Living in two worlds
Posted by aogTuesday, 01 May 2007 at 11:02 TrackBack Ping URL

Via Brothers Judd is this story about schools using Dance Dance Revolution. I think that’s fine, if it encourages active participation by students. You can give yourself a real workout that way and it’s better than having athletic games where students just stand around pretending to be in the game (like I did when I was in school).

I think is a trend in what I like to call enhanced reality. That’s the blending of virtual reality and physical reality, which DDR does in a very primitive way. Other systems like Wii are the next step in this evolution, where actions in the game are controlled by sympathetic actions on the part of the player, not just symbolic ones (such as pressing a particular key sequence).

Longer term, as sensing technology becomes cheaper and less intrusive along with better wireless connectivity, I expect this to migrate in to full enhanced reality, to be used in every day life. One might carry around a set of virtual tools created by a computation web built in to clothing. These tools would take sympathetic input and then interact with the environment or other networked devices. Virtual keys that unlock things, virtual coins that authorize payments (the equivalent of using cell phones to buy sodas in vending machines). Hailing a cab by hanging a virtual “ride wanted” sign out. One could hang virtual signs on interesting local landmarks and businesses, then give access to friends / family / visitors to help them get around. Imagine a game of Assassin with virtual weapons. It would be the ultimate in multi-tasking and isolated communities put together.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Brit Wednesday, 02 May 2007 at 06:03

When we met in London, David’s son revealed that the dance games were used for gym classes in school.

David’s expression looked rather Hell-in-a-handcartish to me…

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 02 May 2007 at 07:14

That’s about dance, not whether it’s electronic.

I wasn’t surprised, because I had seen stories quite a while ago about fitness gymnasiums adopting this technology and discussions of whether this new wave of games might not do something about getting more kids to exercise.

Peter Burnet Wednesday, 02 May 2007 at 07:51

Whenever I see you or Oro go off on one of your odes to the wonders of the future, I think immediately of being stuck behind a senior or even many middle-aged types (all living ultra-healthy lifestyles) at a bank machine, and I shudder.

AOG, how many passwords are we going to have to memorize to get by in this world?

Ali Choudhury Wednesday, 02 May 2007 at 08:35

I don’t know how healthy this is. A lot of the people who participated in the aerobics craze in the 80s now have dodgy knees and backs. Aerobics is vastly overrated when it comes to losing fat anyway. That’s 70% diet and 30% weightlifting.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 02 May 2007 at 09:09

Mr. Burnet;

In a properly designed system, none. One of the many advantages of carrying around your own computation array is that it remembers the passwords for you and validates that you are you via biometric means.

And remember, although new technology isn’t necessarily a Good Thing, neither is it necessarily a Bad Thing. I am completely lost, however, as to why overt displays of technophilia makes you think of a queue at a bank machine.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 02 May 2007 at 09:10

Mr Choudhury;

Sometimes one must pick among a set of bad alternatives.

Michael Herdegen Wednesday, 02 May 2007 at 10:12

Sounds to me as though there aren’t enough bank machines in Canada.

I can’t recall the last time that I had to wait for someone to finish before using an ATM, and for memories of lines more than three deep, I have to cast my mind back to the 80s.

Michael Herdegen Wednesday, 02 May 2007 at 10:19
Aerobics is vastly overrated when it comes to losing fat anyway.

I don’t think that the point is to turn these kids into hardbodies - it’s just to get them moving around, the way that kids did before TV turned into a 24/7, 300-channel pleasure machine/zombie maker.

Peter Burnet Wednesday, 02 May 2007 at 10:28

AOG:

Because their ability to fous on and use the bank machine quickly is clearly declining.

Old dinosaurs always fret about the Bad Things and the cool kids always say: A) The Good Things outweigh the Bad; B)More technology will cure the Bad Things technology created; or C)No one will feel they are Bad like you think they will. I can have fun arguing A and B, but C is a reason for despair and an underreported cause of alcoholism among social conservatives.

Nonetheless, heroic pockets of resistance persist. A fellow at the local Future Shop told me they are now having trouble selling TV’s to the “non-young”, because nobody wants the extras or can make them work or wants to try and learn. I can easily generate a collective rage among total strangers by turning the conversation to coping with all the cable equipment and “options”, which frequently cause system failure when you try to use them and necessitate an expensive housecall.

I like all sorts of Good Things like painless dentistry and blogging and endless variations of delicious fruit juices, and I know the future is yours, but you (pl.) are very wrong about one thing, which is your tendency to imagine all these wonderful things will be choices. If somebody gives us virtual signs to hail taxis, it won’t be too long before that will be the only way to hail them. Only the Amish will be spared.

Brit Wednesday, 02 May 2007 at 13:50

That is both profound and true, Peter.

cjm Wednesday, 02 May 2007 at 20:58

i guess some people used to resist the notion of antibiotics, too.

compared to a real sport, ddr is going to be gentle on the body while still providing a good workout.

ali: something makes those bodies (in the aerobics classes) so trim :)

aog: those kind of websites are for single guys, who have lots of time to kill :)

to the old pharts here, that can’t manage a tv or cable box — head down to the nearest soylent center, and get it over with now.

Peter Burnet Thursday, 03 May 2007 at 05:25

to the old pharts here, that can’t manage a tv or cable box — head down to the nearest soylent center, and get it over with now.

Ah, an honest man.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 03 May 2007 at 08:29

Mr. Burnet;

Yet you object to the sort of engineering that could ameloriate such problems.

I think it’s correct to object to utopianism, but not so correct to object to optimism. I understand your complaints, and they’re certainly valid, but they are also highly reminiscent of the early decades of automobiles. As a conservative, you should certainly appreciate that while history doesn’t repeat, it rhymes, and it’s not utopian to expect that in the fullness of time, these cranky technologies will become tamed and easy to use for almost everyone, just like automobiles. If we accept a market system, with its concommitant harshness on small but significantly sized groups, for its overall long term benefits for everyone, I don’t see why the same attitude shouldn’t apply to new technology.

However, even in the short term, the suffering seniors fighting the ATM must think it’s better than not having them, or they wouldn’t be trying to use them.

Peter Burnet Thursday, 03 May 2007 at 10:05

AOG:

Have you stood in line waiting for a bank teller lately? If not, you should bring a book. War and Peace would be a good choice.

Seriously, it’s rarely helpful to debate the pros and cons of individual developments because it just leads to the same inconclusive extremes. You get guys like me echoing Graham Greene’s fatuous whine about how the invention of the dishwasher undermined the togetherness of the family “wash-up” matched by guys like Oro not being able to contain their excitement that long distance rates to the Central African Republic have been halved. And you are right that technology does tend to solve many of the problems of technology, although all those sci-fi books about computers taking over the world aren’t popular for nothing.

It’s really about objecting to life being driven increasingly and inexorably by the principles of efficiency and utility and losing any sense of human worth and values outside those. Doomsday scenarios are a dime a dozen, but things are happening that we aren’t seeing very clearly or pondering enough where they may be leading us. The speed and intense functionality of our lives are, if not causing, at least coinciding with palpable mental fragilities and growing alienation from family and community. The ethics of the medical profession are heading into the toilet. Our attitudes to aging and the aged are descending to the barbaric. We talk about how much militarily stronger we are than the Islamists but don’t see they are far more resilient and are forcing us out through our self-inflicted political wounds. The intellectual contempt for religion is irrational and just part of a general contempt for history that may lead us into dangerous waters, although it may not if we keep Brit in charge of the Ministry for Diversions.

In short, our hyper-progress is leading to higher and higher expectations from life and more and more anger when they aren’t realized. Cause or effect? Existentially dangerous or a short-term blip that the famous “can-do” spirit will get us through? Lose-win or win-lose? I don’t know, but I sure shudder when I read things like this latest from Duck: Any spiritual regimen that can’t survive the technological progress of society just isn’t useful enough to keep around.

Peter Burnet Thursday, 03 May 2007 at 10:32

When I said more and more anger when they aren’t realized, I should have added: or when the call of duty interferes with them.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 03 May 2007 at 11:36

Mr. Burnet;

Have you stood in line waiting for a bank teller lately?

Yes. Because I have strong preferences about the denomination mix I like to have, I use ATMs on in emergencies, once or twice a year. Otherwise I always go to a teller. Most of the time there’s no wait, but it’s rarely if ever more than a few minutes.

Brit Thursday, 03 May 2007 at 15:17

I can take it no longer. AOG: IT’S BURNET WITH ONE T!

Sorry. Carry on, please.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 03 May 2007 at 16:01

Fixed.

Peter Burnet Thursday, 03 May 2007 at 18:47

Thank you, Brit. You may think my long-suffering patience on that score stems fron instinctive Canadian deference to the rapacious Yankee trader or perhaps my exceptionally sensitive tolerance of geeks busy with more pressing things. Not at all. I grew up in Quebec and had my name spelled Brunet 80% of the time. As a youth, I was enraged by this ignorance of tradition and denial of my basic human rights. I recall spending many hours writing long letters of protest to the movers and shakers of this world. Answers came there none and I slowly came to realize I had been born into a world that was in decline and had completely lost any sense of traditional cultural and spitiual affinity. So I gave up in despair. I think I had just turned five at the time.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 03 May 2007 at 19:33

What’s embarrassing is that my mom lives near Burnet, Texas.


First State Bank of Burnet

Peter Burnet Friday, 04 May 2007 at 05:17

What a cute bank. No wonder you prefer to stand in line.

Ali Choudhury Friday, 04 May 2007 at 06:01

Meh. You have it easy Peter. I have to go by my middle name since my first name and surname are regularly mangled, misspelt and mispronounced without exception.

Annoying Old Guy Friday, 04 May 2007 at 08:19

No queuing for me — the natives are so overawed by my presence that the way clears before me.

Annoying Old Guy Friday, 04 May 2007 at 09:18

It’s really about objecting to life being driven increasingly and inexorably by the principles of efficiency and utility and losing any sense of human worth and values outside those.

I strongly disagree with that. It is through effeciency and utility that we have the time and resources to more deeply value human worth. It may be that people, via rampant consumerism, chose to not do so, but I can’t but see the scope for such valuation increased by not having to work sunup to sundown at back breaking labor.

We talk about how much militarily stronger we are than the Islamists but don’t see they are far more resilient and are forcing us out through our self-inflicted political wounds

Now that’s just silly. The Caliphascists are far less resilient, they are lashing out precisely because their culture can’t handle any sort of real strain. There is no forcing, there is only the weakness of Western civilization.

Peter Burnet Friday, 04 May 2007 at 12:54

It is through effeciency and utility that we have the time and resources to more deeply value human worth.

AOG, I’ve warned you before about taking those commencement addresses too seriously. But it sure does roll off the tongue nicely, so I’m listening. Just what evidence of our increased sense of human worth over, say, the last forty years are you thinking of?

Annoying Old Guy Friday, 04 May 2007 at 12:59

I didn’t see we had, I said we could. In my own life, I can see how my enjoyment and richness of life is better than that of my parents due to my access to more resources and time. But that’s because I have chosen to take advantage of the wealth of our society on an absolute scale, rather than striving to best my neighbors on a relative scale.

Michael Herdegen Sunday, 06 May 2007 at 04:58

Peter, what strikes me is that while I revel in technological progress, I don’t feel compelled to use or participate, while you seem to find progress too swift, or at least distasteful, and yet you appear to feel somehow pressured to live at the cutting edge, no matter how much you hate it.

Your cell phone has an “off” button. Use it. If you want to live like a 19th century logger or pioneer, those options are available to you, as you well know from your time working with the Natives.

Nobody’s forcing you to enter The Machine. If you enter, it’s YOUR CHOICE.

Peter Burnet Sunday, 06 May 2007 at 06:11

Actually, Michael, I think I am even better evidence for your point than that. What cell phone? Geez, you sound like my late father, who you would have got along with better than with me and whose pat answer to every argument I ever made on this score was: “So, you want to send children back to work in the mines?”

As long as you hyper-libertarians insist in characterizing the issue entirely in terms of well-grounded individuals making immediate choices whether to use this or that gadget or not, you are unbeatable. I can never quite figure out whether you deny the organic, collective influence of a technological progress that drives, rather than builds on, our values or simply think it is not a priority. I have no doubt you, AOG and many other middle-aged male bloggers have things well under control, but unless you are going to argue that only you see clearly and everyone else is in the grip of an irrational nostalgia or fear of change, you might want to explain why so many sages (Ellul, Bloom, Barzun, etc., and also much of the Catholic Church)wrestle with this and why their concerns resonate so widely. It isn’t conspicuous consumption or even lifestyle we are arguing about, it is perception of reality and consequent political and social priorities. The fragility of the family, the decline of religion, the reduction of health to the bare material (“lives not worth living?”), the denial that art has any significance beyond personal taste, the growing disdain for history, the decoupling of sex from everything else in life, the enchanted kingdom of psychobabble, the atheist war on human uniqueness, the unstoppable drive of a medical research defined by the possible rather than the good (the embryo question is just a temporary blip), etc., etc. cannot be blamed on 500 channel cable TV, but they are marks of a zeitgeist driven by a relativist, utilitarian materialism that fertilizes personal self-focus and alienation masquerading as freedom and choice. A lot of thoughtful people think that is the mark of decline, not progress, and they worry.

Hey, how about a deal in the interests of moving these debates to deeper levels rather than just repeating opening statements? If I promise to stop trashing progress rotely, will you stop telling me I am perfectly free to go live with the Amish?

Peter Burnet Sunday, 06 May 2007 at 06:32

BTW, Michael, doesn’t your inclination to present this issue as a “choice” between embracing all the wonders of the brave new world to come and consciously deciding to live in the past undermine your argument that we are free to pick and choose as we stumble along semi-blindly through life?

Michael Herdegen Sunday, 06 May 2007 at 12:44
If I promise to stop trashing progress rotely, will you stop telling me I am perfectly free to go live with the Amish?

Done.

What cell phone?

Say what ?!?

Then why all of the rancor and moaning last year over at Brothers Judd about how cell phones are the bane of existence, how they force you to be in 24/7 contact with the office and all ?

BTW, Michael, doesn’t your inclination… [And so forth]

Well, several years ago I tried nuanced argument along those lines, but it didn’t seem to resonate with you. So since then I’ve simply been repeating the point that, at least in No. America, we can step off of the escalator, even to the point of going back in time.

But I don’t think that most people have to accept a binary choice of the Brave New World wholesale/the 19th century.

I can never quite figure out whether you deny the organic, collective influence of a technological progress that drives, rather than builds on, our values or simply think it is not a priority.

Not a priority. While technological progress can drive our values, it doesn’t always, nor does it have to. After abortion became feasible, it didn’t cause Americans to decide that killing babies was A-OK. The invention and production of nuclear weapons ushered in a relatively golden era of peace. Further, penicillin and the Salk vaccine were the products of progress.

Where do we draw the line? Referring to the Amish is actually right on point, since they don’t actually renounce technology, they use quite a bit of it, they just refuse to use any produced after an arbitrary date. To those unschooled in history, it appears as though they’re living a primitive life, but they’re using the fruits of 15,000 years of technological progress.

So if you don’t want to live with the Amish, or in a neo-Amish culture, forsaking all tech produced after some arbitrary date, then what is your perfect world ?

The Brave New One, just taking longer to get there ?

[U]nless you are going to argue that only you see clearly and everyone else is in the grip of an irrational nostalgia or fear of change, you might want to explain why so many sages […] wrestle with this and why their concerns resonate so widely. […] A lot of thoughtful people think that is the mark of decline, not progress, and they worry.

Yes, most people are in the grip of an irrational fear of change.

Consider: In America today, it is possible to become an expert in almost any subject for very little cost, beyond time. In some cases, it’s free. (Which is not to say that it’s free to become accredited, but credentials and education/skill are only loosely linked). And yet, polls show that most adult Americans know very little other than what they need to know to get by, from day-to-day. They’ve even forgotten most of what they learned during their compulsory education. BY CHOICE.

So why should we expect everyone to welcome a rapidly-changing world? Most people lack the knowledge to adequately assess the benefits and drawbacks of what’s occurring, and change means that they may be forced to learn something new, in order to get by, and they don’t like doing that.

Most people would be satisfied if life were static, if their grandchildren lived exactly as they do now. And frankly, I would be too, if I hadn’t grown up in a time of rapid change.

But re-corking the genie is a very, very difficult proposition.

As for the “sages”, Kurzweil and Toffler qualifies as sages, and they’re forecasting the exact opposite. In a multitude of voices, there will be a spokesperson for every view. Most will be wrong.

The sages were wisely predicting decline and ruin as far back as there are written records, from the Egyptians to the Greeks to the Romans. And in reference to specific cultures, societies, and empires, eventually some were right. (Which only means that a stopped clock…)

But with regard to humanity, all of the doomsters and naysayers have been COMPLETELY WRONG. There has never been a better time to be alive, regardless of one’s race, creed, religion, political affiliation, or nationality. Even those that are considered by today’s advanced societies to be oppressed and wilfully primitive peoples are living easier and longer lives than their ancestors had - although much harder and shorter than they could be, if they’d just listen to reason. (By which I mean, “copy America”. Or even France).

The fragility of the family, the decline of religion, the reduction of health to the bare material (“lives not worth living?”), the denial that art has any significance beyond personal taste, the growing disdain for history, the decoupling of sex from everything else in life, the enchanted kingdom of psychobabble, the atheist war on human uniqueness, the unstoppable drive of a medical research defined by the possible rather than the good…

Families are no more fragile than they ever were, they’re just fragile in different ways. Now they actually split up, rather than living in dysfunction and abuse. Your perspective is very much informed by your experiences with people who split up for stupid reasons, and eventually regret it, but can you point me to a Golden Age of the Family, where everyone was loving, genial, generous, and loyal ?

Read your Bible. It’s full of stories about bad families, even families warring against each other. Why else do you think that “honor your parents” had to be one of the few Commandments, along with “don’t murder” ?

Further, there are plenty of non-fragile families around, even by modern terms. They live in Utah.

There hasn’t been a decline in religion in America, just a decline in Christianity. Now, that may indeed be a bad thing, but the indications are that the young’uns are picking up the slack where the Boomers fell down, (which was largely the fault of the parents and culture of the 50s, but no use crying over spilt milk), so if it’s Christianity you want, you’re likely to get it. In America, anyway.

As for the art thing, art IS all about personal taste. What causes one person to weep with joy will leave another cold. When some people look at the Mona Lisa, they just see a woman.

You seem to be referring to the Platonic ideal of “art”, to which I reply, “Kant”.

When has history ever been a joy to study, for most people, and when has a peoples ever felt bound by it? One answer to the latter is “Arab Muslims”, and we can see how well that is gonna turn out for them.

Perhaps I am being obtuse, but it seems to me that a deep and abiding knowledge of history has never been among the attributes of the common person.

The decoupling of sex is a predictable function of the emancipation of women, combined with effective birth control. Since that particular combination is younger than I am, we’re still seeing society trying to come to grips with it, and I don’t think that what’s happening now is any more permanent than was the Victorian era. Further, “virtual reality” is getting better and better, and so in thirty years or so virile young men will be rutting with ethereal fantasy babes, and young women will remain as chaste as they care to be until offspring are desired.

When was it that medical research was driven by the good, rather than the possible ?

Mary Shelley wrote about that specific issue 190 years ago. Is all of the progress since then rubbish, since it was largely driven by the possible, rather than some fleeting concept of what “the good” might be? Remember, at the time Americans were still keeping slaves. (And how smart and wise was Shelley, to so nail an issue that has resonated for 200 years ?)

So basically, I don’t think that we’re much better than the people of 250 years ago, we’re just richer, and have better tools. If humans could make it from then to now, and be the better for it, then I don’t see any reason why we and our descendants can’t muddle through, and be far better off than we are. Will they be perfect? No. Could their path from here to wherever they end up be better-chosen? Almost certainly.

But we aren’t gods, we don’t have omniscience, we just have trial-and-error. It was good enough for grand-dad, and it’s good enough for us. We aren’t any worse than our ancestors were.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Alvin Toffler

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 07 May 2007 at 09:00

Mr. Herdegen hit most of the points that I would have made, so I would like to touch on some things at a slightly higher level.

I don’t want to dismiss Mr. Burnet’s concerns as the crankiness of an old fogey. Instead, I would say that I don’t see them as fundamentally due to technological progress. It seems a rather odd position for a conservative to say “our time is special, we are discovering new flaws in human nature”.

There is also the argument of inevitability. An open society such as ours will have technological progress, most of it unplanned and unasked for. Calls to do otherwise, such as yours, seem no more likely to succeed than calls to end war by having everyone be nicer to each other. To resist, a society needs a strong internal structure that provides the collective / collected wisdom that is beyond the individual. But if the society has that, then it tends not to suffer from the other problems that you want to slow technological progress to solve. That’s my first point stated again.

I am also optimistic because I see the cycle of our technology turning toward social and personal interaction. I have touched on this in a few posts in the past. The trends I see point to a return to a more personal, more involved style of technology, a shift away from the grand projects and impersonal mega-corporations that characterized the previous century.

Michael Herdegen Tuesday, 08 May 2007 at 05:17

It seems a rather odd position for a conservative to say “our time is special, we are discovering new flaws in human nature”.

Ah, now you’ve written what was to be my second line of argument, should the conversation have continued: Like conspiracy theories, “to Hades in a handcart”-ism can be prone to self-centeredness, or an era-centric paradigm - “we are so special that this is happening uniquely to us.”

The trends I see point to a return to a more personal, more involved style of technology…

‘Zactly. Self-selecting online societies, virtual reality, and eventually robotic servants and companions…

My greatest apprehension about the future is the extent to which there will be a tendency to withdraw completely to solitary Universes of our own making, or at least choosing, there to be Lotus Eaters. Asimov foresaw that in his classic The Robots of Dawn.

Peter Burnet Tuesday, 08 May 2007 at 05:24

Michael/AOG:

Thank-you. One thing that intrigues me about libertarians is how they are convinced that everyone else is in the grip of an ideological prison while they and only they are free from such fetters and have 20/20 vision. Your defence of the modern is absolute in the sense that it is ungrounded in time or history. There seems to be no room for saying that the collective concerns and priorities for society in 1880 are or should be different than in 2007. It is also quite undemocratic, as you pretty much admit the irrationally fearful masses don’t want to embrace it as you do, but that they are wrong. I mean, what is the matter with Kansas, anyway? Also, you start by insisting that we are all free, both individually and collectively, to pick and choose what we want (technology as servant) and then, without even pausing for breath, talk about historical inevitability (technological imperative as master) when somebody says: OK, let’s say no to this or that.”

Families are no more fragile than they ever were, they’re just fragile in different ways

That is the kind of statement that slams the door shut on debate. Firstly, neither you nor I have the slightest empirical basis for asserting such a claim or its contrary and anyway, there is a lot more at play here than wispy notions of immediate individual happiness. (Would you argue we should raise children on the basis of maximizing the freedom and happiness of the parents?) More to the point, it is a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose argument common to you future-lovers. You wax poetically about the qualitative superiority of life with all manner of wondrous new things, but if someone points out a downside you slip into timeless relativism and say nothing has really changed. I recommend a good dose of philosophical consistency.

I actually do believe in progress and that some eras are better models than others, but I don’t believe in golden ages and I don’t have an historical ideal grounded in time and place. History can teach and inspire us, and we should respect, not disdain it, as it is proof of eternal human nature and fallibility and the terrible risks those who forget that run. That being said:

Further, “virtual reality” is getting better and better, and so in thirty years or so virile young men will be rutting with ethereal fantasy babes, and young women will remain as chaste as they care to be until offspring are desired.

Michael, why didn’t you tell me that before? If you had, I would have stopped all this hand-wringing about change and tradition and joined with you wholeheartedly in worshipping the future. That is an End of History I can get my head around.

Peter Burnet Tuesday, 08 May 2007 at 05:27

I am somewhat sloppily equating libertarianism with your philosophical modernism. I realize they are not the same, but it is just so hard sometimes to tell you folks apart.

Michael Herdegen Tuesday, 08 May 2007 at 06:23

So you are abandoning the assertion that families have become more fragile ?

Again, you CAN say no to this or that, but on an individual basis. On a collective basis, “unforeseen effects” are the name of the game, and always have been. People adopt that which they believe will give them an advantage, without perfect knowledge of how it’ll shape the future, and indeed, we CANNOT know. (Although we like to guess).

Movements to ban future development, or to slow its course, are exactly like those groups who believed that banning Western nukes would end the threat of nukes being used. There’s always someone who will believe it to be to her advantage to use asymmetrical knowledge or techniques, particularly if they’re closely-held. The F/A - 22 and the American Ballistic Missile Defense Shield spring immediately to mind.

There is no “technological imperative as master” in democracies. The U.S. and France should make that clear. As societies, we choose whether or not to use the various tools at our disposal. An engineer driven, futurist-fetish culture would look FAR different from anything that actually exists on Earth.

In fact, such a society wouldn’t even be ON Earth; the only thing that’s preventing humans from living in Earth orbit, or on the Moon, is that we’d rather spend our money on cosmetics, fizzy sugar water, and cellphone ringtones. No joke. Truth. I tell you three times.

Life is better than it’s ever been, and also, nothing has changed. I made that point several times and ways in my previous posts. Humans are nearly the same as they were 250 years ago, but the TOOLS have changed, and are going to keep changing ever-more-rapidly, even as human nature doesn’t. It’s all in how the tools are used, and what is the intent. You write about how you perceive medical care to be drawing closer to a materialistic utilitarian ideal, but that’s not because we have better medical tech than we did in whatever era it was that you believe to have been better philosophically.

History can teach and inspire us, and we should respect, not disdain it, as it is proof of eternal human nature and fallibility…

In that we agree, and I believe that I wrote that almost verbatim.

Do you think that we disagree on those points, and if so, would you point out where my poor communication muddied the issue? I’d be most grateful.

[Y]ou pretty much admit the irrationally fearful masses don’t want to embrace it as you do, but that they are wrong.

Oh no, they want to embrace it, but selectively. They aren’t necessarily wrong, just uninformed, and incapable of making examined choices.

I mean, I’m not queuing up to buy a Wii, and I haven’t contributed a dime towards making Spiderman III - the Triumph of FX, into the highest-grossing film of all time. (Which seems to be where it’s headed).

But that points out a flaw in your philosophy, which is, on what grounds will the unwashed masses reject Looming Progress? An uneducated electorate isn’t a democracy, it’s just a genial mob. If people would rather spend their time watching fictional TV, rather than stuffing their brains with potentially useful tid-bits, then they’re essentially delegating the task of shaping the future to those who have an elevated interest in the topic.

Finally, assuming that we wanted to stop or slow technological development, how would we go about doing so, except by refusing to use or consume that which is presented ?

Michael Herdegen Tuesday, 08 May 2007 at 06:46

I guess that I don’t get what you would ideally like to see happen.

Peter Burnet Tuesday, 08 May 2007 at 07:16

So you are abandoning the assertion that families have become more fragile?

Of course not, but I am a simple country boy. I look at the divorce rate and single parenting rate and I draw obvious conclusions. It’s called first order evidence. You guys who play around with the definition of fragile confuse me no end.

There is no “technological imperative as master” in democracies

Yet you and AOG make a persuasive case that it is inevitable (Finally, assuming that we wanted to stop or slow technological development, how would we go about doing so), and I largely agree. If it is inevitable then it is is our master, no? It certainly is if you insist on teaching everybody it is good by definition and can only get better.

Michael Herdegen Tuesday, 08 May 2007 at 09:07

If it is inevitable then it is is our master, no?

No.

Are mortality and tax policy our “masters”?

My teaching is not that “it is good by definition and can only get better”, it’s that if we study history, we cannot help but conclude that more good than evil will result, and that there’s no reason to conclude that it will get worse, rather than better, since it never has before.1 Anxiety is good, it keeps us on our toes, but succumbing to vague fears is not the stuff of adults.

You simple country boys that play around with the definition of fragile confuse me no end. I look at the historic records of domestic violence and what would now be called sexual abuse of children and I draw obvious conclusions about whether families are in any worse shape than they were a few decades ago, or ever, for that matter.

——

1 One might argue that never before has there been the potential for humans to extinct themselves in one spasm of warfare, and that therefore we are net worse-off than we were before 1945. However, in the first place “nuclear extinction” is a self-aggrandizing myth. We do not yet have the capability to end all human life through the primary, secondary, and tertiary effects of a nuclear war, nor could we even end human civilization, nor blast all of human tech back to the stone age, although we could certainly kill maybe four billion people through nuclear carelessness.

Further, the entirely natural eruption of the Indonesian Lake Toba supervolcano 74,000 years ago reduced average global temperatures by five to fifteen degrees C. for five years, leading to the deaths of most of the global human population, and shrinking the entire human race to possibly as few as 10,000 people, putting the entire species in real danger of fading away - surely, an event even more catastrophic than global thermonuclear war would be. And yet, when the next supervolcano erupts, the question of whether it will extinct humans won’t even be an issue, although it’ll be the most massive disaster in recorded human history.

So, through technological progress, we’ve increased the probability of experiencing a near-extinction event, and decreased the possibility of experiencing an actual extinction event - a net gain.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 08 May 2007 at 20:47

One thing that intrigues me about libertarians is how they are convinced that everyone else is in the grip of an ideological prison while they and only they are free from such fetters

Doesn’t everyone think that? While there are certainly dogmatic libertarians about, I think the post-Judd crew is much more accepting of the possiblity that we are in error.

Your defence of the modern is absolute in the sense that it is ungrounded in time or history. There seems to be no room for saying that the collective concerns and priorities for society in 1880 are or should be different than in 2007.

You’re conflating multiple levels here. Of course the particular collective concerns are different for 1880 and 2000 (for instance, “peak oil”). But I do think that human nature is basically the same and therefore, deep down, the problems will be similar.

It is also quite undemocratic

Yes, and so are the laws of physics. If reality is structured in a specific way, then one deals with that or lives in delusion. Democracy is irrelevant in such a context. I also didn’t say that technological progress was inevitable as gravity, but that it was an unavoidable consequence of other desirable political structures, such as democracy. Consequences comes in bundles and there’s no picking and chosing them.

Also, you start by insisting that we are all free, both individually and collectively, to pick and choose what we want (technology as servant) and then, without even pausing for breath, talk about historical inevitability (technological imperative as master) when somebody says: OK, let’s say no to this or that.

What’s inevitable in a liberal democracy is the advancement of technology. That’s not the same saying everyone will adopt that technology. In effect, there is democratic control because only technology that appeals will survive. It may appeal to bad desires and be destructive, but nothing says that a democracy will vote for good law, either.

Peter Burnet Wednesday, 09 May 2007 at 05:16

Michael:

What strikes me about your arguments is the almost seamless mixing of good sense about the present and absolute conviction about the straightline increasing brightness of the future, right down to its undemocratic and erotic detail. It’s almost as if you were looking forward to a dream holiday and you are completely untroubled about what it may bring (give or take the odd supervolcano) and in (to me) complete denial about how in may change our values and relationships to one another. I think what separates us is not whether we live in good times. We can agree we do, although I obviously see it as more fragile than you. It is this: I guess that I don’t get what you would ideally like to see happen.. Apart from a vague hope for a mixture of the virtues grounded in liberty, democracy and the sacredness of human life, I don’t have such an ideal and I fear those who do. Nor do I see history as a model to be transposed. It is more like a bunch of warnings and inspirations. I’m with Churchill:

History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passions of former days.

AOG:

The question of how much can be blamed on technology is an interesting one, and I don’t think clear answers scream at us. Of course one can turn off the cell phone, of which the only downside seems to be a neurotic worry about being out of touch. But surely you won’t deny the profound cultural effects of the car and the pill that go far beyond their original utilitarian purpose. I can understand those who look at them individually and say on balance we are better off for them and I can understand those who say they were inevitable, but folks who say that pretty much everything that comes along is both inevitable and better by definition really do have a master.

A good example is the foetal embryo debate. Those trying to say no on the basis of higher values are challenged regularly by scientists claiming they are needed to cure diseases—some quite rare or obscure. The only answer that resonates with the public is that they are not necessary, that the diseases can be cured without them. But it is pretty much impossible today to say it shouldn’t matter—that the trade-off isn’t worth it or is ipso facto offensive. Without getting into the ins and outs of that particular issue, that is that kind of rote thinking that I find deeply disturbing and the source of a lot of modern horror and potential future ones.

Michael Herdegen Wednesday, 09 May 2007 at 07:47

What strikes me about your arguments is the […] absolute conviction about the straightline increasing brightness of the future…

Then I have failed to communicate effectively.

The future will be filled with natural disasters, failed leaders, financial panics, and devastating wars. But that’s no different than it always has been, so on that score, the future will be no worse than was the past.

The future will also feature better tools, which, if one looks at history, one will find has always been a feature of the past as well: Every era advances on that which has come before. We even have popular historical labels based on some outstanding tech of the day - Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Industrial Age, Nuclear Age, etc.

We agree that now is better than it was 100, 1,000, 10,000 years ago. It got to be that way despite the failures, disasters, and savagery of the past. Where we disagree is here:

  • I assume that, because humans are not WORSE than they were in the past, and because our tools will get better, and because (humans + better tools) has ALWAYS resulted in a better world, (in general and over the long run), then by far the most likely outcome of the future is that it will be better than it is now, because the future has ALWAYS been better than the past - in general and over the long run. For instance, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, life was still better than it was during, say, the 1830s. Or any other time previous that you’d care to mention.
  • You appear to fear that, despite the massively better tech that’s coming our way, the miraculous medical advances, the cornucopia of material plenty that will inundate the lowest among us with sybaritic living undreamt of by the Sun King - despite all of that, humanity will somehow find a way to mess it up, to turn a silk purse into a sow’s ear. Humanity as Icarus.

But since that latter view has never been right, not in the millions of years that humans have been roaming this old world, then why would anyone assume that it will eventually be right, that NOW is the zenith of the Age of Humans ?

Michael Herdegen Wednesday, 09 May 2007 at 08:07

In other words, the future holds plenty of trials and tribulations, and it absolutely WILL change our values and relationships to one another. But how is that different from, or worse than, the past ?

There’s nothing static about humans. The only constant is change.

As for the foetal embryo debate, those trying to say no on the basis of higher values have utterly failed to explain why tossing already-aborted embryos, or those left over from in-vitro fertilization, into the garbage is a “higher value” than using the tissue to save lives.

It’s as if starving people on a deserted isle find a cow, which drops dead in front of them, and a Hindu rushes out of the crowd to explain that it would be “more moral” to die, rather than to eat the cow. So in essence, those opposed are simply lamenting that not everyone is like them, sharing their particular and exact beliefs, which is narcissism, not “higher values”.

Peter Burnet Wednesday, 09 May 2007 at 08:24

Who said it was? I said that we North Americans are living in good times today, especially in terms of satisfying material wants easily. I didn’t say it was the zenith of anything. It (the last century) was also a period of unparalleled slaughter, oppression and genocide, much of it made possible by the same wonders you celebrate so. The Sun King may have dreamed of non-stop sybaritic living, but he also wanted to control everything everybody thought and did. It seems he is well on his way to fulfilling both dreams.

I must say, Michael, your palpable enthusiasm for the heroically erotic times to come makes me think of the character in the Robertson Davies novel describing his childhood friend, by then a mover and shaker in business. It went something like: He loved to confide in me about his sexual needs and explain why they couldn’t be satisfied at home. He needed sex often and it had to be open and varied and dangerous and challenging and with a variety of different partners who felt the same. It all sounded exhausting and strangely like a frantic work-out with a punching bag and, after listening to one of these boasting confessions, I felt thankful not to have been born so demandingly endowed.

Will all this stuff you forsee be compulsory?

Michael Herdegen Wednesday, 09 May 2007 at 09:15

I didn’t say it was the zenith of anything.

If now is better than was the past, but the future will be worse than now, then now MUST, by definition, be the zenith. QED.

It (the last century) was also a period of unparalleled slaughter, oppression and genocide…

Only nominally. On a per-capita basis, the 20th century didn’t feature more slaughter, oppression, or genocide. It just seems that way because we have much higher populations and better media than did previous centuries.

The Sun King may have dreamed of non-stop sybaritic living, but he also wanted to control everything everybody thought and did. It seems he is well on his way to fulfilling both dreams.

Examples, please.

I must say, Michael, your palpable enthusiasm for the heroically erotic times to come…

I don’t wish to belabor the point, but the “palpable enthusiasm” for “heroic eroticism”, and the h.e. itself, is found only in the eyes of particular readers, and not in the actual writings.

For instance, I wrote up-thread about how I fear the results of virtual-reality cocooning, which I suspect will prominently feature heroic eroticism.

Will all this stuff you forsee be compulsory?

No, of course not, which is the basic point that I’ve been trying to get across for three years. It’s all by individual choice.

Peter Burnet Wednesday, 09 May 2007 at 10:59

Take a valium and let me have my fun, you old satyr. Besides, I wouldn’t worry about the virtual cocooning. Technology solves the problems of technology and we’ll have intellectual pursuits like Deal or No Deal to distract all those hyper-rutters.

Saying we live in good times and are blessed with many of the wonders of science and technological progress is in no way agreeing to the global and not-terribly-meaningful assertion that, overall, the present is better than the past or that there is any straightline progression, except when you cook the books with a self-serving definition of “better”. Canada in 2007 is better than Canada in 1650 and England in 1900 beats England in 1348, but Russia in 1880 was better than Russia in 1937, Italy in 1.A.D. was better than Italy in 700 and I would rather have lived in the U.S. in 1762 than 1862. The early Middle Ages beat the later Middle Ages and Renaissance Italy beat most of the 1600’s. And how about China? You would need an oscilloscope to plot their qualitative progress.

And I think you must agree, because, once again, you dismiss the horrors of the present as of no qualitative or even quantitative difference to those in the past (!!??!!) so how can you treat it as blindingly obvious than what looks better to us actually is. C’mon, Michael.

In North America, we now eat better, live longer in bigger houses, can blog and are less racist and arguably less priggish than in the 1950’s, but a lot of social indices are less favourable, it’s a more frantic and much less optimistic society and I would argue mental health is deteriorating. And it costs over $100K on average to die. De gustibus non est disputandum.

Michael Herdegen Wednesday, 09 May 2007 at 11:22

Or, said in yet another way:

North Americans are living in good times today, especially in terms of satisfying material wants easily, not due to any special dispensation of Providence, but simply because it’s human nature to seek satisfaction and luxury; to flee want, pain, and deprivation; and to exhibit curiosity and risk-taking behavior. That pushes humans in the direction of adopting and adapting new technologies and basic scientific or naturalistic discoveries, from fire to domesticating animals to agriculture to the wheel to nanotechnology and biotech.

As long as humans continue to do that which they’ve always done, the future will be better than was the past.

Further, values, and human relationships to one another, and to the environment and the other animals therein, have also been constantly changing. The Christian beliefs which some contend inform and support their oppositional positions towards fetal stem cell research, for instance, are neither universal nor timeless; for most of human history there was no Christianity, and even now followers of that faith comprise a small minority of the world’s peoples. Also, not all Christians agree that Christ is against fetal stem cell research.

So, if we’ve gotten to this Age of Superb Luxury, (or time of primitive barbarism and deprivation, as it will be known in the far future), despite changing moral values, the flux in familial and social responsibilities and relationships, and the disunion and disagreement among the world’s peoples with regard to matters of faith and allegiance, then there doesn’t seem to be any reason why continued change in those areas would lead to adverse outcomes in the future.

Particularly since one of the world’s main religions, Islam, will be destroyed or co-opted into a clone of Christianity during the 21st century, leading to less faith-based social friction and conflict.

Peter Burnet Wednesday, 09 May 2007 at 11:50

it’s human nature to seek satisfaction and luxury;

I don’t agree. Remember the promise of the twenty-hour work week? Remember Con 111 and The Greening of America? We were all supposed to lie around strumming guitars and composing free verse because all our real needs and reasonable wants were satisfied. Then we all developed a taste for monster homes, women decided personal self-fulfillment lay in the sixty hour work week and geeks started ignoring their families to they could live on pizza fulltime at the office and work on the IPO. The fact that we have increased our wealth substantially over the past two generations while our leisure pretty much not at all is one of the wonders of the age. American man thinks he wants satisfaction, luxury and leisure, but he is bored stiff by it when he gets it.

to flee want, pain, and deprivation;

Yup, but once he has food and shelter and good health, he has this funny way of defining them as being denied eco-tours to Antarctica, BMWs and the newer Ipods. And he can be just as miserable and desperate about the deprivation.

and to exhibit curiosity and risk-taking behavior.

not always, not everywhere and not at all ages. And when he does, not necessarily thoughfully or intelligently. Indeed, sometimes mindlessly. But aren’t you the guy who argued above that most of us “are in the grip of an irrational fear of change”?

Michael Herdegen Wednesday, 09 May 2007 at 12:59

Peter, between the two of us YOU are the only one referring to any kind of “straightline progression” in well-being or progress. I have written several times in this thread alone that the prosperity of any given region or society can ebb and surge - but over time, the trend is clearly and ALWAYS towards more satisfaction.

Speaking of “cook[ing] the books with a self-serving definition of ‘better’”, we should note that all of your examples of when the past was better are the very definition of self-serving, i.e., “better for the psyche of Peter Burnet”: Although you might prefer to live in the earlier time, for personal reasons, by any objective standard 1937 Russia beats 1880 Russia, (which is not to say that either was very nice), and the America of 1862 was vastly better for the overwhelming majority of inhabitants than was the America of 1762 - black emancipation, railroads, telegraphs, instant cross-Atlantic communication, plentiful cheap beef and other foodstuffs for America’s children, booming industrial production…

But all of that is moot, since those examples are of specific nations. Perhaps I have been somehow unclear, but my contention is that, measured universally, all of humanity is net better-off in later eras than in earlier ones. Even assuming that the Russians of 1937 were in a worse situation than they were in 1880, the opposite is true of humanity as a whole, and the same is true of 1 A.D. vs. 700 A.D., regardless of the state of affairs in Italy.

And I think you must agree, because, once again, you dismiss the horrors of the present as of no qualitative or even quantitative difference to those in the past (!!??!!)…

There are horrors now, there were horrors in the past, and there will be horrors in the future. I don’t see how you can indict the future for being the same as was the past. It may not be better, but it’s also unlikely to be worse.

The Romans crucified 6,000 men along the Appian Way, as a warning to those who might cross the Empire. Despite it being considered the most shameful, the most painful, and the most abhorrent of all executions, and the Roman jurist Julius Paulus listed crucifixion in first place as the worst of all capital punishments, listing it ahead of death by burning, death by beheading, or death by wild beasts, it was nonetheless performed so often on Roman slaves that it became known as the “slaves’ punishment”.

The Romanian ruler Vlad the Impaler was so cruel that he inspired a legend which persists to this day, that of Dracula the blood-drinking undead.

How can we therefore say that today’s horrors are worse than those of the past ?

As for quantity, a horror inflicted upon one million people, out of a population of one hundred million, is not as severe as a horror inflicted upon one thousand people, if the population numbers but fifty thousand, yes ?

Put another way, a loaf of bread that now costs $ 2.50 isn’t necessarily more difficult to obtain than one that used to cost 10¢ in 1920, despite the price being nominally 25 times greater now. We also need to understand the relationship between the two numbers.

In North America, [it’s better now] than in the 1950’s, but a lot of social indices are less favourable, it’s a more frantic and much less optimistic society and I would argue mental health is deteriorating.

The scoring of the indices themselves have in some cases been changed, so one cannot directly compare those from the 50s with those of today, (SAT scores, high-school graduation rates, domestic violence and abuse reports), and in other cases, the value of what the indices purport to measure has changed, so a measure which now appears to be less favorable may not be affecting society in the way which would have been predicted in 1950 (divorce rates, unemployment rates).

As for optimism, that may be true of your society, but it isn’t true of America. Perhaps some of our disagreement is simple cross-cultural misunderstanding.

I would argue that mental health has not deteriorated from the 50s. In fact, I would claim the exact opposite, that people are far more satisfied with their lives than they were fifty years ago. The strain that men were under in 1950 was considerable; they were solely responsible for the well-being and support of their families, and the socially-acceptable ways for them to relieve their stress were fewer.

We were all supposed to lie around strumming guitars and composing free verse because all our real needs and reasonable wants were satisfied.

We CAN lie around composing free verse if we want. If we confined ourselves to real needs and reasonable wants, a twenty-hour workweek would be more than adequate. In America, a forty-hour week at the Federal minimum wage provides for all needs, in 80% of the nation, and no skills or experience are needed to get a job at that minimum wage.

Then we all developed a taste for monster homes, women decided personal self-fulfillment lay in the sixty hour work week and geeks started ignoring their families to they could live on pizza fulltime at the office and work on the IPO.

That’s what “satisfaction” is all about. “Satisfaction and luxury” can mean or include “leisure”, (it does for me), but they are not synonyms.

and to exhibit curiosity and risk-taking behavior. And when he does, not necessarily thoughfully or intelligently. Indeed, sometimes mindlessly.

Exactly !!

So we can see that thoughtful, intelligent, or directed risk-taking and exploration are not necessary for the advancement of humans. Accidents and mistakes feature prominently in the history of discovery and progress.

But aren’t you the guy who argued above that most of us “are in the grip of an irrational fear of change”?

Yes, we are, but life usually changes at the margins, so the marginalized behavior of some fearless (or driven) humans is sufficient to change all of human existence. As an example, Chris Columbus was just one man, but his legacy is one of the major turning points of the past thousand years.

Note also that fear of change can be rational, it’s just that it’s usually a feature of ignorance, not calculation.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 09 May 2007 at 15:21

But surely you won’t deny the profound cultural effects of the car and the pill that go far beyond their original utilitarian purpose

Of course not. But I don’t think those cultural effects are any more profound than, say, the invention of agriculture or the wheel. Or gunpowder. Or masonry.

I also don’t want you to think that I am claiming that progress on every possible technological front is inevitable. While such progress is, in general, inevitable, the particular details can be highly contingent. This is another place where OJ’s dogmatism destroys what would otherwise be a profound and useful insight of his, which is how much technology is shaped by the societal zeitgeist. Facts are facts, but their use is subject to all the vagaries of the human condition. Whether semiconductor circuts are used to build Web 2.0 or Big Electronic Brother isn’t a technological issue and is not determined by the format of the equations used to describe semiconductor physics (as OJ thinks).

Peter Burnet Thursday, 10 May 2007 at 07:52

but my contention is that, measured universally, all of humanity is net better-off…

Well, I guess that is a fundamental difference between us. When it comes to that kind of measurement, I don’t do universal.

But are you not rubbing up against the tautological by simply saying that material progress makes us better off materially? If you think 1937 Russla with the terror, purges and genocide was better off than poor, backward but relatively stable and peaceful 1880 Russia, I really have no reply.

Michael Herdegen Thursday, 10 May 2007 at 12:41

No, I’m saying that material progress can make us better-off socially, psychologically, and emotionally, too. I’m also saying that I don’t think that society has suffered as much degradation as you apparently believe that it has, although it’s true that some of the changes that have occurred, for good or ill, are the result of, or couldn’t have happened without, the advances in technology and increased wealth of the West.

Consider personal computers, the internet, and the “Web 2.0” phenomenon. Speaking for myself, the ‘net has provided fantastic intellectual, psychological, and emotional opportunities, ones that either weren’t available to me in the off-line world of the early 90s, or that were far less convenient.

I could simply camp at the library, (as I did as a youth), to get the kind of exposure to differing points of view and raw data that I now get more comfortably and quickly at home, but it would be a lesser experience. I used to have to match schedules with other people, and do some travelling, to have the kind of interpersonal interaction that I now enjoy, mostly at my convenience, online. And through aimless, whimsical surfing or link-hopping, I’ve run across stuff that I never would have found sitting in any library convenient to me.

The booming “Web 2.0” development tells me that I am not alone in that analysis. Many millions of other people are getting the same kind of satisfaction from their internet experiences that I am.

Material progress, mental satisfaction.

When it comes to that kind of measurement, I don’t do universal.

Well… Ya kinda have to, I think. If one’s own family is dysfunctional, or dies due to disease or illness, or a child is a failure, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of society is dysfunctional, ill, or a failure. Similarly, should Canada or the U.S. decline, it won’t necessarily mean that all of humanity is failing, or doomed.

We must look at the big picture.

Peter Burnet Thursday, 10 May 2007 at 13:44

We must look at the big picture.

There is the second difference between us. No doubt we can benefit from a very small coterie of intellectuals and religious leaders trying to grasp the whole, but I think most of us would be better off narrowing our focus. Those who dwell on the global picture tend to lower the priority of things like the families and communities they are actually responsible for.

Exactly what comfort would I be supposed to take from the conviction that the whole world is on a net-gain roll but my own country is in terminal, irreversible decline?

Michael Herdegen Thursday, 10 May 2007 at 14:59

It would give you some extremely valuable insight: That you, or at least your children, should emigrate.

Nobody lives forever, and as you’ve pointed out, few nations, empires, or cultures do either. But individuals can flee dying organizations.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 10 May 2007 at 15:01

That you can move to a better place? That hope is possible? The comfort the men of the Titanic felt watching the women and children get on the life boats?

Besides, if your country really is in a “terminal, irreversible decline” what’s the point of narrowing your focus? You’re still doomed.

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