The problem with “Back in the day” thinking

The problem with “Back in the day” thinking

Boy do we love the good old days. When life was sweeter and had meaning. Now everyone’s fond of saying “back in the day” (BITD).

“BITD” really works to glorify the past doesn’t it?

Perhaps because it implies that we’re not “in the day” now; that now we’re in the night or some cloudy, overcast time, and BITD conjures up a time when all was brighter and better than it is now.

Seems harmless enough. What’s the harm in a little nostalgia? The problem is that it resigns us to the downward spiral we think we’re in.

And that’s our point; what’s really driving our BITD narrative—that we’re unhappy with the way things are now. Even with all today’s new technology, life was better BITD, and wouldn’t it be great to make today and tomorrow like how it was back then.

Today things don’t work anymore, and no one follows the rules, and what are the new rules anyway? They seem to change every day.

We seem impotent

Things are spinning out of control and we don’t know how to stop it.

What’s underneath our BITD reminisces is not only an assertion that life now is not as good, but that it’s getting worse and there’s nothing we can do about it except tell younger people that in our time—BITD—we had it better; and hope that they can make it like it used to be.

Careful though; we should remember two very important things about BITD

(1) Things weren’t as great as we remember

BITD wasn’t big on civil rights, everyone smoked, medicine wasn’t so advanced and people didn’t live as long. I’m not saying that people didn’t show more respect, have more job security and better weather, just that we’re better off in many respects today than BITD. And as I recall, people were talking about “the good old days” BITD, so maybe it’s just a human feature to remember the times of your youth as better than they are now.

(2) It stops us from a new tomorrow

The big problem with pining for BITD is that it bankrupts our future.

We don’t consider that it’s the BITD systems that produced today’s problems. The military-industrial complex was born and grew up BITD; the incredible amounts of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere came from the choices we made BITD. The same capitalism that triumphed over Soviet style communism and generated unprecedented wealth is now concentrating that wealth into the top 1%, and creating the greatest inequalities in recent history.

The problems we have today are the natural consequences or the evolution of the systems we set up BITD, and trying to fix these systems to bring back what we liked about BITD is like trying to solve climate change by burning “clean” coal.

we’re not thinking big

Focusing on BITD with statements like “Make America Great Again” stops us from inventing completely new systems, new ways of thinking, doing things and even new ways of living and working.

BITD thinking has us think of our future as a slightly better version than what we have now: as increased miles per gallon, not teleportation; as prolonging life, not rejuvenating or regenerating life; earning more, not enjoying more, as defeating terrorism and not unleashing human potential. Americans talk about bringing jobs back instead of reinventing the idea of work in a new era of near zero cost solar energy, and (almost) free labour from battery driven, fusion driven robots.

Nano technology, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, robotics, digital money, big data, the Internet of things are happening now, and BITD thinking will have us act like 21st century Luddites instead of molding the possibilities they bring.

By holding them, we might be able to use new technologies to help us go to a higher level of human existence free from meaningless work and the pursuit of money.

If we stop thinking of our future as a patched-up version of what we have now, and detach ourselves from the systems that got us here, these new technologies can allow us to invent completely new systems that may —at last—help us deepen our connection to each other and this truly awesome planet we call home.

Photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video

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