Fancy Science, Simple Minds


Technology makes us feel more advanced, as a species, than we actually are. We owe our technology to incremental progress, inventions building upon inventions. When the wheel was invented, someone else invented the wheel barrow, someone else the cart, etc. Technological innovation rarely demands genius.

Access to innovative technology doesn’t make us, as individuals, advanced either. In spite of widespread availability of new technology, stupidity thrives. Some of the most incompetent people in the world have iPhones, TVs, and cars. Plenty of CEOs are still making terrible decisions despite all the data and studies available to them and having immediate access to the thousands of employees they employ. Technology was the easy part, it is like a building where we just keep adding floor after floor. Advanced thinking is tricky though. We’ve still got plenty of dumb ideas, but we think we’re smart because we can share these ideas via mediums that are advanced.

To a civilization a million years old, I think technological innovation would be viewed as straight forward. An advanced society would look at combustion engines and think of them as rudimentary. They would watch our computers get smaller and smaller and would say, “of course technology becomes more compact and refined over time, why should you expect anything different?” Technology is a problem with clear right and wrong answers. Theories can be tested and measured in the physical world. Numbers ad up, chemicals react, it all fits.

How advanced a society is should deal less with what technology has been invented and more with how the society functions as a whole:

  • Prison sentences would be truly rehabilitating
  • Education would create more inventors, better politicians, and more artists. Not just great test takers
  • The education system would create opportunity to those in disadvantaged situations. Being born in Harlem wouldn’t mean worse odds of achieving your dreams
  • We would not try to solve poverty by handing people what they need. We would focus on providing  opportunity
  • Politics would not be corrupted by donors with heavy pockets, essentially buying control of our system
  •  Political campaigns would ignore slander and concentrate on the ideas of progress and peace
  • An advanced society would have more ethical companies
  • An advanced society would have already won the war on drugs or at least gangs & kids on drugs
  • Mental health wouldn’t be a nationwide issue. We wouldn’t have so many depression or traumatized.
  • Radical religions would be prevented from violence and killing innocents. More importantly, the forces that drive people to radical religions would be remedied. No more shootings, no more bombings.

Our science, math, and programming has progressed but it is natural progression that comes from incremental advancements. Science and technology cannot deliver cures for all of societies problems though. Most of the problems that technology doesn’t address have not progressed.  For example: Education, political polarization, fixing the economy, reducing poverty, reducing health care costs.

Forward progress depends largely on electing politicians that can be more diplomatic. Sure, it might take a miracle to agree on tax rates but things like education and mental health, and better rehabilitation in the justice system, we should at least be able to demand progress in those areas.

I think our political system reflects our society. Currently we tolerate a gridlocked Washington. We do not demand better education. We talk about it but when it doesn’t come, we don’t demand resignations. Progress requires us to make great strides in who we are as citizens. If we do not become better citizens we cannot have better conversations and so we will have colonized Mars before we can agree on how to grow our economy.

Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.


One response to “Fancy Science, Simple Minds

  1. You’ve raised some interesting points to ponder. Thank you.

    I think you’re on to something with your ideas about what constitutes real progress.

    I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with the adulation of ‘Progress’, as it seemed to be more about bright, shiny, new stuff than about meaningful, life-sustaining forward movement…

    I really like the Aristotle quote – that, too, is something to ponder 🙂


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