I recently had a fascinating philosophical debate and conversation with a friend of mine where we moved through a few various but relating topics, which ultimately ended with us questioning where we are at as a society in the grand scheme of things.
As an eternal optimist, I’ve always believed that the world has a way of healing and growing stronger, despite the challenges we face. Lately, though, I’ve been pondering the possibility of a significant shift in global and societal structure.
Are these the end times, at least from the perspective of how we currently know it?
I’m not a skeptic, but let’s delve into some fascinating aspects of history and pop culture that suggest we might be on the brink of a major change, along with real-life examples of where we’re seeing these signs.
Man Marveled at it’s Own Magnificence
As a combination of complete nerd and total movie buff, it should come to no surprise that ‘The Matrix’ is one of my all-time favorite movie series, for many reasons.
If you haven’t seen it (spoiler alert), long story short the planet is overtaken by machines and the human race as we know it has been almost wiped out due to artificial intelligence (AI).
There’s a scene where Morpheus brings Neo into what’s known as ‘the construct’ program, where he explains that from what little information they know, the downfall of mankind happened as a result of when “…all of mankind was united in celebration. We marveled at our own magnificence as we gave birth to AI.”
“…all of mankind was united in celebration. We marveled at our own magnificence as we gave birth to AI.”Morpheus, The Matrix
This fictional world reflects our reality in many ways, as we continue to advance in technology, often without considering the potential consequences.
Look at ChatGPT, an advanced language model developed by OpenAI that’s taken the world by storm. It has the ability to understand and respond to natural language, write articles, and even create poetry. When you combine it with other AI technology such as video and photo generative AI models, along with AI-generated voiceovers, you can have complete projects built almost entirely with AI.
Have you seen this (slightly creepy) AI-generated video ad for a fake pizza restaurant? Even though the quality may be, well, sub-par to say the least, it still goes to show how fast things are progressing and how the use-cases are rapidly increasing every day.
While this technological marvel brings numerous benefits, it also raises ethical concerns, such as the potential for AI-generated fake news or misinformation (or the spawn of a world-overtaking race of robots).
The Good Times and Where They’ve Gone
One of my favorite (and equally terrifying to think about) sayings is based off a photo I saw randomly scrolling social media several years ago. It was a picture that depicted four different scenes, with the saying:
‘hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, weak men create hard times’
I love it not for the concept itself, but rather how it speaks to the cyclical nature of history. The rise and fall of empires like Rome and the British Empire exemplify this pattern.
This idea that history always repeats itself raises the question: are we currently in a period of ‘weak men,’ setting the stage for a new era of ‘hard times’?
As with the cyclical nature of history, we’re seeing signs of potential trouble in our current economic climate. Inflation rates have been rising in various parts of the world, causing a strain on people’s budgets and affecting their overall quality of life.
In the United States, for instance, the inflation rate hit a 13-year high in 2021, causing concerns over the affordability of basic necessities like food and housing.
This inflationary pressure is also linked to the ongoing global supply chain crisis, which has led to product shortages, delays, and higher prices for consumers. A combination of factors, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, labor shortages, and natural disasters, have exposed vulnerabilities in our interconnected global economy. As a result, countries are reevaluating their reliance on international trade and considering ways to improve their domestic production capabilities.
Wealth is becoming more and more concentrated among the top percentile, while the middle and lower classes struggle to keep up. In the United States, the wealth gap has been widening over the past few decades, with the top 1% of households owning more wealth than the entire middle class. This growing divide has led to social unrest and political polarization in many parts of the world.
The combination of rising inflation, supply chain disruptions, and income inequality could potentially set the stage for a new era of ‘hard times’ if these issues are not addressed promptly and effectively.
Just the Next Phase in a Seemingly Infinite Cycle?
Another intriguing aspect to think about is the enduring mystery of the pyramids. Despite our technological advances, to this day we still don’t know how the ancient Egyptians and other ancient civilizations built these architectural wonders.
Some researchers suggest that there may have been far more intelligent life on this planet way before the ancient cultures we know of, pointing towards the possibility of a far longer planetary life cycle than we’re used to seeing from a scientific, provable perspective.
Perhaps the ending scene in Nicolas Cage’s movie ‘Knowing’ could be more common (from a universal clock timeline standpoint) than we think.
The discovery of Göbekli Tepe, a 12,000-year-old temple in modern-day Turkey, further supports this theory. Could we be witnessing the end of one cycle and the beginning of another?
Moreover, the world seems increasingly divided on issues such as politics, climate change, and both social and human rights. The Brexit referendum, the controversial US presidential elections, and the ongoing debates around climate change policies all highlight these divisions.
This fragmentation is further exacerbated by the current political climate, with politicians attacking and silencing each other rather than engaging in healthy debates and constructive conversations. We’ve seen this manifest in several US state legislative bodies, where lawmakers are banned from floor chambers or removed from office altogether, and in the UK Parliament, where intense shouting matches occur instead of constructive dialogue.
Where Do We Go From Here
Now, I don’t want to leave you feeling hopeless or overwhelmed, because as a perpetual optimist, I truly believe that we have the power to steer our future in a better direction.
To do this, we need to start by promoting unity and understanding among people of different backgrounds and beliefs.
Embrace open-mindedness and engage in respectful conversations, even when it’s challenging. For instance, the successful peace negotiations in Northern Ireland between Protestant and Catholic communities demonstrate the power of dialogue in resolving conflicts.
We should also take responsibility for our actions and their impact on the environment. Climate change is a pressing issue that we can’t afford to ignore. The widespread adoption of renewable energy sources, like solar and wind power, is a step in the right direction. By embracing eco-friendly practices and supporting sustainable policies, we can make a real difference for future generations (not to mention cut our reliance on fossil fuels like oil, which in turn would cut our concerns about rising gas prices).
Finally, let’s focus on educating ourselves and others about the past, so we can learn from our mistakes and make more informed decisions. By studying history, we can gain valuable insights into what has led us to our current situation and how we can prevent it from repeating itself. Take the lessons from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, for example. By understanding the measures taken and the mistakes made during that time, we’ve been better prepared to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic through timely lockdowns, social distancing, and the rapid development of vaccines.
Overcoming the End Times
So, are these the end times? I believe that the choice is in our hands. We have the power to shape our future, and as long as we remain hopeful, united, and proactive, there’s no reason why we can’t make the world a better place for all.
If we embrace the lessons from history, harness the power of technology responsibly, and work together to bridge the divides that threaten our global community, we can continue the good times without fear of the hard times taking over. While there are certainly signs of significant change and potential upheaval, we must remember that we have the ability to influence the outcome.
As an optimist, I choose to focus on the potential for growth and unity in these challenging times. Let us come together to learn from the past, harness our collective power, and build a better world for all. The end times don’t have to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as long as we choose to work together and take responsibility for our shared future.