The 21st century holds the promise to be an era of enlightenment and human development. Technological progress has grown exponentially and who is to say it won’t continue like that. The idea of a better, more advnced world is something that fills our minds with wonder and enthusiasm. Yet many people today think that progress can be harmful.
There are two main reasons why humans may fear progress.
The first, is that progress entails change and change is not something we handle that well as a species. We are by nature creatures of habit seeking certainty in an uncertain world. Even when change is for the better, we may struggle with it.
The second, more personal reason, is that while from an abstract perspective “progress” can be said to be good, the truth is that changes will benefit some and harm others. This very real cost that progress can entail is what moves so many people to fight against it.
The most clear example is without a doubt the constant attempts to fight technological change in order to “secure” jobs. While this may seem reasonable at first glance I shall try to explain why this kind of thinking is completely backwards.
First of all, what is a job? It is in essence something undesirable that you do not want to do. It’s something you are compelled to do in order to achieve something else. A job is a means to an end and. Not, as many people think in today’s unemployment riddled economies, an end in itself.
A job is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end.
Therefore, it follows that eliminating the need to perform undesirable tasks, while still achieving the same goal, should always be viewed as something positive.
When the agricultural revolution allowed the world to feed itself with about half as much labour, were we worst off? Of course not. This allowed for half the workforce to dedicate itself to something else, and this is what allowed industry to develop. Freeing up human time and effort is good. It’s what allows us to better ourselves.
If you think progress and technology are bad because they destroy jobs perhaps you should stop sending emails and give the postman his job back.
Once you understand this (that jobs are a means to an end, not an end in itself) it is also evident why government spending is often a waste, or the old fallacy that war is “good” for the economy. Destroying things so that you can rebuild them or investing your efforts in creating weapons of destruction does not benefit anyone. It is a step back. You are simply working to get back to where you were instead of working towards something better.
Granted, that is precisely the problem today. Most people don’t know what to do. Much can be said about this. I have written extensively about how education today crushes our resourcefulnes and inventiveness.
The point is, as always, that we mustn’t let our perverted democratic systems put the desires of a few(organized pressure groups such as lobbies, workers unions and others) above the needs and wants of everyone.
But it is not only workers who fight progress. Whole industries do this too. Unsurprisingly it is those industries with the closest ties to government that can do this.
The reason this is of the utmost importance now is because the next 50 years will probably radically shift the way the world works.
To list some fun and illustrative examples:
–Energy: Without a doubt, the biggest challange we face as a species. As I was saying before, it is very clear that all the big oil proucing firms and countries are going to fight any change in this field like their life depends on it.
Weather we like it or not, a lot of money is tied up in oil, and if we want to allow for a swift transition, we must let progress occur unhampered.
From what I’ve heard, cold fusion, just recently demonstrated in Russia, could be the energy of the future, capable of producing energy at 20x the rate of oil. With a single recharge you could fuel your car for maybe 4 years.
To think where we might be today if the scientific community had not discredited cold fusion over twenty years ago. Coincidence? I Like to think not.
–Self-driving cars: Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about the success of Uber, an app which allows individuals to provide transportation services to other individuals. However, this won’t last for long.
Self-driving cars already exist, and it is just a matter of people accepting them into their lifes. Think of all the time and human effort that will be spared. Think about the convenience of being able to program your car to pick you up wherever you are. Think of how many lives will be saved.
–Moving into the cloud: This is something we all know is happening, but again, there is much resistance to it. The world of interent allows us to do almost anything from the comfort of our computers at home. The need for physical space, offices, or physical records, or physical anything, for that matter, is disappearing.
In conclusion, we must not allow our fears stop us from achieving the greatness we are meant for. We must not let our petty little problems stand in the way of true progress. For what other aim is there in life, but to advance and better our existence?