[ 31/May/23 Mike wrote:
An amazing presentation in this morning’s plenary about space exploration, bringing us up-to-date on the latest tools of exploration and their findings, including some of the Webb space telescope’s awe-inspiring discoveries.
Heady stuff, but in some aspects also naïve, single vision, monological gaze accessible stuff. But what a gaze!!
Of course, it need not be from just that; in fact, if it is, it will kill us.
The speaker remarked on the trope, “If we can send a man to the moon, why can’t we … whatever?”
For example, “if we can send a man to the moon, why can’t we stop killing each other?” That’s easy: the tech to send a man to the moon addresses mostly complicated, artefact, problem spaces; our killing each other mostly involves complex, organic, complex to wicked problem spaces.
There are far deeper and richer exploratory frontiers in the latter than the former. Yes, tools change us, but how, and to what?
As my new FB friend Eric Schaetzle just quoted Iain McGilchrist as writing:
“Greek tragedy concerns the effects of hubris, the vain delusion whereby man sees himself as being god-like. The result is inevitably catastrophic. Indeed our term ‘catastrophe’ (from Greek katastrephein, to overturn) refers specifically to the dramatic downfall of the victim of hubris in Greek tragedy … Pride and arrogance, believing we know it all, are the opposite of the religious disposition of humility, reverence and compassion. And without them, neither we, nor the whole far greater, astonishing, living world, over which for better or worse we now have the power we so much craved, can thrive.”
UNQUOTE. Source: McGilchrist, Iain . The Matter With Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World (p. 1989 and p. 1998). Perspectiva Press. Kindle Edition.]
While in a sense I can agree with everything you wrote, there is another sense in which there does seem to be a relatively simple answer in several parts.
The reason we keep killing each other comes down essentially to our tendencies to over simplify.
Part of solving that comes from accepting that evolution is a process that starts simple, then rapidly gets extremely complex.
It starts being mostly about competition, then rapidly changes to be mostly about cooperation (with a competitive façade).
Evolution instills within us multiple levels of preference for the simple over the complex, which is nothing at all like living in a simple world, though it does have the effect of creating that illusion within most people. The multiple subconscious levels of tendency to simplify create experiential “realities” for people that are in fact simple, even though they are based upon an “objective reality” that is, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, fundamentally uncertain and irreducibly complex. In many people, that preference for simplicity overrides all other forms of logic and training, and under stress leads to individuals literally experiencing reality as sets of binaries (Friend/Foe, Good/Evil, Right/Wrong, etc), with no trace of gradation or uncertainty or complexity left. That is a core part of the problem space that we are all susceptible to, at multiple levels, and McGilchrist is as guilty of it in his writings as any of us, even as he distinguishes some levels of complexity, he over simplifies other essential aspects, leading to invalid conclusions.
After that, the single largest contributor to the problem space seems to be a reliance on the myth of money. Money can be a very valuable myth, if employed appropriately, but it only works if everyone has at least enough to survive. That makes a very strong case for having a universal income as the prime mechanism for money creation. That single change in the system is not a universal panacea, but it would buy us enough time to be able to do some serious work on some of the other really difficult areas.
Any potential service not performed (for lack of money) is real wealth lost, even if inside of the myth of money it is money saved. Similarly with any good lost to waste because it didn’t get to someone who could consume it before it degraded beyond use.
Going into space is essential. If we do not master space travel, then we go the way of the dinosaurs, it is not a matter of “if”, only a matter of “when”. There are so many classes of existential level risk that demand very powerful space borne technology, but without acceptance of the need for fundamental cooperation, and for the acceptance and respect of any diversity that is not an actual and unreasonable threat to existence, then the technology is a greater threat than the threat it is created to counter.
The war in Ukraine needs to stop.
All wars need to stop.
We cannot survive all out war. Our technologies are too powerful.
We need cooperation in diversity.
We need acceptance of any diversity that is demonstrating appropriate levels of responsibility.
We all need to accept that freedom without responsibility is self terminating, necessarily.
We all need to accept that freedom is an essential part of being human, and that it results in both mistakes, and diversity (things we never contemplated or expected – eternally).
Mistakes and diversity must be accepted as a necessary aspect of freedom, no logical escape from that, not at any level or class of abstraction or logic that I have explored (and I have explored far more than most).
The overly simplistic notions that are wrong and pose the greatest risk right now seem to be:
evolution is all about competition;
market competition can solve all problems;
there is a right way to be in this world.
None of those ideas is survivable, if taken at scale.
We must all accept uncertainty – it is the most fundamental aspect of humility – and it can be deeply uncomfortable, in places most of us would rather not look, in places we find terrifying.
We must all accept that responsibility demands more of us than following any set of rules and laws (and that does not give any of us license to ignore any set of rules or laws with impunity); and that is hard – it demands more than most are willing to contemplate. The more deeply one considers it, the harder it gets.
And it is doable.
We need to feel the fear and do it anyway; and do so in a way that embodies the deepest levels of humility we can find, and we must continue the search for deeper levels – eternally.