Is 'Progress' Good for Humanity?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by Musika, Apr 29, 2018.

  1. Musika Last in Space Valued Senior Member

    Does attributing technological advancement to automatic moral advancement sew the seeds to return humanity to the stone age?


    The idea that the Industrial Revolution has made us not only more technologically advanced and materially furnished but also better for it is a powerful narrative and one that’s hard to shake. It makes it difficult to dissent from the idea that new technologies, economic growth, and a consumer society are absolutely necessary. To criticize industrial modernity is somehow to criticize the moral advancement of humankind, since a central theme in this narrative is the idea that industrialization revolutionized our humanity, too. Those who criticize industrial society are often met with defensive snarkiness: “So you’d like us to go back to living in caves, would ya?” or “you can’t stop progress!”

    Narratives are inevitably moralistic; they are never created spontaneously from “the facts” but are rather stories imposed upon a range of phenomena that always include implicit ideas about what’s right and what’s wrong. The proponents of the Industrial Revolution inherited from the philosophers of the Enlightenment the narrative of human (read: European) progress over time but placed technological advancement and economic liberalization at the center of their conception of progress. This narrative remains today an ingrained operating principle that propels us in a seemingly unstoppable way toward more growth and more technology, because the assumption is that these things are ultimately beneficial for humanity.

    Advocates of sustainability are not opposed to industrialization per se, and don’t seek a return to the Stone Age. But what they do oppose is the dubious narrative of progress caricatured above. Along with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, they acknowledge the objective advancement of technology, but they don’t necessarily think that it has made us more virtuous, and they don’t assume that the key values of the Industrial Revolution are beyond reproach: social inequality for the sake of private wealth; economic growth at the expense of everything, including the integrity of the environment; and the assumption that mechanized newness is always a positive thing. Above all, sustainability-minded thinkers question whether the Industrial Revolution has jeopardized humankind’s ability to live happily and sustainably upon the Earth. Have the fossil-fueled good times put future generations at risk of returning to the same misery that industrialists were in such a rush to leave behind?

    But what if we rethink the narrative of progress? What if we believe that the inventions in and after the Industrial Revolution have made some things better and some things worse? What if we adopt a more critical and skeptical attitude toward the values we’ve inherited from the past? Moreover, what if we write environmental factors back in to the story of progress? Suddenly, things begin to seem less rosy. Indeed, in many ways, the ecological crisis of the present day has roots in the Industrial Revolution.
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  3. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

    I like my computer.
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  5. Musika Last in Space Valued Senior Member

    Your name alone Q. E. D.'s the OP.
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  7. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

    I didn't read the OP but only the title and two sentences.
  8. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I don't think technological advancement is bad. I think wanton use of our technologies without regard to the possible consequences is stupid!

    Bartlett showed a perfect example with the "unintended consequences" of the Aswan Dam, which technologically provided enormous energy for private and industrial use, but at cost of an important part of earth's ecology.

    Simply, the existence of the dam changed the entire geometric and agricultural environment, which for thousands of years had provided rich food resources, inland and from the rich coastal fishing waters, being fed by the natural nutrients absorbed and deposited from the river banks all the way out to sea.

    Today, no more commercial fisheries, but you can always watch tv until they shut off your electricity because you can't pay the bill.

    Similar examples can be found in the US......why? We have the science! Use the technology with "respect" for the long term impacts on the local geology and biology.

    Therein lies the Moral imperative, IMO.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2018
  9. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

    Yes ☺... at least, perhaps, but reading all your most interesting post I feel the culprit is the economic system which drives innovation to a very large degree.

    The system cant mark time by marching in step but not moving forward must consume more each year, it must invent new things ( to make more money for jobs ad capital return) and better ways which although arguably beneficial blinds us to the damage caused to offer new benefits.
    Not only environments but people and communities.

    The demands for more and more resources can not diminish and if it does the system starts upon a downward spiral that is very difficult to turn around, back into the area we call prosperity... which actually means we are consuming more than ever before...and fewer are engaged in production and delivery.

    Perhaps the rapid change we experience from an ever improving array of technology is most felt by the populace who are displaced from their career by the introduction of a robot or computer program that renders them effectively useless.

    There is a danger in producing unemployed folk from the labour bank and have them resentful and aimless.

    Think of poor folk like me who today could not get a job even managing a cash register at the super market because they simply are not intelligent enough to work with the new technology.

    Although there are many more opportunities (in certain areas which require very decent training) perhaps those who are left behind could rise up and destroy it all without appreciation for the toys and luxury not available pre industrial revolution that they now take for granted...a luddite rebirth in effect.

    Take farming... which occupied so many which now sees one man feeding thousands...what jobs do the farm hands go to next programming?

    However it is most likely it will be those who get nothing out of the improvements and yet must work harder and now work for a heartless corporation whereas their parents may have worked for a family business or at least an organization which offerred more compassion to its workers than the large corporations do these days.

    And with more efficiencies the demands upon both capital and labour is bound up in the concept of increasing productivity...for labour that simply means one must work harder and smarter for relatively less money and for capital it must be content with less return for greater risk.

    And the pressure on capital translates into improving profit by first reducing the work force ... I really dont know but sitting on the side line and trying to understand the game plan of a CEO after a company takeover has me believe if you can sack thousands you are highly prized by shareholders and those who contribute capital.
    Those who lose their jobs are responsible for the new profit but for them a difficult restart.

    Should we do anything?

    Perhaps not as we simply can not slow the bus ...not only are we unable to slow it we must demand that it is a little faster each year.

    But will the world but parts (various countries) may lose the standard of living generation before them enjoyed.

    And global warming cant be stopped or slowed unless it makes money.

    But the world will go on I would like to think.

    Last edited: Apr 30, 2018
  10. billvon Valued Senior Member

    1) Almost no one does that. Many people attribute technology to ALLOWING moral advancement (which is true) but very few people would claim that atomic weapons, Agent Orange, the machine gun or eugenics represented moral advancement.

    2) Technology is not moral or evil; it is orthogonal to morality.

    3) This section:

    "What if we believe that the inventions in and after the Industrial Revolution have made some things better and some things worse? What if we adopt a more critical and skeptical attitude toward the values we’ve inherited from the past? Moreover, what if we write environmental factors back in to the story of progress?"

    People have been taking that approach since at least the 1960's.
    Write4U likes this.
  11. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I agree, the earth will continue to exist until it is swallowed up by the sun, but that's a long way off.
    Question is, will humans still exist in the relatively near future?
  12. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

    I know the answer but if I were to announce it there will be mass panic☺.

    Extinction is the rule and evolution perhaps the exception.

    I look at the Moon and note there are a lot of craters from objects any one of which would destroy nations at best or all life in a worst case situation.

    Now folk think all the space debris has been cleared away but has it all cleared away. Does the Ort cloud offer potential stuff to make more holes on the Moon and the Earth.

    Or a super nova even many light years from us will wipe out all life but the good thing with either of these space "accidents" we simply wont know in the case of a super nova and depending on the size of yhe space rock it could be instant to a year approx.

    I recall there is a type of star which if it goes off within 4000 light years we would be toast....burnt toast actually...mmm make that worst.

    I think that was the number but if I am way off someone will ppint out my mistake.

    The world now seems like a finely tuned motor already reving at red line and close to throwing a piston.

    I equate the piston to one or a few developed countries that will need replacing but the motor will probably run again after a complete rebuild.

  13. Truck Captain Stumpy The Right Honourable Reverend Truck Captain Valued Senior Member

    offered IMHO only:

    morals and values are not set in stone, and they also advance and change. the morals and values of the past were tribalistic and outsiders typically were viewed as evil, immoral, wrong, stupid, etc. So Morals and Values are subjective to the time, location, education and the individual. Even today we have certain people pushing for a return to ancient moralities and values.

    So what is the good of the ancient morals, values and beliefs?

    you can't blame technology because of the changing values. As Billvon states, "it is orthogonal to morality." It is the use of technology where the values, morals, etc comes in, and that is subjective and determined by the times as well.

    You may be able to put partial blame on education for the changing values, but it changes due to the spread of new ideas and information, which is for the better. It's an evolution of values.

    It's not uncommon to fear technology and it's affects on society. At one time people passed laws about the horrible noise of automobiles and how they spooked horses forcing them to leave the road etc if there were horses on the road.

    With technology also comes learning. We learn how to properly use techology and that means we make mistakes sometimes, also noted by Billvon above. One can argue that atomic bombs are immoral, but they lead to a different set of values as well as better technology (like nuclear power). Sometimes technology looks good from the outset (like agent orange) but we learn through it's use that the side effects are more destructive than the benefits. So whereas some would claim no moral benefit or advancement from their use, we can also argue that those lessons were beneficial and the key to develop better protocols and research leading to moral advancement.

    To sum it all up: morality, values and virtue are all subjective terms and wholly dependent upon time, place, and the relationship with said time and place.
  14. Truck Captain Stumpy The Right Honourable Reverend Truck Captain Valued Senior Member

    some of this may be determined by the consumer moreso than the producer. This is most evident in cars: Americans (on average) buy a new car every 3-6 years, whereas Europeans keep their cars much longer.

    why take the time, energy and resources to build something to last a thousand years when people will throw it away in 3?

    I do think the next horrible (likely worldwide) wars will be over the limited resources. it's history.

    the world... yes
    humanity? maybe. and that is iffy, IMHO

    for those who like to play, here is an impact simulator that is interesting:
  15. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Both are sides of the same coin. Without ending entire species, there would be very little meaningful evolution.
    Xelasnave.1947 likes this.
  16. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    This will always be one of my favorite movies.
    "The Hellstrom Chronicle" which just presents an alternative look at the behavior of the most significant competitor to mankind, the insects.

    RainbowSingularity likes this.
  17. RainbowSingularity Valued Senior Member

    outstanding music & cinamatography
    what a gem
  18. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

    What about "germs"?
    They outnumber us and evolve fast ... there is a fear they will step around our defences and win.
    Yet antbiotics are prescibed routinely to help them learn and evolve faster.

  19. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

    The market economy is happy to accomodate waste in fact it runs best where stuff is thrown away and even recycling is avoided.

    The consumer is conditioned to want the next model be it cars furniture or housing. And the conditioning (advertising) is a mega industry on its own and feeds countless mouths.

    And dont think I am anti market economy it is the only one shown to work to date.

    But I am in favour of high social security payouts, from the dole to pensions and even free education and health care...those who oppose such in my view miss how such an approach keeps the money going around and the resulting benefits to those who would miserably oppose free money...they miss the fact that it is money turn over that makes them rich...double the dole for example those folk will spend it and so those who receive their cash make more money.

    The market economy is a curious and complex drives so much efficiency yet long term sees the approach actually inefficient..
    Anyways I am very happy that I can buy flash astronomy stuff and cameras that only 50 yeras ago would cost millions.
    So cheap now.
    And little 1200 cc car is fantastic, four valves per cylinder, OHC, cross flow head, fuel injection, mad traction control and brakes that will press your face on the windscreen if stood on...five speed gear box and the model after has a six speed box.
    It would beat a Ferrari on the dirt roads I am often on..hands down..ground clearance beats horse power on the bush.

    And its the bottom of the range ...

    And phones $100 little miracles I have an app to tell me when satellites are going to appear, star charts, longitude, latitude and height above sea level ( necessary for a computerised astronmoy mount) guitar tunner, dictation device and even a speech how good is that...just the still camera and video is amazing. ..dont forget the editing app, add your self made music make a movie and self publish on utube...

    Only a market economy with a demanding consumer base could deliver these miracles.

    RainbowSingularity likes this.
  20. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    You're absolutely correct. But that is a problem only for larger mammals.

    But almost all Insects seem to be naturally immune from diseases, but they can carry them all around the world.

    What does worry me is the honeybee which is one 0f the few insects vulnerable to disease, due to the use of powerful insecticides.

    This is a potential disaster for the worlds flowering plants and trees, which feed some 70 % of all herbivores and represents some 8% of the global agricultural production, meaning declines pose potential risks to the world’s food supply.

    In China, there are regions where bees are extinct and people need to pollinate their fruit trees by hand with feather dusters. If I recall, it takes one person a week to pollinate a single tree, where the honeybees once did this in a single day.
    RainbowSingularity likes this.
  21. RainbowSingularity Valued Senior Member

    and if they were all wiped out, what control over all money & people the company that controlled polination would have.

    it would be like handing all the worlds oil and gas to one raving lunatic.
  22. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

    My daughter put in a passion fruit vine and observed no bees so polinated it using a small soft artists paint brush.
    There are now 60 well developed fruit.
    So she was a busy little bee.
    A neighbour has about ten hives so it was surprising there were no bees...but after the job was done they now turn up.
    If bees get wiped out we will be in a difficult position.
    I have thought of a device to vacuum up pollen and blow it out but still it would be very labour intensive.

    Bees are great and they pay us well with honey so I hope they survive.

  23. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Insects get sick, suffer parasites, etc, routinely.
    The honeybee is a domesticated animal, not native to most continents. Feral honeybees act more or less as feral dogs or cats or horses act - they displace the locals.

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