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How to Avoid the Bummer Myth With a Good Plan B

The future's so much more fun than the past

 
"The elite always has a Plan B, while people have no escape."
- Ahmad Saadawi

 

Last month when the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq was the big buzz in the mainstream press I was overcome with the urge to write a we-told-you-so essay in which “we” would be the peace movement. You know, those tens of millions of people who took to the street on February 15, 2003 to tell our government not to invade Iraq because it was a wrong-headed and stupid idea.

That would be the same peace movement that’s now barely on life support while the war movement that so dishonestly brought you the Iraq War -- and the Vietnam War before that -- is doing just fine, thank you. In fact, it’s looking toward a bright and shining future when human troops will meld with technology. Lethal remotely-controlled drones are only a primitive beginning. Futurists like Ray Kurzweil see us approaching a condition when the rate of technological change will exponentially become a line on a chart going up like a rocket. And we can be sure our military will be on the darkest edge of this change.

 War meets the Singularity MomentPlan B: War meets the Singularity Moment

Kurzweil is an evangelist for such a future. In his book The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, he writes adoringly about “the law of accelerating returns” and “the singularity” that will be achieved at the top of the rocketing curve of accelerating technological change. We’re now in the “knee” of that curve that, he predicts, will soon turn vertical, as technological change “explodes with unexpected fury.”

Tragically, in this kind of mad rush to the future, history becomes a bummer for losers.

I made two trips into the Iraq war zone in 2003 and 2004 to get an on-the-ground glimpse of the debacle. After the first trip, during which our group of veterans and military family members met with a wide range of people, we rented the Washington Press Club for a two-hour presentation that ran on C-Span. Our message can be summed up this way: We witnessed the results of a very impressive but blundering force eager to kill and blow things up as it flung money around and, without a clue, started up huge misguided projects that very capable Iraqis could have done much better for a fraction of the cost.

The war weary Kurt Vonnegut would have said: “And so it goes.”

I’ll never forget a wonderful Iraqi man who guided me through a bombed out university building and kindly assured me, as if I was a child, “John, Iraqis will always lie to you.” Like most Americans, I seemed to him too assured and too earnest. I realize now he was trying to tell me in shorthand that Iraqi culture was really screwed up and more corrupt than I could imagine. He was right. But the larger truth and what has always haunted me was, when it came to corruption, Iraqis were crude compared to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Washington D.C. and Wall Street -- ie. the "elite" Ahmad Saadawi spoke of in the quote above.



story | by Dr. Radut