Marching Backwards Into The Future

An ad for the Mobil Oil Company had a headline which read: “Marching Backwards Into The Future.” And the copy went on to say that, “Today’s doomsters, like yesterday’s suffer from tunnel vision. They are infatuated with projecting the gloomy absolutes of their own age upon future worlds they can’t visualize. Worlds of fast changing conditions and values which have repeatedly generated their own coping mechanism.” It recalls that “In the 1860’s the loss of whaling ships to Confederate cruisers, threatened an energy crisis, whale oil. But America’s lamps kept burning because petroleum was discovered in undreamed of quantity. (Just as other fuels, though they’re considered exotic today, or ideas yet undreamed of, will eventually turn oil into yesterday’s fuel.)”

And I read in “FutuREport”, a newsletter on the future, that by the 1980’s a ship’s captain will only have to clear the harbor, a matter handled by harbor tugs and a pilot, and then identify the destination and “technology will take over” suggests Richard Plummer, manager of the Marine and Navigation Division of Magnavox. Computers will select the proper course, maintain the right engine speed, watch out for other ships and take evasive action, if necessary. Location information will be supplied by satellites. However, Plummer notes that the sextant and the stars will not be entirely replaced, “There will always be a need for a backup system.”

And the Christian Science Monitor, quoting some United States Government scientist, reported that “Hydrogen bombs exploded deep underground could produce enough electricity safely and cleanly eventually to ‘meet the world’s energy needs.’

“Given ten years and $500 million,” said Doctor R. G. Shreffler, Project Director, “his group could have a prototype pacer power plant producing as much as 1,000 megawatts of electricity by detonating a 50 kiloton bomb every 20 hours, or 450 times a year.” I wonder what it would do to real estate values in the area! And I can’t help thinking that we can find a much better, more natural, cleaner, healthier, quieter, less nerve-wracking way to produce the energy we need without exploding 450 hydrogen bombs a year, even it that might be a good way to get rid of the ridiculous and terrifying stockpile of such weapons. We now have sufficient nuclear weapons devices, and so does Russia, for each county to destroy the other… 100 times over! There must be a tremendous profit in the manufacture and handling of those things. But someday… they’re going to nip us in the seat of the pants.

But what’s interesting in all of this is how the world has been galvanized behind the need to find alternative forms of energy. I think we’ll come up with so many excellent solutions, with different solutions for different situations and conditions, that by the year 2000 the idea of burning fossil fuels for energy will be as outmoded as whale oil and kerosene lamps. The discovery of cheap abundant oil came at the right time in history, it helped us make a mega-leap forward; but now it’s time for a new discovery to take over. A solution that will be clean and cheap for all the people on earth. There’s no doubt in my mind at least that we’ll find it. But I hope it doesn’t rely on the explosion of hydrogen bombs deep underground.

As far as the future is concerned, I’ll go along with Noman Cousins who said: “It seems to me that if we can devise a technology so incredibly amazing that it can fulfill our desire to set foot on a neighboring planet… we can do anything!”

By: Earl Nightingale

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