My last visit to my home country, Jordan, had me sitting at the base of a mountain, overlooking my late grandfather’s farm. As I enjoyed a cup of tea, boiled in a kettle over a hastily drawn flame, my father began to educate me on the politics of land, back when everything was valued differently and acres were traded for chunks of gold.
I understood that the land at the top of the mountain, now appraised at anywhere around 5.4 million U.S. dollars per acre for its views, was nearly worthless to the members of the previous generation. Land at the peak meant rocky land, rocky land meant poor soil, and poor soil meant no farming. With the current availability of supermarkets, living off the land is no longer a necessity for a large portion of society. This, paired with the societal pressure placed on aesthetic views that accompany higher land, has caused prices of highlands to skyrocket, resulting in a generational shift in demand.
With technology’s imminent takeover, I can’t help but wonder what the highlands of the next generation will be. I find it difficult to imagine a world completely different than the one I am living in now, one with new jobs, new technology, and new problems. My thoughts often spiral to what worries me the most: the new problems. If speculations about the replacement of truck drivers with AI hold merit, what will be the next most common job in America? Does the radical view of the course of human development depicted by Ray Kurweil in The Singularity is Near hold merit? The talks I attended about 5G in Beijing last summer have led me to believe that my worries are not unwarranted.
To guide my fears of the future, I like to look at the world through the eyes of the past. My favorite part about studying philosophy is the ability to delve deep into the minds of who are now known as the greatest thinkers of all time. Ironically enough, not one philosopher’s teaching is congruent with the other. Machiavelli believed in the selfishness of men and their desire for power, while Locke argued for equality, and Bacon placed his faith in the sciences over humanity. What comforts me is not their faith, or lack thereof, in humanity, nor their assuredness, but the relationship between their outlooks and their teachings.
Studying philosophy reminds me that no matter what is to come, the result will be determined by each individual’s view of the world. Weak as that connection may seem, the evidence of it is written within history. The great philosophers of the past can be seen in the leaders of today. Those who thought like Locke created the Bill of Rights, while those who thought like Machiavelli created monarchies, and arguably, dictatorships. When faced with new opportunities, each person will respond in a way influenced by their core beliefs. The future brings not only an onset of issues, but a choice for each individual standing under the wave of new technology.
My hope is to study philosophy, politics, and economics so that when I am faced with that choice, I can choose to view the world from multiple standpoints. My hope is to use my education to predict what the highlands of the future will be, to value what is currently unvalued. But most importantly, my hope is to solve issues such as the oncoming unemployment with the same people I will study with in Mudd, write with for The Daily Northwestern, and cheer for on the rugby field, by my side.