The case against perpetual progress

As I grow older (and as a parent), the future of civilisation is something that preoccupies my mind more and more. That, and a million other only slightly less weighty things.
So, if you haven’t got enough to worry about, here’s a sobering quote here on Canalside View from Tim O’Reilly’s article ‘The rise of anti-intellectualism and the end of progress’.

canalside view

1858_4_CourseOfEmpire_Destruction_Cole

For so many in the techno-elite, even those who don’t entirely subscribe to the unlimited optimism of the Singularity, the notion of perpetual progress is somehow taken for granted.  As a former classicist turned technologist, I’ve always lived with the shadow of the fall of Rome, the failure of its intellectual culture, and the stasis that gripped the Western world for the better part of a thousand years…

History teaches us that conservative, backward-looking movements often arise under conditions of economic stress. As the world faces problems ranging from climate change to the demographic cliff of ageing populations, it’s wise to image widely divergent futures.

Yes, we may find technological solutions that propel us into new golden age of robots, collective intelligence, and an economy built around ‘the creative class’. But it’s at least as probable that as we fail to find those solutions quickly enough, the world falls into…

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