Sep 14 2009

Fred Kaplan's "1959 — The Year Everything Changed" Points to the New Space Age

Special thanks to one of my readers who heard Dr. Kaplan on the radio describing his book and thought it sounded like a Maslow Window.

If I were to recommend 3 well-researched books that wonderfully share the flavor of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, I would choose these:
1) All You Need is Love — The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960s (1998), by Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman, a historian at San Diego State University,

2) 1973 Nervous Breakdown — Watergate, Warhol, and the Birth of the Post-Sixties America (2006), by Andreas Killen, a historian from City College of New York, and

3) the most recent one, 1959 — The Year Everything Changed (2009) by Fred Kaplan, a columnist for Slate magazine with expertise in geopolitical issues and pop culture, as well as a PhD in political science from MIT.

Fred Kaplan’s new book, 1959 — The Year Everything Changed, is a preview of coming attractions for the new Space Age arriving near 2015. Click kaplan.jpg.

I’ve had the pleasure of commenting on how Professor Hoffman’s book captures the idealistic, transformative essence of the early 1960s zeitgeist with “Make Love, Not War”, “The belief in humanity’s inherent need for great meanings…”, “all of the Peace Corps is an act of faith…”, and “For the first time in human history, a majority of people … could have all of their needs and most of their desires met on demand.” Without even mentioning the Apollo Moon program she brilliantly evokes the feeling of 1960s ebullience! On the other side of the coin is Professor Killen’s book describing America’s “nervous breakdown” as the 1960s Maslow Window slammed shut — the title says it all. I will soon share a sampling of Killen’s profound and sobering insights in another post.

However, Dr. Kaplan’s book describes how the ebullience of the most recent Maslow Window began in the late 1950s. Of course it was “the year that everything changed.” If you haven’t read this book, you should get it.

According to Kaplan,

1959 was the year when the shockwaves of the new ripped the seams of daily life, when humanity stepped into the cosmos and also comandeered the conception of human life, when the world shrank but the knowledge needed to thrive in it expanded exponentially, when outsiders became insiders, when categories were crossed and taboos were trampled, when everything was changing and everyone knew it — when the world as we know it began to take form.

Wow! I was just a little kid then and that’s the way it felt, although I didn’t understand much of it until later. Remember that 1959 was the year that the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window splashed open and changed history. And, that 1959 is akin to 2015 — i.e., 1959 plus one 56 year long wave –when we can expect similar rapidly-paced social and technological upheavals.

Speaking of fast-paced, 1959 was the year of:

…the microchip, the birth-control pill, the space race, and the computer revolution; the rise of Pop art, free jazz, “sick comics”, the New journalism, and indie films; the emergence of Castro, Malcolm X, and personal superpower diplomacy; the beginnings of Motown, Happenings, and the Generation Gap — all bursting against the backdrop of the Cold War, the fall-out shelter craze, and the first American casualties of the war in Vietnam.

As we approach the “new 1959” (coming near 2015), the analogous stream that Kaplan’s list triggered in me includes: transhumanist technology, expanding cable news, the blogosphere culture, extra-solar planets, new Castro-like figures, a possible new Cold War, and asymmetric terror-related wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…not to mention the new international space race!

And as Kaplan sketches below the 1960s frontier of JFK and Camelot, we can begin to envision the outlines of our new frontier (of the 2015 Maslow Window) taking shape now, nearly one long wave after 1959…

And tomorrow promised to be not just another day but a new dawn. The era’s rising young political star, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, would run for president on a slogan of “Leadership for the ’60s” — the first time that the future was defined in terms of a decade … (of) great change. Kennedy presented himself as a man … keen to explore “the New Frontier.”

The phrase was a reference to Frederick Jackson Turner’s classic essay of 1893, “The Frontier in American History,” which argued that the “American character” … was a product of the frontier’s vast emptiness, with its prospect of a continuous “expansion westward,” each step siring “new opportunities ” for conquest, settlement, and “perennial rebirth.”

By the 1950s, this frontier had long been filled and settled. The new frontier now lay in outer space, and its prospect of seemingly infinite expansion set off a new wave — a new way of seeing and experiencing on Earth.

The space program itself … spurred scientists to develop new technologies — most notably the microchip and faster, smaller computers — which would transform the fantasies of science fiction into the routines of daily life.”

I really like Kaplan’s book; it put me into “flow” where several hours passed without my noticing. Kaplan’s 1959… reminds me of what the 2015 Maslow Window will feel like.

Keep in mind that Turner’s essay on the American frontier was written in 1893, the same year as the famous financial panic that triggered a deep recession throughout the 1890s. But by 1899 prosperity began to return which triggered the extraordinary boom of probably the most ebullient decade in U.S. history — the Peary/Panama Maslow Window led by Teddy Roosevelt.

Based on the macroeconomic data and historical trends of the last 200 years, our projections for the 2015 Maslow Window suggest it will dwarf the 1960s!

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  1. […] seems nostalgia is in the air as Beyond Apollo, 21st Centrury Waves, and The Gish Bar Times are all taking time to remember times gone by. Beyond Apollo looks to […]

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