I recently had this (approximate) conversation with a friend:
A: Did you write your grandmother yesterday?
B: Yep, letter’s in the mail. Annoying that I can’t just e-mail her.
A: I wonder, when people our age are grandparents, what quaint form of communication will we want our grandchildren to use to communicate with us?
B: “Ugh, grandma won’t accept holo-texts. I have to send her regular video-mails.”
A: “And she refused to learn Mandarin, so it has to be in old-school English.”
B: “Grandpa won’t just get the chip implant and learn chinese. He’s so old-fashioned.”
This got me thinking. I regularly make, and regularly hear, jokes about how eventually we’ll all be speaking Mandarin. Not tomorrow, but at some inevitable but comfortingly-distant point in the future. Maybe, oh, March 12th, 2080.*
I wonder if there has ever been a rivalry between powerful nations, such as the rivalry between the USA and China, where the people of one nation joke about how eventually the other nation will buy their country, dominate our way of life, and everybody will speak the other country’s language. Not joke in a paranoid way, but in a humorous acceptance of the future kind of way.
Did ancient Athenians joke about how it was only a matter of time before they’d all be wearing Spartan helmets? Did Romans joke about how they’ll all end up speaking…whatever they spoke in Carthage? Did zé Germans suggest with humorous acceptance that they’ve been meaning to bone up on their French because they know the French don’t like to speak any other languages? (I’m guessing not on that last one.)
Maybe we’re too self-aware to rule the world.
*I think the inevitability-of-China-owning-everything timeline is on the same scale as the global-warming-causing-the-sea-to-flood-Manhattan timeline. Which is why nobody really wants to do anything about either eventuality. “Yeah, I guess they’ll both probably happen, but that’s, like, a long time from now, dude. What I care about right now is lower taxes and no health care for bums.”