Stickman Readers' Submissions August 20th, 2014

Let Me Tell You About The Future

“Let me tell you about the future” the man said with a big smile on his face.

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I am not sure as to why I stopped at that invitation. I was not feeling particularly charitable and I was not intending to stop but I did. Whether it was his friendly round face, his deep dark eyes or his warm smile I could not tell you but I did stop. If I had given my hand to him, would he have taken it into his own hand?

Perhaps what really surprised me was that he had addressed me in English and I did not expect a local to address me this way in this remote part of Thailand. Also, despite many of my forms are quite anglicised there is no pretending on my part as I do not look of Anglo-Saxon descent.

You see, although popular with Thai inhabitants, you are unlikely to see many farang venture hundreds of miles down south to then climb atop Thongchai mountain, more of a hill to me, overlooking the bay of Thong Sai beach, the forest near it and the quiet Bang Krut.

Thong Sai Beach

This is where you will spot the golden roofs of Wat Tang Sai and as you climb the many steps you are met with a construction reminding you of Disney world.

Such is the fairy tale style of this newly built temple to commemorate His Majesty's 50th Anniversary of his ascension to the throne that it feels natural to move one’s camera into overdrive.

Newly decorated with stained lead windows

delicate patterns and manicured little gardens will make your visit here worthwhile.

There is also a large golden Buddha statue near the bottom of the steps which is dedicated to the Queen and which looks straight into the Gulf of Thailand, greeting the sunrise every morning.

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Behind the Buddha are two beautiful sculptures of Thai giant demon guardians, in Thai called “Yak”.

These are characters from the Ramakien Thai national epic tales. Although in the West we tend to associate world demons with evil, these giants are a force of good power often guarding religious sites and temples.

Wat Tang Sai is likely to provide the adequate level of spirituality if that is what one seeks and if one happens to be French speaking the panorama will be tres beau.

““Let me tell you about the future” said the fortune teller smiling even more widely as he looked at me standing at the bottom the steps and I wondered if I should have stretched my left hand forward in defiance.

X – O – X

I have found the fortune tellers in Thailand both ubiquitous and entertaining. Overall, from what I have experienced they seem a friendly bunch. However, it can become quite spooky after half a dozen of them have told you how long you will be living with a variance as narrow as one to three years from each prediction. After the fifth or sixth time hearing the same outcome I tend to nod in agreement as if I knew already.

However, as I go past my 50th European summer I reflect, probably like many friends on this site whom I have not yet met, that the winters which I still have to endure are likely to be less than the springs that I have already savoured in my past. In that light, with autumn fast approaching, I find myself thinking how and where I will be spending the third phase of my life which, according to the fortune tellers, is going to last for some time.

Now, if, like me, you were born in the early 60s you may have spent your childhood wishing that your future as an adult would have been similar to the one depicted in many advertisement for biscuits and household goods at the time. These often featured a large and sunny white cottage surrounded by majestic green trees in the vicinity of a lush stream and teeming with fish. Your family, in the advert, was likely to consist of a beautiful and caring young woman with, in my case, sunny Mediterranean features, along with two children educated, respectful and friendly. This was a type of the classical dream a child of those times would have looked forward to at the end of the 60s.

With some exceptions, we humans seem to be quite simple beings. Given the opportunity, we go to college, then we work, we get married, we have children and then one day, we stop breathing, we turn cold and we die like everyone else.

It's been more than forty years since I was a 10 year old child and everything seems to have changed starting right from today’s advertising, except that we now see companies’ logos in the commercials and the large and sunny white cottage or the cheerful and carefree Mediterranean family seem a long distant dream which is too far away.

Now we have a poor and divorced Antonio Banderas speaking alone in the kitchen in front of the oven in the company of a poor phony hen. We are now so completely absorbed in this endless global crisis that our thinking seems unable to project meaningful considerations to plan our future as, wherever we happen to reside, we are far too preoccupied with the next election or the next quarterly survey of GDP.

Yet in a world which is living, with emphasis, the third industrial revolution (first it was the steam engine, then the personal computer and now the world wide web with all its apps) it would be uplifting for many 40-something to stop for a moment to try to project themselves forward for another thirty years to imagine the world to come.

X – O – X

In Europe we have a different kind of fortune tellers. They are seemingly confident and they look at their profession with the utmost seriousness. They have a University degree and, rather grandly, they call themselves “Economists”.

However, having the opportunity, from time to time, to sit around a table with quite a few of them, from what I have observed, it seems to me that, theirs may well amount to just another form of clairvoyance insofar they are insistent that they can predict what the future will hold unless, that is, you happen to be reader/writer Codefreeze on this web site, in which case, and I mean this affectionately as I like his writing, you already know what will happen as the UK is a wonderful place and this life has little or no mystery left which may be worth unveiling.

But what if you did not want to spend the rest of your life in London, Paris, Rome or New York? What if you wanted to spend your hard earned money by exploring other parts of the world and dedicate an inordinate amount of your future time in Asian shores, enjoying the climate, the food, the local culture and cultivating, like the ancient Greeks and Romans, the physical pleasure of your own body?

In that light, and when the opportunity has arisen, I have asked our Economist-Clairvoyants a basic question: “What can we expect about the future? Let us assume that there will not be famines due to scarcity of food or epidemics of global reach, such as Ebola, what then could we expect in 2050?

Broadly, and this is based on my understanding of what I think they said, the majority expressed serious concerns regarding the concept of how the family unit will be like.

They seemed certain that the family as a union and way of life in common between a woman and a man will represent the medieval social institution. Perhaps, they suggested, in the future we will admire those rare examples of families with some astonishment and find them in a few independent communities or reserves which will be protected by some international organisations.

By 2050, the Economist-Clairvoyants I spoke with predict that over 80% of the human population, by that time nearly 9 billion, will live in metropolitan areas with high population density and due to the mass diffusion of mobile devices with virtual interaction, the life priorities and the social relationships of each individual will change quickly and deeply.

In support of their assertions, they pointed out how much everyday life-styles have changed already through social networks combined with smart phones and warned of the mass arrival of Google glasses and their devastating consequences.

They reflect that while ten years ago the number one cause of divorce was the mother-in-law, her potential threat has now been replaced by the social networks.

They all seem to agree that there is a continuous and deliberate destruction intended to create a separation between the male and female genders. They explained that this is not only originating from the traditional mass media but also from what they defined as a fake “radical-chic establishment” that will contribute to accelerate the next process of transformation in human society.

Although not unanimous in this view, a slight majority estimated that during the course of the next thirty years (and this is good news for Dana if he can hold that long) less than 40% of the world population will be heterosexual.

However, they were all in agreement that continuous improvements in the medical field will lead to further elongation of life expectancy. In that light, the concept of “old age” as we know and understand it today, that is as an ante-chamber of death with physical conditions which are potentially greatly reduced, will represent a past that will no longer have relevance in the future.

The majority of Economist-Clairvoyants I spoke with also indicated that most of us will take on more debt, leasing and loans to afford not only the lengthening of our existence , but also to ensure the continuation of a certain lifestyle with for example, a new bionic femur or new synthesis of vital organs, therefore, allowing a total rejuvenation.

That last hypothesis initially left me dwelling on the implications and improvements of a sexual nature but that thought was quickly replaced by an inevitable new concern influenced by such a possibility, that is, the concept of a wife or husband understood as a mate / companion for life till death do us part will become obsolete sooner than we might realise.

According to recent research published in well respected scientific journals, the next fifteen years will see available the first cybernetic partner, for both man and woman, able to interact well with humans and envying almost nothing from them. This possibility left me thinking that the recently released movie “Her” with Joaquine Phoenix may not be totally science fiction, but a glimpse of the future which is yet to come.

Does this mean, I asked myself, that having children will no longer be a priority or a life goal but rather it will be increasingly regarded as either a burden on personal lifestyles or a gift to be made to seal and cement a relationship between non-heterosexual cohabitating partners?

That notion seemed to be validated by recent research which shows that from 2040 the descent of demographic momentum in the human population will begin to be manifested, especially in Asian countries that are already aging faster than those in Europe and the USA.



If that were to happen, it seems to me that the promiscuity and sexual confusion both asserted and exalted in both recent past and current times will have contributed to create the expected or desired effects of defusing the population bomb.

This may will be the logical consequence thanks to social conditions and lifestyles which will result in no one wanting to have any more children.

If this was the future, and this is pure speculation on my part, then the conception of new births aimed at maintaining the population at that point (probably after 2050) would be likely to be planned and implemented by some kind of supranational authority drawing an egg and a sperm at the various seed banks around the world. If that were to happen, then perhaps someone will begin to spread urban legends, which we have already heard, such as Parent 1 and Parent 2 from a distant past.

Quite relevant and having an impact on most of us this unprecedented pace of ageing will slow down economic growth over the next two decades and this is not just a problem for the rich West. Countries like Russia, Thailand, Chile and China also have rapidly deteriorating demographics. The OECD warned that economic growth is likely to slow down over the next few decades as the proportion of working-age people in the world declines.

Without a compensating increase in productivity, reducing the proportion of workers will lead to slower growth. McKinsey estimates that advanced economies would have to increase their productivity growth rates by 60 percent to offset the effects of ageing. However, in my view, that is unlikely to happen. Those born in 2000 will probably see much lower per capita GDP growth during their lifetimes than those born in 1980.

It is difficult to overstate the impact of “global greying” as we have experienced nothing like it before. For most of history, the population profile was pyramid-shaped, with a lot of young people and a small number of old people. By the middle of this century it will be beehive-shaped, with the middle-aged and elderly forming a much larger proportion.

World Population

Thanks to improvements in health and life expectancy, a lot of you reading this will still be around in 2050. By then, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 will have risen from a tenth to a fifth. This is one of the biggest things ever to happen to the human race, on a par with world wars, the industrial revolution and the development of farming.

It is going to change much of what we used to think of as normal, economically, socially and politically. And it is happening with such astonishing speed that a review of whether we can afford to retire completely is becoming more uncertain.

“Let me tell you about the future” repeated the friendly Thai man.

I replied “Mai Aw” – no thanks.

X – O – X

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