Thursday, August 7, 2014


I think you'll note that I've written a few columns here about the future and how it might be considered through our various popular culture.  But I thought here that it might be fruitful to look at also some more serious works, along with some fine media choices.   Science and the future can be positive.  I am a very big fan of DC Comics' Legion of Super Heroes, and up to a certain point there was so much joy and innocence in that title, series, that I felt that it was a perfect balance to all the various offerings of doom and gloom.


The current Ebola event in Africa has scared the bejeebus out of many people.  The disease is harsh, and the fear of it is reasonable considering the toll.  But it is by no means a new thing that disease can throw the world into upheaval.  The Black Plague and other plagues changed the structure of society in Europe especially.  Money became concentrated in fewer hands because, of course, families were losing members, and sometimes entire families died.  When the elders were gone, inheritance and the lack of siblings created a pot of gold for the survivors to upgrade their existence.


The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed,
But swollen with wind and the rank mist they draw,
Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread ...

Environmental collapse, as we see with the bee population, and various extinction events, is a very dangerous situation.  We have very few ways to fix the world, if we get so far as to cause a collapse of any of the important links to human survival.  Without bees, pollination won't occur.  If that happens, NO FRUIT.  As small as bees are, we could be taken out by the loss of bees. 


Some scholars believe that we can apply lessons of the past to the knowledge of how to prevent disasters in the future. Jared Diamond, Clive Ponting and Alfred Crosby are all very intelligent men who dissect the lessons of the past to demonstrate what the future might hold.  As you might guess, the answers they arrive at are troubling.  The cost of modernity is high, and as the ancient peoples of the earth learned, the resources of the land are finite, and the greater the number, the closer to empty the land becomes, for resources.

However while each of these books are very well written, and come to conclusions that should shake you down to your foundations, the truth about existence is that we can hear the facts, and stop our forward motion.   Thankfully, any tale of warning about the future comes with a potential to change our ways.  Also, I think it is important to note that while there is reason to fear, people have feared the encroaching disaster for millenia.  I am not saying everything is rosie, but I am saying, we can make choices that are better than those we've made.  The reason you don't teach algebra in kindergarten is because the child has no concept of theories and ideas presented.  But you can teach it by 9th or 10th grade.  The difference is that after 9 years of education, a child becomes mentally conditioned to think.   Learning is a good thing, perhaps reading these warnings have fallen upon deaf ears in the past, but if my theory that humans grow intellectually through experience, we have a chance.


In the past it is known that at various times the common people believed in false things.  Whether or not it helped them in life is another story, but, at one point the renaissance occurred because scholars abandoned certain paradigms and said, we need to know better.  Not every false belief is bad, not every scientific choice is great, but in this case, the choice to further study and abandon certain beliefs pushed human mental progress forward.

All books presented here are worth your time to read.  You might not agree with the concepts or theories, but at least you'll be better informed to make your choices.

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