August / September 2019 - Vol. 105

 Back to the
                  Future poster
Back to the Future

What will determine the shape of the future?

by Michael Shaughnessy

What will determine the shape of the future? Technology, wealth, fear, power, population growth, media, government, global warming? There are probably four main scenarios. They all result in a future very different than the present.

The first scenario is more of the same, but even that will yield very different results! More people, who are better educated, will produce more wealth. They will have more leisure time and consume more. People will continue to move from "I work just to survive” to "I live to play."

The second is a have-and-have-not world, but having won't be primarily about money. The have-not population will be the victims of the breakdown of family and character. Already there is a growing population that doesn't have the intellectual, relational or moral skills to hold a steady job.

The third is the big accident: nuclear war, global ecological disaster, an unstoppable epidemic that decimates the population …or maybe even aliens. Survival will be the key concern.

The fourth is the continued, rapid advance of technology, especially in genetics and bio-engineering. We might see a Matrix-like world where gaining knowledge requires no effort. It is directly downloaded to your brain. How much should we form the mind, body, will and emotions (either chemically or genetically) and who will control this?

Parents possibly, but that is unlikely. They might have the power to prevent this from happening to their own children, but possibly at the cost of their children being left behind intellectually, physically or even morally. Expect business to be in it for the money. Expect media to want to control the eye and mind. Expect schools to believe they, not parents, are responsible for children. Governments will want to determine what happens to its citizens. The church won't have much say if it remains weak, confused and divided. In any case, a lot more power will be in the hands of fewer people.

Responding with fear is exactly the wrong response. Responding with faith, hope and love is the right response. Faith, because God knows what he is doing; everything is ultimately under his mighty hand. Hope, because it helps us respond joyfully in all circumstances. Love, because it guides us in doing the right thing toward God and others.

We are called, like Queen Esther was, for such a time (kairos) as this (Esther 4:14). We can expect God's help to do the right thing at the right time, and that is what makes all the difference. It may be that the future of youth culture will be up to us.

[This article is adapted from a talk given by Michael Shaughnessy to Kairos International Leaders in May 2008. It was first published in the Kairos Youth Culture Newsletter.]

Mike Shaughnessy is a life-long member of The Servants of the Word and a regional missionary coordinator of the Sword of the Spirit in North America. He is a prolific writer, teacher, and editor for the Kairos Youth Culture Newsletter

Launched in December of 2007, the Kairos Youth Culture Newsletter (KYCN) is a monthly publication produced by Mike Shaughnessy for Kairos International. The KYCN aims to update parents and youth workers on some of the main people and trends affecting youth. It also seeks to teach about youth and youth culture: its past, current ramifications, and possible future. Visit their Google Group to subscribe or see past newsletters at!forum/kycn-subscribers.

Top illustration: close-up of a poster illustration for the film Back to the Future
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