A better life at the millennium, in space

It’s almost 2000. Let’s see what lies ahead.

People often say, You can’t know where you’re going till you know where you’ve been.

I don’t know why. Probably because it has a good rhythm. People also like to say things that rhyme. That’s why Must See TV on NBC is so popular.

You can’t know where you’re going till you know where you’ve been is supposed to contain some wisdom.

Apparently it’s not enough to just be here on Earth, I’ve got to be going somewhere, and if I want some kind of preview of it, I must look to the past. I’m young, so I haven’t really been anywhere. That’s disconcerting if it means I’m going nowhere.

I’ll look to my father’s past instead. We have the same name and are alike in most ways. My father spent his working life in the Space Age. He built rockets. Whether the rockets he built were going into outer space or carrying the warhead that would destroy humanity for the hundredth or thousandth time, he put them together and could look at his work.

His role in the space race affected every area of his life. He has always called me Sputnik.

He’s retired now but when asked what he did says, I put the man on the moon. That’s something of an exaggeration. (He also claims to have won, nearly single-handedly, the Korean War. When I ask if he’s certain he won that one, he says Sure. That’s why you have two Koreas. Lucky me.)

He’s a very old man.

Anyway, I grew up hearing about escape velocities, the various stages in space flight, what kind of missiles are best for carrying warheads and getting called Sputnik. So, like non-stick cookware and that awful freeze-dried ice cream you get at science museums, I am a product of the Space Age.

While I’m a Space-Age product, I live and work in the Information Age. Like my father, I make things, but there are a number of key differences:

– I make things out of information.

– There seems to be a limitless supply of this unnatural resource.

– It’s extremely light, and I’ve found that moving it around requires almost no physical labor.

I get to be innovative. My father’s rockets had to conform to their design specifications or else they wouldn’t fly. Me, I can do all kinds of things with information: I can put it into bulleted lists, or make some sort of pie chart.the possibilities are endless.

Information is never finished. I make a bulleted list, someone else makes it into a chart, it’s displayed at a press conference, and the next morning it’s an infographic. I may get to hear the information misquoted on the news the next night.

Information is never finished. I may go home from work having made some bulleted lists, and my boss can call saying we need the information in paragraphs. Luckily for me, the sacred space of one’s home is no barrier to information. I can work over the Internet.

So where am I going? Probably into a cubicle where, like most people, I will shuffle information around. I won’t really be able to say what I’m making since, after all, it’s never done.

Meanwhile computer geniuses will think up ways for information to move faster. New forms into which it can be fit, new products for employers to request.

People always applaud these innovations (Hooray! My Internet connection works faster than ever; now I’ll never leave my desk!) as if they actually made life any easier. People felt the same way about the cotton gin.

The future isn’t necessarily that bleak. If I’m lucky, I can become a journalist. That would mean the things I make out of information would go somewhere. Not into the vast emptiness of space, but into people’s heads.

On second thought, that isn’t very exciting. Space is empty, and you get to make your mark on it by shooting things into it, but people’s heads are already filled with all kinds of junk. Just watch Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? or Greed.

This look at where I’m going in terms of where I’ve been has been incredibly depressing, but it has given me some hope: we can go back into space.

Americans, of all people, have all the property rights to the moon. We should go and seize it. The moon would be a dream come true, not only for real estate agents and architects who are tired of battling historical preservationists, but for prospectors, pioneers and swindlers as well. The moon is perfect for all those American types we don’t need anymore.

Besides that, the moon is extremely under-serviced in almost every way. It doesn’t have a single Blockbuster Video or Starbucks. In all likelihood, boy-band music (not to mention style) has yet to reach it. It’s time to start thinking beyond globalization.

I wouldn’t go – I’m a big fan of air – but it would be nice to be part of a nation with a mission.

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