Maggie Aldrich is a freshman English major, Contributing Writer
Numerically, 2020 looks like a futuristic year. It kicks off the decade with matching digits, as if it’s a significant mark that could foster a technological, societal, or political change. With the transition from Musical.ly to TikTok this past year, I can’t be the only one expecting life-altering changes to continue into the new year.
However, while technologies have evolved, it almost feels like society remains stagnant in making communities more cohesive or creating a sense of national unity. Despite how modern this year may sound, the U.S. is still far away from the image of “the future” we’ve pictured.
In order to reach a truly progressive mark socially, our society would first reap the benefits technology provides with knowledge, and then implement ways we can use this knowledge in order to coexist with the varying beliefs we all carry. If we could work together in this sense, we would be less isolated as individuals and able to more freely express our ideas that could alter the state our country sits in.
Technology is now central to daily life, and its positive impacts are particularly apparent in areas like the medical community. A 2004 report by the National Intelligence Council emphasized how the technological revolution would result in an influx of human knowledge and well-being while also stretching life spans through medical breakthroughs and disease eradication.
While many of us don’t understand the degree of modern medical advancements, what most of us do know is which station in the caf is the best bet for our digestive tract. In correspondence with medical research, patients (particularly millennials) are educating themselves on health and wellness, which is forming a health-conscious movement. Fast food is being swapped out for organic and non-genetically modified organisms, and soft drinks for kombucha.
Although we’re more educated about our health now than we’ve ever been, fads such as diet supplements are contributing to the trillion-dollar wellness industry without providing much benefit to its curious consumers. With new research, the switch to e-cigarettes has also posed a threat despite being advertised as a safe alternative to smoking. In spite of being able to track our activity levels and food intake by a few clicks, health awareness doesn’t guarantee longevity when the goals are centered around aesthetics. From juice cleanses to waist trainers, we may never see an end to the health craze due to the increased focus on self-image that grew alongside it. With influencers on platforms such as Instagram promoting a specific “look,” it’s more difficult than ever for Americans to not be tempted by products that promise fast results, even if they don’t align with all the information we now carry.
The National Intelligence Council also reflected on how religious ideology would become a large factor of how people identify themselves, increasing hostility in political avenues. While older generations of Americans see higher percentages in religious identity, millennials are seeing the highest rates of unaffiliated beliefs within any generation according to Pew Research Center.
While there is a lack of growth in religious belief, there is an increasing hostility between political parties. Political beliefs are mixing with more religious perspectives, leading to a strong religious identity within conservatives, and a lack thereof in liberals, furthering political polarization. Most seem to agree that appreciating the beliefs of others would be ideal, but our society feels far from that point due to the increased political tensions.
This is forming a cycle between parties where a portion of nonreligious millennials are discouraged from exploring a faith altogether due to the political implications that could follow. With Christianity in particular, conservative identity politics hide behind what is perceived as religion. This creates a barrier for younger, more liberal individuals who maintain strong differing opinions to explore a belief that is becoming more politicized.
Aside from the growing lack of faith within the younger generations in America, political opinions have been divided to the point where people no longer view one another as human beings with differing opinions, but rather as competition that seek their views to conquer all. This has especially become prevalent under our right-wing administration, where these groups have prioritized dominating American culture with discriminating intentions that bring harm to relationships, whether that be to friends or even towards strangers on Twitter. This has brought a major step back towards political or even social progression, because every group feels discriminated against, the majority is stepping over the actual struggles minorities continue to face with an even higher threshold of political ignorance. And the most defeating aspect above all is that this behavior is encouraged due to the current agenda of what white America perceives as nationalism.
While the 2004 report mentioned how climate change would demonstrate its impact through weather, it also predicted that the U.S., a leading producer of greenhouse gases, would take drastic steps to reduce its ecological footprint. While adverse environmental effects are occurring as forecasted, the U.S. still hit a record-high energy use in 2018 due to a reliance on fossil fuels, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration. And although we are in a global climate crisis, the country has failed to make major changes and, if anything, has created another political divide on whether or not to enforce these changes.
Considering there’s a new wave of environmental ideals, I find it appalling that the large portion of the American population that is advocating for less waste and more sustainable products hasn’t been able to quite reach the root of what’s most impactful to our environmental footprint as a society. Drastic corporate and legal change is essential to lowering America’s harmful impact on the environment, yet most perceive the solution to be through individual reform such as paper straws or reusable bags.
While we’ve moved ahead in discovering alternative forms of energy, we’re still behind due to the ineffective ways of implementing this technology into everyday life. As we continuously fail to reduce our energy consumption, we’ll continue to see the greenhouse effect harm our ecosystem to a point of no return. That, if anything, is what our future looks like.
With technology such as bitcoin and navigation seeming like a casual part of our lives, the future feels farther than where it stands. Yet as we casually interact with artificial intelligence, new forms of social media, and changing research, we observe how the world constantly develops. Despite this, we still associate with one another in the same human-like ways that we always have. These social habits often fail to change, and with the knowledge we now have as opposed to previous generations, we need to be moving to a more forward, diverse, and open-minded society in order to catch up with the new age.