Comments: Is human moral progress inevitable?

(We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

I think you're making a few false assumptions. I'll deal with this at greater length on my blog at some point, hopefully, but here's a few:

1) You seem to assume that economic progress is inevitable. The fall of the Roman Empire and the period after is just one example showing that it's not.
2) I haven't taken the time to RTFA, but it seems that you're focusing on "societal morality" for lack of a better term with personal morality. While you're correct that our greater economic stability allows to care more for the environment than people in Chad, I'm not sure I'd trust my wallet more with the typical American than the typical Chad-ian(?). Wealth and lack of greed definitely do not go hand-in-hand.

Again, take these with a grain of salt since I haven't read the linked article. But I would argue that neither moral nor economic progress is inevitable. Both can advance and both can backslide, and not necessarily in unison.

Posted by Paul Smith at May 19, 2008 12:03 PM

Paul: I didn't anywhere mention economic progress. I (and the article) stated technological progress. Your assumption, thus, is erroneous.

Technological progress may go hand in hand with economic progress ("may" since the USSR seems to belie that), and sure, advanced tech doesn't ensure societal collapse. There are myriad variables to measure for that beyond just tech. However, the advances of technology are not irrevocably lost after a society's collapse, or, less drastic, its decline.

Posted by Hube at May 19, 2008 06:30 PM

Somehow, Hube, I don't think it's going to work out like that.

I began work in the early sixties at the dawn of the computer revolution. I remember pundits predicting that, with computers easing our workloads, the four-day work week was just around the corner. They worried about what we would do with all that spare time!

In the early sixties most families were single-income, supported reasonably comfortably by the efforts of just one family member -- usually the dad. Now, some 45 years later with all of the intervening technological advances, most families have two-incomes or more and the typical work week is at least 10 hours longer. What happened to all that leisure time we were supposed to be getting?

If we extrapolate that trend for another 45 years, taking into account fusion, nanotechnoloby, biomechanics along with other as yet unknowable advances, we can expect mostly four-income families, who have put their kids to work at 90-hour per week jobs. The only up side will be that then no one will have enough time to get into trouble.

Posted by highlander at May 21, 2008 12:36 AM

But from what we have seen -- and that's all we have, so it's our only criterion -- BSG isn't that much more technologically advanced than we are. In fact, they are only more advanced in two areas: space travel, and AI. There are no ray guns, replicators, holodecks, transporters, or any other such para-scientific nonsense. Unlike the godawful Roddenberry franchise, the BSG writers do not continually use technology as a deus ex machina, nor are we assaulted in every third line of dialogue with ridiculous pseudo-scientific babble. Nobody "reconfigures the dilithium crystals" to "create a temporal displacement field" in BSG.

And this is exactly why BSG is great Sci-Fi, and Roddenberry was trash (it's also why Blade Runner is great Sci-Fi). BSG is about the characters and the story, not the technology. The more technology you have in Sci-Fi, the more it becomes a distraction from the story, and the more tempted writers are to produce ridiculous drivel, like "photonic lifeforms" in a protostar.

Posted by rightwingprof at May 22, 2008 11:43 AM

RWP: "BSG" was good, indeed for the reasons you cite. However, IMO the writers have lost their way by severely misinterpreting human motives and logical behaviors based on the survivors' situation.

Posted by Hube at May 22, 2008 06:43 PM

"coupled with cheap power and easily mass-produced products -- will subsequently increase our "free time," that free time that'll likely be used to expand human morality and rationality"

A) sounds like technology = economy...

B) expanded by whom? We are using our free time to write, read and post on blogs.

Logan's Run is a more likely future.

Posted by anoni at May 26, 2008 10:42 AM