It was 1995.
Hardly anyone in the world knew what email was, and had never sent or received one. The first traces of the Internet were just surfacing. Google didn’t yet exist (it was created in September of 1998). Amazon was just founded less than a year before. Big tech was Microsoft on the desktop. Apple was just about to plunge into failure after Windows 95 was released, and it looked like it was going to die. Elon Musk had just moved to California to attend Stanford University but decided instead to pursue a business career, co-founding the web software company Zip2 with his brother.
That was when Carl Sagan wrote his book The Demon-Haunted World.
He had a vision of the future more than 20 years out that is eerily accurate and reflective of what we’re experiencing now, with the dumbing down of America in full swing. Here is an excerpt:
I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time – when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.
It is now 2021. Good morning, everyone!