Support the IEET




The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States. Please give as you are able, and help support our work for a brighter future.



Search the IEET
Subscribe and Contribute to:


Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view




whats new at ieet

Bostrom on Superintelligence (1): The Orthogonality Thesis

Dazed and Confused — The Case for Comprehensive Sexual Education

Soylent Update Keto Version

Fermi Paradox & the Great Filter- Are We Likely Doomed?

Sherlock Holmes as Cyborg and the Future of Retail

Artificial Intelligence, Anthropics & Cause Prioritization


ieet books

Virtually Human: The Promise—-and the Peril—-of Digital Immortality
Author
by Martine Rothblatt


comments

Taiwanlight on 'Building the Virtues Control Panel' (Jul 30, 2014)

David Roden on 'What is the Difference between Posthumanism and Transhumanism?' (Jul 30, 2014)

Rick Searle on 'The Problem with the Trolley Problem, or why I avoid utilitarians near subways' (Jul 29, 2014)

Ste4en on 'What is the Difference between Posthumanism and Transhumanism?' (Jul 29, 2014)

OC on 'The Maverick Nanny with a Dopamine Drip: Debunking Fallacies in the Theory of AI Motivation' (Jul 29, 2014)

CygnusX1 on 'The Problem with the Trolley Problem, or why I avoid utilitarians near subways' (Jul 28, 2014)

instamatic on 'Beauty Is Skin-deep—But That’s Where Genetic Engineering Is Going Next' (Jul 27, 2014)







Subscribe to IEET News Lists

Daily News Feed

Longevity Dividend List

Catastrophic Risks List

Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

Technoprogressive List

Trans-Spirit List



JET

Transhumanism and Marxism: Philosophical Connections

Sex Work, Technological Unemployment and the Basic Income Guarantee

Technological Unemployment but Still a Lot of Work…

Hottest Articles of the Last Month


Nanomedical Cognitive Enhancement
Jul 11, 2014
(6078) Hits
(0) Comments

Interview with Transhumanist Biohacker Rich Lee
Jul 8, 2014
(5946) Hits
(0) Comments

Virtually Sacred, by Robert Geraci – religion in World of Warcraft and Second Life
Jul 3, 2014
(4505) Hits
(0) Comments

What is the Difference between Posthumanism and Transhumanism?
Jul 28, 2014
(3788) Hits
(2) Comments



IEET > Security > Eco-gov > SciTech > Rights > Economic > ReproRights > Life > Health > Vision > Technoprogressivism > Fellows > David Brin

Print Email permalink (39) Comments (6922) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


Was 1957 Better Than Today?


David Brin
David Brin
Contrary Brin

Posted: Oct 23, 2011

Read on only if you’re in the mood for pyrotechnics!

A recent blog article put me into fill-tilt, bellowing rant mode! It’s like one of those email circulars that our crazy uncles keep sending us—you know the kind, offering vast, sweeping, counter-factual assertions in lieu of evidence, logic or even common sense, all in order to justify hating half of their fellow citizens. I generally ignore them, but this one is wildly popular among millions of “values” Americans who have been talked into hating tomorrow. It needs an answer.


Nostalgia is for cretins.  America was built by men and women who dreamed and built. Who believed—and believe—in progress. Who forgo the sick drug of hate and who negotiate solutions.

By people who respect skill and knowledge and the folks who have them.

America was not built by fellows like the author of this maudlin paean to yesteryear, HIGH SCHOOL—1957 vs. 2010, who claims to have witnessed “how far our nation has declined socially, morally and spiritually,” and who proceeds to list scenarios such as: “Billy breaks a window in his neighbor’s car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.”

Let’s follow along this one comparison between 1957 and 2010:

1957 – Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college and becomes a successful businessman.

2010 – Billy’s dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy is removed to foster care and joins a gang. The state psychologist is told by Billy’s sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy’s mom has an affair with the psychologist.

But go ahead and read this spectacular feat of tendentious nostalgia and temporal myopia. You’ll laugh… when you’re not crying.

In fact, let me be honest and admit—two of these little tales, about how America had some simpler, more earthy aspects in 1957, resonate with parts of me that are, well, kinda conservative at heart… in the old-better way William F. Buckley meant it. Still, most of this “1957” screed is drooling imbecility. Scenarios 6, 7, & 8 are sick fantasies concocted by a stupid, nasty mind that makes the lefty-flake PC correctoids look positively sane.

Oh, but I was inspired! So, with the other guy’s list of time-comparisons in mind (in fairness, do peruse his versions), we’ll look at some additional contrasts between 1957 and 2010.

Hmmm let’s see.

1957: Gracie (age 13) is raped by her stepfather. Shamed into keeping silent, she’s guilt tripped for “asking for it.” (Her eventual shrink, a Freudian, tells her she imagined it all.)

2011: Gracie has a black belt. Sucker is never going to attack a woman again. And just to make sure, she goes public. (Oh, and Freudians are extinct, thank God.)

1957: Thomas attends a segregated school without textbooks, heat or windows. Or hope. Every media message tells him he is destined to be a servant.

2011: Thomas attends Caltech. He carries no handicaps of preconception because of his race.  We all benefit from his research.

1957: Jimmy is a “four-eyes” who loves science. He is bullied, harassed, buggered and tormented. Everybody shrugs. “boys will be boys.”

(I was there, in 1957. I fought back, really well. But I saw other boys crushed, pulverized, even driven to suicide.)

2011: In most middle class areas, severe physical bullying is almost nonexistent.  Today Jimmy is the CEO of a software company, making life better for everybody. Geeks and nerds are cool.  And whoever wrote that “fights were honorable” in 1957 can screw himself. I was there. Some fights were like that, I recall. But the other kind—pure, vicious terrorism—were far more common. (Only jerks who used to be bullies are nostalgic for those “good old days.”)

1957: Gracie’s rape turns into a pregnancy that will ruin her life. Or she goes to a back alley abortionist. Dies in agony.

2011: Rates of teen sex, teen pregnancy, abortion, STDs, early marriage, and domestic violence are far LOWER in Blue America than they were in 1957. Divorce rates are higher, because women are empowered… but in Blue America even divorce is tipping downward, along with steeply-falling crime.
map
Rates for all of these things—ALL of them—are much higher in other parts of America: the parts that scream at us how much more “moral” their “values” are. (It’s plain statistical fact. And any nostalgia junkie can choke on it.)

One could go on and on, showing a thousand ways that THINGS ARE VASTLY BETTER today in the 21st century! Indeed, shouldn’t they be? Didn’t those wise moms and dads of 1957 work damned hard to help make a better world?

Don’t we praise them by admitting they succeeded? Don’t we insult them by sneering that they failed? Think about that! Which of us is deep-down more respectful to folks of earlier days? And which of us insult them as failures?

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Not everything is better

But to be fair… I admit that some things today are worse today than they were in 1957! Here are a few examples.

1957: Thalidomide babies are born armless. The bald eagle almost vanishes. Unregulated, toxins leak into waterways like Love Canal. Lakes are dying everywhere. School kids cry because the air hurts to breathe. Polio so terrifies parents that they keep children locked inside during summer, forbidding them from going to the public pool. (I remember it all.)

But in 1957 wise and good people dream of an era when scientists can help us all figure out what substances work and which ones do harm. Following 1957’s Sputnik scare, all Americans think scientists are wonderful! Soon, Jonas Salk is the most popular man in America.

2011: Ungrateful imbeciles rage against science, following radio ignoramuses into snits against vaccination, economics, meteorology, evolution, medicine and biology. Science has made terrific progress and we know tons more! Blue America keeps getting healthier and living longer. It’s an age of real wonders and American science literacy is second only to Japan’s.

But meanwhile, there’s another America that keeps on smoking and shoveling down pork rinds, while self-righteously screeching that liberals are ordering them what to eat (a damned lie). And they die young.

And the War Against Science (and against every other profession that knows stuff—like journalists, teachers, doctors, professors, civil servants, attorneys and skilled labor) rages on. Yep, some things are much worse.

1957: The greatest enemy of freedom and enterprise is Soviet Communism. A terrible threat and an evil empire! Democratic president Truman establishes NATO, the Marshall Plan and containment as national policy. Republican president Eisenhower maintains consistency and establishes a tradition of consensus negotiation between parties. Disparities of income and wealth (among whites) are at the lowest point in all of human history. The rich pay a lot of taxes, yet still have plenty to invest in the most vibrant capitalism of all time. Under Rooseveltian tax rates and regulation, the middle class grows by leaps and bounds.

Yes, there are Joe McCarthys on the right. But there are also Buckleys and Goldwaters who love science and intellect and negotiation and the kind of respectful argument that features, above all, curiosity and an eagerness to learn. Likewise, liberals and democrats utterly reject communism. Extremism is dumb. Moderation is in.

2011: Communism is gone and the far left is a joke. The greatest enemy of free enterprise is a cabal of 500 billionaires who appoint each other to director boards, protect each other and vote each other mega compensation packages, no matter how poorly the company does. They combine to take over American politics through secret slush funds and to finance culture war. Anyone who complains is pushing “class war.”

The nation is sucked into a decade of trillion dollar quagmire wars of attrition in Asia—but for the first time in our nation’s history the rich refuse to help pay for a desperate military struggle. The nation is deliberately ripped by Culture War, weakening us worse than anything has since the Civil War.

OKAY, SOME THINGS ARE WORSE. I admit it.

On the other hand… I must recall that in 1957 there were vastly more awful voices on the crazy right than the jerk who wrote this “comparison.” Men who fulminated against Martin Luther King and desegregation, instead of claiming (as Glenn Beck does today) that “we invented civil rights and Dr. King was one of us!”

Men who called it a commie plot to assert that cars made smog. Who screeched that only communists thought that tobacco caused disease. Jerks who helped cancer-causing companies to lie about it for an entire generation. Men who promised to get us off the habit of wastefully suckling the teat of foreign oil states… only to do everything in their power to keep us hooked.

Yes, 1957 was a better time…for crazies. But we still have plenty of those, and they are trying hard to catch up to the good old days.


David Brin Ph.D. is a scientist and best-selling author whose future-oriented novels include Earth, The Postman, and Hugo Award winners Startide Rising and The Uplift War. David's newest novel - Existence - is now available, published by Tor Books."
Print Email permalink (39) Comments (6923) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


COMMENTS


> “2011: Ungrateful imbeciles rage against science”

I don’t know anyone who rages against science, but I do know a lot of people who rage against certain /aspects/ of science and against certain scientISTS.





Here’s another for you, and although it happened a few years later (in the sixties), the attitude might as well have come from 1957:

A young woman, a senior high school student, who excels in math and science, tells her guidance counselor has she would like to be a doctor or scientist.  Her guidance counselor tells her that although she could do that, that would ‘never be able to get married or have children’ and that ‘it would be a very lonely life.’  Then he tells her that she is much too pretty be taken seriously as a doctor or scientist, and she should settle for marrying a doctor or scientist, which she could do if she went to college and studied arts. 

I’m hoping that in another multiverse, the young woman had the courage and support to tell the guidance counselor to go pound sand and walk out of the office and go on to get her first of many science degrees.

And although I’d like to believe that things are better now, I’m afraid that there are still places in this country where women are still told “to cut the feminist crap out” and places in the world where woman are still considered chattel. 

And David, you are so right—I love what you say! “Yes, 1957 was a better time…for crazies. But we still have plenty of those, and they are trying hard to catch up to the good old days”  Amen.





“1957: Thomas attends a segregated school without textbooks, heat or windows. Or hope. Every media message tells him he is destined to be a servant.”

The black poverty rate was fifty percent back then; so when it’s said the ‘50s were a great decade, it is true—for the whites who say so wink
Also depends, rather obviously, what age one is during a given era: the ‘50s was a good era for teenagers, however for octogenarians it wasn’t necessarily the best of times; the view from a nursing home is the same anytime, anywhere.
It’s strange how ‘conservatives’ go out of their way to make enemies of their positions by being such prigs. BTW, didn’t want to be hard on Christian C. in another thread, however his prudery appeared similar to a Safety Patrol officer anxious to check the bookbags of incoming students for magazines.
Real conservatives do exist but the majority appear to be martinets.





I believe this is a case where you have to view things as a whole.  In short summary, there are several ways that today is better than 1957 (more equality for one), but there are also problems today that we didn’t have to deal with in 1957.  So general the world is no better than it was in 1957, but it is no worse either (and we should prevent it from getting worse and strive to make it better).  The only real difference is that the problems have changed.

By the way post-post (I hope abbreviations such as BTW, LOL, and OMG don’t become the language of the future), I admit that I am raised in a conservative setting.  With that said, what kind of conservative do you view me as?





“Communism is gone and the far left is a joke.”

Don’t speak to soon Mr. Brin.





hmm… reading between the lines it seems that the author of the cited article was concerned that modern culture has become unnecessarily punitive in the ways that it deals with young male behavior.  We are obviously better off by decreasing bullying, rape, and other disenfranchisements but our interventions (expelling, imprisonment) are clearly suboptimal.  Is america really better off with maintaining the largest prison population in the world?  All those males who made mistakes could have been more gently reformed with out ruining their lives. 

Other areas where the middle of the 20th century in America were better than today include; a smaller wealth gap; larger middle class; higher biodiversity; lower rates of mental illness; less obesity; banking regulations that better protected the free market; lower prison population; less political apathy; a strong sense that America was headed toward a better future.

Mr. Brin is correct in arguing that our answers aren’t in the past but is incorrect to damn people who can see parts of the past that are better than the present.





I forgot to include less upward mobility today; greater uncertainty of income; stagnant wages; jobless economic recovery; decreased correlation between productivity and average wages; as other examples where the 50’s were better than today.





“Mr. Brin is correct in arguing that our answers aren’t in the past but is incorrect to damn people who can see parts of the past that are better than the present.”


Cuts both ways. Not at all to pick on Christian C., he is young & sincere, however he makes a virtue out of necessity in writing the old morality is a guide—which is really to say we are stuck in the past; stuck—for now—in oligarchy, patriarchy, gerontocracy. There is of course something to what you write, much to what you write. Progress IMO has been mostly material, social progress has been largely an illusion. War has diminished since 1945, but has economic warfare? doesn’t appear so, does it?
Much of what you write in your two comments, Karl, is based on the mid-20th century being dominated by whites—life is easy when you keep others down. Communism and Fascism ‘succeeded’ economically because totalist regimes could squeeze out (to put it mildly) those down below. Naturally such is to refer to outright slave labor and near-slavery, yet fifty percent American black poverty rate in the ‘50s was fairly bad (though, again, not for whites).
Always depends whose ox is gored.
One thing has changed: a few weeks ago a rightist said to me at American Spectator: “Obama isn’t even a real black, he is mulatto; our guy, Cain, is a real black.”
Now there is a change! In the ‘50s a rube would have wanted to keep blacks down, today the rube wants a ‘conservative’ black man to beat out a mulatto incumbent POTUS.
Curiouser and curiouser.
It could be, though, that aside from racial improvement, little else has changed: rich dominate poor; men dominate women; the elderly dominate the young to an excessive degree. People move up from the bottom and then they want to dominate others. I always hated when a smarmy futurist said,
“there are glimmers of hope”;
always wanted to shout back, “yeah, tiny little glimmers!”

However one must always be polite to one’s betters.

 





“I admit that I am raised in a conservative setting. With that said, what kind of conservative do you view me as?”

A rare breed of conservative, christian, you are sincere. In my experience, most conservatives are are not; they don’t even want smaller government, save for others; they want govt to aid their own people, justifying such by:
‘hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue’—
which makes sense until a nation becomes in debt for as much as 130 trillion dollars!*

*according to conservative Mark Steyn, this is the approx. aggregate unfunded liability for the US.





@post-post: “they don’t even want smaller government, save for others; they want govt to aid their own people,”

Ahh, but they believe that this aid can be accomplished with a smaller government.





It’s not exactly about the love of Jesus Christ, you know; they want smaller govt. to aid their own people.

 





@post-post

I agree that some white people directly benefitted from racism and other white people benefitted indirectly from racism however the majority of the items I listed are not mainly due to this bias.  When I review the lists I posted I don’t see any items that is mainly a result of increased equality between whites and historically disenfranchised minorities.  Would you explain the specifics of your thinking post-post?

I would also like to add a couple more items to the list of things that were better IMO in the middle of the 20th century or better at some point in the past in general; today women are actually less happy than they were in the 70’s; cancer rates are higher now than they were thousands of years ago; we work at least 40 hours per week to survive while hunter gatherers worked less than 10; the rise of single parent homes and the ensuing stress and juvenile delinquency that accompanies them; increased levels of autoimmune disorders; the rise of the surveillance state; the unlinking of democratic processes from the means of war (war as a presidential perogative and the advent of robotic war).

None of these are really that strongly related to an increase in equality in america.





“we work at least 40 hours per week to survive while hunter gatherers worked less than 10”

Yes, but no anesthetics, painkillers 30,000 BCE
No ambulances
No ERs
No periodontists
No medical or dental insurance; Workman’s Comp.
No antacids
No shower facilities (save for waterfalls)
No bandages, bandaids or neosporin…
But then, if one survived childhood 30,000 years ago one was tough enough to take a great deal of abuse.

“the advent of robotic war”

Would you rather jets and helicopter gunships do the dirty work? long range artillery?

“today women are actually less happy than they were in the 70’s; the rise of single parent homes and the ensuing stress and juvenile delinquency that accompanies them”

My judgment call is things overall have improved materially but not necessarily otherwise. One would have to be one helluva sociologist-historian to know for sure.

“Would you explain the specifics of your thinking post-post?”

It was merely a random illustration of how things may have inproved in the last 54 years, it was an example.
At any rate, black perceptions count: the majority of blacks today might not want to revert to the conditions of ‘57.
————-
Since I’ve commented several times today already- and it is only lunchtime- it might be best if Mr. Brin, who knows more, would carry the ball from here. Or someone else who would care to.





@post-post

My argument is that some metrics were better in the past, not whether one age vs another was better to live in. 

“My judgment call is things overall have improved materially but not necessarily otherwise. One would have to be one helluva sociologist-historian to know for sure.”

Average people in the US are not better off materially now than in the 70’s.  Adjusted wages have remained flat while measurements of happiness have declined.  The studies on happiness declining in the female population have been replicated several times so I feel confident the trend is real.

“Would you rather jets and helicopter gunships do the dirty work? long range artillery?”

I see your point that roboticized warfare could mean less casualties on our side but that is tangential to my initial point, namely, that the act of war is more divorced from democratic processes now than in the past.  This disconnection is worrying because it means unjust wars can be fought in our name more easily.  If forced to choose between the false dichotomy of lower casulaties plus undemocratized war vs higher casualties and a democratic choice in war I would choose the latter.





Another reason why robotic warfare (as currently practiced) is not the panacea some imagine it to be is that it lacks the capability to “win hearts and minds”.





“Average people in the US are not better off materially now than in the 70’s.”

Can’t say for sure about the metrics of it all; however IMO materiality is also ‘measured’ by war and the absence of war, just for starters the effects of war on an economy. Much of the boost in the postwar era was from the economic activity of the ‘30s & ‘40s. Then Korea, Vietnam contributed distortion; plus the aggregate Cold War ‘defense’ spending. For example, ‘defense’ spending for ‘Nam contributed to the relative good times for the average person in the ‘70s (we wont go into the malaise of the mid-late ‘70s). Naturally, the conscripted soldiers and minorities in American ghettos might have been ‘ordinary’, average people yet their experiences may well have been extraordinarily bad- in some way negating the perception that people were better off materially in the ‘70s. Remember, the Draft did not end until ‘73, so the first three years (‘70, ‘71, ‘72) of the ‘70s were an imposition on youth—who are in actual combat—of the sort that does not exist today.
This is being somewhat of a champion of the obvious, but it has to be spelled out.
Therefore your writing that average people in the US are not better off materially now than in the 70’s is based on a complicated metric which is open to interpretation… no way to know if we are better off materially or not and how other nations rising economically is affecting us. Is Asia rising economically affecting how we are running in place? perhaps things are better in China while flatlined in America for now.
Basically, I do not think of economics as a science, think of it as the sum total (eco) of all we do, thus completely open to interpretation. ‘Conservatives’ for instance, ironically are despite the general religiosity contained in their conservatism, ultra-materialistic when it comes to economics, necessarily so. To stay grounded, they transcend/counteract their spacey religiosity with hard-nosed bottom-line, extremely commercialized thinking & acting.
Libertarians? don’t know.
Here’s the latest jest concerning libertarians:
what does a libertarian daycare center look like?: Afghanistan.





post-post
I’ve always thought that it was the liberals that didn’t want small government, or at least have the government solve most of their problems.  I’m under the impression that the conservatives that you refer to are the ones on the far right or the extremists or whatever they are called.  I also get the impression that you view religion and faith in the way that it all to often misrepresented.  Going back to the topic, i mentioned in an earlier post that we are actually neither better nor worse than we were in the past and that the only real difference is that the problems have changed.  I feel the need to rephrase the second part of that statement.  We have solved some problems in the past and face new ones today (including ones we have created) and we still have some of the same problems that we as a species have faced throughout our history; some of them just have taken a different form.  For example, we still have, and always will have, wars but they are shifting more towards to the verbal and political kinds.  On a last note, technological development does not equate to happiness.  Sure modern medicine helps us live longer lives but they don’t always guarantee better or even happier ones.





Christian, your’s is a good comment (if we could only remove the bold/italic caused by my italicizing-bolding the last clause of a comment [“their own people”]- which carried over into subsequent comments); your comment is too good because it brings up so much, one doesn’t know where to start.
However it is an outdated notion that ‘conservatives’ want small government—they have wanted in on the statist gravy train for decades because the more the state aids their poor relations- merely for a quick example- the less they themselves have to aid them; and we could go on & on for years with this; but believe it or not I don’t enjoy politics, just want to keep a sharp eye on politics so as to not become excessively detached from political reality.
After all, it needn’t be written politics=policies, plus don’t forget politics was whelped by religion—which is a segue into religion: first one separates spirituality from religion because as you know they are related yet not at all synonymous.
Wars are as you write are indeed shifting away from combat to verbal, political… but don’t forget also economic warfare.
Overall, you correct on all counts:
“i mentioned in an earlier post that we are actually neither better nor worse than we were in the past and that the only real difference is that the problems have changed. I feel the need to rephrase the second part of that statement. We have solved some problems in the past and face new ones today (including ones we have created) and we still have some of the same problems that we as a species have faced throughout our history; some of them just have taken a different form… [snip]... Sure modern medicine helps us live longer lives but they don’t always guarantee better or even happier ones.”
First to understand is that no one predicts the future—they extrapolate & change it. Second: neither pure science or applied science itself are particularly concerned with ethics (hence the great need for IEETs); science is about observation, experimentation, replication, etc, etc. Not to say science and religion/ethics cannot overlap in some ways—however they shouldn’t be confused, either.
And on & on.

The mind is a tricky thing, including (perhaps esp.)  towards itself. There is always GIGO in the mind to deal with.





Christian, you touched on so much, it needs more response. It is tempting to write,
“I shouldn’t—esp. without knowing you—say we both share a somewhat backward looking outlook”,
as such is damning you with faint praise.
If one thinks of the mind as a filter of sensory perception, both of our filters emphasize the past in not accentuating the positives of today. Technically, possibilities are opening up; robotics is especially encouraging because when you examine human behavior rather than communication (e.g. what people say) it becomes apparent that humans are not compatible beings.
To express it baldly: they lie to each other all the time to smooth things over;
diplomacy, public relations= dissembling.
One might for example say financial manipulation is worse today than in the past—yet perhaps not. At any rate I’m simply not convinced the past, whether 1957 or the ‘70s or any other era, was better than today and strongly suspect the possibilities for the coming decades makes the present time more promising.
The present is not only influenced by the past, but also by the future, by for instance expectations. Religious/spiritual expectations are often ludicrously inflated, as no evidence of any sort of afterlife is offered.

Talk about financial manipulations! ‘the’ afterlife is nothing but notes not backed up by anything, Christian.





post-post
Forgive me for going off (and for being preachy) topic but I must respond to your last statement.  For starters, if your negative views on religion is directed towards Christianity in general, I must make it clear that Christianity is not a religion by the common definition but a faith, a way of living.  I’m a part of this faith for several reasons.  Firstly, Christianity for me makes the most sense about the world we live in; why we do certain things, how and why they are bad, what can be done to control ourselves more, and so on.  Secondly, It has reached people time and again in ways that modern science and plain people could not. You can talk about quantum physics, astronomy, neuroscience, artificial intelligences, fusion power, nanotechnology and so forth.  In the end, however, none of that really matters. No matter advance or complicated any of those things are or will be, none of them can change human nature.  But faith in God and Jesus does.  It has change the hearts of those who would otherwise do terrible things.  It has shown us forgiveness that could not be offered by man and taught us how to be willing to show love and forgiveness to even the most heinous people. It has given believers strength and courage in times and situations where others could barely hold on.  We are blessed to live in one of the most belief tolerant countries in the world but it has also made us too comfortable in that many miss-represent what Christianity really is (I admit that there are people who do terrible things in God’s name, but that’s their fault. Not God’s).  If you look at Christians in other, more religiously intolerant countries of the world and hear from their experiences and learn what they go through because of their faith, you would see how feeble we are compared to them.  What’s more is that bible warns that we would face such things, that we would be ridiculed, mocked, tortured, or even killed because of our faith in Jesus.  But we are taught to remain strong, even rejoice in our suffering (read 1 Peter 4:12-19 to see what I mean).  It is harder for us in the U.S. because we are so comfortable, but our brothers and sisters from other nations do so effortlessly and they face much worse (research Voice of the Martyrs).  In fact, it is this faith that gives us hope and the ability to move forward.  I envy that kind of faith and strive to be stronger in my belief in Jesus.  Even if there is no life after death, I can at least have the contentment of living a life of doing good and that my suffering would be over and that I would finally have peace.  However, I do believe in life after death, I do believe that Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sins, and I do believe that I will one day be completely free of them.  In other words, I believe that I will one day “transcend” my human nature; transcend lust, gluttony, greed, anger, hatred, deceit, and corruption.  If you want are more “scientific” answer, doesn’t the idea of multiple universes or extra dimensions give rise to the possibility of some kind of after life (and the idea that our fate is no different form Hitler’s, Stalin’s or Bin Leiden’s makes no sense to me).  I can not make believe or change your mind about faith.  That is your choice.  You know what, that is perhaps the most beautiful thing about Christianity, God gives us a choice.  He gives us the freedom to choose to follow him or not and he doesn’t force us.  He wants us to have freedom so the things we are meant to have (such as love, joy, peace, and happiness) will be worth having.  I don’t care what you or anyone say about me or my faith.  I just don’t want you to get the wrong idea about religion and faith, especially Christianity.  All I’m trying to do hear is to give you an accurate view of Christianity as I possibly can.





Your comments are too good, Christian—you possess the wisdom of a much older person. There’s so much in your comments to respond to it would take a book merely to begin; but it is encouraging there exist 20 year olds as wise as you.
Forgiveness is the key, not the only key, yet it can be called The Key via an idiosyncratic/esoteric hermeneutic, and a positive, extremely ambitious one—which is academese for writing we live in a darwinist world wherein Jesus is a buffer; ‘the ultimate’ veneer to cover a somewhat cannibalistic existence. Going beyond this is bogging down in glib verbiage, so will address your following:

“No matter advance or complicated any of those things are or will be, none of them can change human nature.”

You are not mistaken, albeit you perhaps miss the purpose or at the very least the meaning of such as IEET (those running IEET could explain it in detail however they don’t usually have time). Plus, it is a moving target so to speak, things advance to a degree even the greatest of minds can only scratch the surface. On top of that there is expediency: e.g. making choices. And so on and so forth. Good news is no one can control it anymore—no one can ‘corner the market.’
At any rate, you will have to ask someone who is a demon for details, and not just a demon searching for niche by way of wisdom vampire

Remember, it is in fact a darwinist world; it is real, it has real effects. We can hide from it yet it is still ‘there’. A family goes to church tomorrow morning and it works as placebo—but when they leave the church they are back in a less… ecumenical… substrate, one might write. Again, you want to be optimistic, not gullible. You want to straddle both idealism and pragmatism in a world that is in some sense shifting under your feet; and where; frankly, everyone deep down knows there are no rules—we are making them up as we go along.





Back on-topic,
I am not convinced any metric can accurately describe material conditions for America in the ‘50s, or in the ‘70s. As I remember it, the early ‘70s were fairly good however the exacerbated dislocation of both Watergate and the alleged “Arab Oil Embargo” (far more shenanigans to it than that) negated the later part of the decade.
Karl, I really do not get it how ‘metrics’ can describe it to any degree.

@Christian,
here’s something we can both agree on: the future will be good for anyone who survives and is in good condition, yet such includes bad guys as well; the more a criminal lacks a conscience, the better he can do as a criminal—and depending on the individual he can perhaps adapt better in many areas of life than someone who isn’t a sociopath/psychopath. A criminal can possibly be not only more resilient but also maybe more nimble in living than a non-criminal.





@ post-post
I don’t think it is always good to view things in a Darwinian sense, especially people.  When you do, you tend to view them as something lower than they really are.  Some people even do terrible things to them as a result.  I will talk in a Darwinian sense for the moment only because it is the kind of view many people hear will accept.  Though negative behaviors such as being a criminal or a sociopath/psychopath prove advantages in certain situations such as being in a violent area or living in a location where resources are scarce, they do not benefit the human species in the long run.  In fact, most of those “bad guys” probably won’t leave any progeny.  This was under stood very early in our history.  Though we may not have had set rules in our earliest stages, we’ve always had the feeling deep down that we should behave in a certain way, though we do not always follow it.  What is more interesting is that we are not taught this feeling.  It is like we were pre-programed with this gut feeling.  Religion and spiritual beliefs translate these gut feelings into morals and rules.  Is it coincidental that all of the major civilizations in the past had some form of religious beliefs, and that many of those civilizations lasted for hundreds even thousands of years?  Is it also a coincidence that those civilizations fell once they started turning away form those beliefs and morals?  It seems that religion and good behaviors prove very advantageous to our species.  This hold true today as it did in the past such as in 1957.  Though divergence from good behaviors caused problems back then and today, the good ones always win out in the end and most of those good behaviors originate from religion and spiritual beliefs.  Though we increasing in technology and scientific knowledge, neither of those affect religion as a whole.  In fact, quoting from radio talk show host Dennis Prager, we ultimately cannot live without religion, and those who do not want to believe in God, a god, or any other supernatural entity, try to put something else in its place.





“This hold true today as it did in the past such as in 1957.”

No, that is the point, you cannot bring back what is gone forever; 2011 is not 1957, and is not 1957, and is not the ‘70s, and is not ancient times. Let’s take Aristotle and Jesus as an example: for the times they lived in they were far ahead of the curve, however by our contemporary view(s) they are outdated—though we can’t judge people who lived thousands of years ago by today’s standards, we also cannot judge today by the standards of ancient times. I view religion as escapism, little/nothing more, for instance Agape love is mythological, people care about their own kind and do want smaller government—to primarily aid their families! THAT is as pre-programmed as the gut feeling you referred to above.
I think your heart is in the right place but your brain is not, if you want to be pragmatic you must not only examine what should be, but also what is. You are too ethereal, Christian, which is quite appropriate for a Christian site (perhaps even a Christian transhumanist site) yet might be out of place at a technoprogressive site. Your parents are surely less ethereal than you; to survive in a darwinist world they have had to make ethical compromises otherwise they wouldn’t have been well-off enough to start a family in the first place. Unless your parents raised you in a homeless shelter, they needed funds and services—and funds, services exist in the context of our darwinian world. Remember, you can attempt to escape the darwinist substrate, but you can’t do it; you can’t even escape save for in your mind, you merely go through the motions of escaping. We have to tolerate it, as we tolerated it when our parents told us Santa Claus didn’t exist, and that we couldn’t marry our HS sweethearts. Now, perhaps you married your HS sweetheart; but you do not believe in Santa Claus, or the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

“In fact, most of those ‘bad guys’ probably won’t leave any progeny.”

Again, no, what we call ‘bad guys’ have left in the past, and will leave in the near future at least, abundant progeny. Machiavelli understood how if we were to strictly follow church dogma, eventually the pious—the ‘good guys’—would be superseded by the un-pious—the bad guys. So though by today’s post-Enlightenment ethics Machiavelli was wicked, for his time he too, as Aristotle and Jesus, was ahead of the game. And it is a game, albeit a serious one.
Not to flame you, however you have to wise up. You are smarter than me, but even more spaced out than I was at 20. And that is very bad; good for your enemies yet bad for you. But you probably wont listen, youth is wasted on the young long face





I admit my last post wasn’t as though out as I wanted to, I was trying to make it tie in with the topic.  But I still hold that we shouldn’t always view the world in a Darwinian sense, no matter how similar to Darwinian evolution it may appear.  I’ll also try not to be so ethereal in my comments, I just don’t want you to have the wrong idea about religion and faith.  It is not just a form of escapism.  Even if it is, at least it makes us strong and helps us survive when others would give up.  More than that, it gives us a sense of purpose in a world that is telling us more and more that we are just raw material and that there is not self or personal responsibility or even free will.  Why would anyone want to progress in a world that increasingly devalues and renders them so low?  Sorry for my negativity, I’ve always struggled with a negativity complex <[.





PS,
not to say you are not wise for your age, Christian; unfortunately your Christian spaciness might in some way negate your being a moral prodigy. It is so much easier to screw it up royally than make the correct choices; here’s an example of how misplaced beliefs no matter how well-intentioned can mess up lives: many homeless, nutcase, backpack wearing Bible-prats came from well off families, but their homeless progeny drifted out too far into the metaphysical void by turning the other cheek one too many times, and now those who did smite them on both cheeks are in deluxe boudoirs with debutantes—while derelict Christians sleep with squirrels and bugs in outdoor Hobbit holes. They didn’t plan it that way, they didn’t say to themselves earlier on:

“years from now I will follow Jesus into the gutter to self-sacrificingly eat slop at soup kitchens run by overweight dweebs, and sleep outdoors in bracing arctic weather to commune a la St Francis where the deer and the antelope play.”   

They didn’t choose it, they drifted into the Great Outdoors.
However, should they contract pneumonia and die outside in God’s Creation they can always console themselves by realizing they have laid up their treasures in Heaven, and that no matter how matted their hair, no matter how rancid their sleeping bags and backpacks are, they shall ascend to Heaven to hear the Lord sayeth:

“well done, my good and faithful servants. Now here are brand new goddamn sleeping bags—go back outside to sleep where you belong, dumb chumps!”





Again you have the wrong Idea about Christianity, especially about God.  Like I said in my last post I’ll try not to be so ethereal in my comments and stay on topic.  All I ask is that you be more respectful the religious and not to make such assumptions on what you think you know.  I don’t doubt your intelligence, I just don’t think you truly understand Christianity and religion in general to make fair comments on them.  Now lets drop this and try to remain on topic while being respectful to each other cause I by no means intend any disrespect to you our anyone here at IEET.  I just want to give my own opinions on and gain understanding on the topics posted here.





In a way it is on-topic, religion has lessened its grip since 1957; which is IMO positive. And it isn’t that I don’t understand Christianity
—I understand it too well. Nothing wrong with Jesus, it’s his followers who are, in the majority, dopes. Imbeciles, as Hank once wrote. So if Christians will respect the legacy of Jesus more, some of us will respect Christianity more.

What I don’t get is: why is two hours of church different or better than two hours of watching a film, two hours at a concert, or two hours of anything else one enjoys? isn’t it all merely to get away from reality for a short time? just because you think religion is more than uplifting entertainment doesn’t mean anyone else has to.





“[snip] a world that is telling us more and more that we are just raw material and that there is not self or personal responsibility or even free will. Why would anyone want to progress in a world that increasingly devalues and renders them so low?”

It’s always been that way, but now it is more out in the open; the Closet Queen of reality has been outed, which is why so many retreat into the cocoon of religion—and who can blame them?
I’m now encouraged that ‘bots are becoming more android-like, so that someday I can talk to ‘bots, and not tasteless Midwesterners pushing their bad religion & politics.





  “Nothing wrong with Jesus, it’s his followers who are, in the majority, dopes. Imbeciles, as Hank once wrote.”
I understand where you are coming from, but you are sorely mislead if you think those people represent what Christianity really is.  True Christians are all too aware of this reality and the Bible has but great emphasis on such people.  Ironical this is exactly what my church has been preaching about these past weeks, what the Church is supposed to be, and our last sermon was about the church being genuine.  This was no entertainment that sugar coats reality to make us feel better about the world.  Were given the hard truth about how people like the ones you mentioned are shallow in their faith.  We face the bitter reality the we even misrepresent the word of God at times.  We know what the world says about us and why.  Were not escaping from reality, were facing it head on.  There are people that can explain this better than I can but the point I’m trying to make is that many of your presentations about Christianity and religion is mislead.  Their probably wouldn’t be so many frauds if we weren’t so comfortable her in the U.S.  If you want a real picture of Christianity, look at the believers over seas.  Do you think that they live in a sugar coated cocoon when they endure so much persecution and physical torture from those who hate them.  Christianity does not deceive people into thinking that they will live is a safe secure world.  They are made aware that they will face such aggression towards others and yet they chose to believe anyway.  Even when others try to torture them into renouncing their faith they still remain strong.  they are better Christians than any of us here in western society.

“It’s always been that way, but now it is more out in the open; the Closet Queen of reality has been outed, which is why so many retreat into the cocoon of religion—and who can blame them?”

You didn’t exactly answer my question, in fact is seems you avoided it in a way.  Something I don’t understand why one would bother morals and ethics (which is one of the main things IEET stands for) when they believe nothing more than raw materials and that things such as personal responsibility and free will are just illusions.  You might as well just have a totalitarian system were people are people accept that their is no self and personal responsibility and that they a just walking bags of meat, water, and chemicals (or in a future sense, metal, plastic, and electricity) whose sole Darwinian purpose is promoting the existence of the species.  Love for others and joy in life are just chemical illusions that are of no use to the cause.  Is this the kind of world that you want (and don’t evade the question this time)? probably not, but I assure you if everyone forsakes religion and just accepts being raw material with no purpose, self, free will, or responsibility, you won’t like what you’ll get.





“Were not escaping from reality, were facing it head on.”

if you mean similar to how a photo can be developed over time, projected into the future, then perhaps so, perhaps you, they are slowly moving towards facing it head on; however at this time darwinism is regnant—IMO escaping it is an illusion. However, such does not mean ‘escapism’ is wrong, escapism can be necessary escapism: in escaping from unbearable circumstances. One definition of escapism can be ‘transcendence’ as well.
Not that you are necessarily wrong, Christian, only that what you write might be more appropriate at a more religious/spiritual site; IEET is a more secular site—not thoroughly secular but oriented towards secularism. Again, religion/spirituality and science are not mutually exclusive, albeit ‘religion’ and ‘science’ are not synonymous, either (naturally I do not represent the views of those who operate IEET or blog at IEET).
Few here would say we are:
“nothing more than raw materials and that things such as personal responsibility and free will are just illusions… just walking bags of meat, water, and chemicals (or in a future sense, metal, plastic, and electricity) whose sole Darwinian purpose is promoting the existence of the species.”
On a bad day I might think so—however it passes oh oh
Before getting back to the topic, my view on Christians is you can trust Jesus, but not Christians in general; once in awhile you meet a Christian who is trustworthy, yet not often. There are some good priests/preachers, and though those that work under the priests are usually dweebs, they are under great pressure. You are mistaken if you think I don’t like religion in general and Christianity in particular—yet such is no endorsement, it is from my having been raised a Methodist and today being a sentimental fool. So one way to look at it is that we are both bozos on the same bus. Many ways to look at it.
BTW, are you aware of Mormon Transhumanists and other h+ faith-orienteds?





Now, finally back to the topic: IMO Karl is correct to a point, in the past things were better by his metrics. However it was better circa 1946- 1971—after the war finished until things got quite distorted from the Cold War, Vietnam, and then afterwards Watergate, plus of course other factors.
As I recall, the early ‘70s were pretty good and then things cascaded after Watergate.
To sum it up, IMO the situation is slightly better now than 1957 and the ‘70s, but not better than the 1980s & ‘90s were. Naturally, Karl would have different recollections of what it was like way back when. Also, being very suspicious, I suspect metrics as being too narrowly focused—and think figures lie and liars figure.
BTW, it is true ‘escapism’ has some negative connotations; but it also means for instance escapist films, theater, music, and other common diversions. Yet so does ‘ethereal’ have both positive & negative aspects. Ethereal can mean spirituality, or it can mean spaced-out.
As for priests, preachers, pastors, etc., difficulty is that trustworthy men (and women) of the ‘cloth’ don’t wear sandwich boards that read,

“I’m a good priest, not like those other priestly skanks—you can trust me.”





post-post
I was only being ethereal because I felt I was pushed in a situation where I had to be.  People stand up for things they believe in you know, especially when they feel someone else’s notion about something is incorrect.
As for having morals when we are just raw material and chemicals, you still haven’t exactly answered my question about that.

Back on Topic:
What can I say that I haven’t said before, we are no better or worse as a whole.  Its kind of like the second law of thermodynamics; the amount of disorder in the universe can only increase or remain the same, it can never decrease.  In our case it has remained virtually the same due to any increase in disorder being canceled out by a relative, universal phenomenon, whatever that may be.





Again, IMO today is no better than the early ‘70s, the ‘80s and, especially, the ‘90s; but today is better than the rest of the post- WWII period.

BTW, first lesson in Spirituality 101, Christian:
often hatred disguises itself as love- you might want to keep this in mind.





@ post-post
“often hatred disguises itself as love”
I’ll keep that in mind and keep my interpretation of it to myself.  However, you still haven’t answered my question about having ethics when when we are just raw materials and chemicals.
I want to give my input on it but I want yours our anyone else’s answer first.

BTW, though I support diversity of opinions I find it strange that someone who isn’t spiritual would give advice on spirituality.





“However, you still haven’t answered my question about having ethics when when we are just raw materials and chemicals.
I want to give my input on it but I want yours our anyone else’s answer first.”

Don’t know, you’ll have to ask someone else; unfortunately, scientists and engineers do not have all that much time to spare in answering questions from laymen. Libertarians snap ‘do your own research’. I’m not educated, merely read alot of books. Ever see ‘A Fish Named Wanda’?
Wanda: “you ape”
Otto: “apes don’t read books”
Wanda: “they read books, they just don’t understand them.”





Time for a format change </i></b>

?

Ethics derives from compassion, derives from empathy, derives from cooperation, derives from intellect, derives from evolution of successful genetic mutation .. blah blah .. primordial soup?

At least this is one hypothesis?

Existentialism and personal responsibility are high on the agenda at IEET, and this generally goes without saying.

Any true humanist must embrace and support this tenet, and any Christian too? Or else what hope for the progress of humanity?

You can still speculate the metaphysical with both feet on the ground. You may still reconcile the quantum and atomic with the macro illusion of ego Self?

Then what of this phenomenon termed Consciousness?





In the past there were no computers. I, as I am, literally couldn’t have existed. My life’s work couldn’t have existed. There is nothing in life for me if there are no computers. All my activities depend on them.

I don’t care whether things are better or worse than in the past. The existence of computers outweighs everything else. The only thing that matters is that we have access to computation and information. It’s the next thing in importance right after food, and there’s nothing after it; the only thing I couldn’t live without is computing.





No one can call you a luddite.





YOUR COMMENT (IEET's comment policy)

Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: We Don’t Know How to Get Old Anymore

Previous entry: Divest From Big Banks Now!

HOME | ABOUT | FELLOWS | STAFF | EVENTS | SUPPORT  | CONTACT US
SECURING THE FUTURE | LONGER HEALTHIER LIFE | RIGHTS OF THE PERSON | ENVISIONING THE FUTURE
CYBORG BUDDHA PROJECT | AFRICAN FUTURES PROJECT | JOURNAL OF EVOLUTION AND TECHNOLOGY

RSSIEET Blog | email list | newsletter |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
Williams 119, Trinity College, 300 Summit St., Hartford CT 06106 USA 
Email: director @ ieet.org     phone: 860-297-2376