The Great Issue of Our Times?

Posted on 2011 November 6


A friend asks: “What is the great issue of our times?  That which will define our current era when we look back, like Vietnam War for the 60s, nuclear war in the 50s, WWII in the forties.”

I wanted to reply, “Issue? Issue? Gesundheit!” Instead, here are my candidates:

1. The War on Terrorism

(Caused two land wars, nearly doubled the size of American government, helped cause the Great Recession, damaged the Euro, removed many civil liberties, tightened borders and immigration, increased political polarization and religious intolerance, led to the Arab Spring uprisings, automated and depersonalized warfare.)

2. Exponential growth of computing power

(Worldwide adoption of the Internet, cell phones, and personal computers; instant interlinking between people everywhere; massive increase in accessible data and information; development, use and misuse of new technologies — genomics, fabricating and fulfillment, derivatives, BitTorrent, cyberstalking — and the move toward the ‘singularity’ and unpredictable changes in society.)

3. Rise of the BRICs

(‘Brazil, Russia, India, China’ — especially China and India — emerged as world economic leaders, competing with the US, EU, and East Asia for supremacy. As technologists and manufacturers, they’ve contributed to the vast increase in worldwide portable communications and computing.)

4. Re-emergence in world culture of vampires and zombies

5. Pop supremacy of Lady Gaga

6. Cute dog videos