Science & Technology Alone Won't Save Us From Ourselves

When Homo Sapiens discover something and put it to good use, it changes everything, it molds culture and spurs evolution; it changes landscapes and ecosystems. Six to seven million years ago, our human, apelike ancestors were making and using tools. There is good evidence that one million years ago our human ancestors had domesticated fire. Experts speculate that between one and six million years ago, humans started cooking meat. They learned that fire could be a tool. Their use of fire changed everything. A carpet of tools was discovered in Africa, revealing one million years of tool making by our ancient ancestors. Human ancestors repeatedly invented stone tools.


Competition for resources and population drive human expansion over millions of years. Early Homo Sapiens migrated around the globe to find areas of abundance where they could thrive. Throughout their journey, they made discoveries, and their cultures evolved. Just think of how fast we changed as new tools allowed new cultures to grow and thrive. And remember, Homo Sapiens have only been around for two hundred thousand years or so.

Take a look at this timeline of historic inventions.

5000 BC, we invented the wheel, and it changed everything. 17,000 BC, the ancient Egyptians created various kinds of twisted rope, and that changed everything. Archeologists have found flutes that are 50,000 years old. Can you imagine how music changed everything? Archaeological evidence indicates that humans arrived on New Guinea at least 60,000 years ago, probably by sea from Southeast Asia during an ice age period when the sea was lower and distances between islands shorter. Boats changed everything. Early humans were using paint and creating art four hundred thousand years ago. By 250,000 years ago, wooden spears were made with fire-hardened points. From 280,000 years ago, humans began to make sophisticated stone blades, which were used as spear points. By 50,000 years ago, there was a revolution in human culture, leading to more complex hunting techniques. We could mention clothing, housing, and knives, all of which would have changed everything.

We had people like Isaac Newton come along and change everything. More recently, we could talk about The Age of Reason when we finally broke away from centuries-old dogma, tradition, and religiosity. Immanuel Kant, defined enlightenment this way:

"Enlightenment is the liberation of man from his self-caused state of minority. Minority is the incapacity of using one's understanding without the direction of another. This state of minority is self-caused when its source lies not in a lack of understanding but in a lack of determination to use it without the assistance of another."

Then came the industrial revolution and new inventions: the spinning jenny; the steam engine; the power loom; the cotton gin; the telegraph; the sewing machine; fossil fuels; the steam engine; the locomotive; liquid fossil fuels; the internal combustion engine; the telephone; the phonograph; the airplane.

With these inventions, colonialism and imperialism took off, and a hoard of European migrants spread out across the globe. Economies grew faster and bigger, more businesses and business models where born. New tools of war allowed participants to kill more people, including civilians at a shocking rate, and with horrific outcomes. Since 1901 the world has been at war somewhere on the planet.

Today, the tools we take for granted, the smart-phones in our pockets are a black box to most of us. We don't know how they are made, the principles that underlie them, or how they work. We take it all our conveniences for granted.

Our science, engineering, and technology continue to advance at a rapid pace. No one could argue that we are not making progress in those areas. However, we are not growing any wiser. If you are a student of history and take a close and honest look at the past 200 years, you'll see the patterns. The similarities between 1901 and 2001 are striking. What did we do differently after the 2007 economic crisis? We keep making the same mistakes.

Our problems are structural. Our culture barely shifts. In fits and starts, we continue to make progress only to see our efforts undone again and again. Scarcity haunts our minds; we feel the only way we can get enough is through a brutal competition where one wins while the other loses.

Peter Josephs chose a very apt quote for the front page of his book, The Zeitgeist Movement Explained.

"The tremendous and still accelerating development of science and technology has not been accompanied by an equal development in social, economic, and political patterns...We are now...only beginning to explore the potentialities which it offers for developments in our culture outside technology, particularly in the social, political and economic fields. It is safe to predict that...such social inventions as modern-type Capitalism, Fascism, and Communism will be regarded as primitive experiments directed toward the adjustment of modern society to modern technology." - Dr. Ralph Linton

Even if we produce cold fusion reactors, deploy carbon sequestration technology, find solutions to the aerosol masking effect, restore rain forests – it won't matter what we do, we will still disrupt the carrying capacity of the Earth. Our current global economic system is unsustainable, and we can't count on science to save us. We must first redesign our socioeconomic system and our political system.

All nations need to come together and collaborate in a transparent, open source way. We need truly united nations working together in trust and good faith.

Do you think that will happen? If not, then what's next? Please share your thoughts.

*Imagine if you could time travel, what kind of world would you want to find 300 years from now?

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Steven Cleghorn

Steven is an autodidact, skeptic, raconteur and film producer from America who has been traveling since he was a zygote. He's a producer at The Muse Films Ltd. in Hong Kong and a constantly improving (hopefully) Globe Hacker. He's seeks the company of interesting minds.