Is this the greatest time to be alive?

A columnist on Wired paddles against the tide of hand-wringing today, contending that now is the greatest time for you to be alive. Is it?

It’s impossible to say for sure, of course, because, such as it is, this is the only time we know.

“The next time you’re bombarded with over-the-top claims about how our country is doomed or the world is coming apart at the seams, brush off the cynics and fearmongers,” the writer said. “Because the truth is, if you had to choose any time in the course of human history to be alive, you’d choose this one.”

Would you?

If not, in what decade would you want to live?

  • MrE85

    I’m fine where we are at, except I still want that flying car Popular Mechanics has been promising all these years.

  • Gary F

    Lets just look at the United States…
    A. Most of our poor people are obese, not starving.
    B. Most of our population is dying from lifestyle created diseases such as lung cancer, diabetes, heart disease where in the past, many died of starvation, war, workplace/farm accidents, etc.
    C. A larger percentage of people now have the time and money to have leisure(movies, concerts, outdoors, etc)
    D. Until last year when there was an increase in violent crime in many major cities, the violent crime and murder rate has been on a steady downfall.
    E. Food and water safety due to better sanitation, utilities, has greatly increased.

    Those are just a few of the good things in compared to our life in the past.

  • jon

    call me an optimist but if I had to choose any time, I’m going for the future…

  • Jack

    Gary did an excellent job of summing up the US view.

    I would argue that on a world stage, there has been tremendous growth in the education of females (though still way behind in some parts). Infrastructure and communication continues to improve.

    Just for the advances in medical care, I am voting for this decade. If it was 40 years ago, I would have most likely lost my spouse last December.

    • jon

      Depends on your region.
      I’d rather live in Syria in the 1990’s rather than now.

      If I were a woman I’d rather be in Iran before 1978 than now.

  • Dave S.

    My wife and I have talked about this. We tend to focus on music and ignore the quality of life issues. The Twenties would be fun, but to be in NYC in the 1950’s and be able to see all those amazing titans of Bebop would be a dream come true.

    • Gary F

      Or the Twins/Dodgers World Series.

      • tboom

        That would have been 1965, last I checked that was after the 1950’s. 🙂

        • Gary F

          I know, but it would have been great to go back to that. I was only one year old. My dad came back from the game and that was the first day I walked.

          • Oddly enough, I was the same age…and in L.A. at the time.

            /Go Dodgers?

          • Rob

            Child actor?

          • LOL, no. I was born out there.

            /Waiting for my big break into show business though.

          • tboom

            Who walked you? Bet it wasn’t Sandy Koufax 🙂

          • Gary F

            I’m not sure which game it was, my father is no longer alive to tell me. I have a photo of him wearing a suit and a foam white brimmed hat with a red white and blue band around it, holding me. Not sure if he left from work to go the game or if you actually wore a suit to a ball game back then.

    • Mike Worcester

      The Woody Allen movie, Midnight In Paris, had an interesting take on how each generation looks back on a previous one with a bit of nostalgia-tinted glasses; how we look at our own time and think about how a previous one was so much better. As the film showed, it really is a subjective standard. Oh, and I’d love to see Miles Davis in his early days perform!

      • Loved that movie. Loved the soundtrack more, though.

        • Mike Worcester

          I laughed the most at Adrien Brody’s portrayal of Salvador Dali 🙂

      • Rob

        I think there’s a 3D Miles world tour planned for spring 2017…

  • Anna

    While I agree that we have had tremendous advances in science, medicine and technology, these advances have changed us in subtle ways that are still evolving.

    I suppose I like a slower pace where you can stop and smell the roses.

    Instant gratification has become the rule of the day and I see it in the classrooms where I teach. Why use a textbook where there is Google? Why learn multiplication tables and division when you can just use a calculator?

    Recent studies have shown that students who type notes in college courses rather than take them in long hand do not retain the information as well. It has to do with the re-exposure that occurs when you read your notes again in long hand.

    Spell check has wreaked havoc on proofreading with many people think that doing spellcheck can substitute for proofreading an essay or term paper (Including journalists. Just read the headlines and news stories online for the evidence).

    Patients have died in the hospital because programmable intravenous pumps have malfunctioned and delivered a fatal dose. There have been several recalls over the last year by manufacturers including Baxter and McKesson.

    Physicians are now discovering that EMR’s (Electronic Medical Records) are becoming the bane of their existence. They are so busy trying to document on the computer during a patient visit that the face-to-face time so vital to physician-patient interaction and trust is vastly reduced.

    And my last beef with the 21st Century—job security.

    The Great Recession proved just how dispensable employees are. Our obsession with youth and profits cost hundreds of thousands of middle-aged Americans in their 50’s their homes and financial security. When the companies did hire back, it was young inexperienced workers at much lower pay.

    Even the low-income have something to fear. There is banter about that retailers are toying with the idea of robots replacing retail workers. Why not? At the very least you don’t have to pay them.

    My parents, the Greatest Generation had the most secure retirement of any generation in the history of the United States. There are probably only a handful of companies today, if that many, that offer their employees a guaranteed pension and 401K’s don’t count. Now it’s more important to satisfy the investors and shareholders than take care of the front line employees who gave you those profits.

    Call me a Grumpy Gus if you like but I happen to enjoy personal phone conversations and face-to-face communication. You can find out (instantly) if you’ve offended someone, made them happy or eased their sadness.

    You can’t do any of that with a robot or a digital device.

    • So, to get back to the point of the post, you’d go back to….when, exactly?

      • Anna

        The 1950’s and 60’s. While we had the threat of nuclear annihilation, jobs were plentiful, people were civil to each other.

        Yeah, I know some women are going to say we were held down but kids were well adjusted and the nuclear family was the rule.

        Kids respected authority and had manners. They also had social skills developed by playing in the neighborhood and on the playground.

        We knew our neighbors. All of them up and down the block and several blocks away. Parents weren’t afraid to let the kids roam the neighborhood. If you were getting into trouble, your parents were going to hear about it. From the neighbors. We looked out for each other.

        There were no online predators and creepy clowns.

        Yes, I liked the 50’s and 60’s a lot better than the 21st Century.

        • But….but…. the kids were listening to rock ‘n roll!

          • Jerry

            Well, that and the segregation, the sexism, the homophobia, the government performing secret tests on the population, the draft, the two bloody wars, the riots…..

          • Fred, Just Fred

            Yeah, thank God we don’t have any of that kind of stuff today.

            Oh wait, I read that as hoplophobia. Nevermind

        • MrE85

          Thanks, but I’ve already been in the 50s and 60s. Once was enough.

          • tboom

            Esp the ’60s, don’t want to do that again!

          • Bob Sinclair

            I can’t remember the 60’s although my kids say i was alive then.

          • tboom

            If you can remember the 60’s, you weren’t really there.

        • jon

          The 1950’s and 60’s with Polio and smallpox?

          • Anna

            We have different threats now. Because of the overuse of antibiotics we have superbugs that are beyond all treatment available. More antibiotics are not being developed because there’s no profit in it. Bacterial infections that used to be confined to hospitals are now out in the community, many of them resistant to basic antibiotics.

            Judging from the current mood of the country and the efforts of Donald Trump to be as politically incorrect as possible, we’re discovering a LOT of Americans have not moved past the Jim Crow days, homophobia, misogyny, segregation and racial/religious discrimination only now, we can’t get a break from the stories of man’s inhumanity to man. It’s in our faces 24/7, 365 days a year.

            We never planned on people living well into their nineties and all the infirmities that go with it. The average lifespan when Medicare was enacted was the early 70’s for men and the middle 70’s for women. Yes, medical advances have extended life expectancy but our means to pay for it has not kept up.

            I used to be a LTC nurse until a disorder that was discovered by accident took me out of nursing for good. I can’t lift patients anymore but I saw the futility of extending life for the quantity of it and not the quality for 20 years.

            Yep, I’d go back to the 50’s and 60’s, polio, smallpox and all.

          • I saw an article the other day announcing that researchers have concluded that humans will never live beyond 115 no matter the medical advances.

            It was written — or at least the headline was — as if that’s a bad thing. I found that odd.

          • Anna

            It can be bad depending on your genetic inheritance.

            Unfortunately we haven’t eradicated the diseases that make living well into old age a not very pleasant experience (stroke, Type 1 diabetes, familial heart disease, ALS, Alzheimer’s, MS, etc).

            I like Rahm Emmanuel’s brother’s idea. I’ll re-evaluate if I am lucky enough to live to 75.

          • Rob

            Agreed – the idea of being super-old and decrepit doesn’ t excite me in the least

          • Fred, Just Fred

            The ’00’s are much better with AIDS and Ebola.

        • Rob

          Jim Crow, anti-Red hysteria,
          loyalty oaths – good times!

  • tboom

    Amusing discussion but we really don’t get to choose the era in which we live, we’re stuck where we are. I’ve always felt fortunate, most things are better now than in the past and I was born in a pretty good place on the globe.

    I look at life as like camping in the BWCA, I want to leave the place in no worse shape than I found it and I’m going to make things better where I can.

  • Mike Worcester

    It does makes sense that the current president would say this is a great time to be alive, After all, it’s part of his legacy. He also penned a column in this week’s Economist magazine that tried to look ahead to the economic challenges facing our globe. It was a hopeful read.

    Every “time” has its high points and low points, and ours is no exception. I guess to me a key is that we are able to recognize our deficiencies and work to rectify them. That should never mean we don’t have it good, it simply means we should never stop trying to make it all better. (All terms open to interpretation of course 🙂 ).

    • Hey thanks for spoiling the name of the writer. We now end this experiment and resume our political squabble in the comments section.

      • Mike Worcester

        And here I figured you left it out to see if any of us would actually go over and *read* the article, rather than just react right away.

        • Of course I did. Most people don’t click links and the result — until you spoiled it !! — what that people started responding without being influenced by the source.

          It wasn’t a check to see who clicks. It was a little deeper than that.

          • Mike Worcester

            I promise to do better next time and not spoil it 🙂

          • kat

            Wait- someone doesn’t know the president is the center of all wired-related news this month? Maybe I’m too much of a fan- been excited for this to get talked about beyond my feed.

  • Rob

    I’d vote for living in a future where there’s term limits, universal health care, paid parental leave, living wages, robust infrastructure, election seasons that are only a month or two long, and just enough climate change that residing in Minnesota between November and April isn’t such a misery.

    • Dan

      And we’ve all evolved into beings of pure energy and goodness, and the Vikings have won the Super Bowl.

      • Jerry

        One of those is a pipe dream.

  • Kassie

    I would absolutely choose now, since we can’t know what the future holds. As a woman, I’m less likely to be held back in my career. I’m more likely to see people like me in positions of power. My gay and lesbian friends are getting married and having babies legally. My transgender friends have more rights and acceptance than ever. I can listen to a book and play Pokemon on my phone on my commute home and I never have to speak to my partner on the phone because we can just text each other. We are living in the future, and it is great.

    Now, if I was a person of color, I don’t know what I would say. Things are still not good for a lot of communities, particularly if you are black or muslim. I don’t know, from that perspective, it is better or worse than 10, 20, or 30 years ago. Though I imagine it is better than 40, 50 or 60 years ago. But maybe those years just after the Civil War, before Jim Crow, were the best years for black people?

  • rallysocks

    No doubt that now is what I would choose. However, I love history and would like to dip my toe in each decade.

  • LieutenantLefse

    We can quibble over the best decade, but I like to take the long view and look at centuries. I can communicate instantly with anyone on earth – the richest businessmen of the 17th century could not. I can hop on a plane, visit either the Atlantic or Pacific coast, and be back the next day – the most powerful medieval king could not. I read books for fun – before Gutenberg the average person could neither read, nor afford books. And so on and so on. It helps to keep things in perspective.