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Humanity's progress

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by jmervyn, Nov 6, 2012. | Replies: 111 | Views: 4592

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  1. jmervyn

    jmervyn IncGamers Member

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    Every once in a while, I think about this issue, perhaps because of the political implications it yields. I'd like to ignore those to a certain extent - did I shock you?

    Some politics will be required, such as when I cite this piece with is a spiritual analysis of the current election. However, it also brings into focus various Sci-Fi themes and other concerns. Many people seem to regard humanity as something that ought to be shaped and molded in order to improve it - yet that sort of thinking is not only common among the utopian ideologies (fascism, socialism, communism) but idealized in media like Star Trek.

    So what's your take on the concept of humanity? Is it evolving? Static? Something that will never be perfected yet the most critical thing to try to perfect? Is the point of our lives to simply "do our best" (U.S. Cub Scout motto), even though there will be little to no effect?

    The last classification is probably what I would fall under - one of my favorite plays is Man of La Mancha. I teared up even watching this again.

  2. LozHinge the Unhinged

    LozHinge the Unhinged IncGamers Member

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    History teaches us that civilisation is cyclical and that decadency and decay is quite possibly inevitable. Set against that is the fact that there is a "global village" the likes of which has never before existed. Conditions and societal pressures exist now that have no analogue in earlier times. Predictions based upon the past are likely to be inaccurate due to this.

    Barbarism, totalitarianism - are modern "democracies" robust enough to survive the prevalent spiritual entropy unchanged? I see the current form of civilisation limping along until the "cost of energy" reaches a certain tipping point, or until population change creates its own flashpoint. If alternative power sources that are as affordable as the current fossil fuel model are discovered, it will be over-population that creates a new Dark Age. If no new affordable source of energy is found ... well, there's your implosion, right there.

    Welcome to the future!
  3. stillman

    stillman IncGamers Member

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    I'm rather pessimistic. On top of the mentioned impending energy crisis, we have:

    -Any number of natural disasters that could stop progression. Scientists believe we are enjoying a stretch of climatic happy times that will soon/eventually end. Our ways of dealing with even minor environmental disasters is pitiful. We could be building fire/hurricane/flood proof houses, but we prefer to just rebuild the old junk.

    -Resistance to alternate, cleaner energy or any change from the established infrastructure.

    -Gadgets, toys. People marvel about our wonderful technology, but we're using it mostly for entertainment. Even if we had unlimited energy sources, we would use it to make more convenient toys, not improve health worldwide.

    -We have a tendency to keep putting violent monsters in charge of everything. The science of marketing and brainwash techniques is too strong atm, so this won't change.

    -There is still the nukes problem. Imo, government will never give up control, and they will even launch a few nukes just to create problems they can heroically solve to maintain the ruling class structure. They can also crank a number of other dials to increase stress levels in the populace. The effects of stress begin messing things up in the womb and last for life.

    -Government schools are essentially child indoctrination camps. This combined with the poverty cycle will keep science and humanitarianism crawling its belly as it is now.

    -This is rather complex, but one thing I know for sure is that moral crusades always lead to far more harm than good. People believe that if we can just point enough guns at enough heads and force them to get along/obey, they will all magically lose their prejudices and fears. We know that laws don't really work, yet a hundred thousand or so are added each year. Jmervyn's dreaded socialist leftists ("we need a government daddy to provide for and protect us, and slaves should pay for my entitlements") are about as bad as the alternative traditionalists ("everything should be as it was in the old days, because I'm ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooold... and I want slaves").

    -Not to mention, another plague is long overdue.

    -We rely on a small number of grains to feed most of civilization: wheat, rice, corn, not much else.

    -Tribalism and in-group--out-group bias are still going strong.

    For these reasons, I believe we are approaching a short-lived height of civilization/slavery/toys. I guess much of this boils down to people's fear of change from the orthodoxy and our use of band-aid solutions.
  4. nurman

    nurman IncGamers Member

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  5. BobCox2

    BobCox2 IncGamers Member

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    History is cool and all, but the simple fact is the rate of progress and change is ever increasing and has been since the formulation and use of the scientific method.
    If we survive we will do it by evolving, but at least currently it's looking like our ability to impact the environment places us in a unique position to guide that evolution for not only our own species, but many others on the planet.

    I'm Glad I live in Interesting times.

    BTW
    I was thinking about the change I have seen vs those of my Parents and grand-parents lives just last night, so nice thread Jmervyn, we must be getting old.
    :D
  6. jmervyn

    jmervyn IncGamers Member

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    Well, I'm pleased by the generally down-beat nature of the responses so far. :smug:
    IMO definitely not. Democracies aren't as sturdy as claimed to begin with; add to the instability a disproportionate outside influence that don't take part in the social compact (illegal immigrants in the U.S., Muslims in Europe, that sort of thing) and you have a time bomb.
    I don't buy either of those, as it happens. First, the claims regarding 'peak oil' and [STRIKE]Global Warming[/STRIKE] Climate Change are fraudulent at best. I'm not one to accept blue-sky claims about humanity's ability to out-think natural forces in any way, but most of these claims are fabricated by special interests rather than being actual facts.

    Second, global population has been waning, not waxing, for quite some time - even the Islamist hordes are starting to decrease. I firmly believe conflict will be socio-economic in nature, rather than absolutes like energy or food.
    I was just discussing this with my son last night, regarding Hurricane Sandy. Claims about how much worse everything is due to [STRIKE]AGW[/STRIKE]ClimateChangewhateverness are likewise false, not simply because information being passed much more efficiently than it ever used to be. You never even HEARD about weather-related disasters in the past. The reality is that we have far more people in risky urban areas living much longer and in far more dense population centers than ever in the past. So when disaster strikes, it strikes a lot of people.
    My money's on this one. The truth about THE WON is out there, yet he just won a second term. If he decided to wage yet another illegal, undeclared war (in addition to Libya, I mean), does anyone really think that Americans would rise up against him like they did with EBILBOOSH-ITLER? Really?
    Nukes and nuclear energy risks are similarly overrated in a drastic fashion. My Infantry Officer Basic course was the last one to receive the full "NBC" course, but it helped me recognize just how effective the USSR's funding of the anti-nuclear movement had been in the U.S. and Europe.
    Agreed. Sad thing is, the "school choice" issue will probably die in the crib now as the NEA is pandered to.
    They're worse, you know. They present a false dichotomy (as you've bought into regarding the traditionalists wanting slaves, other than invisible ones that pick the lettuce & keep the grocery prices low) - they then claim the threat is too great and that the only solution is an increase of their draconic powers.
    Agree there too.
    Not an issue, though the lack of farming & animal husbandry creates a secondary disaster once the system collapse occurs.
    Obviously, given our current election. However, I believe that the lack of inclusion of foreign elements is a greater problem. I remember a good analysis that discussed just how wrong American perceptions of Saddam Hussein's thinking were; a ghetto denizen still has more common frame of reference with a Wall St. puke than he does with a terrorist from North Chad.
    Not part of the question, IMO. The question is, do those things actually improve humanity rather than just making things easier/faster?
    I tend to take Michael Crichton's side of the argument in this - it's not a matter of humans destroying the planet, but rather of humans destroying themselves. The planet is a self-healing system that we have very little capability to change in drastic fashion.
    Well, I'm thinking about how Loz mentioned the cyclic nature of humanity (with which I agree). I think we're on the cusp of a more devastating Great Depression era. I wish I could source it properly, but Jefferson believed that America could and would go through revolutionary cycles every 20-40 years, and others sound similar claims regarding political cycles without recognizing deeper causes. My deep suspicion is that this Great Depression will be substantially worse and far-reaching, and that the resulting destruction of Pax Americana will yield the more common nation-state arrangement that has been the norm for most of history.

    Consider how Europe looked before America's emergence (warring, miserable, diseased, unjust, and ruled by elites). I actually HOPE that's the world's destination, rather than the Dark Ages and their actual cause. I suppose that cold-hearted suspicion is why I can't buy into "The future's so bright, I've got to wear shades" beliefs.
  7. LozHinge the Unhinged

    LozHinge the Unhinged IncGamers Member

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    Point of order ... I mentioned "population change" and "over-population" - these can be a factor even if the global birth-rate/survival rate reduces.

    Without affordable energy, the current system of food production and distribution will collapse. This could lead to whole populations starving to death. Without a network for the provision of food, you could argue that a population of one fifth or even one tenth the current level still represents over-population.

    Assuming an affordable energy source going forward (optimistic, much?), I consider that the sense of societal "security" this would engender will indeed lead to populations that continue to increase in size - to the point where the lack of lebensraum will lead to implosion..

    Sorry that I didn't show the workings of my mental arithmetic here.
  8. Vivi

    Vivi IncGamers Member

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    We're not that important. Unlike Q in Star Trek thinks, mankind is not the center of the universe, light is not shining out of mankinds behind (the universe would end if we sat down), we're just passing by.

    On the timescale of this earth we are a tiny dot, smaller than a grain of sand even with all the sands of the worlds combined. We don't matter that much. The universe evolved long before we did and will continue to do so after our inevitable demise. All life comes and goes and even stars can die.

    So we just live our lives, like creatures before and after our time have done/will do. And make the best of it. What is the best is, due to the nature of our minds, different for everyone. Perfection has the ring of an endstation and everyone knows this does not exist. There's always a level up, always the need for improvement or just change. A very ill person just wants to be healthy, but a healthy woman with more money than braincells will want surgery to make her vagina look nice too (not sure how or why she'd want it on display though). A poor person in Africa may only want a source of fresh water nearby, but someone who already has taps in every room of the house will probably want a pool too.
    What looks like a search for perfection is probably just our way to pass time.

    We do change physically, and probably more rapid now, now there's less physical work and more brain work to do, having become dependent on machinery and small devices you must rub and stroke, connecting you to the world and at the same time, not.

    "do our best" (glad there's no dob dob dob dyb dyb dyb routine here) is a nice one but "best" is subjective. I ran after a thief the other day and despite failing to catch him I thought it was the best I could do under the circumstances. And at the same time it wasn't as it gave me severe internal bruising.

    I think we don't matter much. The only way we make a difference is the way we treat each other. I think we should always try to be good to each other and not always be selfished, find the balance.
    Other than that it's probably best to "keep calm and carry on".
  9. Ash Housewares

    Ash Housewares IncGamers Member

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    people haven't really changed a whole lot

    its fun to look at certain events in history and be reminded of the static nature of our stupidity

    I'm being less pessimistic and more tongue in cheek as I say these things, but people tend to focus on superficial changes and not notice how very little is different when you take a closer look at what makes us tick, perhaps I find the lack of progress to be comforting, good old humans can always count on them to be reliably crazy

    I was never too keen on the Star Trek approach of saying future man is "better" - people are the same even if they've carved the world to better suit them. I was more fond of sci-fi that showed attempts to alter and change humans as producing a bastardized version, like in Watchmen or Serenity.
  10. BobCox2

    BobCox2 IncGamers Member

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    People have not changed much. The world around us on the other hand is feeling the effect more and more.


    Wrong source it's George Carlin. though he's NSFW due to 7+ Dirty Words



    He had words of wisdom for all of us


    Even those like you.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2012
  11. krischan

    krischan Europe Trade Moderator

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    I'm not sure who said that in politics, there is no "we learn from our mistakes" rule. However, politics isn't about learning or following rules, but about achieving something in a short amount of time. If a politician had a house for a night and it's cold, he may be of the kind who will burn it down to have a warm place for that time. The easier it is to get away with that attitude, the worse the system is.*

    *: The last sentence looks a bit strange. Feel free to phrase it in a less clumsy manner, so I can finally improve my English :D
  12. BobCox2

    BobCox2 IncGamers Member

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    :Burning down the house to keep warm" is fine as a Cliché

    Your English in typed form is fine Kris
  13. stillman

    stillman IncGamers Member

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    I'd worry about the sentence just prior. The last one looks fine. However:

    -Some advise against using "it".
    -"that attitude" refers back to something previously mentioned, as does "the system" (though you didn't really establish what "the system" is). So, "it", "that", and "the system" all rely too heavily on the rest of the paragraph. That may be what you're detecting.
    -Some recommend we avoid forms of "to be", such as "is", but definitely don't worry about it here, since it's essential. But you do have "is" twice, needlessly. "The" appears three times. Readers prefer less repeating words.
    -And always use the fewest words possible. You could probably replace "to get away with" with a single word or two, but I can't think of a good term right now.

    Hope that helps!
  14. jmervyn

    jmervyn IncGamers Member

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    I now recognize you're referring to micro- rather than macro- context, and I concur. Starvation, disease, politics - all global misfortune is local.
    Well, there's bountiful affordable energy, we're just chopping at our own figurative nut sacks when considering its use. I have nearly three acres worth of woodland, mostly oak, which has overgrown old apple orchard fields. I already took down five trees which were endangering my house, so I have so much wood to burn it's just stupid. What's more stupid? The NY Department of Environmental Conservation has apparently outlawed indoor wood-burning furnaces, and are attempting to do so with outdoor wood furnaces as well, so I'm stuck using heating oil. Expensive, cancer-causing, environment-wrecking, terrorist-supporting heating oil.
    I disagree on principle; I think we <do> matter but that we don't matter as much as some of us think we do.
    I tend to believe we've become remarkably stupid over the decades. While there's a certain amount of nostalgia in that belief, all I need to do is compare Marilyn Monroe to Kim Kardashian to reassure myself that I'm correct.
    Well, what were your choices? I remember being warned when visiting Italy in my youth that I shouldn't try to catch anyone who snatched my Mom's purse, lest I be knifed. I was outraged. Let evil triumph, simply because I might be harmed? Furthermore, the lack of efficacy of the Progressive model shone through my consciousness; if things are so dangerous that one can't have a reasonable expectation of safety in public (to say nothing of privacy) then what good is the Gov't/rulership?
    No, no, it's Crichton - both in Jurassic Park and in that one about the AGW enviro-socialism scam. It's been a while so I can't cite easily.
  15. krischan

    krischan Europe Trade Moderator

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    @stillman: Thanks for the tips!

    I agree that the sentence before isn't a stylistic masterpiece, it doesn't transport the message well. Even worse, it's logically wrong, but that isn't a matter of clumsy English. It's more one of clumsy thinking :). I meant this:

    "The system" is the environment which allows these people to come to power. It might include society and not just a framework or power structure, so the word wasn't well chosen as well.

    "That attitude" is explained by the context. It means being accepting to cause tremendous damage for showing off with a short-term effect. I thought my example about burning down a house to keep you warm for a night tells it... not the "showing off" part, however.

    Whatever, I don't mean to argue about advice which I asked for :).

    It would do a lot to humanity's progress by answering the following questions as well:


    • When to use the verb "may" and when "might"?
    • When to use "maybe", when "perhaps"?
    • Punctuation before or after a smiley?
    • Am I using "however" too often? It seems that I use it in every third sentence. That may perhaps be a matter of the way I'm explaining on my opinion, however <-- Look, three of my questions can be answered by correcting that sentence :D. <-- and the fourth as well!
  16. jmervyn

    jmervyn IncGamers Member

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    The same sort of mentality can be seen in the corporate world, but it is due to distortions by gov't and "policy" rather than capitalism. Case in point are the shenanigans which caused the tech bubble's collapse, the various accounting debacles, and so forth. There was even a speech about reform of accounting practices, but everyone just nodded their heads and did the same corrupt things they'd been doing.

    If capitalism rules, you get companies like Alaska Airlines that grow, nurture, support, and build. Otherwise you get companies screwing employees and taking shortcuts to artificially inflate their "quarterlies".
  17. krischan

    krischan Europe Trade Moderator

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    That kind of behaviour is typical for people who have to report about their progress regularly and/or switch their positions rather often, like managers in a corporation or politicians between elections etc. I agree that it's worse among politicians (and one of the things which make democracies vulnerable), but not uncommon in business life. It's not like that in every company, but every democracy has elections in which the rulers might lose their positions of power.

    Of course, there are no elections in a company, but a manager has to justify himself regularly before a gremium of superiors (like the owners of the company) and there's a lot of fluctuation among these people. So if you know that you will be elsewhere soon, why not drive the Titanic at full speed? It will collide with an iceberg sooner or later, but the chances are good that you will be elsewhere when it happens while your can brag at which speed you drove it. when applying for later jobs.

    Capitalism is an economic system BTW, not a political one. If all of the world is run by corporations, it will probably have terrible results. The common people will probably turn into the equivalents of peasants in feudalistic states. They will be a resource, not the single source of stately power. Whatever produces the biggest profit, that's what will be done to them, independently from what they want. There would be no need to keep up democracy, human rights etc., that will just be hindrances for efficient production... and if there's something which a company doesn't want to afford, then it's having a disadvantage or lacking an advantage while the competititors don't, respectively giving up something which would be an advantage.
  18. jmervyn

    jmervyn IncGamers Member

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    It's both. You make the all-too-common socialist mistake of equating Capitalism to Corporatism. The reason Capitalism is such a beneficial political system is that it disseminates power (in the form of wealth) to the most decentralized, smallest, lowest socio-economic unit possible (the individual), allowing for the best decision-making. Currently America is not really a Capitalist country, despite the claims from the Socialist Left; it's a Corporatist one based on "crony capitalism".

    That's one of the primary issues I find fault with when viewing the "Star-Trek-esque" beliefs; they almost invariably conceive of what is essentially a benevolent dictatorship as the utopian model. Centralized planning can simply never compete with decentralized power; it inherently supports "crony capitalism" or "state capitalism" (AKA corporate socialism) at best, and more commonly outright subjugation and misery.

    Think about how Germany manipulates and supports specific industries and individuals. It's no different here; it's just that you're riding our increasingly threadbare coat-tails.
  19. krischan

    krischan Europe Trade Moderator

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    I have difficulties with the term "riding coat tails". Do you mean Germany is doing things after the US did them first? Or that we are doing things at your expense? Under your protection? At your lee side?

    It's natural that big countries are expected to do things first and others will adapt later. Nobody wants to find himself as an opponent of a bigger country after making a decision which could be made in a different manner as well. I even think that the US Americans expect their country to lead. I don't think that Germany does it that much BTW.
  20. Thomh

    Thomh IncGamers Member

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    First of all, what you refer to a Corporatism is actually Corporatocracy. The latter describes a system where the state more or less take orders from corporations and I`m sure that is what Krischan is refering to. You use the word crony capitalism to describe it:)

    Corporatism is much more complex to define, so I would rather you read about it yourself. The confusion probably comes from the fact that Corporatism is associated with fascism (although this way of organizing the economy happens in Capitalism, Socialism, tripartite societies as well), and partisan hacks love to associate any word with what they perceive as evil.

    By your definition of capitalism (I`m assuming you define it as pretty much a free market based on private property, if not please correct me) the US has never been particularly capitalist. It also makes for some interesting confusion between people like you and a lot of anti-capitalists, where the latter group define capitalism historically as the system that came after feudalism. So when you hear these groups reject capitalism and want to set up socialism, and they hear you defend capitalism, both goes mad with anger and accuse the other of being freedom-hating fascists, commies, state capitalists etc etc. This is quite funny as several of these anti-capitalists are in fact more or less looking for the same thing that you do:)
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