2024 has a nice futuristic ring to it, does it not?
To my ear at least it sounds like the distant future we grew up hearing so many fantasies about has just now come around, and landed right at our doorstop.
But does it feel futuristic?
To those who have lived through several decades at least, it surely feels futuristic - what with the internet and the miniturisation and digitisation of all things in our lives, it's hard to deny that much in the way we live has changed.
Indeed, reading historian Yuval Noah Harari's take in Sapiens (finally got to it this Christmas) one can safely conclude that we are living in the most peaceful and properous time in human history.
The material comforts that the vast majority in the world enjoy today is unparralled in human history but whether that has made our happiness equally unparralled ... well that is an open question.
As we ended 2023, I could not help but feel that we were on some sort of precipice: At the cusp of big changes - and just as all was about to be revealed, Christmas came by and the world went on one big holiday.
2023 ended on a cliff hanger ...
When historians document the 21st century, 2023 will no doubt go down as the year where the forks in the roads appeared - not across one but at the intersection of three mega trends:
Artificial Intelligence : AI was let loose on the internet in 2023 and surprised everyone. We finally understood the exponential trajectory that the technology was on. Since then, the race to crack artificial general intelligence has only accelerated - no expense spared. Whether what we create will be a force for good or be our doom is an open question we've taken with us into the new year.
Climate Change : 2023 was the first year the global temperature reached the 1.5 degree warming ceiling. It is clear that inspite of all the talk, there is very in the way of meaningful change that is being undertaken to reverse the trend. The social and political will to change just isn't there. And no miracle tech that will solve it all has appeared on the scene either.
Western Institutions & Democratic System of Governance: 2023 was the year when the 'Global South' stood up and asserted their political and economic power and independence - choosing and acting in their own national interest rather than falling in-line with the agenda set by dominant Western governments and their allies, as they've done in the past. New alliances and trading partnerships formed, as these nations rightfully protested against the double standards by Western Institutions and their media. Continued hypocrisy by these bodies have only furthered questions about the legitimacy of these institutions and even the veracity of their form of governance - democracy - and this even from people who have bought into Western ideals. With consequential wars still raging and a consequential US presidential election due at the end of the year, the seeds of geopolitical shifts sown in 2023 will probably come to bear in 2024.
Cause for optimism?
So how do I feel about the future? I found myself asking this question as I took my usual afternoon walk a few days ago. Much to my surprise and, I should add, relief, I heard myself say that, all will be well.
I remain optimistic on how things will unfold and the basis for this is largely my lived experience: The vast majority of the people in this world are good - and when 'push comes to shove' - they do the right thing.
These good people are everywhere: in politics, business, public service, social service, charity and arts. Rarely will they be elevated to the top echelons of institutions ... but it does not matter to them. They carry on 'fighting the good fight' in the layers of the organisation where the real work gets done.
It is to these unsung heros that we owe a debt of gratitude for all the right decisions made throughout history (that their 'glorious leader' probably took the credit for ...)
But as good as our innate nature may be, we humans also suffer greatly from complaceny - unless 'push comes to shove', we simply don't act...
In the case of all three mega trends above, this inaction may cost us dearly - a price that may take multiple generations to repay. And that I believe is the greater worry.
In 2024, set a resolution for the world
I read somewhere that the challenges we face collectively as a society are such that setting personal new year resolutions may not be sufficient this year.
Losing weight, excercising more, learning a foreign language, etc - all are commendable aspirations for personal growth and development but also ones that we very quickly lose steam on. We are into the third week of January now, and the rails are probably falling off a few of these already...
Ever wonder why that is so? Perhaps it has to do with these things not being so consquential after all...
Even if someone diligently follows through on their resolution, the beneficiary is often one person. Conversely, if they fail, only one person is impacted, and even then, mostly in a theoretical sense.
Perhaps to find the will to follow-through on committments, we humans need larger stakes.
And the good new is, there are many societal issues at play now that offer plenty of stake. Pick any one of the three bullet points above for example. And if none of them rock your world, then look around your community - I bet it won't take long to find something that pulls at your heartstrings.
The most positive thing that has already happended in 2024 is the call that has gone out for all of us, to not just set a resolution for the self this year - but one for our community or the world at large.
In 2024, we continue with a strengthened resolve
If anything, this has strengthened our resolve to continue on with the work we started in 2020: To create stories that plant seeds of wisdom.
The challenges of our times are such that knowledge on it's own won't cut it.
We all need to dig deeper and use our better judgement - our wisdom - to make the right calls, trade-offs and decisions on matters with long term societal consequences.
Indeed, it is entirely possible that in the space of the next decade or two, it is the little ones we are reading storybooks to now, who will have to make the most consequential decisions.
Arming them with wisdom today, will make all the difference, when that future arrives...
We started off the year with the committment to finishing off the Willow the Wonderer series this year and bring you the final two books of adventure, learning and wisdom.
Thank you for the part you've played
There is no such thing as a self-made woman or man: We all get somewhere because of the support someone, somewhere, knowingly or not, provided.
Since we started, I have been diligently keeping a list of all the people whose support meant that we could accomplish the work that we set out to do. These are the people who make up our 'wise as community' - and in helping us, have contributed directly to making our 'resolution' come to life.
These are our friends and family who were amongst the first to buy our books and helped us promote it, every stranger who took a chance with our books and shared it with their little ones, and our editors, printer, agents, overseas publishers, booksellers and other suppliers who made it possible to bring the books to the world.
Then there are ofcourse all the people - authors, illustrators and artists - who have come before us and established the artforms that we take for granted today. It is on the shoulders of these giants that all the works produced now stands.
Starting an indie press and publishing our quirky Willow the Wonderer series - and being supported in this work - has brought a lot of meaning to our life.
I can say with conviction now, it's only because it's larger than ourselves.