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Better Living Through Science? Are We Really Free and What Is Our Future?

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posted on Jan, 24 2008 @ 02:42 PM
Bigger isn't always better. For that matter - What does "better" mean? In a world of multi-national corporations and ever-expanding government, it's easy to see the perils of our bohemoth civilization. Even the epitomy of capitalism, our banks and stock markets, are struggling under the weight of their own unchecked growth and greed.

It seems that at every level of society we are looking for equalibrium, a less sharp contrast between extremes: More parity between the West and Third-world or developing nations, fewer class distinctions (the haves vs. the have-nots) and a balance between security and liberty. Even on a daily, more personal, basis people are struggling to find a balance between work and all of its demands and stresses versus enjoying our families and down-time.

According to this article, it seems as if all of our efforts to simplify, organize and control our lives and society, all of our efforts to be more efficient and productive, to quantify, maximize and measure, have actually created the mess we are in and will, envariably, lead to authoritarian rule. Organization and interconnectedness has its drawbacks, especially when things are going horribly wrong.

Are we really more civilized? Organized? Better? More efficient? In technological ways the answer is undoubtly yes. But from a human perspective and from the stand point of civilization it seems as if we are devolving. Life may be longer but is it better? Are our families stronger? Are our communities beneficial? Is the world more stable? Is humanity more successful now than 50, 100 or 200 years ago?

I think it's debatable and I look forward to reading what ATS has to say.

Scientific Techniques and Concentration of Power

One of the most obvious results of industrialism is that a much larger percentage of the population live in towns than was formerly the case. The town dweller is a more social being than the agriculturist, and is much more influenced by discussion. In general, he works in a crowd, and his amusements are apt to take him into still larger crowds. The course of nature, the alternations of day and night, summer and winter, wet or shine, make little difference to him; he has no occasion to fear that he will be ruined by frost or drought or sudden rain. What matters to him is his human environment, and his place in various organisations especially.

Take a man who works in a factory, and consider how many organisations affect his life. There is first of all the factory itself, and any larger organisation of which it may be a part. Then there is the man's trade union and his political party. He probably gets house room from a building society or public authority. His children go to school. If he reads a newspaper or goes to a cinema or looks at a football match, these things are provided by powerful organisations. Indirectly, through his employers, he is dependent upon those from whom they buy their raw material and those to whom they sell their finished product. Above all, there is the State, which taxes him and may at any moment order him to go and get killed in war, in return for which it protects him against murder and theft so long as there is peace, and allows him to buy a fixed modicum of food.

The increase of organisation has brought into existence new positions of power. Every body has to have executive officials, in whom, at any moment, its power is concentrated. It is true that officials are usually subject to control, but the control may be slow and distant. From the young lady who sells stamps in a Post Office all the way up to the Prime Minister, every official is invested, for the time being, with some part of the power of the State. You can complain of the young lady if her manners are bad, and you can vote against the Prime Minister at the next election if you disapprove of his policy. But both the young lady and the Prime Minister can have a very considerable run for their money before (if ever) your discontent has any effect.

The increased power of officials is an inevitable result of the greater degree of organisation that scientific technique brings about. It has the drawback that it is apt to be irresponsible, behind-the-scenes, power, like that of Emperors' eunuchs and Kings' mistresses in former times. To discover ways of controlling it is one of the most important political problems of our time. Liberals protested, successfully, against the power of kings and aristocrats; socialists protested against the power of capitalists. But unless the power of officials can be kept within bounds, socialism will mean little more than the substitution of one set of masters for another: all the former power of the capitalist will be inherited by the official.

As we have seen, the question of freedom needs a completely fresh examination. There are forms of freedom that are desirable, and that are gravely threatened; there are other forms of freedom that are undesirable, but that are very difficult to curb... The resultant two-fold problem, of preserving liberty internally and diminishing it externally, is one that the world must solve, and solve soon, if scientific societies are to survive.

A hypothesis on the result of using scientific techniques so successfully upon civilization:

Limits to Power

According to Bertrand Russell's 1952 book The Impact of Science on Society* empires of the past were unable to sustain their control over ever distant regions of their dominion mostly due to the difficulty of maintaining effective centralized control over the actions of their subordinates. Scientific technique has removed this limitation. The only remaining obstacle to the creation of a truly worldwide empire is the establishment of a unifying principle to replace the fear of war.

... a scientific world society cannot be stable unless there is a world government... unless there is a world government which secures universal birth control, there must from time to time be great wars, in which the penalty of defeat is widespread death by starvation... Unless, at some stage, one power or group of powers emerges victorious and proceeds to establish a single government of the world with a monopoly of armed forces, it is clear that the level of civilization must decline until scientific warfare becomes impossible - that is until science is extinct.

This last point is very important because the exact same theme was described by Zbigniew Brzezinski in his book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (1997). Brzezinski outlines his case for how current American global supremacy should be used to unify the world under the dictates of the United Nations.

[edit on 24/1/08 by kosmicjack]

posted on Jan, 25 2008 @ 12:46 PM
So this is probably the most boring thread in ATS history but I am going to bump it based on the responses I have been reading to Slackerwire's very interesting thread here:

The many responses from ATS members who have expressed a desire to see overwhelming change and/or destruction in society lead me to believe the question "Are we better off?" needs debate.

I tend to think that we are suffering from the effects of the law of diminishing returns. No matter how many technological advances we discover, we will always be limited by the constraints of our own humanity. Despite technology, we are not better off - society is not more civilized, communities are not more effective. It seems to me we have only traded one set of problems for another.

For instance: We are no longer dying from the standard communicable diseases yet diabetes and heart disease are on the rise. We no longer allow overt forms of discrimination within our culture yet we allow people to die by the thousands in Darfur while we scrap for oil in Iraq.

It seems as though we have been able to improve so much with science and yet the human condition remains just as fragile and foilbled as it has ever been.

There is a thread running on ATS right now that poses the question of how many times the earth has been destroyed. Given that it seems as if humanity itself is currently at the root of the world's problems, it's no stretch of the imagination to think we have failed many times before and we will do so again - unless we can overcome our troubled inclinations and find equalibrium.


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