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The Path to Where We Are.

 
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peter
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PostPosted: Thu May 04, 2017 4:34 pm    Post subject: The Path to Where We Are. Reply with quote

Need to frame this question carefully to get my meaning across unambiguously. Here we are at a given point in our scientific and technological development and I wonder, was the path that we took, agriculture to city to (possibly even religion) - then via chemistry, physics, steam, industry, electricity, internal combustion, nuclear physics, computing and bingo, here we are, the only way it could have been done? Could we say, have got to the internet without ever having developed the internal combustion engine, or by some other route say, without the wheel.

What started me on this train of thought was watching a programme that illustrated in the starkest manner the damage we are doing to our planet. I suddenly remembered that famous question posed by Paul Dirac (I think) on the existence of other intelligence elsewhere in the universe "If they exist - where are they?", and the possible and chilling answer to their absence - that every time a civilisation gets to a certain level of advancement it destroys itself before it can get beyond that level ....... and suddenly the answer to the above question seemed to become a lot more important.

Any thoughts.
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PostPosted: Thu May 04, 2017 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Human history is filled with crossroads, setbacks, advancements and close calls. Heck the history of the Earth itself is filled with like things.
Would we be as advanced if we hadn't struggled through 2 world wars?
What if there had been no Dark Ages?
What if there had been no renaissance?
What if whatever astrological billiard shot that cause a massive meteor to crash into Earth on probably several occasions didn't happen or at least didn't happen the way it happened?
What if even one of the other kinds of previous ELEs didn't happen?
What if Theia never collided with the Earth and theoretically helped to create the Moon?

It is what it is. We are here at this time in the condition that we are in because that's the way it all worked out.
Would things be different if something significant did or did not happen in the past? Probably.

One day we may discover a way to at least view some of the other realities in the multiverse and get a glimpse of what could have been and the outcome but for the time being what we have is what we have.

I also don't believe that human civilization is destined to collapse due to its own technological weight. It might happen but I don't believe it must happen.
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PostPosted: Thu May 04, 2017 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Where we are now absolutely could not have happened without fossil fuels. Even with currently known technologies, there is no replacement for them. Our global civilization would collapse and billions of people would die without them.

We are doing exactly the opposite of destroying ourselves with technology. We're building a technological Utopia where more people than ever are prosperous, healthy, comfortable, educated, and entertained.
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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 4:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok - focus on the first part of the post; forget what we are or are not doing to the planet (or what it naturally is doing of its own 'way', whatever): what you are saying Z, is that in essence, the route we took to now (just in terms of our science/tech) had, with microvariations, to be the one that we followed.

You Tom, I think (correct me here if I misunderstand) see it differently, and think that whole branches of our tech or knowledge could still have been arrived at in the absence of other parts - or indeed via discoveries that we might still have yet to make.

I'm going to make an analogy; you have a field (you know, grass and all) and it has two gates a and b on opposite sides. Is the path from the beginning (a) to now (b) a straight line with razor wire on each side (ie the one we followed) or can we meander over the whole field in our own random fashion in getting from a to b, giving us infinite possibilities?
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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No, the path we took from "back there" to "right here" is not the only path we could have taken, only the one which we did take. Consider the Antikythera Mechanism--clearly Ancient Greece had access to the technology required to make complicated, interlocking gear wheels...only the technology didn't take hold and was subsequently lost for a long time. Suppose that technology had not been lost, though--perhaps Babbage's and Lovelace's Difference Engine and Analytical Engine could have been developed more than 1,500 years before they actually existed. Couple those designs with the Aeliopile (another piece of technology from that time--a rudimentary steam engine) and having mechanical computers before Ancient Rome is not unthinkable. The advances in science in the Ancient World due to ease of calculation make it impossible to imagine what the world of 2017 would look like.
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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 3:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Indeed why it took so long to get 'from there to here' remains if not an actual mystery, then at least a source of bemusement. There were, I believe, many false dawns and possible beginnings that miscarried before they could gather the momentum needed to truly get going. Mores the pity because as David Deutsch said, if they had done so "by now we would be travelling to the stars and you and I would live forever."
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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

peter wrote:
Indeed why it took so long to get 'from there to here' remains if not an actual mystery, then at least a source of bemusement.


Actually, the answer is simple: too many wars. Standard operating procedure for too many societies was "if we invade and win then burn everything to the ground and leave nothing intact". If our ancient forebears had not been so intent on spilling each other's guts then perhaps we would indeed have a foothold on Mars or have made it past Singularity by now.
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What is the secret of Zen? Burn all your Zen books.

If you can't handle losing then you don't deserve to win.

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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 8:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

peter wrote:
Ok - focus on the first part of the post; forget what we are or are not doing to the planet (or what it naturally is doing of its own 'way', whatever): what you are saying Z, is that in essence, the route we took to now (just in terms of our science/tech) had, with microvariations, to be the one that we followed.
Yes, the path we took to here--industrialization and modern technology--had to have included fossil fuels. There's no other way to produce electricity on the scale we have now, and there's no way to have modern technology without electricity. Therefore, this one defining feature necessitates the shape of everything else.
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Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 11:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hashi Lebwohl wrote:
peter wrote:
Indeed why it took so long to get 'from there to here' remains if not an actual mystery, then at least a source of bemusement.


Actually, the answer is simple: too many wars. Standard operating procedure for too many societies was "if we invade and win then burn everything to the ground and leave nothing intact". If our ancient forebears had not been so intent on spilling each other's guts then perhaps we would indeed have a foothold on Mars or have made it past Singularity by now.


Well, MOSTLY wars...especially if you include the cold ones in between the hot ones, where they may not have been slaughtering, but certainly weren't sharing. [[Not even internally, amongst themselves, really]]. Sickness too, though, in distant second for the last couple millennia, probably the lead spot further back than 3-4k. I think I said around this place sometime that without the warring, Christ might have been born on Mars---but wouldn't have been needed, in that case.

Z---fossil fuels were absolutely easy to use and common and efficient in our situation. But not at all the only possible way for intelligence to get from where we were to where we are. Absence of them would most likely have slowed things down by a large factor---but the lack of them would not prohibit advancement/achievement. A different, probably longer and harder/more complicated road. But only those---nothing more. We had to have them for the particular path we took. But plenty of other possible paths exist.

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PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2017 9:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Would they be paths V, that would lead us into areas of understanding that we have as yet, no knowledge of their even existing? This might seem crazy to speculate on, but think of say dark energy and dark matter; but a few decades ago such things were not even conceived of, even at the far reaches of the math of theoretical physics. Even to this day we have no knowledge of what this 'stuff' or this 'energy' is going to lead us into. Could there indeed not yet be still more such things - banes or boons buried deep in the math, waiting to be winkled out as we progress further and further down our route to the knowledge of everything?
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PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2017 5:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

V, if there were a viable alternative to fossil fuels, we would have found it by now. We've had governments and private industries trying to replace them since the 70s, and wind/solar/etc. still provide only a tiny fraction of our needs.

If we cannot find a viable alternative to fossil fuels--with the advantage of widespread industrialization and 21st century technology--there is no way a preindustrial society could have stumbled upon one.

We could not have a global, industrial society without cheap, plentiful, scalable power. There is only one known source for that power. Therefore, there is only one (main) path to where we are now.

I also disagree that wars have been the cause of delay in implementing a modern society. Wars produce competition and innovation that speeds development. If you want to know the real reasons, read Wright's NONZERO and Deutsche's BEGINNING OF INFINITY. Wright explains why China (for instance) didn't beat Western countries to industrialization, despite having gunpowder, the printing press, and a massive navy centuries prior to the West. He also explains why the Old World (i.e. Europe) beat the New World (i.e. North, Central, and South America) to industrialization and global conquest, largely due to low population density in the Americas, which slowed the spread of ideas and innovation. And Deutsche explains why ancient Greece didn't continue its advancement in terms of the belief systems of Sparta and Athens. If we had followed Athens's trajectory, we'd have colonized all the nearby stars by now and found the cure for death. We'd be immortal explorers of the galaxy.

It doesn't matter if we're "destroying" the planet (we're not), it is too important for us to continue this path. We'll find new worlds ... we already are.
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Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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