The Evolution Of Progress
a book by C. Owen Paepke
(our site's book review)
This book is about the end of material progress and the beginning of progress in human traits and abilities. He says we can more than make up for the halt to material progress by use of increased human abilities like increase of intelligence, etc., which is what the 21st century will concentrate upon. The author concludes that this is a milestone but nearly everyone missed it. He seems like someone whose thinking and writing would benefit from the contexts of Capra (the new, ecological-holistic paradigm versus the old, mechanistic-reductionistic paradigm) and Toffler (the three Waves of history—especially the Third Wave, and the powershift in the nature of power), as they pinpoint the specifics of progress and social change in a more concise and organized manner.
We haven't stopped the threat of contagious diseases—we've merely stimulated them to develop heartier forms
The author, proving he likes to stick his head in the sand since in 1992 when the book was written the writing was already on the wall, states that antibiotics and vaccines have nearly eliminated the threat of contagious diseases in the developed world. This, of course, is wrong. Antibiotics have stopped many people from getting seriously sick or even dying, to be sure, but, overall, their systems effect on viruses and bacteria has been to stimulate them to develop heartier forms and sneakier approaches. So, we've made the problem worse (e.g., Deadly 'superbugs' invade U.S. health care facilities). See The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance. And his contention that energy is abundant and cheap needs mitigating with a Hazel Henderson ecological-holistic context, because the costs of energy are not so much about dollars as about ecological consequences.
We've stopped the threat of contagious diseases? Let's hurry and tell the CDC! Is Paepke's head in the sand?
Paepke says that current research establishes the feasibility of improving innate human characteristics. This may be true, but, for the most part, is beside the point. It is human beings relationships with one another in families, nations, tribes, and internationally that will prove to be the critical issue that our survival will hinge upon. The chaos, confusion, hate, violence, oppression, xenophobia and misunderstandings in this area will dwarf the concerns over human trait enhancement. One look at humanity’s track record in just the last century should have underscored this for Paepke beyond any doubt. We're better off improving emotional intelligence than IQ.
While he’s sure that children will surely be genetically and/or biologically engineered for improved brain function, and the demand for such services will be “irresistible,” the rest of us look at the thorny political and ethical issues involved, wince, and find ourselves desiring to somehow avoid such areas. Somehow, Paepke has forgotten the horrific consequences of the social engineering experiments that stained the 20th century, and he apparently expects that everyone else has as well. They haven’t. The huge surge of mistrust for big government in general, politics as savior, “experts” with plans, and social engineering in particular is both (partial) cause and effect of the new trend towards decentralization and the empowerment of the individual and small group instead of the big, impersonal, Second Wave, mass-man institution.
Paepke should quit looking to social or biological engineering superheroes
Paepke, a former research chemist and a presently practicing anti-trust lawyer, is lacking the political, sociological and psychological knowledge that he would need to be an effective generalist, rather than a partially effective one with a collection of good ideas, half-correct predictions, and naïve conclusions. Ironically, his discussions of AI (artificial intelligence) are more interesting than his predictions about human trait enhancement, even though these AI discussions are in areas that represent part of the formula for material progress, which he says is ending.
Material progress, which Paepke says is ending, is not ending: the nanotechnology and AI fields have incredible progress potentials—they're just beginning
All in all, one cannot help but concur with him that it would be great if people got a lot smarter and soon. The volatile, unstable, dangerous world situation; the litany of relationship, communication and parenting dysfunctionality symptoms; and the accelerating viral and bacterialogical mutations, species losses, pollution, global warming, ozone depletion and waste disposal problems of the environmental crises all require such a eugenic quantum leap and soon.
If only someone had a social evolution raygun to zap humanity toward social-cultural enhancement; but until they invent that, the MC movement will be our only real hope
One hesitates, however, as one meditates on this dilemma: Isn’t it true that many of the intelligent people in the world are some of the biggest sources of the problems above? Aren’t people using their smarts to further exploit one another as well as the environment? The brainy people who got us all this progress in technology, without dedicating an equal amount of effort at getting us socially and psychologically ready for their implications, aren't they the ones who foisted the cultural lag on us in the first place? And aren’t genetic experiments on people as well as on microscopic entities likely to have dangerous consequences? And doesn’t all this show that what we need more than more smarts is more people using all their existing smarts in a way that directly improves life, relationships, communication skills and nurturing so that we will not only survive another century but thrive happily as we do so? See Why Register for an MC?.
Registering for MC search and match
Aren’t genetic experiments on people as well as on microscopic entities likely to have dangerous consequences?
After all, how did THIS experiment work out?!