Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Display:
On another forum not long ago a question came up for discussion.  Something like "What sci-fi books have influenced your worlview the most?"  My answer was something like the following.

Through my teen years my worldview was almost totally defined by Heinlein, Asimov, Verne and Wells.  Science and technology would solve every problem, and we would go to the stars and live happily every after.  

I was probably about 20 when I first read Dune.  It was something of a philosophical coming of age.  It opened my mind not only to ecological awareness, but to a larger truth as well.  Science and technology are two-edged swords.  They are not good or evil in themselves, only in how we choose to use them.  They may yet solve most if not all our problems, but only if we use them wisely -- if we understand clearly which edge we are using.

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?

by budr on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:31:17 PM EST
Both Verne and Wells has dystopic novels were technology is used by mad men to destroy, destroy, destroy. These are unfortunately not what has survived as classics.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:51:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Time Machine hasn't survived as a classic?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:53:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, maybe its not as clear-cut as I put it. But the time machine does at least have an happy ending.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 03:41:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean he escapes back to the past?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 03:47:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, compared with the War in the Air which ends with contemporary civilization destroyed, escaping back to an intact contemporary Britain is a happy ending.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 04:06:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately or not we cannot go back with or without time machine...unless we destroy civilization completely and survivors start from the caves. Even then some of them may have advanced knowledge compared to cave man and would come back faster. It hopefully is not going to happen...But remembering all those sci-fiction books and movies I am more scared that "machines" are going to overcome and rule us...give them a "brain" and they may not need us , ha-ha, unless as slaves...
Are we going to become idiots? And not only in face to face communication ( which I find most scary)...I don't know...Yes, because of the helpful technology next generation will not think the same way we did and they will definitely advance faster but they will be hopeless and helpless without technology. And with planet raging and fighting back (climate change) they may find themselves very often without power (remember Sandy and other storms, tsunamis etc. not to mention ever more frequent wars). Let's face it, next generation can hardly cook let alone to be able to find food in nature or start fire without lighter (they may have never seen matches, ha-ha). Also with technology comes independence and this alienates people at close contact (family, friends, neighbours...) and in case of emergency we cannot rely on our overseas internet friends and family.    
There is much more on negative side that we can think off right now. Obviously positive side we can all understand.
by vbo on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 09:46:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Study Claims Human Intelligence Peaked Two To Six Millennia Ago - Slashdot
"Professor Gerald "Jerry" Crabtree of Stanford's Crabtree Laboratory published a paper (PDF) that has appeared in two parts in Trends in Genetics. The paper opens with a very controversial suggestion: 'I would be willing to wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions.' From there, Crabtree speculates we're on the decline of human intelligence and we have been for at least a couple millennia. His argument suggests agriculture and, following from that, cities, have allowed us to break free of some environmental forces on competitive genetic mutations -- a la Mike Judge's theory. However, the conclusion of the paper urges humans to keep calm and carry on, as any attempt to fix this genetic trend would almost certainly be futile and disturbing."

I thought of your diary instantly when I read this on Slashdot this morning.  This longer trend, if it exists and it very likely does, should concern us even more than our constant fixation on the latest new and shiny toy of the week.

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?

by budr on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 08:20:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What about the average citizen of Sparta?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 08:22:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting stuff.
by vbo on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 08:32:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Headline should be: Paper suggest civilization makes teh stupid, proposes study.

As the author finally notes:

If the above argument is correct one would predict that individuals in undisturbed hunter gather societies would be more intellectually capable than those of us in more modern, urban, distributive societies.

Which has not been studied.

And his concept of isolated hunters that dies quickly if they fail the hunt as opposed to todays Wall Street bankers that gets a bonus instead, misses that the social game is also part of hunter-gatherers societies.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 08:48:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is all thinly disguised social Darwinism with an afterthought repudiation of Eugenics.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 08:55:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That thought crossed my mind too.  Those of an um, shall we say eugenicist persuasion would know exactly what to make of those findings, if they are real.  I imagine that's what the last sentence of the quotation is about.  I don't think that was the author's intention, but there are those who would use it to further their agendas.

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?
by budr on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 09:06:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
what to make of those findings

What are the findings, exactly? That's the issue here, it's pure speculation based on extrapolating numbers of genes and mutation rates.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 09:49:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I used the term loosely.  His findings, his theories, his speculations, whatever you want to call them.  When I saw the post on Slashdot it seemed relevant to the discussion.

It's hardly an original idea.  I've wondered about it myself, and I doubt I'm alone in that.  Is it possible or likely that modern science and technology have made it possible for members of our species who are less robust from a survivability standpoint -- however you choose to define or measure that -- to survive and propagate, and in doing so move the overall numbers downward?

Purely anecdotal and so conclusive of nothing, I am a walking example of the question.  I carry not one but two genetic defects that, probably before the industrial revolution and almost certainly before the agricultural revolution, would have severely curtailed my expected life span.  And in so doing, substantially lessened the likelihood that I would have produced offspring, and if I had that I would have lived long enough to ensure that they got a good start in life and so lived to reproduce themselves.

For me the question is not academic.  I have wrestled with the ethics of possibly passing on those defects to my two sons. In my case the question is not lessening of intelligence -- we all seem to score a smidge above average on the typical mental aptitude tests -- but on the issue of physical robustness.  I wouldn't have made it through adolescence as a paleo bison hunter.  Probably not much past it as a neolithic agriculturist.  So, am I contributing, not to the dumbing down but maybe to the wimping down, of the human gene pool?

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?

by budr on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 11:54:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
His findings, his theories, his speculations, whatever you want to call them.

No, it does matter what you call them. You can make up an infinite number of self-consistent hypotheses, but you first need to confront them with reality to take them seriously. Your own estimation that the trend "very likely does" exist needs a basis, too.

less robust from a survivability standpoint -- however you choose to define or measure that

Again, it matters very much how you choose to define that. Especially if we consider what Darwinian fitness means: it's not some innate quality, as in the imagination of Social Darwinists, but a function of the environment (in the widest sense of the word; one could also use "niche"), which in our case has been and is being modified heavily by culture.

I carry not one but two genetic defects that, probably before the industrial revolution and almost certainly before the agricultural revolution, would have severely curtailed my expected life span.

But we are not before the industrial and agricultural revolutions, so you are speaking about an imaginary "survivability". You then build an ethical dilemma atop this imaginary fitness. If physical robustness is not a trait with a greater value of fitness now, then why do you want it? (In fact, already our pre-agricultural-revolution ancestors were less robust than Neanderthals.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 01:12:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, vbo.  I seem to have dragged the discussion rather far afield from the original subject of you diary.  My apologies, it was not intentional.

I'll shut up now.

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?

by budr on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 01:35:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No worries, it's perfectly OK.
by vbo on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 05:17:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Err, sorry DoDo.  I thought I was answering vbo.  I seem to have exceeded my intellectual capacity for the day.

Now I'll shut up.

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?

by budr on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 05:10:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope that is isn't too off topic, but as I was walking back from the gym yesterday I had a thought.

Google Scholar is nice in that it allows people to search academic papers quickly, but it seems sort of clumsy.

How nice would it be to have a website that cataloged articles by independent and dependent variables, methodology, and the like?

I was thinking about the relationship between population density and political leanings, which I think would be hard to locate an article on using Google scholar as it stands now.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Thu Nov 15th, 2012 at 05:50:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Island of Doctor Moreau?

H.G. Wells' literary product largely consisted of a series of fictive attempts to explore how technology might or technologists might save humanity. In the end he concluded that this was not likely in Mind at the End of Its Tether.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 10:51:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
True, but like most people, I only saw what I wanted to see...

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?
by budr on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 03:22:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Science and technology are two-edged swords.  They are not good or evil in themselves, only in how we choose to use them.  They may yet solve most if not all our problems, but only if we use them wisely -- if we understand clearly which edge we are using.  

True...but can we control ourselves? Especially when capitalist propaganda ( especially TV in very perfidious way , etc.) is pushing us toward THEIR goal of consumerism at all cost...  
by vbo on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 10:44:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed, that is the question.  At some level it has always been the question.  Do we choose the welfare of the many or the desires of the privileged few?  The path of long term security or the gratification of the moment?  And as you suggest, all too often we choose the latter.

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?
by budr on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 08:32:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Display:

Occasional Series