Note that I said ``explosive technology,'' and nothing about science. Science is not post-modern. (If I wished to commit academic suicide, I would write, ``Science is eternal.'') The sciences are going great guns right now, and many of them are critically dependent on the new technology, especially the computer; the situation was lucidly documented by the late Heinz Pagels. Little filters through to popular thought, and what does is twisted to fit the prevailing fixations. ``Ecology'' means pollution, the destruction of rain-forests, the ozone hole and global warming, and never food webs, the carbon cycle, succession, the geographic distribution of species. (Incidentally, I predict that a survey of random adults will find a very large fraction think the ozone hole causes global warming.) Similarly, consider the ``sciences of complexity'' of which Pagels wrote. It would be more accurate - if unwieldy - to call them the sciences of apparent complexity, for their goal is to show how complicated appearances have simple (or at least simpler) explanations. Chaos theory is the most advanced, and bulks largest in the popular mind. The lesson the public has received, however, is not that even very complicated things have an underlying simplicity which we can grasp, but that the best scientists now say knowledge is a pointless fraud - see, for instance, Michael Crichton's novel Jurassic Park. The connections to anti-rationalism, apocalypticism (``The Decline and Fall of Science'') and even neophilia are plain.
Except for some aspects of technology, I don't like these very much, and the century approaching looks grim. We turned the twentieth century into history's abattoir with far less power at our disposal, and only a few massive ideologies. With hundreds and thousands of small, virulent ones, we may avoid the truly titanic conflicts that embroiled the planet for most of this century, only to have a handful of Vietnams and Cambodias, a dozen Bosnias, a score of Lebanons, and a thousand increasingly violent and destructive Jonestowns. The sanity of the human race as a whole has been steadily declining since, at the latest, 1914, and there is nothing in the current trends to suggest a recovery - indeed, three of the four post-modernizations are forms of lunacy.
Of course, this is an ``if this goes on'' prediction, and our saving grace, if we have one, is that things don't go on. We could make ourselves more rational, or kinder, or both. If worst comes to worst we could find more peaceful obsessions. Ideas and effort are not ineffectual, we can become makers of our future rather than pose as its prophets --- of course. I know. But even that tepid optimism becomes far more difficult to hold to, when every passing day brings unlimited information, automated expertise, tailored life-forms, and grey goo, one step closer to the likes of Reagan and Mao, Pinochet and Pol Pot, Kim Il Sung and David Koresh.