Simpler Times

Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.

Ecclesiastes 7:10

As soon as I got to college a couple years back I was confronted by throngs of anarchists. Each in there own way was unsatisfied with society, complaining that it was suffering from centralization and should be torn down to make way for something better. Phrases such as “neo-tribalism” and “primitive culture” were thrown around, and I was in the middle of it, finding myself in the odd position of defending the US government, Western civilization, and technological progress. I have held firm to my belief in the perfectibility of these processes, and this blog is one avenue for me to vent my frustrations with those who are frustrated with humanity.

What is it about primitive culture which is so appealing to us? What is it about “modern” society which leaves us wanting more? I would have to say that it’s everything I’ve talked about in this blog: loss of individuality, identity, and meaning in life. As we’ve grown more specialized in our functions we are forced to perform tasks which have increasingly affected us indirectly. We work in one place to make money to buy food in another place and buy a home somewhere else, and sometimes lose sight of what life is all about, what it is that makes us get up in the morning and get to work. Since the industrial revolution we’ve seen more suicides as meaninglessness encloses upon us.

Our state of affairs, when described in that light, looks pretty grim. Perhaps it would be best to stop all of this meaningless expansion and advancement, because after all it hasn’t made us happier, and likely has made us less happy. These advances have increased the potential for human suffering on this planet, allowing individuals in charge of governments to kill millions instantly, and economic imperialism to suck the energy from the less fortunate. Wasn’t it better when we couldn’t cause so much damage? When our war-proned psychology was checked by our limited power?

I of course concede those points, and yes, the world as a whole may have been happier before industrialization (or agriculture or whatever paradigm shift you want to point to), but that in no way means that we will not be happier again, and really, really doesn’t mean we should try to reverse our progress in some way, or delay our advancement.

First of all, there is logically no way to reverse technological progress. Progress is not a thing you can take apart just as it’s been built, the thoughts that brought us to where we are today still exist in us, and will always exist unless we deliberately take them from our heads. We humans have the knowledge/power to craft nuclear weapons, and we simply can’t go back. We can’t possibly tell everyone to forget how to use nukes, as someone will remember for their own advantage. We are competitive creatures, and we cannot make it in this world without the use of our technology. 10 years ago no one had GPS, now our country and world would be absolutely crippled if GPS ceased to function. We are forced to live with our knowledge, and trying to escape it will only be detrimental.

We could of course revamp our society and form tribal communities where we all work for our food and live a simple life of subsistence. I think that certainly more people should consider farming as a meaningful lifestyle, but I’m not sure what decentralization is supposed to accomplish. I guess you can have people with similar values to your own, but that’s already what countries are. The difference between centralization and decentralization is pretty irrelevant, and all that really matters is inter connectivity, basically the internet. There is absolutely no way to slow down the internet, and no matter what society we form at this point, we will all rapidly come together to form one mind.

Why do you think we left our tribes in the first place? Maybe first I should ask why we chose to live with each other rather than alone in the first place.  Alone in the wild, in a supposed pure state of nature, Hobbes describes “the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” We come together to fix these things, to extend our life and enjoyment. We formed tribes. But tribal life is still brutish and short compared to what we have today, so we formed nation states, sciences, medicine, and so on, so that we could prevent the horror of seeing a loved one die before their time was through. We’ve created many problems by trying to defy death, but these problems are not insurmountable.

It used to be that we lived and died by our work, by our labor to hunt and till the fields. We also lived and died by our cohesion, our ability to defend against the evils of nature. We’ve gained mastery of our defenses and our food so that we don’t have to consciously be working toward the maintenance of our existence, and while this mastery has produced problems it should be seen as good. I hate living in a world where I have a responsibility to write essays for classes I don’t care much about, and where I don’t have the freedom to smoke weed where and when I want to, but these are sacrifices that I must make when entering into a social contract, and I would take this life any day over the life of a hunter-gatherer who could not be sure that he and his loved ones would live to see tomorrow. I dare an anarchist to go to a starving people and tell them that the answer to their problems is less cohesion. There is a necessary underlying privilege to anarchy, one must be unsatisfied with the life of ease they live in order to discard it.

We are in a bit of a rut right now with society, with billions living in poverty and millions starving because some sectors of society have advanced to the detriment of others. This is a sad state of affairs, but as I’ve said before, these problems are not insurmountable. The exponential power of technology inevitably will extend our love to these people. Gandhi remarked on several occasions that he disliked trains because they allow us to travel very quickly and evil spreads much quicker than good. Evil has been spread all over the world now in our Globalized society, and we simply need to wait for good to catch up, and it will. Love, Truth, and order always persevere in an existence characterized by entropy, and the only proof we need of this is our existence. Our intelligence has been converging and growing since the beginning of life on this planet, proof that even in an uncaring universe of chaos, order can and will inevitably increase.

-Prometheus

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About Prometheus

I write about the coming technological singularity and its implications for our sense of identity, individuality, meaning, and existence. I argue that the most significant aspect of the singularity is the convergence of our consciousnesses into one superconsciousness, and that we should be very happy about this.

Posted on May 18, 2011, in Consciousness, Technological Singularity, Values and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I really appreciate your insight. It seems very balanced. Looking forward to more of what you have to write.

  2. Interesting post (and blog to explore later…).

    BTW I disagree that technology can’t ever be lost. In fact I think there is enough evidence out there to suggest ‘we’ have in the past lost great technology (and the great civilizations that ran alongside it).

    In fact – going off on a bit of a tangent – I disagree with the whole idea of (linear) ‘progress’ (cave man to spaceman) which is so heavily rammed down our throats from school onwards. I think if you look at history as far back as we can (which is actually not very far) it’s pretty clear that most of it has been a *degradation* of some previous great civilization from pre history.

    For example the Egyptians seemed to have inherited a bunch of pyramidal monuments (or power stations, or earth energy grid ‘hubs’, or UFO landing beacons, or astronomical observatories or whatever the hell they were!) which WE COULD NOT EVEN BUILD TODAY. These monuments correspond to other monuments around the world mathematically (ie their location on this sphere of the earth) as well as referencing the stars *as they were* 10,500 years ago. (That’s a very bad summary whole books have been written on the lost civilizations that give detailed evidence). The point is ‘we’ had advanced technology, science, maths AND the capacity to travel all over the world 10,000+ years ago.

    And yet our history books teach us Christopher Columbus found America a couple of centuries ago!? And mainstream science tells us technology has evolved (‘progressed’) in a straight line from stone tools to iPads…….. Bollocks! 🙂

    Our mainstream history has been censored 100%. (yet another story).

    The point is from Egyptians onwards it has been *downhill* all the way into the Dark Ages and we are only now just starting to pull ourselves back out again.

    So we recenly discovered some cool technology and had ourselves an industrial revolution – big deal….. (obviously it is *quite* a big deal but you know what I mean!).

    But really these days it feels more like it is technology which is evolving and not so much humans (at least not in the establishment circles where all the political/ economic power is). I mean most of the world is still in poverty, at war, millions are still owned as slaves, the economy is about to collapse and most people in the west don’t even know the names of their neighbours or how to bake a loaf of bread.

    Frankly it’s pathetic! And it’s no accident either. (yet another story….)
    ‘Something’ is clearly holding humanity down and making us act like ****s when we should be (by all logic) living in a relative paradise with enough food, water, shelter and creature comforts for all and a culture ‘freed from the plough’ and therefore able to explore inner and outer space with a sense of pure abandon and affection ……..

    Beyond the propaganda this world IS totally f*cked …. yet below the surface (especially with the younger generations now coming through) we are transcending whatever it is that is keeping us prisoner….

    Just my 2 cents 🙂

    This is a pretty rambling and rubbish comment sorry…

    Here’s some (sort of) related links which you might enjoy though- if you haven’t come across them already.

    Stefan Molyneux
    (watch the whole 5 part series if you can)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P772Eb63qIY

    Jim Marrs – Rule by Secrecy (check info for pdf book)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3HksCZqmck

    Michael Tsarion – Age of Manipulation (part 1 of 3)
    A very long lecture split into 3 parts – worth every minute!)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Gfql4DZUek

    Transhuman – Eugenics World Order (pt.1)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0XnuPtGtU4

    Some love him …. some think he is crazy ….. either way it’s another HUGE lecture 🙂

    David Icke Beyond the Cutting Edge (Part 1)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlKUGAbLhZs

    • woah, that’s quite a comment. First of all, we could totally build the pyramids if we wanted to, but what’s the point? and progress isn’t linear, it’s exponential, and while there were once cavemen on earth, there are now spacemen. There are setbacks, especially when large civilizations collapse, but I don’t think there’s anything holding us down except ourselves. Really, it’s remarkable that we’ve come so far so quickly.

      Millions are still slaves and the economic system is on the verge of collapse? well, first of all, by saying “millions are still slaves” you are acknowledging a progress away from that sorry state, and our economic system is always suffering from oscillations, and we are in one dip of many.

      Technology is evolving and not humans? technology IS us! We are certainly evolving, though it is true that it is hard to see on such a small timescale as we mortals are given.

      I feel as though you are looking for people to blame, conspiracies and the like. What I hope you realize is that in the end no one is to blame, because we are all shaped by the matter that composes our bodies and the environment surrounding us, and everything is a system which no one could possibly control.

      • Prometheus: “First of all, we could totally build the pyramids if we wanted to, but what’s the point? and progress isn’t linear, it’s exponential….”

        Sorry, I wasn’t being very clear. What I meant was that we are taught from an early age to accept the idea that technology has only ever increased and has never been lost – ever.

        Of course this may be true in terms of ‘Western’ scientific technology … but who’s to say that is the only kind of technology there is?

        (If we had grown up to only ever speak, write and hear one language (with nobody ever suggesting any other languages might be possible or might exist) just imagine how hard it would be for us to conceive of other languages even being possible).

        I stand by my statement that we couldn’t build the pyramids today. Not even with 21st C technology and machinery – and certainly not with Egyptian tools! Many top scientists and civil engineers have confirmed that the accuracy of their construction and alignment is many times greater than even the best possible tolerances for modern skyscrapers today and that we don’t have the cranes etc strong enough to do the job.

        And so even with today’s lasers, CAD and high precision machinery and materials we still can’t build skyscrapers with anything near the same accuracy as the pyramids. Food for thought….

        And the presence of water erosion on the Sphinx and its enclosure means it must have been build before the Egyptians. There has been no (significant) rainfall in the Giza plateau from Egyptian times to present day. You have to go back to end of Ice Age to find rainfall occurring in Giza capable of eroding the stone into the vertical channels and rounded forms we clearly see on the Sphinx.

        And as we can see looking at more recent pyramids and structures the build quality (and ambition!) DECREASES as you move FORWARD in time (‘progress’ would suggest the opposite would happen). The more modern pyramids are just kind of ‘thrown together’ in avery amateurish way with easy to build stepped sides and on a much, much smaller scale.

        The same is true of so much else in recorded human history. Societies, cities, architecture, infrastructure, culture …. so much of history shows a *degradation* of all these things as you move forward in time. It’s as if having lost their great technology (perhaps through some great global cataclysmic event) successive civilizations were also forgetting the once great knowledge (and culture) that accompanied that technology.

        And then of course you have the Egyptian obsession with documenting every aspect of their lives down to things like washing and making food. Yet nowhere do they describe actually building the pyramids. We are told they used slaves and wooden rollers and perhaps a large ‘ramp’ of dirt which was removed when the pyramid was finished. Yet there is no archeological evidence or historical record of such a ‘slave city’ nearby…. or evidence of a dirt ramp excavation / backfilling (which would have been almost as large as the pyramid itself by volume) ….. and there were only scattered palm trees in Egypt – no great forests capable of supplying the number of rollers needed (not that that method would have worked anyway!).

        And then we have mysteries like the giant stones at Baalbeck. The largest dressed stones in human history! No crane we have today could lift them. What does that say about the technology of the people who build those structures? either they had an alternative technology or they used ‘magic’. (In many ways magic IS alternative technolgy! An amazonian rainforest tribe might call a cell phone ‘magic’).

        Just because we don’t know how they did achieve these technological marvels doesn’t mean we can’t know for sure how they did NOT achieve them.

        And perhaps the greatest importance of these kinds of FACTS and EVIDENCES is the psychological / philosophical effect such facts have on our current civilization.

        Once we introduce the concept of DIFFERENT technologies existing (or having existed) we can finally start asking questions like:

        “is our current technology (petrol engines, nuclear power and weapons, microwave ovens, synthetic drugs etc etc) really the best way forward?”

        While we consider this question we can try looking at the state of the world around us! It’s pretty shocking isn’t it?!

        And most importantly NONE of it can be explained by the ‘official’ mainstream version of either history or current times:

        We are apparently at the peak of human civilization, yet we can’t even understand how monuments built 10,000+ years ago were made, let alone make them ourselves, but we can now blow stuff up halfway around the world and spy on people from space but we can’t yet feed them properly with 25,000 children still starving to death every day …. and even people surrounded by the best technology still have less free time than previous generations who had to wash their clothes by hand etc ….. and our standard of living is now rapidly declining … housing is even less affordable than ever etc etc…

        Prometheus: “Technology is evolving and not humans? technology IS us!”

        I have to disagree again! 😉

        21st century technology is great – I love it! – but we have to separate it from human or cultural/ social evolution. In the 50’s it was expected (and quite reasonably) that technology would result in a shorter working week and much more ‘leisure time’. Yet the exact opposite happened. Today a typical couple has both partners/ parents working full time AND longer hours yet they STILL are less better off financially. Also students are getting dumber, people (in developed world) are getting fatter and living less long and more diseased and less healthy lives. Vocabulary is shrinking and critical thinking is at an all time low. Pornography and mindless mass entertainments (sports, game shows, idiotic hollywood movies) continue to skyrocket…. Depression rates and other mental health issues are soaring – especially in children. etc etc

        What people forget about technology is that it is almost always OWNED by someone else. And increasingly the same people who OWN governments and the banking system also own the technology.

        It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why living standards, happiness and health are going down (even if the latest adverts for gadgets make it seem like technology is making life on earth one continuous vibrant party or carefree shopping/ entertainment experience).

        In a free society technology liberates.
        In a controlled society technology oppresses.

        We have a little of BOTH going on right now and it IS a battle! Just a technology helps track and eventually save various rare species it also helps enslave cows and chickens into horrific battery farm lives where they are microchipped and treated with cold, calculated efficiency. The same is true of humans! 😉

        INVENTING technology might be a sign of human evolution.
        But RELYING on it totally is not.

        Prometheus: “I feel as though you are looking for people to blame, conspiracies and the like. ”

        Well, yes and no….

        The geopolitical/ economic world IS largely run (certainly manipulated) by a relatively small cabal of international bankers, corporations and a kind of global aristocracy. But to call it all a ‘conspiracy’ kind of misses the point IMHO.

        It’s very much a two-way relationship.

        I mean going on holiday without locking your front door would be daft, right? Handing your door keys to a total stranger in the street and saying “please look after my house while I go on holiday for two weeks – I have lots of expensive hi fi equipment and computers. Thanks!” would be even more daft – yes?

        And yet that is EXACTLY what we do when we rely on governments to take care of the economy and the other social, business, security etc aspects of OUR lives.

        Except the government is not some random person in the street. The government is much less trustworthy!

        The government (of any country) is always (in the main) a bunch of power hungry, ‘hierarchy climbing’, crooks, cheats, deceivers and criminals! Always.

        And so yes I guess I DO point the finger of blame … but not at ‘them’ … at ‘us’ for being so stupid! 😉

        The chances are there is no ‘conspiracy’ to rob your house. But if you give your keys away to a random stranger and disappear for two weeks what do you think might happen?!

        Likewise even a government starting out as friendly as fluffy bunny rabbits will eventually turn nasty and take advantage of the population IF that population chooses to hand over all power and decision making for all the important issues in THIER own lives to the government generation after generation… by voting once every few YEARS and spending the rest of the time watching TV and going to baseball games and shopping malls!

        And like I said, governments are always far less trustworthy than even your average random stranger (who might turn out to be very nice person!).

        I mean c’mon ….. look at them and tell me you feel comfortable with them being in charge of your life – and in charge of the funding of so much of ‘our’ technological research and development.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5Z0IgYCU4s

        Then ask yourself why there we have such a censored history in terms of the technological possibilities and alternatives that must be out there.

      • I stand by my assertion that we could build the pyramids, but there is no impetus. as it is right now, we don’t know how we would go about it, but we could certainly learn how to in a fraction of the time the egyptians did. I don’t really care about all of the “missing records” of how they built them, there are missing records for lots of things thousands of years old. the pyramids are really not that amazing– it’s a really stable structure, and with enough slave labor and time you can accomplish quite a bit (look at the united states, for instance). I realize that we’ve lost their methods, but we have our own, and they work quite well.

        Standard of living has been steadily rising, and that’s a fact.

        As for your leisure time, well, it’s still a competetive world out there, and we have to work harder than those around us to get ahead. personally, my life is one big blob of leisure time, and even the job I choose will in a sense be a leisurely choice, because it’s a choice and is not forced upon me. honestly, we are living the life of ease (not all of us, but people like me are), I mean look at us, we’re spending a good amount of time writing comments to no end other than our amusement and the spread of information.

        it’s not that we can’t feed all the starving people on this planet, or that we can’t build the pyramids, It’s that we AREN’T doing these things. Moving large rocks is just not as important today as it was thousands of years ago, and as for the starving people, well, morality is a very local thing: we tend to be nice to those physically close to us. As our awareness of the suffering of the world comes closer to us, these problems will be solved.

  3. I think its important when looking at the history of technology and indeed humans to regard cultural intersectionality and need.

    The Romans had all the information and parts to create a steam engine, however they used that technology to open doors and other luxurious aspects. It did not occur to the Romans to use steam power for more “practical” purposes because there was enough slave human power to meet their needs. In other words, there was not a cultural need for the technology.

    Until the singularity, technology is not like a weed that grows without human care. Rather, technology is cared and nurtured to meet a cultural need. We can see that today in the technological development of sex toys or “scientific” approaches to breast and penis enlargment. We are using technology that could be applied to a variety of fields that would actually benefit people, but instead it is focusing on a culturally agreed upon importance (like breast and penis size). Now, I am totally disgusted by the amount of time, energy, money, and technology that goes into enhancement techniques, But they still represent how culture shapes how technology is used.

    Thus in the case of the pyramids, we may have the technology, but without a written record or a clear cultural construction of the period it can be virtually impossible for us to understand how the technology was used. This is a similar problem with reconstructing and understanding the Ancient Greek Parthenon. LIke the Romans, slaves were one of the primary “technologies” used to construct the pyramids suggesting a different cultural paradigm then our current system. Making it extremely difficult to reconstruct a culture and the full use of “technologies” with only a fragment of the full written and archeological record.

    Its true that technologies build on themselves in an evolutionary trajectory, but they are also used and evolve based on cultural interest and need. That cultural interest can be constructed by need, the ideal, money, religion, or any other cultural idea. For example in the west, even today we are still researching and selling products that lighten darker skin tones. It’s a case of a technology meeting a racialized cultural need, demonstrating the wide array of influences.

    Therefore, until we reach the singularity (and probably still beyond it to a certain degree) technology will be highly influenced by a certain culture at a certain time period in a certain place.

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