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Altherion

Are the best years of our civilization still to come?

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1 minute ago, JEORDHl said:

It's not though. Calls and requests for the dewormer have gone up exponentially in Canada as well, and like many other countries we have our own national brand of 'Trumpsters'. I've seen this statement here a few times, and over and over on Twitter-- but this uncaring, unsympathetic, anti-science bent that Trump somehow emboldened in the US is not limited to the US. These people, they're not embarrassed anymore. They're proud of it. And the fuckers are everywhere.    

That’s true, idiots exist everywhere. I won’t deny it. But in the US you have idiocy combined with an extreme level of entitlement. In the US the individual is Alpha and Omega. It’s a very selfish, egocentric society all things considered (my impression from my time over there). This selfishness is just marketed quite well as „urge for freedom“, „freedom spirit“ etc. Much more so than in most European countries, and much much more than Far East Asia or Middle East.

Combine stupidity with entitlement („who are you to tell me ANYTHING“) and that’s the outcome. Add the doubling down effect. 

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11 minutes ago, Mentat said:

I kind of do, so either I made my point very poorly, I'm very stupid despite my choice of user name, or you are not as clever as you think you are.

A vaccine was developed within a year and millions have been vaccinated. Though I do believe we have the chance to progress as a civilization, I would ask you to tell me if at any point in the past we would have done any better.

Regardless, an anecdotal example of extreme stupidity proves very little. We could find one in any point in history where we cared to look.

My point precisely. There is no point in history where stupidity does not reign. A pinnacle will be reached when one can show an eradication of obtuseness. 

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My point was simply, less humans = higher level of good for natural world=higher civilization.

Unless one is willing to overlook all the toxic chemicals, clearcutting, air pollution, extinction level hunting and water poisoning and say "This is advancement!"

I don't buy that at all.

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1 minute ago, maarsen said:

My point precisely. There is no point in history where stupidity does not reign. A pinnacle will be reached when one can show an eradication of obtuseness. 

 

I can't compare our civilization with whatever comes after us, because I'm not a soothsayer. I hope we progress and manage to do better rather than succumb to our own flaws and climate catastrophe, but that's about it.

 

I can, however, compare our civilization with what we know of ages past and, as far as I'm concerned, we're doing better. Calling it a pinnacle may seem like I'm glorifying our own culture or ignoring our glaring mistakes and shortcomings, but that's not the spirit in which it is intended.

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12 hours ago, Arakan said:

We can take bets: Which country will first be occupied due to „security reasons“ and „peacebringing“? Mexico by the US or Ukraine by Russia? 

Oh please. As Ty constantly reminds us, the US is going to come after Canada’s water.

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2 minutes ago, DireWolfSpirit said:

My point was simply, less humans = higher level of good for natural world=higher civilization.

Unless one is willing to overlook all the toxic chemicals, clearcutting, air pollution, extinction level hunting and water poisoning and say "This is advancement!"

I don't buy that at all.

That's a very odd measure of civilization. Wouldn't peak civilization be some point before the appearance of Homo Sapiens, then, rather than America just before the arrival of Columbus? Many large mammals went extinct in America as a result of the arrival of Homo Sapiens.

 

I agree that pollution is bad and that respecting the environment is a sign of civilization (and not one we're doing particularly well at). That said, respecting the environment is not the same as lacking the means to damage it significantly.

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On 8/28/2021 at 7:01 PM, felice said:

I would like to hope that there will be a better civilization at some point in the future, but I don't think it will be "ours" in any meaningful sense. It will be built on top of our ruins, if it does ever happen.

This gets at what I meant by saying the term was too abstract. I took it to mean human civilization in general, but your interpretation is valid too. So I think it's a bit of meaningless question the way it's phrased! 

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On 8/28/2021 at 5:35 PM, DMC said:

Nah, not to me at least.  Asking if things can still get better is not the same as saying things are best now.

Okay true, the implication would be that either the peak is now or the peak has already passed.

I suppose that's a subjective opinion and, as has been argued by others in the thread, there may be other points that one might deem the peak. I personally wouldn't. In some cases, we don't really have that much information about a period and so considering it the peak seems like some combination of projection/wishfulness. In others I think the benefits were applied so narrowly that I'd be hard-pressed to call it a peak.

For example, I like learning to read and write, not being forced into childbirth, not being able to be raped by my husband, not being bought or sold, not working 7 days a week in poor conditions, etc. etc. So to my perspective, yes our current civilization is pretty much a peak. Not that it's perfect, obviously it is NOT.

But in either case, that's irrelevant to the answer of the question, which I still maintain that yes, at some point between now and the heat death of the universe, human civilization will be better than it is today or has been in the past.

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6 minutes ago, Starkess said:

But in either case, that's irrelevant to the answer of the question, which I still maintain that yes, at some point between now and the heat death of the universe, human civilization will be better than it is today or has been in the past.

Yeah, I guess you can approach the question from a lot of different perspectives.  For me, I took the OP to mean "our" civilization as "western civilization," which is the dominant (even hegemonic) civilization for quite awhile now.  And in that regard, I think it's pretty clear western civilization already hit its peak and is now on the decline.

Of course, that doesn't mean some time in the future things will be better than they ever have before for human civilization at-large.  Definitely not trying to be apocalyptic about it - that seems like a reasonable thing to believe.  I just don't really care cuz I assume I'll be dead.

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I haven't kept a look in this thread so it might be repost

Quote

We generally assume that the world is becoming a better place every year. But when it comes to individual freedoms, the opposite is true. Most studies show humanity is now less free than several years ago.

20 years ago we had decentralized Internet and a relatively unrestricted banking system. Today, Apple and Google censor information and apps on our phones while Visa and Mastercard limit what goods and services we can pay for. Every year we give up more power and control over our lives to a handful of unaccountable corporate executives we didn't elect.

Most of us willingly carry tracking devices – our phones – and allow corporations to use our private data to target us with content that keeps us distracted with low-quality entertainment. Unlike 20 years ago, we are now surrounded by surveillance cameras, which in countries like China use AI to make sure nobody can hide.

In 2017, China overtook the US as the largest economy in the world by purchasing power, showing the world that individual freedoms are not required for economic development. Looking at China's success, more countries become authoritarian, curbing essential human rights such as freedom of speech, movement and assembly.

Who is going to fix it?

The most active and creative minds of our generation are too busy playing in the rapidly shrinking sandbox called "free enterprise" or producing digital content to keep everyone else glued to their devices for longer. The rest seem to be too distracted with the abundance of cheap digital entertainment to critically assess the trend and take action.

Watching this, I wonder what will become the legacy of our generation. Will we go down in history as those who let free societies turn into dystopian nightmares? Or will we be remembered as those who defended the freedoms that previous generations fought so hard to win?

https://t.me/s/durov

 

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Arakan said:

That’s true, idiots exist everywhere. I won’t deny it. But in the US you have idiocy combined with an extreme level of entitlement. In the US the individual is Alpha and Omega. It’s a very selfish, egocentric society all things considered (my impression from my time over there). This selfishness is just marketed quite well as „urge for freedom“, „freedom spirit“ etc. Much more so than in most European countries, and much much more than Far East Asia or Middle East.

Combine stupidity with entitlement („who are you to tell me ANYTHING“) and that’s the outcome. Add the doubling down effect. 

I get what you're saying, but come on. These are not unique to US culture. Like, listen to this [yes, he's American] and see how many tails you can pin on this fucking donkey.  

I know we're straying off topic, but shades of this guy and his toxic cocktail of issues are everywhere. There's nothing solely American about it. When I was young [small town Canada] guys like this invariably rubbed someone the wrong way and often got the piss slapped out of them at parties. But even back then, it didn't fundamentally change them. They just quit going to certain parties or stayed mostly within their ingroup, beating their girlfriends or their dogs or whatever. Which I suppose, is something in itself [in comparison, still bad of course] but the diminishing lack of consequence for such antisocialism has emboldened their particular sentimentalism, or cultural fundamentalism, or whatever their damage is, and here we are. The rot is spreading, undermining norms we've taken for granted, and their over riding focus seems fixed on a future that's the past.

And that's why I think, ultimately, with climate change no longer on the horizon [it's here] humanity as we know it is fucked. 

      

Edited by JEORDHl

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I can understand extreme scepticism of where 'we' are as a civilisation in terms of improvement- I'm generally of the opinion that on an extremely broad level, socially speaking we're advancing, but that advancement is constantly threatened by reactionary backslides and shit. However obviously quite a lot of the prejudice as we have it in the world now is a relatively recent introduction - eg religion-based homophobia being spread by the Church to colonised countries, which are now looked down upon by many in our newly more liberal countries for beliefs we forced on them in the first place and they haven't left behind yet, or racism in its modern form being an invention to justify colonialism and slavery. So we could easily fall back into extremes of bigotry and lack of care despite what seems to be a broad trend of getting more tolerant, socially caring etc now. And ultimately we're still living in modes of life created for 19th/20th century industrialism and capitalism - it's insane that our educational systems have not changed significantly more than they have given how differently we understand people now- so the changes could be way, way faster than they are. 

Technologically, obviously we're way ahead of where we ever were. Medicine in particular makes our quality of life now incomparable to life even a hundred years ago, let alone before that. You can argue about the objective improvement in other senses- I think computers and the internet are overall a good thing for reach of information and ease of communication, but obviously can be and are horrendously misused - but medicine is pretty objectively at an all-time high.

 

As people have mentioned though, we can predict no improvement without taking into account how the world reacts to what will almost certainly be enormous, devastating displacement and loss of life as a result of climate change. Other things are coming too - I'm a big worrier about what happens when job losses rise due to automation and things (that ties into my thought above about our social structures being antiquated- it should not be shameful to not have work).

 


However trying to argue that we are less civilised than the Romans seems... well, the arguments needed to believe that seem to be deeply classist. As Mentat pointed out, worldwide nowadays the poor and generally non-leisure classes are vastly more literate, have better access to travel, culture, food, etc etc etc, so to pretend that the Romans, or really afaik anything really pre-Modern though as not-a-historian I might be missing some time somewhere - you'd have to be deliberately building your argument on the basis that only the rich count. It's an argument that seems to me to be both elitist and ignorant.

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Posted (edited)

Technology is not interchangeable with the concept of civilized, any more than the concept of culture is interchangeable with technology or the concept of a people being civilized.  We have an entire culture right now, that is technologically advanced, and is anything but either civil or civilized.

The argument is that right now there is no part of the US, at least -- I don't wish to speak for other nations -- that is more civilized than Rome was at its height civility and civilization.  

That's the problem of using such saggy baggy concepts as 'civilization' without making markers as to who, what, when and where is indicated, and without noticing that all sorts of other concepts are not the equivalents of each other.

A famous apologist for imperialism says

Quote

 

Western Civilization: A Good Idea

by Niall Ferguson

According to folklore, Mahatma Gandhi was once asked by a reporter what he thought of Western civilization. He replied that he thought it would be a good idea. As the campaign against the concept advances, not least in American and European universities, I am inclined to agree with Gandhi. I think Western civilization really would be a good idea.  . . .

 

 

Edited by Zorral

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3 hours ago, Starkess said:

This gets at what I meant by saying the term was too abstract. I took it to mean human civilization in general, but your interpretation is valid too. So I think it's a bit of meaningless question the way it's phrased! 

I think this is a fair criticism; I had hoped that "our civilization" would make it clear, but apparently not. Yes, it's very probable that at some point in the distant future something will surpass what we have now, but that really makes it into a different question (namely, whether the world is completely destroyed to the point where nothing new can arise). What I meant was whether the world will get to this future without first falling into a Dark Age or something of the sort.

In other words, when the historians of that better world look back at history, will they say that humanity was on an unsustainable path for a century or two, but managed to correct course and thus arrived at where we currently are? Or will it be that humanity was on an unsustainable path for a century or two thus leading a massive collapse after which a bunch of dystopian stuff happened and it took a long, long time to go back to (and ultimately surpass) the standard of living of the early 21st century, but this time in a sustainable manner?

On 8/28/2021 at 3:09 AM, felice said:

The problem is the intelligent well-intentioned people coming up with solutions to problems aren't generally in a position to implement their solutions. If the people with money and power don't expect their personal benefit to outweigh the cost, it's generally not going to happen. And this is a civilization where a significant fraction of the population would rather take horse de-wormer than get vaccinated during a global pandemic. We're not a species that's good at making sensible decisions.

The first couple of sentences outline a serious weakness of our system... serious, but not quite fatal. The trick is that the people with money and power can be brought around into doing the right thing by making it so that it benefits them too. That is, it's not that they're absolutely attached to gasoline powered automobiles and coal power plants and the like, it's that they want a cut of the profits from rolling out the cleaner alternatives. This means that change is slower, but it does still happen in the end.

The horse de-wormer people are also a problem, but they're not a new one. There have always been people who believe outlandish things and if you take of order 100 million people, you will find a wide variety of bizarre beliefs. I'm not so worried about this one because most of the time these are harmless and even when they are not, they're almost always outnumbered. Remember, despite the vaccine being not approved for children, more than half of the overall population (i.e. including children so the fraction of eligible people is much higher) of the US, the UK and the EU are already fully vaccinated less than 2 years after the start of the pandemic.

On 8/28/2021 at 4:36 PM, A Horse Named Stranger said:

The biggest issue humanity faces, and fails to address properly is the climate crisis. The steps needed to properly tackle it, would mean an immediate reduction of the living standards around the developed world (fill in more political correct phrasing) and would not really help elevate the living standards in poorer countries. Addressing it properly would mean reducing travel and impact supply chains signficantly. I have very little faith in humanity doing what's needed there.

I have very little faith in that either, but I don't think it's proven that we need an immediate reduction in the standard of living. There's a race between the crisis and technology needed to solve it without running afoul of various political concerns. It's not clear who will win that race.

On 8/28/2021 at 4:36 PM, A Horse Named Stranger said:

You can run an economy based on the principle of sustainability, or on growth. Economic Growth has always beaten sustainability.

You can have both (although only up to a point) if you become more efficient. Furthermore, we're lucky in that in our economic system, becoming more efficient counts towards growth (e.g. if you insulate a house, that's still economic activity).

On 8/28/2021 at 4:36 PM, A Horse Named Stranger said:

When you think of the carbon footprint of bitcoin mining, you can only conclude that those mutated apes, who by galactic some mishap, ended up as the dominant species of this planet, have gone completely insane. Democracy is ill equipped to find solutions to the climate crisis, because politics thinks in different measures of time. The relevant intervals in politics is the time between elections, not what happens in 15-20 years (when a good part of today's voters are dead gone anyway). Otherwise politics would have taken more drastic measures 30 years ago...

The bitcoin miners are in the same category as the people treating covid with horse de-wormer: there always are and always will be people with a wide variety of beliefs each of which is very far from those which are held by their society. Very rarely, they turn out to be correct and are later hailed as visionaries who were ahead of their time. Much more often, their nonsense is forgotten by almost everyone.

The point about politics is valid, but again, not necessarily fatal. Much as with the rich and powerful (and in fact, the politicians are often part of the latter group), the trick is to make the solutions helpful in both the short term and the long one. This makes it harder, but not impossible.

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11 minutes ago, Altherion said:

I have very little faith in that either, but I don't think it's proven that we need an immediate reduction in the standard of living. There's a race between the crisis and technology needed to solve it without running afoul of various political concerns. It's not clear who will win that race.

This kind of optimism fascinates me, honestly. In respect to your background, and given the material issues @Rippounet discussed, what kind of technology do you imagine could head off the worst [or even least worst] outcomes? Carbon capture based, presumably, or what? 

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13 minutes ago, Altherion said:

I think this is a fair criticism; I had hoped that "our civilization" would make it clear, but apparently not. Yes, it's very probable that at some point in the distant future something will surpass what we have now, but that really makes it into a different question (namely, whether the world is completely destroyed to the point where nothing new can arise). What I meant was whether the world will get to this future without first falling into a Dark Age or something of the sort.

In other words, when the historians of that better world look back at history, will they say that humanity was on an unsustainable path for a century or two, but managed to correct course and thus arrived at where we currently are? Or will it be that humanity was on an unsustainable path for a century or two thus leading a massive collapse after which a bunch of dystopian stuff happened and it took a long, long time to go back to (and ultimately surpass) the standard of living of the early 21st century, but this time in a sustainable manner?

Ah okay, thanks for clarifying! Yeah that's an interesting question. I honestly don't know. I see a lot of takes on both sides of that answer that I find highly implausible and sometimes it feels like extreme pessimists/alarmists shouting at extreme optimists/naifs.

We have a lot of tools in our bag to work on upcoming crises, and hopefully more that will be developed. So I don't think all hope is lost, especially on a global level. But individual civilizations do rise and fall, and a willfully uneducated populace does make one nervous...

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Posted (edited)
24 minutes ago, Altherion said:

I have very little faith in that either, but I don't think it's proven that we need an immediate reduction in the standard of living. There's a race between the crisis and technology needed to solve it without running afoul of various political concerns. It's not clear who will win that race.

Ah right, I forgot to explicitly name the magical thinking of non-existent technologies, being right around the corner to save the day. Thus we don't need to do anything.

Not buying into that, sorry. And that mindset is part of the problem, why we will not be seeing the necessary steps being taken.

24 minutes ago, Altherion said:

You can have both (although only up to a point) if you become more efficient. Furthermore, we're lucky in that in our economic system, becoming more efficient counts towards growth (e.g. if you insulate a house, that's still economic activity).

No, not really. I mean, we (mankind) are effectively living beyond our means already anyway (in terms of resources being used in a year, annual emission output and so on and so forth). So I reiterate my point, the actions needed would immediately lead to a reduction in the living standards in the so called first world countries, and not improve life elsewhere.

Alas, I forgot, the technological solution is right around the corner.

Edited by A Horse Named Stranger

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