|The Rational Argumentator
A Journal for Western Man
| An Essay on the Necessities of Progress, Technological and Moral
G. Stolyarov II
To cover to the fullest extent a topic that has sparked controversy after controversy, dispute after dispute, defamation after defamation, thus being the most serious in our society and requiring many more analyses than can be furnished by all the writers, past and present, would be impossible in any form but that of a million-page manuscript that the author has neither the will to write nor the reader to spend his time on. But one may ask oneself whether to prove a statement one need rely upon the infinite instances, scattered throughout space-time, that would somewhat secure its validity. Or is there an essence, a general truth that would not perceivably change if the Holy Inquisition had burned one more Copernican or one less? What, one may ask, drives mankind? What has been able to furnish its ascent from the abyss of the animal onto the slope of the technological, ever closer to the sublime pinnacle of our yet unseen future that is, by all rational thinking, our goal? It is in the author's hopes that this following insight will dissolve at least in some minds the indecision or the even more dangerous retrogression that has so often been sparked by the insecurity of even our finest minds on this topic.
First of all, to the advocates of stability that seek to bring it about through stagnation, it is imperative to say that not all is well with the world as of yet. Even if one neglects all the petty material feuds that take place every day among all ranks, even if one disregards all the offenses of man that are not fatal, we still have a grand scattering of evil among us. World hunger claims one child every three seconds, thus, applying our knowledge of the ratios of the Earth's population to this fact, four adults as well. Disease, warfare, crime; all have taken their toll on our race. Yet even if we dismiss this, submerged in the false illusion that we are invulnerable to such peril, we must inevitably confront the fact that every living being, including ourselves, shall eventually be consumed by the endless evils of entropy. For those who have the desire to fade away so, this may not seem a problem, yet their suicidal tendencies are in all ways anomalous. Let us then begin with this concept of death and what mankind has done to it.
It is beyond doubt that people are living with the current means far beyond the term that nature had ordained for them when they first evolved from the apes. Skeletons found from periods throughout the Stone Age all speak of early deaths, late twenties, early thirties rarely. During a period of completely harmonious existence with their environment, man was only brought into this world to reproduce, rear his children, and pass away as soon as the latter had obtained self-sufficiency. Such is the fate of all other animals, and if one has heard anything of the life cycles of ladybugs, crickets, grasshoppers, butterflies, and the most conspicuous example, the black widow spider, one will understand that this is not an exception but the rule among those primitive thoughtless creatures unprotected by their own minds against self-destructive instinct and impulse. Such was our past, but then came Egypt, Phoenicia, Greece, and Rome, the Dark Ages, during which we had lost our foothold on the metaphorical mountain and began to plunge into the abyss, the Renaissance, when we had regained our control and continued the ascent, the glorious Enlightenment, the Age of Reform, the ardent lights streaming forth toward our kind during the Century of Victoria, the recent slip of the Fanatical Sixties, to the present, where one foot, supported by the head, attempts with all its might to move up, while the other, the left, weighed down by the heart and impulse, has let go and needs to be dragged upward. Yet let us analyze this condition for a moment. No longer have we a single nation in the world where the life expectancy has plunged below forty. Even the nations of Africa, plagued by AIDS and warfare, enjoy a relative prosperity to the condition of even several centuries earlier. The more developed nations can boast numbers in the high seventies, and some (it is regretful to say that the United States is not among them) in the low to mid-eighties. The average human lives, therefore, triple the time of his primordial ancestors. It is common now that people survive to see their great-grandchildren come into this world.
Yet, as we have already made clear, such a situation would not be possible in an entirely natural state. Thus, we may conclude that the overwhelming responsibility for this vast improvement of mankind can be credited to human knowledge and their diverse applications of it. Genotypes have been much the same throughout history; the writings of great men of antiquity and the Medieval Era prove that to be so, since their patterns of behavior have never quite differed from ours. But why, then, are we on average so much taller, fitter, and healthier than even our close ancestors? Today, one who would have been a giant in Rome, is looked upon as a midget. That is, once again, a matter of lifestyle. We are well-nourished, treated with the utmost care and the best tools if we become infected with an ailment. We do not perform backbreaking manual labor during infancy and thus do not stunt our growth. Even in developing nations today, however, we see height far below that of the average Caucasian. Why? Because their conditions of life are not near the quality of ours. Why not? 'Tis because they have not the technological means to become improved so.
Therefore, those who wish to see "the world remain just the way it is" have not the understanding that the only way to improve man is, as we have seen, through the acts of man. Technology is the brainchild of Homo sapiens sapiens, and it allows us to obtain a greater mastery over a world rightfully ours, since we are the most sentient beings upon it, and, on a smaller scale, a mastery over our own lives, since it is nothing more than the rights we deserve to have to our own existences, those being our property. Seventy-six is better than twenty, we agree, a skyscraper more appealing than a cave, an airplane more efficient than one's own two feet. Everything that man reaps man must sow, and if man wishes to reap more, than he must sow more, else he shall starve or degrade himself back to that primeval stage that would neglect the labors of the great and the mundane throughout recorded history (Recorded history itself is, by the way, an achievement of man and would have been impossible without such technological marvels as the pen and paper).
As in mathematics and science, when we discover a certain pattern, a certain rationality in a world where incongruities are only falsifications of human perception, we assume that this pattern, having predominated to as great an extent as we have been able to grasp, will hold always as long as the circumstances, mathematically speaking the "givens", remain the same. What are these circumstances? This very universe, upon which the only non-manmade progression, a slight variation of the endless cycle, occurs once every several million years through natural evolution of a critter's genome. Yet is a million-year wait suitable to ourselves when we have less than a century to spare? Such a delay, advocated by the proponents of "the way things are", would have forty thousand future generations lead a mediocre (we realize, of course, that our lives are far from the best and some of us have even begun to see specific points upon which we must improve) existence and die on average at seventy-six! Are seventy-six years truly enough to realize one's dreams to the fullest extent? They are if the dreams are shallow and unpretending, but is the reader not among those men who seek grandiose accomplishments? Or, at least, does he not wish to enjoy his existence and reap its fruits for as long as his far from perfect organism may permit? It is assumed that he has at least a high enough opinion of himself to set those two goals aforementioned as his own, thus proving a more extensive point: the only people who seek to stagnate the world are those who view themselves to be too worthless for their own lives to be improved.
But the reader may present the case of Blaise Pascal, whose calculating machine was banned from libraries simply because counting clerks feared that it would make their professions obsolete. And the explanation is as follows: indeed an obsolescence of past methods is a direct and inevitable result of new technologies, yet only people of a shockingly limited scope of mind think such a turn of events to have more negative consequences than positive ones. Those very clerks could have applied the calculator to accelerate their counting operations and lessen the amount of labor they would have had to perform or, in the worst possible case, obtain an education for a profession of higher prestige, i. e. one that requires not only monotonous labor suitable for a machine but the creative aspect of work only compatible with a living, thinking human being. Such can be applied to the factory workers of today who are being rapidly replaced with automatons. The manual laborers, having minimal wages and absurdly stark living conditions, can become learned men of the arts and sciences, or professional sportspersons, or, if they prove unwilling to ascend to such heights, workers for the maintenance crews at their factories to ensure the function of the robots. That is still a step above their previous reward-less tasks.
To connect with this, we can observe that another principle has held true as man's knowledge has increased over time: the more tools there were to lighten the burden of civilization's maintenance, the less workers were required to operate them, thus more people have been set aside for studies in the areas of knowledge and culture. In ancient Mesopotamia, the aristocracy was comprised of a miniature council of priests, later headed by a militaristic king. In the United States today, millionaires number in the millions (We shall consider them to be the aristocracy, since wealth is the key determinant of status in a capitalist society). The aristocracy has always consisted of the most well-to-do people, usually enlightened, and hopefully well-mannered. That their number has elevated from a handful to a horde simply shows that the world has progressed enough that at least some people have assumed the occupation of gentlemen and have not spent their days sweating in the fields or on the assembly lines. Creative leisure is the herald of self-actualization, and all the greats of this world have existed in precisely such a state that has permitted them to forge their masterpieces. The more aristocrats or manual labor-free people in general we have, the more monumental contributions there will be. Since technological progress is the primary catalyst of ascent up the social ladder, it is indeed helpful to all the underprivileged of this world who are already begging to the deaf about but a slight relentment to their miseries.
Thus, we have concluded that, as action leads to action, a statement leads to a statement, progress also instigates further progress the pace of which accelerates at the rate of the increase in its instigators' quantity. Progress is in all ways like a snowball. The further one rolls it the more mass in accumulates. As it becomes heavier, advancement becomes more difficult and even at our current level of development, we rely upon functions too complicated to be efficiently controlled by the human organism alone. That is where the machines come into the picture. Thus, we are obtaining ever more advanced tools with the aid of which we can still push the snowball on through wit where brute force is rendered incapable. The snowball, however, is fragile. It is not impenetrable and can be cracked and even broken by malicious idlers. It can become withered away by the winds of entropy if it is not maintained and cherished. And still the snowball is not as great as it can be. It is still rough in some parts and unrefined, it is still unsuited for being shaped into a statue. If contentment is the reader's aim in life, then he must know that none can be absolutely free unless all are free and none can be happy unless all are happy. One reads of world hunger, of AIDS, learns of the cancer that infests his relatives. One begins to suffer, cry if his spirit and determination seem hindered by such atrocious circumstances. Then, some time later, one dies and, if he is as ordinary as most of his comrades, fades away into the eternal gray of the past, to never have anything about him, not even his name, remembered. The author assures the reader that he shudders at the thought of such a fate and feels infinite sorrow for those who have passed away in such a manner even as he is writing this piece in condemnation of their negative self-image.
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