Found in 1 comment on Hacker News
undershirt · 2019-10-08 · Original thread
Definitely, the Green Revolution et al is a solid basis for optimism, especially with Ehrlich losing his wager on resource scarcity. And I do like the malthusian lineage you described.

This empirical optimism is also paradoxically irreverent toward the immutable attrition of complexity. Our creativity has limits, whatever they are just pick something. At the risk of sounding flippant, 200 years of “creative patching” is historically too small a window to say we can continue subverting this “law” with eternal vigilance (I’ve heard this described as “we are running out of tricks”). Maybe I’m oversimplifying when I say we would have to approach the limit of absolute foresight to achieve this, but I think there’s some truth to it. For example, I like these explanations of our rational limits, with regard to managing a complex society:

- CHOMSKY[1]: We have in our heads a certain set of possible intellectual structures. In the lucky event that some aspect of reality happens to have the character of one of these structures in our mind, then we have a science. And that doesn’t mean everything is ultimately going to fall within the domain of science. Quite the contrary… personally I believe that the nature of a decent society might fall outside scope of possible human science.

- ZIZEK[2]: Hegel says, the owl of Minerva only flies out in the dusk. [owl being the icon of wisdom] So philosophy can only grasp a social order when it’s already in its decay.

Particularly unsettling is our reaction to the blurriness of our creative boundaries—that we insist on walking blindly toward cliffs to find where they are. Optimism in uncertainty is great, but some projections cannot be certain until too late.

A final quote that might address your first points:

- OPHULS[3]: Because our own civilization is global, its collapse will also be global, as well as uniquely devastating owing to the immensity of its population, complexity, and consumption. To avoid the common fate of all past civilizations will require a radical change in our ethos—to wit, the deliberate renunciation of greatness...

Anyway, this debate is covered in the book The Wizard and The Prophet[4]. I think we can tell which schools we belong to.





Fresh book recommendations delivered straight to your inbox every Thursday.