‘A nice place to visit’: Will technology make classic Twilight Zone episode a reality?

The Twilight Zone A Nice Place to VisitWhat 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?

A Nice Place to Visit Twilight ZoneSt. John Bosco once said:

“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.

A Nice Place To VisitEnjoy 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.

When we can see through walls, but not the debt in our face

New technology allows us to see light move at one trillion frames per second, but yet many citizens still can’t see the slow motion economic train wreck caused by out-of-control debt and a bloated federal bureaucracy.

How is it that it’s only a matter of time before Americans will be able to see through walls, but they can’t see the writing on the wall when it comes to debt and deficits? Professor Ramesh Raskar’s presentation on cameras that can film at one trillion frames per second is amazing, but it also demonstrates one of the problems conservatives have when it comes to talking about recessions, depressions and the economy in general.

Not too long ago I got to cover the Defending the American Dream Summit for work. While I was there, I got to talk to a number of older individuals who honestly believe that the standard of living their grandchildren will be lower because of the policies we are putting in place today. That’s true — in many respects — but it’s hard to get anyone to buy it when new technologies keep emerging that will change the course of human history.

How do you get people to understand the future that never was? While it’s a godsend that humans are constantly pushing the limits of what is possible, it also is maddening that so many are regularly susceptible to public policies that retard economic growth and the entrepreneurial spirit inside us. We adopt health care policies that hinder the innovation of lifesaving drugs while giving more people crappier coverage. We enact well-intentioned entitlement programs that turn able-bodied men and women into human gerbils waiting for the next government pellet — instead of encouraging them to break free of their mind-forged manacles. We use the tax code for social engineering instead of allowing the individual to keep more of his own money with which to build a brighter future.

The “poor” in the United States are not getting poorer. In fact, the “poor” (who are also not a static group) in the United States do quite well when compared with their counterparts around the world. Given that the standard of living generally goes up for all Americans each generation — even if the rates differ among social classes — conservatives need to find a way to talk about lost futures. It’s not enough to say that if we elect liberal politician “x” that life will be worse off, because benefits gained through technological advances mask all sorts of theft to our standard of living.

If conservatives are smart they will become tech-savvy nerds who not only care about cameras that can see around corners, but talented orators who can paint vivid pictures of the future by describing their vision for the world and the vision of their political opponents.