I wrote this before election Day so enjoy a respite.
The orthopedic Nurse Practitioner who gives me cortisone shots in my knees is retiring and introduced me to the new ONP. I swear she is twelve years old. If you are approaching my age or older, you know the feeling. Slowly the old trusted faces of providers fade from the offices we visit and are replaced by youthful practitioners.
We are leaves that drop and change from season to season, even though our season may spans several decades. Lake Midges, those swarms of tiny insects that reappeared with our spate of warm weather, live for just a few weeks or less depending upon which of the ten thousand species they are. Koi, those stylish fish in fancy ponds, can live over one hundred years. That’s youthful compared to some turtles and whales who can pass their two hundredth birthday. But hey, the Greenland Shark is estimated to live up to five-hundred years. Compared to our measly seven decades or so, those water creatures seem to know something we don’t.
As I watch my twenty-to-thirty-something children navigate the challenges and opportunities of their decades, I chuckle and wince while vicariously re-living those transitions. As the old expression goes, “If only I knew then what I know now.” But when I am tempted to gray-beard and tell them how I managed or mismanaged things in my day, I am reminded there have been categorical and seismic shifts that often render my advice irrelevant.
I am not just talking about the difference between IPhone 3 and 12. Closer to my own heart, since 1969 the percentage of the population that attends church (the only good measure of membership) has dropped from a national high of nearly fifty percent down to about a third. At the same time, since Woodstock, approval of inter-racial marriage in the US has grown from twenty to almost ninety percent. And most recently, real conversations about race and gender have finally arrived.
There are huge changes tipping the chute of the future down which we slide. Here are just a few taken from an eight-year old United Nations Populations Fund report:
- The world now has the largest generation of young people it has ever had. But those over 60 are the fastest growing group globally.
- Even as human population has increased by 25% in the last 20 years, it has now slowed because women are having fewer children.
- The world is urbanizing, increasing the number of people living in cities and towns by almost two billion.
- More people have been displaced and are migrating than ever before (even before the war in Ukraine).
While considering the implications of those real-world changes, consider also what a majority of eight-hundred technology executives predicted ten years ago, would take place by 2025 (World Economic Forum):
- The first robotic pharmacist in the US
- 5% of consumer products printed in 3D
- First transplant of a 3D-printed liver
- First AI machine on a corporate board of directors
All those trends and predictions (even if close to true) indicate massive changes to our every day lives that no one standing in Yasgur’s farm could have predicted in 1969. Those of us who have decades of wisdom to share need to temper our hubris with the knowledge that some of our wisdom really is past its Sell-by date.