I’ve spent much of the seven months since John Prine died from complications related to COVID-19 going through the master songwriter’s sizable catalogue.
That has afforded me the time not just to wallow in the over-the-top good stuff (“Sam Stone,” “Paradise,” “Lake Marie”), but also to root around the back of the catalogue, where the undeservedly under-heard stuff lives. To continually discover Prine’s habit of slipping bits of wisdom and clear-eyed observation into the core of even his silliest songs (except, maybe, for “Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian”).
But even with scores of songs to pore over, I return again and again to “Living in the Future,” from Prine’s 1980 album “Storm Windows.” It’s the chorus that gets me:
We are living in the future
I’ll tell you how I know
I read in the paper
Fifteen years ago
We’re all driving rocketships and talking with our minds
And wearing turquoise jewellery and standing in soup lines
We’re standing in soup lines
The seven-line sendup of how we measure progress is a reminder that new technologies do little to improve the human condition on their own. Whenever a hyperloop story comes along, these cautionary words are helpful. As COVID-19 intensifies its attack, they’re vital. This is a fight that demands not just more of our engineers and inventors â€” to make vaccines, ventilators, and more â€” but of everyone, to think clearly and carefully about to move forward in a way that brings everyone along for the ride.
Which is why Business Insider’s transportation team has spent the past few months thinking about how we travel now, during a pandemic that makes a hazard of movement and connection, and what it means about how we’ll travel in the future. We’ve got straightforward guides on how to stay safe while airborne and what countries are open to Americans. We have a fanciful look at the airport of the future, and prognoses for cruise companies (nigh unsinkable) and bus outfits (dead end). We have a virtual trip to the Great Pyramid of Giza. You can read all of it below.
Aeroplanes and face masks may not be as alluring as rocketships and turquoise jewellery, but this is the future we’re living in â€” soup lines and all.
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