So what does the future look like? In 18 May 1952, at age 80, Bertrand Russell wrote an article called “The next eighty years”. Now that’s 64 years ago. For me bringing to mind the song – will you still love me when I’m 64. I came into the world later than that; in 1960. My early youth was passed at a time when the Beatles were at their peak. When hippies and free pop festivals came and went. A time when astronauts went to the Moon whilst on Earth a nuclear arms race was engulfing the nations. Television was starting to become a powerful medium.
In my teenager years the UK was a troubled place but an exciting one too. A three-day week, homework done by candlelight and rampant inflation. Failing industries and misplaced protectionism with slogans like “Buy British”. There was a sense of rebellion with an establishment continuing to look on bemused. That’s the time when the UK applied for and got membership of the EEC. It the time when the first national referendum on membership took place.
That’s for me but what of Russell’s imagining of the future? Gloomily Russell pictured a third world war that reduced Europe to rubble (again). More cheerfully another outcome was possible where Russia and America came to an accord. He imagined a United Nations capable of maintaining peace. He foresaw science being use for our benefit rather than our destruction.
Here we are making a momentous decision in 2016. So, what might Britain and the world look like in 2096? My young nieces and nephews may still be around in that year. What we decide this month will surely echo through the years and affect the world they live and work in.
It’s a long shot to try and see that far ahead in time but Russell, in his wisdom, did get a couple of optimistic predictions right. Thank God the man was wrong on the gloomy visions.
If we leave the European Union, my conjecture is that there will be growing fragmentation. We will be going backwards to the days of destructive rivalry between neighbouring nations. I hear this when some advocates of Vote Leave tell me; the French and the Germans have never really liked us. It’s the call of the neo-fascist. Today, one young lad passed me in the street with his fist clenched saying: stronger OUT. I’m not saying WWIII is coming but that the nations of Europe waste the next 40 years competing with each other whilst the rest of the world gets on with determining the future. Then in say, 40 years more we rediscover the benefits of cooperation and start rebuilding institutions and structure and pull together again.
If we stay in and reform the European Union I believe that we can reverse the trend to centralise decision-making and increase the power of democracies. The EU secures peace, prosperity and the rule of law. The inventiveness and creativity of the British combined with the qualities of other nations will help us master technology rather than let it master us. We are at the foothills of mountainous changes that hand-held devices like the smart phone are just the baby step. Artificial intelligence, Automation, Biotechnologies, Hyper-networking, Nanotechnologies all require strong regulation to be safely used. The EU is the best means to provide that regulation so that it is effective and usable on a global scale.
Exploration of the deep ocean or space or the sub atomic world can’t be done by nations alone. Combining efforts and a stable economic environment will mean we can forge the future rather than be mere bystanders. We need to lead in the EU.
During this time the British will continue to drive on the left hand side of the road and drink pints of beer. The jingoism and intellectual dishonesty of the Vote Leave campaign is a step backwards. People who haven’t made their minds up which way to vote in the EU referendum should take a long-term view. For the genuine “don’t knows” Voting REMAIN is on balance a far better future for Britain.