The Hidden Global Costs of Mental Illness
The Calm Before the Storm
Why Volatility Signals Stability, and Vice Versa
The Failure of Multiculturalism
Community Versus Society in Europe
The Resistible Rise of Vladimir Putin
Russia’s Nightmare Dressed Like a Daydream
Obama's Libya Debacle
How a Well-Meaning Intervention Ended in Failure
ISIS Is Not a Terrorist Group
Why Counterterrorism Won’t Stop the Latest Jihadist Threat
The End of Reform in China
Authoritarian Adaptation Hits a Wall
The Decline of International Studies
Why Flying Blind Is Dangerous
Same as It Ever Was
Why the Techno-optimists Are Wrong
The End of Pax Americana
Why Washington’s Middle East Pullback Makes Sense
China's Boyfriends for Hire
How to Survive the Chinese New Year
Lessons from Marijuana Legalization Around the Globe
Caliphate of Law
ISIS' Ground Rules
The Balkans, Interrupted
The Protests in Macedonia are Only the Beginning
When a Bride-to-Be Is a Bride to Buy
In India, a Shortage of Women Generates Demand for Trafficked Brides
There's Something About Marriage
Why the Vote in Ireland Was Bad for Same-Sex Rights
A Pain in the Athens
Why Greece Isn't to Blame for the Crisis
Enlightened Despots, Then and Now
The Truth About an Islamic Enlightenment
Putin's Syria Strategy
Russian Airstrikes and What Comes Next
All in Good FON
Why Freedom of Navigation Is Business as Usual in the South China Sea
Belief in “the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us,” as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby, is a characteristic American trait. But hope in a better future is not uniquely American, even if it has long been a more potent secular faith in the United States than elsewhere. The belief has older roots. It was the product of a shift in the temporal location of the golden age from a long-lost past to an ever-brighter future.
That shift was conceived and realized with the Enlightenment and then the Industrial Revolution. As human beings gained ever-greater control of the forces of nature and their economies became ever more productive, they started to hope for lives more like those of the gods their ancestors had imagined.
People might never be immortal, but their lives would be healthy and long. People might never move instantaneously, but they could transport themselves and their possessions swiftly and cheaply across great distances. People might never live on Mount Olympus, but they could enjoy a temperate climate, 24-hour lighting, and abundant food. People might never speak mind to mind, but they could communicate with as many others as they desired, anywhere on the planet. People might never enjoy infinite wisdom, but they could gain immediate access to the knowledge accumulated over millennia.
All of this has already happened in the world’s richest countries. It is what the people of the rest of the world hope still to enjoy.
Is a yet more orgiastic future beckoning? Today’s Gatsbys have no doubt that the answer is yes: humanity stands on the verge of breakthroughs in information technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence that will dwarf what has been achieved in the past two centuries. Human beings will be able to live still more like gods because they are about to create machines like gods: not just strong and swift but also supremely intelligent and even self-creating.
Yet this is the optimistic
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