Have we lost more than we gained?
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25-09-2011, 12:07 PM
 
Have we lost more than we gained?
I am writing a book on science in general, Physics in particular. Among other things I wrote the following (please comment if you are interested in the topic).

We live in precarious times. Science and scientists have lost the trust and respect of the citizenry, wondering if it was worth it after all? The question of “have we lost more than we gained?” is openly asked and many intelligent and honest people start being nostalgic about the vanished innocent and peaceful “Golden Age”.

I have friends who refuse to own a computer, threw out the TV and VCR from their homes that they built “off the grid”, heating with, and cooking on, wood stoves, just like their grandfathers used to.

I do understand their fear of technology, their mistrust of scientists and engineers. I am aware of the self-serving lies, the irresponsible rushing into applications and the smug conceit and condescension many of our scientists treat their fellow citizens with.

I am also aware of the uncountable advantages science gave us – advantages we take for granted and not hesitate for a second to use when in need. Carl Sagan was troubled by this contradiction when, in spite of being an animal-rights advocate, while terminally ill, he took advantage of medical techniques that could never have been developed without experimenting on animals.

The answer, as usual, seems to be sought in the backswing of the pendulum.

The answer, as usual, is wrong.

First of all, there never was a “Golden Age” we can escape back to. Jared Diamond’s magnificent book “The Third Chimpanzee” devotes a whole chapter to the topic of “The Golden Age that never was”.

Second, the culprit is not science and technology, but the way we as a social body collectively use it and allow it to be used. We are all responsible. There is so much greed, hypocrisy and complacency in all of us that unscrupulous parasites thrive in our midst.

Third: we can never put the genie back into its bottle. It is just simply not one of the options. We can’t go back, we can’t unlearn what we know, we can’t just forget our scientific heritage of millennia. Some would remember, some would tempt us with an irresistible bribe of living easier, healthier, longer and soon we would be back where we are now.

So what are we to do?

My advice: “hope for the best”! Hope that enough sanity prevails to see us through this technological adolescence without destroying ourselves and a good chunk of the Planet we live on. Maybe, at great cost to ourselves, we learn how to use the gift of the gods in a responsible way, to the benefit of all, without destroying the world.

If we do, the rewards could be breath-taking. If we did not spend most of our energies, brain-power and resources on making weapons of mass destruction and mindless distractions for both the rich and the poor, then we would have what it takes to usher in the age of a real paradise.

We could easily have abundant, cheap and clean energy for all if we focussed on fusion research. We have had practical nuclear fusion for 60 years in our hydrogen bombs. We can liberate the energy, we ‘only’ need to learn how to control it in a safe and sustainable way.

Once we had this energy source, so many things would automatically follow. We could stop using fossil fuels and thus eliminate the major cause of pollution and the savage imperialist wars now being waged in order to rob third world nations of their oil reserves.

We wouldn’t even have to abandon capitalism to solve the class hatred now tearing many nations apart. If no one was hungry, cold, living in fear and poverty, most people would be happy with their lot of comfort and security. Relatively very few people want to live in palaces and mansions and have their private jets to fly about.

Once we cleaned up our act here on Earth, then we could have a new look at the stars and see if we could find a way to visit them? Imagine the thrill you would feel if we could step off this “pale blue dot” and see what is out there?

No stupid ‘reality-show’ could equal the awe and wonder we would feel, if we could rise above and beyond our pitiful limitations, self imposed for millennia.

Since we can’t go back to a “Golden Age” that never was, our only choices seem to be: either self destruction, or a real utopia.

I vote for the second.
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25-09-2011, 02:31 PM
RE: Have we lost more than we gained?
Hi Zatamom, great Thread Smile
I have to agree to the most parts of your post, they're simply out of the question. But to the end, it's getting a little bit unreal, faraway. It's not an answer to the problem you addressed. Especially to the last sentence I can't agree: "Our only choices seem to be: either self destruction, or a real utopia."
Our situation is not protruding from any other historical situation. There never was a crossroad to go either to self destruction or to a real utopia (otherwise we won't have that discussion). I wish we'd have that choice, but we don't. The people that gain all the money from selling oil, nuclear power, or other resources, networks etc. of these we (currently) depend on, they don't want to change anything. But the stuff we need to change all that, this stuff belongs to them.
We don't have a choice, they have.
And at long as they control the button to start a real utopia, we can only try to make the best out of our options. This world is not worse than an old world.
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25-09-2011, 02:45 PM
 
RE: Have we lost more than we gained?
(25-09-2011 02:31 PM)darksky Wrote:  Hi Zatamom, great Thread Smile
I have to agree to the most parts of your post, they're simply out of the question. But to the end, it's getting a little bit unreal, faraway. It's not an answer to the problem you addressed. Especially to the last sentence I can't agree: "Our only choices seem to be: either self destruction, or a real utopia."

darksky, let me quote Robert Oppenheimer as he expressed his fears on his last day as director of the Manhattan Project:

“If atomic bombs are to be added as new weapons to the arsenals of a warring world, or to the arsenals of nations preparing for war, then the time will come when mankind will curse the name of Los Alamos and Hiroshima. The people of the world must unite, or they will perish. This war, that has ravaged so much of the earth, has written these words. The atomic bomb has spelled them out for all men to understand.” (Richard Rodes: “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” pg 758)

(my emphasis)

The logic of the situation is the following: unless we resolve our social differences world-wide, the existence of nuclear weapons will inevitably lead to self destruction. It has not happened yet but it is only a question of time. For interesting reading I recommend "Climate Wars" by Gwynne Dyer (historian) where he describes one possible scenario as a nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India that escalates quickly to total destruction.

Einstein warned of the same danger "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones — Albert Einstein ..."

There is no other choice: unite into one species, living in peace on one planet, or die out.

Possible?

In theory, everything is possible.

In practice?

Not in my lifetime.

Sad
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