A Golden Age
By Tim Sunderman
April 2009
When I was young there were so many amazing prospects for the future that seemed so close to realization that their inevitability was a foregone conclusion. I assumed that by the time I was an adult, we would all be traveling by jet pack. After all, we had seen it demonstrated. It already existed. I thought lasers would replace bullets and all phone conversations would be done by holographic projection. But more than that, more than technological advances, I imagined the new millennium to be a time of social advancement. I pictured world cultures enjoined in a mutual discourse of ideas, commerce, and art ― a true golden age.
Yet here we are on the other side of the imaginary historical dividing line, stuck in our cars, bullets only advancing to depleted uranium, widening economic disparity, and nationalistic polarization. No jet packs. Expectations erode as time goes forward. Youthful lack of perspective reveals its limitations in age.
So, the global bus heads out on a different road than where I thought it was going. Still, I have no resistance or hesitation when it comes to adaptation. We have lived all our lives with accelerating change. But to adapt presupposes that we have some awareness of what we are adapting to. Otherwise, we become simply a pinball being launched from bumper to bumper by forces to which we are blind. We have cell phones, computers, immersive video games, countless television channels, and access to nearly limitless information. The medium is not the message. There is a point at which twittering becomes inane blathering in an insipid stream of vacuous substitutes for human connection.
But these cautionary statements are obvious. Upon closer inspection, if we can step back and try to look at this time through the lenses of history, we may find encouragement. Most notably, we see the internet and all the devices around it. If we manage to navigate without becoming like a fish in a trawl net, we can see amazing things that have been so inaccessible to all but the idle rich. The great expense of previous forms of media distribution ― broadcast networks and printing presses ― have been superseded by the web.  What used to take a team of production professionals can now be done to nearly the same effect by ordinary individuals without losing acres of trees for paper. There is a new flowering of the sharing of human experience. It is as though the web is this growing neural network that is wiring a king of global consciousness into an organic whole. Cell phone cameras are a billion eyes of social awareness, and the abuses that used to thrive in the darkness of secrecy now must scatter like roaches in the light of internet exposure.
And the creativity ― ? Never before has there been such a great profusion of creativity. The music resonating through the new millennium is unparalleled in its diversity, and the means of recording and disseminating it have never been cheaper. Cameras and video cameras tell stories never heard before. If you have a camera, use it. The poetry and writing of the common world citizen now has a world stage, speak your lines. We have access to possibilities unique in all of history which almost obligates us to use them.
Not everyone will lift their eyes from their own sidewalk to look at the long field of time. But for those aware enough of their surroundings, historic things are happening. I walked out to lunch from work the other day at a place near the east anchor of the San Francisco Bay bridge. As I looked around, I noticed people from many world cultures engaged in the mutual discourse of ideas, commerce, and art. It struck me clearly as a living golden age.
Illustrator: Warren Paylado
Tim Sunderman is an illustrator who is also a fulltime college graphic design instructor in the San Francisco Bay Area. Never content in a single medium, he has experimented broadly with photography, video, writing, and even marble sculpture. But graphic design still pays the bills.

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