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What's going on right now that future people will wish they could have been part of?
February 29, 2012 10:27 AM   Subscribe

What is going on right now, that in fifty or a hundred years, people will be saying "damn, I wish I was part of that"?

I'm thinking about Haight Ashbury in its heyday, bohemian Paris in the days of James Joyce, the Wild West days in the US. I'm interested in moments of cultural ferment that will be of extreme interest in the future. (I realize this may be tough to answer because it is hard to predict what current cultural milieus will be of lasting interest.) What is stuff that's really interesting, happening right now, anywhere in the world, that people will ruefully wish they had been part of in fifty or a hundred years?
posted by jayder to Society & Culture (51 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
Depending on which side you think will win, the Tea Party or the Occupy movement. Or neither, they could both fizzle out.
posted by xingcat at 10:28 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd guess the overthrowing of regimes in the middle east is going to be pretty interesting to students of history in 50-100 years.
posted by Grither at 10:30 AM on February 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Obama campaign, Grant Park on the night of Obama's election, and the Inauguration, despite the many problems with it.
posted by jgirl at 10:31 AM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Transhumanist technology
posted by MangyCarface at 10:33 AM on February 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


The DC spoken word scene is pretty fabulous, and has lead to the establishment of a big national gathering and indirectly to several small businesses.

Honolulu has a pretty awesome music/theatrical arts scene too
posted by spunweb at 10:33 AM on February 29, 2012


The changes in scholarly communication. The changes in communication, period.
posted by k8lin at 10:33 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hot internet companies right when they are starting.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:34 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fan fiction.

AI / machine learning / "big data."
posted by grobstein at 10:39 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Chinese gold rush.
posted by grobstein at 10:40 AM on February 29, 2012


I don't know if this fits your criteria, but in 50-100 years our part of the technological revolution may seem very quaint (but interesting!) The beginning of personal computers and the internet and the first mobile phones and such. And perhaps a time before the Google/Amazon conglomerate took over the world?
posted by Glinn at 10:42 AM on February 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


With so many visits clocked to this question, I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the Apple Revolution - the biggest game changer "culture ferment" worldwide, more than the Middle East, China, and Obama - combined.
posted by Kruger5 at 10:43 AM on February 29, 2012


As far as locales go, Brooklyn, New York has pretty much become what Olympia/Seattle was in the 1990s, as far as innovation in music is concerned. On the world stage, the arts action is in Berlin, although it may be dying down.
posted by griphus at 10:45 AM on February 29, 2012


seconding jgirl here

I worked on the Obama campaign, and was in Grant Park on election night. It was amazing, and being involved in it is one of the things I'm most proud of in my life.
posted by Oktober at 10:56 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter
posted by Sal and Richard at 11:01 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know if the Apple Revolution is something anybody who is not an employee of Apple can be a part of. I agree with the sentiment though, I feel like there is something happening in the tech scene in New York and the Bay Area.

Startup stuff, but more real. I think people are starting to branch out, to think about ways that startup culture can be applied to more serious problems. There are lots of super smart, super talented engineers working at enormous scale for companies like Tumblr or Twitter or Facebook. And there are some tremendously stupid and enormous problems like hospital record keeping, the insurance industry and the fucking giant ineffective bureaucracy that is the US government. There is a tiny bit of overlap between those two worlds, but it's just starting to get real now.

I'm probably too optimistic. But I feel like it's A Thing.
posted by tracert at 11:07 AM on February 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Burning Man seems to be rapidly becoming a trendy bro-fest.
posted by cmoj at 11:09 AM on February 29, 2012


Yeah, Burning Man is an Important Thing but here's a great FPP about how it's eating itself alive.
posted by griphus at 11:12 AM on February 29, 2012


The dawn of mixed martial arts and its imminent rise to the world's most popular sport is happening right now, I am pretty psyched that I get to watch it.
posted by TheRedArmy at 11:15 AM on February 29, 2012


In education, it's flipped classrooms for sure.
posted by guster4lovers at 11:16 AM on February 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


The local beer and brewery scene in Austin has blossomed in the past five years. Whenever I go to a bar and see 20-30 local, good beers on tap I feel lucky and excited to live here now. Beer Town Austin is a good place to get the gist of this.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:23 AM on February 29, 2012


1) The rise of electric vehicles (finally) and the revolution in U.S. energy spending
2) Solar electric power crosses the oil and coal lines, distributed power generation (e.g. on homes) becomes widespread
3) the rise of commercial space tourism; this time next year you will be hearing a LOT more about this as Virgin Galactic will have started their sub-orbital flights and SpaceX will be doing ISS supply runs and evolving towards human launch capability
4) Nth-ing the watershed event that was the election of Obama. Considering how utterly corrupt our system is, it's amazing that it happened at all, and without the support of the big money / Clinton / DLC camps.

It sounds like you're looking for more cultural watersheds, not so much technological, but #1 and #2 are going to be seen as Very Big Deals in hindsight. What's the number one thing that has bankrupted our country over the past decade? Oil war spending.
posted by intermod at 11:28 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Pessimistically... people will probably look back to right now as a golden age of travel and natural riches. We still have vast tracts of (relatively) virgin wilderness, clean air, abundant drinkable water at dead cheap prices (in the west), antibiotics that work, no terribly fatal airborne diseases, and lots of cheap oil-based transportation that makes it possible for a good number of us (mostly westerners) to travel widely. In the future, as oil prices go up and we start cannibalizing our own resources, I can see the present moment being viewed, in retrospect, as a golden age (and a criminally profligate age, perhaps).

Also... all the scholarship over the last two decades extolling globalization and simultaneously claiming that locality will continue to thrive despite globalization and corporatization... All this makes me think we will be viewed, in retrospect, as having been a profoundly optimistic age, drunk on wild and apparently limitless possibilities.
posted by artemisia at 11:32 AM on February 29, 2012 [16 favorites]


In the same way that I think a lot of people who were young adults in the 1960s wish they had taken a more active role in the civil rights movement, I suspect/hope that those of us who are young adults now are going to wish we had taken a more active role in political movements advancing viewpoints that are radical now, but will someday be mainstream. In politics/social movements, the Overton Window is a useful concept here. Basically, in a hundred years, a lot of stuff that is currently in the "radical" category will by then be in the "policy" category, where it's taken for granted as the correct position and anyone who opposed it will be seen as having been on the wrong side of history, while those who fought for it when it was unpopular will be heroes who helped advance social progress. Those of us who passively support such changes, but aren't actually doing much of anything about it because we don't want to devote our lives to being crusaders for fringe causes, will look back and wish we had been a bigger part of creating those changes.

For example, it is my fervent hope that within a hundred years, we will look back on mass incarceration as an enormous and vile human rights violation, and we'll view the people who today fight against it as heroes and wish we had been more involved. Similarly, I suspect that we'll eventually move past factory farming as a method of food production, and those of us who sort of ignored the animal rights movement now will wish we had been active on the right side of that issue while the fight was active. The spate of crazy xenophobic immigration laws, marriage equality, digital privacy/content control, and international democracy movements are some other examples of issues on which we're all going to wish that we hadn't just vaguely supported the right outcome, but rather that we had been among the heroes who actually did something about it.
posted by decathecting at 11:36 AM on February 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Neuro-enhancers are the future. I guess you can get into them later, but I think people will be slow to adapt and accept them. We already have drugs that very clearly elevate ordinary cognitive function into the relative stratosphere.

Also probably LGBT rights.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:39 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fifty or one hundred years? I think the rise of non-Euroamerican countries as economic powerhouses (India, China, Brazil) is going to be the source of a great paradigm shift in the cultural milieu as well. My guess is that there is some "scene" in Mumbai that people are going to look back on 100 years from now and say "that's where it all began."
posted by drlith at 11:45 AM on February 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


We already have drugs that very clearly elevate ordinary cognitive function into the relative stratosphere.

Such as?
posted by Ratio at 11:52 AM on February 29, 2012


Oh and to answer your question:
posted by Ratio at 12:02 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Indie video games.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:21 PM on February 29, 2012


Seconding the Chinese gold rush, seconding the nascent Middle Eastern democracies, thirding the Obama campaign, adding also Anonymous/Wikileaks.
posted by ruelle at 12:26 PM on February 29, 2012


Anonymous. Lulzsec, to a lesser extent.
posted by workerant at 12:30 PM on February 29, 2012


Such as?

For certain cognitive functions, central nervous system stimulants generally prescribed for ADD: Ritalian/methylphenidate, Adderal/dextroamphetamine, Desoxyn/methamphetamine, etc.
posted by griphus at 12:31 PM on February 29, 2012


In 50 years, I think there will be a lot of people wishing they had been part of the Obama campaign, the fight for LBGT rights, and the general overthrowing of the extreme right in the USA.

(LBGT rights and the wiping out of the far right are definitely going to happen, because the generations that support conservatism are, for the most part, literally going to die off.)
posted by MexicanYenta at 12:31 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Although I think the person who originally posted that may have been talking about pharmaceutical innovations in nootropics.
posted by griphus at 12:41 PM on February 29, 2012


Burning Man is definitely one of those things that future generations will be nostalgic about and wish they had been able to participate in. It may already be over, in that sense, but it's had a huge cultural impact, particularly on the software/internet industry, and it's the kind of thing that spins off myths. "This one time, at Burning Man..."
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:06 PM on February 29, 2012


Animal rights activism/ethical veganism. In a 50 years, the left will see speciesism as comparable to sexism or racism.
posted by dontjumplarry at 1:13 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I disagree about the Obama campaign. It's a slice of history, and it may have meant something meaningful to the small (small) percentage of people who took part in it, but I don't believe it is a cultural milestone.

I think the rise of the Internet (and portable data streams via phones, tablets, etc.) will produce a great many big THINGS in the near future. As opposed to a presidential election that only held deep meaning to about half of our country, the changes in communication have affected almost everyone on the planet.

The Internet is very comparable to the Wild West right now, which is cool.
posted by tacodave at 1:29 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the earth gets as crowded as some people suggest, possibly any and all movements to stop humans from reproducing.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:53 PM on February 29, 2012


Atheism.
posted by Decani at 2:16 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I suppose it depends on your interests. There are all sorts of (sub)cultural events and moments that fall into this category.

Now that the Malian government has driven upwards of 100,000+ refugees out of their own country in a terrible and misguided war on the Touareg people, it's not bloody likely that we'll see the Touareg-organized Festival au Desert in Timbuktu again.

Likewise, the last of the Bulgarian men and women who were around in the pre-Communist era are dying off, and taking with them huge swaths of original folklore, songs, dances, and vivid cultural memories that make the Koprivshtitsa festival such an important event. That will surely be a different thing once we're left with only the second-hand practitioners.

As others have suggested, Burning Man is already far from its roots.
posted by mykescipark at 2:24 PM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Arab Spring?
posted by Urtylug at 4:08 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


My own bias might be reflected here, but I feel like veganism and the animal rights movement fits the bill. I believe that the way our culture views animals as objects [to be used as food, clothes, and materials] will experience a huge, radical paradigm shift in the next hundred years.

Nthing the Arab Spring.

Specifically for Russians, the next several weeks could be very interesting and something of a watershed moment for democracy.
posted by oxfordcomma at 6:19 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh! And online education.
posted by oxfordcomma at 6:19 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Funny, oxfordcomma -- I was thinking the opposite -- that university education on campuses, in classrooms, with tenured or tenure-track professors, may seem delightfully archaic in a hundred or so years.
posted by jayder at 6:46 PM on February 29, 2012


Whoops, I wish I had phrased that better. I believe online education could be the cornerstone of university education in the future, and it's one of those "early adopter" situations. I can totally picture a person 75 years from now, when online education will probably have some sort of 3D or physically tangible component, explaining to their great-grandchildren how they were part of the first wave of online education... and how rudimentary [and awful] Blackboard was.
posted by oxfordcomma at 8:52 PM on February 29, 2012


Occupy for sure
LGBTQ equality movements
Campaign finance reform
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:31 AM on March 1, 2012


I can't say, but I can say I'm pretty sure it'll be none of the above, nor anything remotely like them.

Humans are lousy at predicting the future. I don't mean 'a bit shit', I mean 'completely and utterly fucking incapable.' That's because we forecast based on recent trends. Brazil, India, Russia, China, Korea - they're all booming now, so they must run the world in a hundred years time, right? Except that's Blade Runner thinking - Japan will rule the world, and all these awesome companies will be even more awesome. But it doesn't, and they're not. It won't be any different with anything anybody is doing now, any more than people look back from now and say 'Wow, I wish I was part of the suboceanic cable laying scene! That really shook things up!'

And even now, given the entire scope of human endeavour, we can't suggest anything that isn't on Twitter, right now. Obama? Tea Party? The Arab Spring? Seriously?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:17 AM on March 1, 2012


obiwanwasabi: "And even now, given the entire scope of human endeavour, we can't suggest anything that isn't on Twitter, right now. Obama? Tea Party? The Arab Spring? Seriously?"

So no to Obama, the Tea Party, and the Arab Spring, but you're ok with the dude who said that Apple is the biggest cultural revolution of our time? Ok then.
posted by Grither at 3:58 AM on March 1, 2012


I can't say, but I can say I'm pretty sure it'll be none of the above, nor anything remotely like them.

Humans are lousy at predicting the future. I don't mean 'a bit shit', I mean 'completely and utterly fucking incapable.'


This was my thought when I posted the question. Perhaps it is impossible to say what scenes/revolutions will be regarded as important in the future.

But it also occurred to me that there might be MeFites who are currently in the middle of some very interesting scene somewhere who could answer "who knows if this will go anywhere, but there's a really cool [literary/scientific/technological/art/hedonism] scene in [x city] that feels like something important because [reason]." There have been several such answers in this thread.
posted by jayder at 7:08 AM on March 1, 2012


It will honestly be nothing short of a miracle if, in 50-100 years, internet culture and digital media are anywhere near as open and free as they are right now.
posted by naju at 9:19 AM on March 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Genocide. There have been intense brutal genocides repeatedly, and North Korea is state murdering hundreds of thousands of people, Tibet, Syria and more - and we do very little about it.

People looking back imagine that they would have been in the French Resistance or the Underground Railway, but the reality is that genocide and brutality like that continues right now, and we're not at all involved.

We're going to be judged harshly by our grandchildren, the same way we look back at slave-owners and Nazi-collaborators. Why didn't we do anything about such terrible crimes, they'll ask, and we have no good answers.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:30 PM on March 1, 2012


So no to Obama, the Tea Party, and the Arab Spring, but you're ok with the dude who said that Apple is the biggest cultural revolution of our time? Ok then.

Yes, that's absolutely what I said, and my comment was intended to be an exhaustive list.

Muppet.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:59 PM on March 3, 2012


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