historical transformations, futurists call them “paradigm shifts,” are not a new phenomenon. Five hundred years ago, most people (including the Catholic Church) still held to the belief that the world was flat and that the sun revolved around the
For Europeans, the Western Hemisphere didn’t even exist. Three hundred years ago, the growth of modern science and the industrial age — two huge drivers of America’s economy — were still in their infancy in Europe. America was a just cluster of small colonies struggling for survival in a hostile new world.
We can look even closer in our own history for more examples. My own father grew up in an early 1900’s world without widely-available electric power, automobile transportation, and airplanes. Through my childhood in the 1940’s and 50’s, America was the world’s leading industrial power. “Made in America” was a hallmark of quality and prosperity.
All of us can remember a time before computers, social media, a global labor market, the scourge of drug addiction, and the current asymmetrical war against terror — and a time when a prosperous middle class drove the vitality of the American Dream.
When we try to envision the future from the perspective of the recent past, it can, indeed, seem scary. Change is disruptive, messy, and unpredictable. There are winners and losers.
If you could look back from the future, however, you might see a very different picture. Imagine an America that has re-invented its role as a leading global industrial power by re-shaping the meaning and value of work — as we did 100 years ago. Instead of wringing our hands and bemoaning the fact that the jobs of the 20th Century no longer exist, we have successfully adapted to the nature of work in the 21st century so that the United States has reasserted our global manufacturing leadership and the power of our ingenuity and personal drive to succeed..
“The advanced manufacturing facilities of today and tomorrow are clean and replete with robots, computers, lasers, and other ultramodern machine technologies. The most common tool a production worker carries at the newest auto plants in the Carolinas, Michigan, and Tennessee is not a wrench or screwdriver. It’s an iPad. The next chapter is about to be written in the history of industry.”
If you could look back from the future, you might see an America that had taken the leadership in combating the dangers of climate change — and even re-formed its currently broken political, educational and health care systems. You might laugh at how primitive it was for people to actually have to rely on personal automobiles to carry out the basic functions of life — rather the same way our grandparents viewed the need to own a horse and buggy.
What does all this mean for us in Long Hill Township as we go about creating a new Master Plan? Perhaps, right now, very little. But at the very least, as we think about the direction for our town to take over the next ten years, we should probably not be steering ahead into the future looking through the real-view mirror.
In the coming weeks, look for the Master Plan survey that will be posted on the Master Plan Committee webpage, http://www.longhillnj.gov/PB/MPC.html.