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    Thread: Human progress: Why bother?

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      Czar Salad IndieAnthias's Avatar
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      Human progress: Why bother?

      What is meant by 'human progress', and what are we 'progressing' to? Is it to cure all diseases, cure aging, and solve the population problems this would create? We won't appreciate that once we achieve it. Is it to colonize a world off Earth and put an end to limited resources? We won't appreciate that once we achieve it. Is it to master an understanding of every natural phenomenon in the universe, including every aspect of the human mind? We won't appreciate that once we achieve it.

      We won the inter-species arms race thousands of years ago and nobody is impressed in the slightest. So what was the point?

      Our 'progress' is driven by emotion and economics rather than rationality.

      A few books, a few observations, a few youtubes, has snowballed into an inability for me to take anything seriously, to the point that it's affecting my life noticeably. This isn't a bad thing, it's all based on honest truthseeking, but it's a little weird.

      "Up helm! Keep her off round the world!"
      Round the world! There is much in that sound to inspire proud feelings; but whereto does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only through numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where those that we left behind secure, were all the time before us.
      Were this world an endless plain, and by sailing eastward we could for ever reach new distances, and discover sights more sweet and strange than any Cyclades or Islands of King Solomon, then there were promise in the voyage. But in pursuit of those far mysteries we dream of, or in tormented chase of that demon phantom that, some time or other, swims before all human hearts; while chasing such over this round globe, they either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed. The cabin-compass is called the tell-tale, because without going to the compass at the helm, the Captain, while below, can inform himself of the course of the ship.

      -Moby Dick, chapter 52, The Albatross
      Last edited by IndieAnthias; 04-14-2011 at 02:24 AM.

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      Yes, once we achieve these things nobody will appreciate them, people never do. Since the dawn of man no one truly understood how lucky they are to even be alive. But it's human nature, so we should not worry about that.

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      Czar Salad IndieAnthias's Avatar
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      I like your response but I gotta tell you... just read a book that basically made the point that "humans nature is fundamentally flawed" is a myth.

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      What are you talking about? Most people appreciate being human over some other animal. We got big fat brains and thumbs, what is not to like? Every one is extremely happy not to be a cockroach or something.

      Any one who has gone through life would be extremely grateful for things like curing aging and disease. Imagine you were 82 and most of your friends and most of the people you have met in your life died, and you been sick for the last 15 years of your life, then there was a cure for disease and aging was stopped. You don't think you would appreciate that? Hell yea you would, you would be thankful for the rest of eternity. 10,000 years later, you would still be thinking back to how close you came to be wiped from the face of this universe and you would be very pleased you survived.

      You talk about people not appreciating stuff, but that is only people who don't use what life has given them, and people who never worked towards a goal. There are tons of people who know what things are important in life, and gain a lot as they accomplish their goals. If humans ever do something like overcoming aging it would be a monumental task, and none of the people who help bring that about will ever forget it. They will appreciate it til the day they die, and if they cure disease and aging that might be a very long time indeed.

      As for our progress being driven by emotions and economics, it really is. However it is also very rational. All the things we do is building towards surviving as a species. Given enough time earth will be destroyed and so the only way to escape the death of our race is to expand into the vastness of space. We are a long ways off from that however, but it takes time and we are heading towards that goal. It would be nice if we could stop aging on the way, because I would very much like to see that. I would give almost anything to still be alive to see the day when humans leave our solar system and explore deeper into space. And if they did stop aging and stuff it would save trillions and trillions of lives.

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      Member Laughing Man's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by IndieAnthias View Post
      What is meant by 'human progress', and what are we 'progressing' to? Is it to cure all diseases, cure aging, and solve the population problems this would create? We won't appreciate that once we achieve it. Is it to colonize a world off Earth and put an end to limited resources? We won't appreciate that once we achieve it. Is it to master an understanding of every natural phenomenon in the universe, including every aspect of the human mind? We won't appreciate that once we achieve it.

      We won the inter-species arms race thousands of years ago and nobody is impressed in the slightest. So what was the point?

      Our 'progress' is driven by emotion and economics rather than rationality.

      A few books, a few observations, a few youtubes, has snowballed into an inability for me to take anything seriously, to the point that it's affecting my life noticeably. This isn't a bad thing, it's all based on honest truthseeking, but it's a little weird.
      First, let me congratulate you on your ability to see the future and deduce what we will and will not appreciate. Second, rationality is necessary for purposeful action. You cannot act purposely and yet be acting irrationality. Irrational purposeful action is therefore an impossibility. So you say "Our 'progress' is driven by emotion and economics rather then rationality," you are actually speaking a falsehood. Third, if you wish to descend into the depths of nihilism then by all means take the dive, just don't try to act all educated about it. Be honest, you are just shrinking from reality because you are incapable of properly dealing with things that are either beyond your control or you haven't the fortitude to control.

      Welcome to the forums...you know..if you actually care about social customs and mannerisms.
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      'What is war?...In a short sentence it may be summed up to be the combination and concentration of all the horrors, atrocities, crimes, and sufferings of which human nature on this globe is capable' - John Bright

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      Member Photolysis's Avatar
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      We won't appreciate that once we achieve it.
      I personally appreciate that I'm not at risk of getting smallpox, and that many diseases and illnesses can be cured. As do many others.

      Many appreciate being alive. Solving issues like disease, ageing, famine, and so on is conducive to having a productive and happy life, which is something people value.

      If you're just going to sit there and say "why bother achieving anything?"... why bother posting here? Why bother being alive in the first place? I don't believe my life has an ultimate purpose, and that overall it is meaningless. Why do I live it then? Because I enjoy it.

      We won the inter-species arms race thousands of years ago and nobody is impressed in the slightest.
      I wasn't aware survival of the fittest was something to be impressed about. So we beat out the Neanderthals? Damn, humanity rules.

      nobody is impressed in the slightest
      This is where you go wrong. You seen to believe the point of achieving anything is to impress someone, and if people aren't impressed then it is meaningless. This is a stupid and nonsensical position to take.

      Achieving milestones and breakthroughs isn't about impressing anyone, it's about achieving those milestones and the value and insight those milestones provide. If we solve the issue of ageing, it's not so people can ramble on about how amazing they are, it's because it solves the problems that ageing causes. That's the point

      It's no wonder you've descended into a nihilistic despair if you don't don't care about achieving a goal, and are only concerned with the shallow antics of making sure people are suitably impressed when you do.
      Last edited by Photolysis; 04-14-2011 at 11:37 AM. Reason: Formatting & rephrasing
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      Ideally, I'd like to think that our next step in human progress is becoming more sensitive to nature and balanced in the world, so that we're no longer destroying the environment, starting wars and other fundamental flaws. One day we might mature just a little bit more and our recent splurge into technological dependence and saturation will make us realize that we need nature and simplicity, living in harmony with our scientific and technological progress. Just to keep improving in the way we treat each other and our surroundings, living life to its fullest and understanding things a bit better. Just those goals will take a very, VERY long time to fulfill, but will be the most important of all.

      More space exploration would also be cool, though. Actually, we know more about space now than we know about our own oceans, so maybe oceans first.
      Last edited by DeeryTheDeer; 04-14-2011 at 10:20 AM.
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      Awareness, fundamentally, is knowing what you are and what your purpose is. Then, what your options are to fulfill your purpose. When you do not know these things, then emotion and fantasy must drive you--for the body will be driven one way or the other, for good or for bad.

      We are one of a group of environmental acquisition systems of a living organism. We learn from experience in order to predict and effect our behavior such that it maintains and promotes the life of the body. It becomes clear, that the further into the future one can plan to accomplish the goals of life, the more capable a person is in regard to the fulfillment of their function. We do this through linguistic principles--language, logic. Therefore the greatest change and good of man is in this area, logic.

      A wise man said it long ago 'We develope in order to have life and have it more abundantly.'
      At this stage in our development we do not do this very well. Life itself is a first principle, it is a given. We only have to make something with it by imposing upon this body forms of behavior.

      I keep repeathing this, in one form or another, knowing full well that for the most part, it is the sound of just one hand clapping--however, the circumstances I am given does not change the truth.

      That environmental acquisition system called the human mind was the last to evolve, and is still evolving, and it is the last to come unto its own in regard to functioning. This was noted a very long time ago, and is the meaning behind the statement that a man must be born again--spirit was just another synonym for human will.
      Last edited by Philosopher8659; 04-14-2011 at 12:17 PM.

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      Xei
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      I think human progress is the God of the industrial age.

      It is essential that humans feel a sense of purpose, even if that purpose is an illusion. If one man hunts for his food with spears, whilst another gets food whenever he wants from some kind of delivery tube (which the other man also has access to), it is the former man who will be contented, whilst the latter will become depressed, even though the former man keeps himself busy with something that is technically totally pointless.

      Religion used to give us this purpose, but the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution pretty much killed that, in Europe at least. The new illusory purpose we have created for ourselves is the purpose of 'progress'. The idea that humans are getting better and better at something, moving towards something, is an idea extremely well ingrained in the collective consciousness.

      As with religion though, this illusion is not without its negative consequences. The insistence that the number of humans becomes more and more, that we must consume more and more, is clearly not ecologically tenable. By the time the century is up, humans will either have looked at this aspect of their nature straight in the eye and worked it out for better, or will have failed.

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      "I think human progress is the God of the industrial age."
      Mystics invert adjectives and use a great number of anthropomorphisms.

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      Xei
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      Except I delineated exactly what I meant by it.
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      Member Photolysis's Avatar
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      You see, some people actually explain what they wrote if it's potentially confusing or ambiguous. Shocking, huh?
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      Czar Salad IndieAnthias's Avatar
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      OP here.

      Here's an off-topic question. What is it about these online discussions that make people assume the worst when things are left unsaid?

      Like this:

      Quote Originally Posted by Laughing Man View Post
      ...Be honest, you are just shrinking from reality because you are incapable of properly dealing with things that are either beyond your control or you haven't the fortitude to control.
      Dear lord that's a lot of projection!!

      Quote Originally Posted by Laughing Man View Post
      Welcome to the forums...you know..if you actually care about social customs and mannerisms.
      I'm stunned, and confused by that.

      Quote Originally Posted by Photolysis View Post
      This is where you go wrong. You seen to believe the point of achieving anything is to impress someone, and if people aren't impressed then it is meaningless. This is a stupid and nonsensical position to take......
      Why do you think I meant that it's about impressing people? Just because that's the word I used?? (yes that's a little joke.)

      This is what I mean by assuming the worst about what I don't spell out specifically. I'm partially to blame. I was trying to vary my language a bit.

      Quote Originally Posted by Photolysis View Post
      You see, some people actually explain what they wrote if it's potentially confusing or ambiguous. Shocking, huh?
      Now I can't be too sure wether or not that was directed at me or not just by the context, but if it was... couldn't you just ask me to elaborate?

      Sorry to all, but I don't know if I have the patience to sort through all this internet cynicism to find the points worth responding to. I understand that my post was lacking some substance... I'm a bit rusty at this. But I also think I may have said something that made some of you uncomfortable and you took it badly. Remember this is a philosophy forum and even if I argue the point that infant canibalism should be practiced, that's nothing but a starting point for disussion. I'm particularly sorry to those who made genuine responses but I can't help but be distracted by the combative ones.
      Last edited by IndieAnthias; 04-14-2011 at 08:49 PM.

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      Member Photolysis's Avatar
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      Now I can't be too sure wether or not that was directed at me or not just by the context, but if it was... couldn't you just ask me to elaborate?
      It wasn't aimed at you.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      I think human progress is the God of the industrial age.

      It is essential that humans feel a sense of purpose, even if that purpose is an illusion. If one man hunts for his food with spears, whilst another gets food whenever he wants from some kind of delivery tube (which the other man also has access to), it is the former man who will be contented, whilst the latter will become depressed, even though the former man keeps himself busy with something that is technically totally pointless.

      Religion used to give us this purpose, but the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution pretty much killed that, in Europe at least. The new illusory purpose we have created for ourselves is the purpose of 'progress'. The idea that humans are getting better and better at something, moving towards something, is an idea extremely well ingrained in the collective consciousness.

      As with religion though, this illusion is not without its negative consequences. The insistence that the number of humans becomes more and more, that we must consume more and more, is clearly not ecologically tenable. By the time the century is up, humans will either have looked at this aspect of their nature straight in the eye and worked it out for better, or will have failed.
      There is a great deal correct about what you saying concerning progress especially with Whig historicism and Social Darwinism in the nineteenth-century. I don't see how you example of a hunter/gather and an individual with a "food tube" relate though. The individual with the tube merely has one less concern in the satisfaction of wants. He has a great timetable now to carry out his other desires. Like if Robinson Crusoe made a wooden cabin that would remain sturdy for years instead of using coconut branches that would wither after a week of use, would his life be any less purposeful?
      'What is war?...In a short sentence it may be summed up to be the combination and concentration of all the horrors, atrocities, crimes, and sufferings of which human nature on this globe is capable' - John Bright

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      Member Laughing Man's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by IndieAnthias View Post
      OP here.

      Here's an off-topic question. What is it about these online discussions that make people assume the worst when things are left unsaid?
      If you take nothing seriously then you are like the wind and merely dancing around. I see that as a useless existence. You make no mark, you have but one emotion, you develop nothing and became nothing. Perhaps you have a difficult time seeing the implications of your words. Don't be worried though, there is a met.hod to fix such a deficiency. Analyze what you actually mean before you say it.



      Quote Originally Posted by IndieAnthias View Post
      Dear lord that's a lot of projection!!
      You think that I am projecting my sentiments upon you as a scapegoat? Do you understand what projection means? How can I project upon you when I don't even agree with nihilism? I do find objective truth in the world. You say you can't take the world seriously. That infers that it is something of a joke to you, the opposite of seriousness. A comedy. A play with human actors to laugh about. There is no value beyond the humorous. Therefore anything beyond which can be laughed at or taken in a humorous fashion is void. Comedy being a subjective behavioral state, you only find value in what you can subjectively laugh at relative to the moment thus your ignoble swan dive into nihilism. Then again, perhaps I attribute too much thought to you. Perhaps I think too much of your deductive qualities. You can't even use the concept of projection correctly so perhaps I should treat you in a lesser fashion. Let me try.

      You don't take the world seriously?
      Wow..what a shame.

      Does that help?



      Quote Originally Posted by IndieAnthias View Post
      I'm stunned, and confused by that.
      Social customs and mannerisms are about of social interaction between two or more individuals and therefore a part of society and "the world." If you don't take the world seriously then it follows that you don't take anything IN it seriously. I said it in that manner because you wish to retain this child-like exuberance for humor or flippancy about "the world." Are you still confused?
      'What is war?...In a short sentence it may be summed up to be the combination and concentration of all the horrors, atrocities, crimes, and sufferings of which human nature on this globe is capable' - John Bright

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      Czar Salad IndieAnthias's Avatar
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      @Laughing Man

      I think we got off on the wrong foot. or something.

      By projection I meant... what's the word for when you take a small thing I said and project all kinds of meanings and conclusions? You did that.

      If you're not a nihilist, why do you not care about social customs and mannerisms?
      Last edited by IndieAnthias; 04-15-2011 at 12:17 PM.

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      Antagonist Invader's Avatar
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      We "bother" for human progress because it's fun to those who strive for (or believe in) it. Everyone has their own idea of what progress is. This isn't something that needs an ultimate justification or fundamental purpose, it's just fun. The idea of improving in some area of life, to a lot of people, is fun. And they call that progress.
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      As an addition to what Invader said, we strive to continue and progress through life because that is how we exist. At a bio-scientific standpoint, humans along with any other living organism, they don't truly have any purpose. From a scientific point of view, everything was just created by incident alone. But we continue to try to progress because that is just how we think.

      I personally don't believe everything is truly how science puts it, but some people do, so thats why I put it.

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      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      I think it might have been Rorty that said something like historical progress is the fact that it is better to get a toothache now in the twenty first century than 300 years ago.

      Personally I believe that the person who I am is a large result of the efforts of billions of humans who have lived before me. The lifestyle that I enjoy now is not a result of my own doing but the efforts of faceless men and women who have died before I was born. I get to enjoy reading philosophy books and not hunting after woolie mammoths because of this. I wish the same fate for my children. I believe this to be a goal worth fighting for and worth dying for.
      Perhaps the aim of progress is to decrease human suffering (actually suffering in general) and increase human freedom, maybe their is no objective or divine incentive for moral or historical progress but that doesn't mean it isn't a worthwhile goal.

      I can only speak for myself but I feel a strong obligation to change the world in a positive way even if I am not alive to see this impact.
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      Member Laughing Man's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by IndieAnthias View Post

      By projection I meant... what's the word for when you take a small thing I said and project all kinds of meanings and conclusions? You did that.
      That's called "taking people at their word." Why would you say something when you didn't actually understand what it fully meant?


      Quote Originally Posted by IndieAnthias View Post
      If you're not a nihilist, why do you not care about social customs and mannerisms?
      Because I think there is a civility in it that shows you are above barbarism and to be a functioning member of society, something I like to be apart due to the added gains of mass social interaction and division of labor, then some standard of such a civility is required. I like to think that I am above being an animal, you may think differently but if you did then I would ask why you were here in the philosophy section of a forum which engages in social interaction on a mass scale.
      Last edited by Laughing Man; 04-18-2011 at 01:59 AM.
      'What is war?...In a short sentence it may be summed up to be the combination and concentration of all the horrors, atrocities, crimes, and sufferings of which human nature on this globe is capable' - John Bright

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      Czar Salad IndieAnthias's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by Laughing Man View Post
      That's called "taking people at their word." Why would you say something when you didn't actually understand what it fully meant?
      People do that. (You might have noticed.)

      I can't really blame you for taking what I said at face value, although you did seem to quickly work out that I had misspoken. It's called "giving the benefit of the doubt." Regardless, the fact remains that what I meant to say still needs to be conveyed- you have been and continue to be very presumptuous about me. I've actually only had a chance to say very little.

      Quote Originally Posted by Laughing Man View Post
      Because I think there is a civility in it that shows you are above barbarism and to be a functioning member of society, something I like to be apart due to the added gains of mass social interaction and division of labor, then some standard of such a civility is required. I like to think that I am above being an animal, you may think differently but if you did then I would ask why you were here in the philosophy section of a forum which engages in social interaction on a mass scale.
      That's nice. Read what I said again, I think you missed an important "not".

      Quote Originally Posted by Laughing Man View Post
      Then again, perhaps I attribute too much thought to you. Perhaps I think too much of your deductive qualities. You can't even use the concept of projection correctly so perhaps I should treat you in a lesser fashion. Let me try...
      It's this kind of ad hominem that I'm on about.
      But I don't want to go on about it, anymore.
      Last edited by IndieAnthias; 04-19-2011 at 02:03 AM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by IndieAnthias View Post
      What is meant by 'human progress', and what are we 'progressing' to? Is it to cure all diseases, cure aging, and solve the population problems this would create? We won't appreciate that once we achieve it. Is it to colonize a world off Earth and put an end to limited resources? We won't appreciate that once we achieve it. Is it to master an understanding of every natural phenomenon in the universe, including every aspect of the human mind? We won't appreciate that once we achieve it.

      We won the inter-species arms race thousands of years ago and nobody is impressed in the slightest. So what was the point?

      Our 'progress' is driven by emotion and economics rather than rationality.

      A few books, a few observations, a few youtubes, has snowballed into an inability for me to take anything seriously, to the point that it's affecting my life noticeably. This isn't a bad thing, it's all based on honest truthseeking, but it's a little weird.
      This is all true. Scientists do not figure these things out to help humanity. Of course they say they do, but they're really just having fun finding new things out.
      Just as a poet is having fun writing a poem.

      I have had the same problem as you recently, that I cannot take anything seriously. But you just have to find something you enjoy doing and do it.
      If you can't make money from that thing, get a job you don't really hate too much so that you can live to do what you enjoy.
      I plan on spending my life playing piano and travelling. I don't know what I'm going to do for work yet.
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      Czar Salad IndieAnthias's Avatar
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      Lots of good responses, thanks everyone. The op was a little weak in that the ideas are a bit disjointed (and it does read rather rantish, sorry for that.) Some posters saw a connection, some didn't. I'm not even sure if there was one intended, but at least all or parts of it spawned some discussion.

      Oh, and I must at least say that I am not in a state of nihilistic despair, as some have guessed by my tone. When I said I can't take anything seriously I was in the specific context of our culture, not all of reality, Ha. Maybe I'm in a state of localized nihilistic amusement, if anything. There's always the ol' 'power of the individual to grant meaning to his own existence' that I have going for me.

      Now I have some thoughts on a specific piece from the op. They're all horrendously off-topic.

      Quote Originally Posted by IndieAnthias View Post
      Is it to cure all diseases, cure aging, and solve the population problems this would create?
      On immortality:

      There are two versions of indefinite extension of lifetime for individuals that I have heard of. One is medically, the other is through digitization of consciousness, sometimes called transhumanism.

      >Medically
      Aubrey de Grey says we can avoid aging | Video on TED.com
      According to the speaker in the above link, it is possible that the first person to live to the age of 1000 has already been born into the world. Anti-aging therapies may be a reality soon. The obvious problem with this is that it will not be made available to all 7 billion of us. The fact remains that most of us are still going to have to face mortality the old-fashioned way.

      >Digitally
      Ragged Trousered Philosopher
      This link ^ is a little less appropriate for the topic than the first. It's a brilliant read, but transhumanism is only a side-quest in it.
      In wondering about the implications of transferring a human consciousness to a digital medium, my mind runs understandably wild. My first thought is, wow wouldn't that be a hell of an amputation shock? After that, I wonder what would become of our emotions. Presumably, we would have the ability to select the basis for our emotional responses. After all, they won't be physiological anymore, which pretty much wipes the slate clean. On the surface it seems that our current emotional characteristics would be the obvious thing to try to preserve, since they define us as individuals as we understand ourselves, currently. But honestly, how would that be justifiable? Our emotional response system is already obsolete for the environment we use it in, which causes us many problems (such as longing for immortality.) We all have the emotional response system of a hunter/gatherer or early agriculturalist. It's for the birds and the jungle cats. We may finally end up killing off the hunter in us once and for all. (So long, exhilaration.)

      If what I said about having the ability to select the basis for our emotional response system is right, than perhaps that decision will be made based on whatever it is that is abundantly available, it to be the thing to live for. We would need something to live for, of course. Why not make it something abundant? (But........ didn't we once have abundance?)

      Just some thoughts.
      Last edited by IndieAnthias; 04-21-2011 at 02:53 AM.

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