Thursday, June 26, 2008

When We are the Ancestors

I am committed to genealogy and family history, but I have been inspired by science fiction even longer. I don't mean the bug-eyed monster kind, but instead, science fiction as a vision of a future way of life--conjured up by the scientifically savy, exploring technical possibilities and solving old problems in a startling new way. Perhaps that's why I love Star Trek so much, and why it made such an impact on me as a thirteen-year-old when it first aired.

An example of science fiction wedding technical reality is the City of the Future competition held recently by the History Channel. "City of the Future" was a design and engineering challenge, in which participants had to develop an eco-friendly city 100 years from now. Visions were presented through a written statement and 3-dimensional construct assembled within a 3-hour period during the first phase of the competition, and included accompanying visuals.

Oh my... take a look at some green visions for Washington D.C., Atlanta, and especially, my childhood stomping ground: San Francisco. When viewing the visuals, imagine the daily challenges our descendants will face, whether environmental, or otherwise.

Here's another (unrelated) inspiring Cities of the Future site, with some thought-provoking quotes tucked inbetween fantastic images of a world our descendants might come to know.

I was reminded that although we study the past to preserve family data and customs for the future, we should not forget about also preserving the present. Will our great great grandchildren understand who we are, right now, as they walk along their more carefully balanced eco-paths? Will our digital photographs, documentation, and even our identities become just a few scattered pixels over time--unrecognizable? Will our children's children's children understand the economic dilemnas behind the environmental crises our generation has left behind? Will our descendants try to understand us in the same manner we try to understand our forefathers, as individuals who faced special challenges and dealt with them in the best way they could? Ah, age-old questions.

"Rising from the sea in the centre of Oslo, [Norway] the new, marble-clad Opera is a futuristic architectural gem." Norway: the Official Site in Mozambique

The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.

- Albert Einstein, scientist (1879-1955)

I have always felt that whatever mankind has the potential to imagine can become reality.

Standing on the shoulders of our own ancestors, we have built an empire, for better or for worse. How will our descendants improve upon it, and how will they cope? What kind of world will it be when we are the ancestors, and they are searching for bits of data and photographs from the past to build a deeper understanding of our time? Perhaps the question is: as family historians and genealogists, how can we preserve that information for them?

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