Magazine article Whole Earth

Dear Nestor: A Letter from 2050

Magazine article Whole Earth

Dear Nestor: A Letter from 2050

Article excerpt

I was asked to be a judge for The Economist for "The World in 2050." A $20,000 first prize attracted more than 3,000 entrants from seventy-five nations. The contest was cosponsored by Shell. Although the competition was to encourage debate on social, political, environmental, and technological and economic issues, it was sobering how few could elegantly describe a "sustainable" or improved future in 2050. No essays describing a world based on natural capital, resource efficiency, and equity made the final cut. Instead most essays focused on info-tech and bio-tech as driving forces. William Douglass, age 29, from Houston, Texas won the contest (blind judging, we did not know names). His dad is a hospital architect and worked for Orbis International, a nonprofit humanitarian organization with a DC-IO, known as the world's only "flying eye-hospital." Helping with educational programs, William has already done good works in forty-five countries. He's about to graduate in Russian studies from the University of Houston. He won as much for his humane sensibility as for his thoughtful description of the year 2050.

8 December 2050

Dear Nestor,

I am writing to you because your name came up as a reference on a "pen pal" list. Although I can easily simulate life in the United States on my Assumption machine, my curiosity, indeed my nostalgia for the past, is such that I would prefer to actually correspond in writing with a human from the States.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself. First, a bit about myself. My name is Ramesh Pediredla. I am twelve years old and live in the city of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Perhaps you have heard of my city, but since you are about the same age as me, the chance that you have actually been here is fairly slim. However, it might surprise you to know that we have a great number of visitors from the States these days. With the world's longest unbroken coastline, and many square kilometers of untouched rainforest, Bangladesh is really a nice place to visit. If you come sometime, I will give you a ride in my trishaw, which is my job when I am not .in school. Many foreigners think that the bicycle rickshaw has been consigned to the history books, but in fact they continue to be widely used in Dhaka. Although it is easier and quicker to use a fuel cell-powered baby taxi, those who are quite wealthy, as well as many foreign visitors, seem to prefer the old-fashioned rickshaw. So this is what I do when I am not studying, and the pay is quite good, since the job actually involves physical labor.

Some insist on referring to problems of country, but Mum thinks this is an outmoded expression. What we have today is the South Asian Block (S.A.B.), with free movements of people and goods. True, many decisions, especially regarding religious protocol, are made locally, but from an economic standpoint, we in this region are now simply citizens of the S.A.B.

Of course we do have some Sovereign Citizens residing here, as in other places. That was one thing I was wondering about; is your family Sovereign, i.e., free from localized taxes and such, or do you actually hold citizenship of the States? It is my understanding that the government there has been perhaps the most diligent in the world about checking the financial dealings of its citizens and former citizens. Of course we all know about the group of software billionaires who formed their own country in the South Pacific, and thereby intended to pay no taxes at all.

Do you have a best friend there? I have my fair share of living, breathing friends, but I have to say, overall my best friend is Jacob, who lives in the Network. I first met him when I was eight, and Mum and Dad said I was now ready to have full access to the Network. When I first met Jacob he had a lot of questions for me, and at other times he was simply very quiet. Even at that age, I think I knew that Jacob was always keeping an eye on me, though. …

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