LIZZIE'S CENTURY

ALLEN ABEL October 10 2005

LIZZIE'S CENTURY

ALLEN ABEL October 10 2005

LIZZIE'S CENTURY

ALLEN ABEL

“WE ARE GROPING on the verge of another great epoch in the world’s history,” Thomas Edison wrote in this magazine in 1906, and, a century later, the groping continues. The mysteries of the past illuminate the inspiration of the future, in a cycle that never ends.

Four months ago, my wife gave birth to a baby girl named Elizabeth, satisfying the most elemental of all human yearnings, and launching a new century of wonder that our perfect new Canadian, we pray, will live to see. In this special issue, a father’s dreams and fears for his little Lizzie’s life journey merge with the centennial of Maclean’s. My questions are manifold: how will my baby girl—and your children—grow and love, learn and travel, suffer and heal? Will they see and sense the world their parents knew, or are they to inhabit a great epoch of machines and molecules far beyond our meagre understanding?

Some of the answers will come from science, some from philosophy, some may be beyond our knowing at all.

I have spent the summer of 2005 in conversation with extraordinary men and women from a dozen countries. Their expertise ranges from the manipulation of human genes to the search for life beyond the stars; from the resurrection of the woolly mammoth to the biometric bed of the future.

I’ve met futurists who forecast the death of death itself, and a robot that can play the slide trombone.

What follows is the fruit of those remarkable conversations: a groping toward a future history. No one can predict what path my Lizzie will choose to travel, or even if she will have such a choice. What is certain is that much will be different in her lifetime, perhaps better, perhaps far worse. For the sake of all our children, then, we embark on the journey of the century.