October 17, 2018

American Civilization and Where it is Headed

There are two essays by T.S.W. over at DeclinationThe first one looks at what American Civilization actually is and the second looks at current trends and does comparative analysis with historical examples.  Both are quite lengthy (over 4300 words for the second one) but thoughtful.

I strongly recommend you read them both in full.

"You should probably disregard his recommendation if you are easily disturbed, prone to anxiety or depression, are on any medication that can cause suicidal thoughts, or have a particularly frail constitution."

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 03:15 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 At times I do fear for our society. But at others, I look around and ask where is the actual existential threat that is similar in magnitude to anything earlier generations have faced before? (Yes, there are a few that come to mind, but if we're already in despair mode when fat and happy, how on Earth... )

Also, this cycle of history thing: I like to push back against it also.
1. Everyone fixates on Rome, but there are dozens of European civilizations between Rome and America. Also, we aren't Rome. (Yes, we are currently saddled with a political aristocracy that has it's head up it's ass, but that isn't specific to Rome, or us.)
The roman republic percolated out of the bronze age. Every single tribe went to war with every other tribe every summer in something out of a Robert E. Howard pulp-novel. Life was cheap. Tribal cohesion was mandated by immediate Darwinian consequences. It was a radically different world from Renaissance Europe or colonial America.

2. We are so far off the map of historical bronze-age Malthusian equilibrium that trying to draw a line (or a sine-wave, or an exponential curve) through any trend older than 100 years ago seems foolish. Give me the average period between civilizations planting flags on the moon, then backsliding. You can't. There's only been one example so far. This is both a promise and a threat: We aren't feeding the current population of the Earth with preindustrial technology or social orders. Hopefully, with some technological and social intelligence, we'll never have to. (On the other hand, it doesn't seem physically realistic that everything goes exponential forever unless we get *really good* at space colonies.)

3. These vast irresistible social forces narratives assume that we're slaves to our social dogmas, instead of the other way around. That we're the chattel property of our tribe and culture instead of it's generators and masters. That actually was true of the Bronze age, and of what Popper called "closed societies", of totalitarian and fanatic states. May we never repeat that hideous mistake!
The only thing more dismal in terms of worldview than the "irresistable historical forces" worldviews are the "irresistable genetic inheritance" worldviews. Show me the cave paintings of the Cro-Magnon moon landings!

Posted by: madrocketsci at Mon Oct 22 00:07:58 2018 (TTXhu)

2 I dunno. I'll probably backslide myself from time to time, but I do like to affirm the following:

We can blow up the world, or we can decay into some dismal static mandarinate, or we can go colonize space, or we can build cool underwater cities, or we can create AI and (screw it up/not screw it up), or we could all go back to nature tomorrow (and promptly starve), or we can (some of us each) do all of the above. And none of it will be some fixed epicycle written in the stars or in the history books, or mandated by historical forces or astrology. It will be the consequence of our choices that determine this. If being human means anything at all, it's that we have brains and can understand the world and react accordingly. What we do isn't an inescapable instinctive pattern.

Posted by: madrocketsci at Mon Oct 22 00:19:18 2018 (TTXhu)

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