What if you could live for hundreds of years? What if you could have anything your heart desired? Would it be like experiencing a taste of heaven — or hell? Google Ventures’ efforts to find the fountain of youth and emerging technology like self-driving cars makes one wonder: Is it possible that future advances in technology will create our own little version of The Twilight Zone’s “A Nice Place to Visit”?
I recently finished Tony Robbins’ “Money: Master the Game.” In it, he briefly mentions a classic 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone where small-time crook “Rocky” Valentine dies and finds himself in a place where all his wishes are granted. If he wanted his favorite entertainment, it was there. If he wanted to go home with three girls, then they were willing. Anything he wanted was given to him. It wasn’t long before the situation began to drive him mad, and when he confronted his “guardian” about how he wasn’t a good fit with heaven, “Pip” informed him that he was actually in hell.
“A scared, angry little man who never got a break. Now he has everything he’s ever wanted and he’s going to have to live with it for eternity — in the Twilight Zone,” the narrator says as the episode ends.
Mr. Robbins’ point was that money is just a means to an end — it isn’t an end in itself. Material things do not bring true happiness, and until we learn that we are setting ourselves up for failure. Likewise, future technology will continue to raise the standard of living for billions of people — but what good will physical comforts be if it fosters a mental and spiritual wasteland?
“The principal trap that the Devil sets for young people is idleness. This is a fatal source of all evil. Do not let there be any doubt in your mind that we are born to work, and when we don’t, we’re out of our element and in great danger of offending God. … First tell the Devil to rest, and then I’ll rest, too.”
New technology can be a great force for good, but it’s not hard to see how a society focused on receiving rather than giving could easily churn out generation after generation of depressed and misanthropic drones.
Enjoy your future self-driving car. Take advantage of replacement kidneys and hearts and lungs that allow you to live until 115. Have fun playing video games in 2030 that will be unlike anything we’re capable of imagining today. Do all of that, but keep in mind that the man who only lives for the next gizmo or gadget will never have enough. He will never be filled and as a result he can never be truly happy. In some sense, he will be living in a Twilight Zone episode of his own making.
Sounds a lot like the “Spacers” in Isaac Asimov’s Robot and (some) early Empire novels. These first interstellar voyagers became overly dependent on robot servants over centuries, and as a result their society (50 planets) eventually withered and died. A new batch of explorers — “Settlers” — eventually ventured forth from Earth, but robots were forbidden in their societies. As such, this second wave, over the course of millennia, conquered the galaxy.