Looking back at 2017 and the one or two years that preceded it, we can definitely discover some cultural and social trends, especially in the West. While there are of course trends anytime and anywhere, now we can see some changes not only in the fabric of life, but in the structure that frames it as well.
Almost ten years ago, in 2009, I wrote an article commenting on another article of mine. I had written a piece on the fear that was looming as the year 2012 approached. According to the Mayan calendar, this was the end (or just a shift as it was afterwards downgraded), but it was this milestone was milked for all it was worth by the media through documentaries, books and movies. I am sure there must have been even cults who prepared for the big change or end.
In my piece, I was saying that we are seeing a lot of “images, ideas and films teaching us a new way of life” and that maybe in the world of the future, “lessons like «don`t trust anyone» and fraud” will be seen “as a natural thing”.
Over the last two years or so, we’ve been hearing especially in the West (which influences a lot of what is going on the world) terms like “post-truth”, the already-classic “fake news”, “alternative facts”, “conspiracies” and other terms describing the world as “relative”. I pondered on what these things mean and how they will impact us in the time to come. While they are certainly part of a media war or a propaganda war, they have more impact than just the immediate news influence. These terms have made it almost impossible for the contemporary person to discern between what is really going on “out there”. In other words, whenever you hear of something distant or even about something you have witnessed, people often wonder whether it is in fact true or whether it is “fake” and has the goal to manipulate you or if there is a lot of mystery lying beneath it. In other words, these concepts have made us highly suspicious of the nature of our shared experiences. My main question is whether we will ever be able to re-gain the same notions over events and the trust in the manner that they used to exist. I’m not saying this is good or bad, it’s not a judgment call, but I am simply thinking that this s what is happening.
So, it can be concluded that the world of information as we knew it is slowly but surely coming to an end. Of course, it might and most likely will pick itself up sometime in the future, but there will most likely be another context then. Today, however, with citizen journalism, vlogs and independent media, classic news outlets become irrelevant. The new media, in the shape of citizen journalism and so on is not considered reliable enough by most people either. In this sense, the concept of news itself becomes irrelevant. Watching competing media today one will notice that the same piece of news is presented in ways that are so different that it doesn’t even seem they are reporting on the same thing. Of course, major disasters will be still unanimously presented.
A good example (and segway to my next point) is how the Kevin Spacey case was reported in the last months. US actor Kevin Spacey was revealed to have had an inappropriate sexual conduct towards a boy many years ago. He now admitted to it, but then continued to say that he is actually gay. On the one hand, this piece of news was presented as being a horrific story of sexual misconduct, while the other side of the media presented it as a touching coming out story. This approach is seen in everything; each political, cultural or social decision or change is seen by some as the worst, while others present is as the best thing that could happen. It’s really all how you look at it and how it impacts you, as I was saying in my article “A History of Weirdos”.
The Kevin Spacey story was not a random example, as the second thing that seems to be dismantling in front of our eyes if pop culture and the entertainment aspect of life. The iconic stars of the world, which have been points of reference for so many years and considered as the pioneers of culture are now (and sometimes rightfully so) thrown off their pedestals. But then again, from a pedestal, if one doesn’t stay there, one can only fall. While this might not seem as a very important thing, I believe that in fact it is a very important endeavor. If the value of celebrities from the past, who for followers of pop culture are “shining stars” is being discredited and their works are now reinterpreted, the world is now faced with a blank slate, in which the values and ideas of the past are erased. The great works of pop culture of the past are now seen as bad. In a way, it is a revisionist history.
And the same thing is happening to the art world in many aspects. After famous works of art have been commented, interpreted and remixed in countless ways, a lot of it is now starting to disappear from the collective consciousness. The mainstream art of today almost has no value, or at least, no cultural or spiritual value, just monetary value, which means that the field of art itself is being thrown away by many.
Thus, if politics and social changes are becoming irrelevant, popular culture and entertainment are erased and art is shunned away, what is to remain? One could argue that religion, but for the most part it can be said that religion has disappeared almost completely in the West, which is what we are discussing. The only thing that remains is a blank slate with a lot of technology. If you look at summits dealing with issues of the next years, you can notice that most things they discuss is technology and economics. Not relations between people, not aesthetics, not morals.
In the 2017-2037 period we will probably see changes bigger than those that took place at the beginning of the 20th century.
The future is not clear, it can never be clear, but we can think of how certain cultural and social aspects will change, based on assumptions and current trends. It is very likely that the near future will bring hard conflict, which will result in an increase in state power and control.
One of the main trends of the future will be the development of artificial intelligence. We will probably see it first applied in military matters and we’ll have army robots, but then they will enter our homes.
Education is also going to change drastically. The very concept of education might change. The things people learned in school in the past will be lost and people will focus more on studying the present and the development of technology. Also, and this is a bit of a stretch, we might see a new segregation of education. This could be based on boys and girls, but it may also be based on other criteria.
While the aughties and teens have been the world of online communities, the future is very likely to bring again physical communities. People will want to meet in person. This will be facilitated by the development of fast transportation. However, travel will decrease and most likely that people will spend a lot more time inside (at home or in entertainment centers) than outdoors.
It is interesting how at the same time we can’t really say so much about the future since we live in a very uncertain time, but at the same time we can see so many things going in certain directions. Of course, the future will be diverse in that there will be a lot of contrasts between people, which will give birth to a very niche-based society, where everything is, but, at the same time, due to the multitude of choices is not accessible. But I might be wrong, don’t quote me on that.