A few posts ago I made a current events reference highlighting Ted Nugent, his wing-nut political rants, and his music. That same week, Levon Helm, drummer for The Band passed away, but that somehow didn’t make it into my blog musings. His passing was on my mind, however, and while I am not a ‘The Band’ fan, I do recognize their importance to music and sociocultural history. And there are a few songs that – while I don’t want to purchase from iTunes – I won’t change the station either, happily singing along to The Weight, Cripple Creek, and the Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down.
Among the press tributes were inevitable references to the culture of the Sixties, the hippie revolution, and comparisons to The Grateful Dead. So this got me thinking about the counter culture movement and the whole Haight-Ashbury scene in San Francisco, and I thought, “Wow, it must have been something, living in that scene; Hanging around San Fran, back in the day, listening to the Dead, beat poets, Acid Rock, attending angst ridden foreign films, and going to ‘happenings’?” Okay, I know The Band featured a drummer from Arkansas and was based out of Toronto, but still, these are the stepping stones of my thought process.
I dunno what Haight Ashbury is like today, but I imagine it’s full of tourist traps, Pan-Asian restaurants, and maybe a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum. I’ve read where there is lots of hand wringing over the fact none of Frisco’s first responders (police, emergency, etc) can afford to live within the city boundaries, and all of them are commuters. There’s no going back. There’s no more ‘Happenings’, and the Counter Culture has moved on to AARP membership and Beach Boy reunion tours.
Where else has there been a locus of such cultural sea change? Athens GA in the 1980s, Seattle in the 1990s, but these foci were maybe not as major of upheavals. Still, what fun places to have lived, if you could have been there. Additionally I suppose, well reasoned debate could argue the next revolution isn’t a place, but the internet, and it’s happening right now.
Anyway, this leads me to the point of this post: Is there a way to predict where the next, socially important, dynamic, they’ll-talk-for-years location will be?
Building predictive computer models is a robust endeavor. Lots of energy is spent on these things: In my field, hundreds of institutes, from academia to government, are working hard to predict just how the planet will change in the face of global warming, while speculators hire math PhDs to build financial crystal balls to cash in on. (One might argue economic prediction is even harder than Meteorological prediction because the players act on the output leading to an endless loop of changing inputs. It’s like having a hurricane change course because of what it’s learned from the National Hurricane Center. Zounds!)
Imagine gathering a petaflop super computer, and a few creative (and intelligent) folks, sitting down at a conference table and saying, “We don’t want to speculate on the stock market, or predict where China’s military will be in five years. We want to know – where’s the next Haight-Ashbury, and when should we move there?”
It’s kinda like being an enigmatic criminal, corralling a movie-worthy cadre of unusual suspects for that ultimate heist. Who would you get on board? What would be the kinds of input data you’d gather? What defines a cultural upheaval? How do you successfully find Haight-Ashbury but avoid Ciudad Juarez and the Narco-war? (They’re both cultural upheavals, right?).
Fer sher you’d want scientists, mathematicians, and programmers, but who else? I’ll just brainstorm and throw out some ideas. I hope I inspire your input as well:
sociologists, culturalists, futurists, science fiction writers, philosophers, and historians. A doctor, a lawyer, and an indian chief? Definitely a florist, cause you’ll need some flowers in your hair…