The “Libertarian Space Men” value free market principles, private property, technological progress, and personal freedom. This group defines human progress in terms of economic growth, (galactic) expansion, increasing intelligence, and an ever-improving capacity to understand, predict, and manipulate reality.
The “Gaia Collective” values environmental conservation and repair, sustainable living, peaceful coexistence, and spiritual growth. This group defines human progress in terms of ending war, lifting all people out of poverty, compassionate treatment of the young/old/infirm, humane treatment of animals, and a sustainable way of life with minimal impact on Earth’s geology, climate, and ecosystems.
The two groups are not so much opposed to each other as they are to “future-by-inertia,” which is the future we’ll get if we continue business as usual, pursuing short-term interests while ignoring long-term consequences. Almost everyone, including myself, is a member of the future-by-inertia group on at least some days. Like most people, I burn fossil fuels, use electricity, consume products, eat ocean-caught fish, and so on. Business-as-usual, which leads to a possibly dystopic future.
My best guess for what future-by-inertia looks like (the future we’ll get if neither the Gaia Collective nor the Libertarian Space Men have much of an impact) is a 100-year dark age during which energy demand outpaces energy supply. Not the end of the human race, but an ugly stretch that will include population decline, continued environmental degradation, continued poverty and war, and declining standards of living in terms of education, healthcare, leisure time, and expendable income for most of us (with many exceptions and bright spots).
What Beliefs Do We Hold Re: “What Has Gone Wrong?”
As a species, we’ve picked the planet’s low-hanging fruit. First we ate all the mega-fauna, then we chopped down most of the planet’s forests for fuel. We found and burned the easy-to-get oil and coal, we’ve eaten most of the fish. Lately we’ve noticed the atmosphere itself is warming up, with a strong possibility of disrupting stable climate patterns that we’ve become accustomed to.
On the other hand, there are many reasons to be hopeful. We know how to live with less environmental impact (even if we don’t always do so), most nations/tribes/groups peacefully coexist (and intermingle/share cultural wealth), and there are new technological miracles everyday that expand our understanding of reality, open up new creative spaces, and expand the realm of what is possible.
I’ve already looked at different concepts of “human progress,” including the possibility that all human progress is illusory. But what about “anti-progress”? What kind of assumptions do we hold about what’s holding us back as a species?
I’ve revealed one of my own assumptions by looking at the human timeline through the lens of reckless resource depletion (megafauna, forests, oil, coal, fish).
What are your own assumptions regarding what is “wrong” with humanity? What is preventing us from taking a great leap forward into an age of global peace, prosperity, and discovery?
Let’s unpack a few of the possibilities, and look at the evidence for each.