What will happen once society learns everything?

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Sam7791
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What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby Sam7791 » Sun Nov 21, 2010 10:39 pm UTC

I'm not quite sure which sub thread this should go in. Anyways there is obviously a limited amount of information that can be learned in this world. So what do you think will happen once society gets to a point where there is no new information to be discovered or learned?

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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby electriczap4 » Sun Nov 21, 2010 10:52 pm UTC

I think we will try to refine what we know.

But we can't know that we know everything, as there will always be the questions "What is the meaning of life", "Is there heaven", "Is there really a Flying Spaghetti Monster?".

Well, we know the latter to be true, but still.

Ignoring philosophy, we will never be able to pinpoint the basic unit of matter.

We found the atom, then the proton, neutron, and electron. Then quarks. What makes them? And those? And these? We will always be trying to break it down even more, even when it is truly the smallest, that what if factor will remain.

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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby TaintedDeity » Sun Nov 21, 2010 11:39 pm UTC

People forget things. There is so much information that I don't think it will ever be possible to know everything.
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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby janusx » Mon Nov 22, 2010 3:00 am UTC

Seems to me that there is an infinite amount of possible information and as such it is impossible for society to actually learn everything.

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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby poxic » Mon Nov 22, 2010 3:22 am UTC

I doubt there is infinite useful stuff to learn, but I also doubt our ability to learn all of it. We're trapped on a planet, orbiting a minor star whose solar wind pushes away a lot of similar "wind" coming from other stars in our own galaxy, which in turn probably send "winds" that push away similar information from other galaxies. (See bow shock or magnetopause.)

That alone, never mind the time-obscured paleontological history of our own planet, tells me that we'll never really know everything. Plus, of course, our own propensity for offing ourselves in spectacular fashion. It will be a bloody freaking miracle, with some sort of holy intervention required, if we ever establish a viable, long-term colony on any other planet but our own, much less expand to other star systems.

(The Roman empire fell. The Persian empire fell. The Greek empire fell. The Japanese and Viking and Russian empires fell. The empire of Western civilisation, spearheaded by the US, with all of its technology and learning, will also fall at some point. Sorry. History isn't full of idiots -- it's full of intelligent, ambitious, canny, desperate people thinking as hard as they can about how to stop these things from happening. [And a lot of idiots, yes, that too.] The smart ones couldn't stop the fall of their empires. It's just another bubble. We'll revert to some sort of dark ages, probably with a huge loss of population. If we're lucky, a few books will survive the frantic burning that ensues and the next megacivilisation won't have to start all the way from the beginning. Give us a couple of thousand years and we might invent computers again.)

/thus quoth poxic the cynic realist hopeful tired
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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby Sharlos » Mon Nov 22, 2010 3:33 am UTC

poxic wrote:I doubt there is infinite useful stuff to learn, but I also doubt our ability to learn all of it. We're trapped on a planet, orbiting a minor star whose solar wind pushes away a lot of similar "wind" coming from other stars in our own galaxy, which in turn probably send "winds" that push away similar information from other galaxies. (See bow shock or magnetopause.)

That alone, never mind the time-obscured paleontological history of our own planet, tells me that we'll never really know everything. Plus, of course, our own propensity for offing ourselves in spectacular fashion. It will be a bloody freaking miracle, with some sort of holy intervention required, if we ever establish a viable, long-term colony on any other planet but our own, much less expand to other star systems.

(The Roman empire fell. The Persian empire fell. The Greek empire fell. The Japanese and Viking and Russian empires fell. The empire of Western civilisation, spearheaded by the US, with all of its technology and learning, will also fall at some point. Sorry. History isn't full of idiots -- it's full of intelligent, ambitious, canny, desperate people thinking as hard as they can about how to stop these things from happening. [And a lot of idiots, yes, that too.] The smart ones couldn't stop the fall of their empires. It's just another bubble. We'll revert to some sort of dark ages, probably with a huge loss of population. If we're lucky, a few books will survive the frantic burning that ensues and the next megacivilisation won't have to start all the way from the beginning. Give us a couple of thousand years and we might invent computers again.)

/thus quoth poxic the cynic realist hopeful tired

That's a bit of a false analogy really. Yes each of those empires fell. But humanity and its technology continued. All your post essentially means is it wont be any nation on present Earth that begins interstellar travel.

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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby poxic » Mon Nov 22, 2010 4:40 am UTC

The technology didn't continue, except maybe in a few books that weren't known by most. Athenians of the old Greek empire knew that the Earth was round. The Persians had underground sewers before the West did. (The idea was more or less reinvented by Europe, I think. If anyone can correct me, please do.) Knowledge accumulates, then gets lost, over and over again. Sure, there's an excellent chance that the next major civilisation will get into space faster than the current one did, but that's still no guarantee that they'll successfully colonise the solar system or beyond. This planet only has so much to mine and farm, and humans themselves have only so much inertia. And really, that inertia will be our stopping point, every time.

If it isn't, then why aren't you recycling every single thing you can possibly recycle? Why are you not refusing to buy anything wrapped in a non-biodegradable package? Why haven't you stopped taking any form of transportation that requires either petroleum or coal-fired electricity? Probably because it's inconvenient, or it's unrealistic for a modern Western lifestyle, or you aren't convinced that it's totally necessary. All three reasons are reasonable enough, and all three will eventually stop us in our tracks. We will burn out. We'll party on until there's nothing left, just like every other failed civilsation in history.

There is evidence that the Mayans started recycling toward the end of their civilisation. They are used as examples in several essays, like these few which I just Googled. Yeah, I'm a pessimist, but that's because I'm old now* and have seen enough of human nature to know that we're basically screwed. You can't force people to think what you want them to, not without a major religion or dictatorial government at your command, and even that will fail after a while. Inertia makes people do what always worked before. Crises require doing brand new things. The two don't work together very well.

* old, in my case, is 41. Just so you know. I'm not 70 yet, so I don't know everything. Ask me again in 29 years.
/once again, it is necessary to remind people: poxic is usually full of shit. You can safely ignore 80% of what she says.
//which 80%, though, is the question
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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby Thirty-one » Mon Nov 22, 2010 1:17 pm UTC

poxic wrote:The technology didn't continue, except maybe in a few books that weren't known by most.


Wasn't this mostly an issue of the main exchange of information being word of mouth and books though?


(First post btw, I hope I didn't mess up in regards to etiquette somehow.)

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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Mon Nov 22, 2010 3:21 pm UTC

poxic wrote:The empire of Western civilisation, spearheaded by the US, with all of its technology and learning, will also fall at some point.

Spearhead my foot: if we're using the term 'Western civilization' as loosely as you're employing it then we're talking about the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Belgians, French, English, and various others who came directly before, who controlled large portions of their world within the timespan of the modern era. The US is only the current torchbearer; the base of the spear staff, rather than the head. But I largely agree with you in that humans occupy such a small existence that the idea we could know everything, even collectively, is so arrogantly absurd such as to be dismissed as soon as considered. Hell, even knowing everything collectively isn't the same as society knowing everything: there are plenty of people with a relatively robust understanding of probabality, but society doesn't understand it to the tune of US$335 billion per annum, apparently.

Further, it is not at all obvious there is a limited amount of information to be learned, even if you qualify it with useful knowledge. Every single time we feel we have mined a particular natural science or school of philosophy for all it's worth we find a gap in our knowledge larger than the sum of our current knowledge. On optimistic days, historians refer to their practice as spending their life's work studying the smallest drop in the largest ocean, and the scientifically-inclined don't have it any easier. There will never be a time everything is known (even God can't know everything).
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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby Sam7791 » Mon Nov 22, 2010 8:08 pm UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:
poxic wrote:The empire of Western civilisation, spearheaded by the US, with all of its technology and learning, will also fall at some point.

Spearhead my foot: if we're using the term 'Western civilization' as loosely as you're employing it then we're talking about the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Belgians, French, English, and various others who came directly before, who controlled large portions of their world within the timespan of the modern era. The US is only the current torchbearer; the base of the spear staff, rather than the head. But I largely agree with you in that humans occupy such a small existence that the idea we could know everything, even collectively, is so arrogantly absurd such as to be dismissed as soon as considered. Hell, even knowing everything collectively isn't the same as society knowing everything: there are plenty of people with a relatively robust understanding of probabality, but society doesn't understand it to the tune of US$335 billion per annum, apparently.

Further, it is not at all obvious there is a limited amount of information to be learned, even if you qualify it with useful knowledge. Every single time we feel we have mined a particular natural science or school of philosophy for all it's worth we find a gap in our knowledge larger than the sum of our current knowledge. On optimistic days, historians refer to their practice as spending their life's work studying the smallest drop in the largest ocean, and the scientifically-inclined don't have it any easier. There will never be a time everything is known (even God can't know everything).


I agree that it may feel like that every time we get a scientific breakthrough, we are left more unanswered questions. However I do believe, while sometimes it may not seem because sometimes history repeats itself, that we do learn more about this world than the day before. With that said, eventually the unanswered questions will become less and less, and eventually it will get to a point where there are no more questions.

And I don't think the argument of different societies rising and falling is valid because in my opinion, most societies are more advanced than the society before them. So it's two steps forward and 1 step back.

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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby Wnderer » Tue Nov 23, 2010 5:05 pm UTC

The universe is understandable but it is not knowable. Everywhere you look you will always find something new. Every time we build a bigger telescope or a bigger particle accelerator we will learn something knew. There are several reasons. One is that you can't derive the universe from first principles. Even if we develop this 'Theory of Everything' that explains sub atomic particle physics and combines relativity and quantum theory, we couldn't use it to derive the universe. Such a theory would help us understand the universe, but we would still have to go out and study it. You can't derive the mating dance of whooping cranes from quantum theory. If you want to understand whooping cranes you have to study whooping cranes. If you want to understand sub-atomic particles you have to study sub-atomic particles. If you want to understand galaxies you have to study galaxies.

Another reason is that the universe is an information generating machine. Entropy is the measure of how much information is in a system and entropy is always increasing. That's how the universe goes from a simple state of simple particles to the complex universe with living organisms, environments and societies. Humans are also always creating information. Our own creations create new problems and new questions. We will never finish having questions even about ourselves.

And then there are limitations on human knowledge. We don't comprehend the universe as it is, but model it and map it into forms we can understand. This means that our models are never perfect and we never completely understand the information we do have. So we are always reinventing and finding new ways to look at what we already know. Every question we answer, every new model we create, gives us better tools for exploring the universe, but we will never be done exploring.

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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby SummerGlauFan » Tue Nov 23, 2010 7:59 pm UTC

Simply put, humans can never know everything. Human civilization has existed for thousands of years and we still don't know much about our own planet. Much of the ocean remains unexplored, there are still areas of land that have only ever been surveyed by satellite, which is limited, and we still have enormous gaping holes in our understanding of Earth's biological history (how many species haven't been preserved as fossils? There are a staggering number of species we only know about due to a few bone fragments). Never mind the entirety of the universe.

So humanity will either keep trekking on and learning all sorts of awesome stuff before dying off or changing into something else, or we will doom ourselves either through self-destruction or never leaving Earth.
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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby dumbzebra » Tue Nov 23, 2010 9:57 pm UTC

Regarding all information we can possibly know and/or use.
I think it wouldn´t be a big problem. I think people are pretty cool not knwoing everything, so they´d be cool knowing everything possible and nothing more.
If we know everything possible we´d probably be able to build a great society. Although i see a small problem:
Man´s most important motivation is survival, once we dont have to do anything to survive (studying, working etc.) we would have a) alot of time on our hands, and b) alot of people would get into an psychic crisis for this. But if we knew everything, then probably even what do with our leisure time.
So as a summary, there cant be any predictons made.
As the great philosopher Socrates once said: "No."

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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Nov 23, 2010 10:16 pm UTC

poxic wrote:The technology didn't continue, except maybe in a few books that weren't known by most. Athenians of the old Greek empire knew that the Earth was round.


Pet peeve of mine. Knowledge of the correct shape (and, to a lesser extent, circumference) of the Earth was relatively well known in educated circles in Europe since the Hellinistc period. Pretty much any culture that had the ability to build boats figured it out pretty fast. The idea that there was a persistent belief in a flat Earth in the Middle Ages is largely historical revisionism by 19th and early 20th Century authors.

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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby nitePhyyre » Wed Nov 24, 2010 6:03 am UTC

I think there is two ways of looking at the question. Everyone seems to be treating it as:
"What will happen when every single person knows what is under every single rock in the universe."

While a legitimate interpretation, it is a wholly boring question to answer. The answer to that question is obviously to say that it is impossible. It is possible however that we answer the vast majority of questions we have about the vast majority of scientific domains. Or, at least, all the question we think are worth bothering to figure out. I don't think this situation will pose much of a problem. We will just use our imagination to put all we know into new and interesting configurations to entertain and kill each other. Still, I think it is a bit more of an interesting situation to ponder.
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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby poxic » Wed Nov 24, 2010 6:07 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:Pet peeve of mine. Knowledge of the correct shape (and, to a lesser extent, circumference) of the Earth was relatively well known in educated circles in Europe since the Hellinistc period.

Yeah, I think I knew that. I forgot it for a bit, though. Thanks for the reminder.
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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Nov 24, 2010 1:16 pm UTC

What happens?

Well then all collected data has to be completely correlated and put together in all possible relationships.
Then we get to answer the last question of course.
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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby Solt » Thu Nov 25, 2010 11:56 am UTC

I'm sure we'll discover the answer to that question in due course. You know, by definition.
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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby inhahe » Fri Nov 26, 2010 12:29 am UTC

can't learn everything. it's a myth invented within a framework of semiotical assimilation powered by the ideal that there must be an ultimate in assimilative convenience because it's the only way to save us within our current cultural ideology that says cure it with technology when technology was the problem to begin with.

i.o.w. the universe is made of mystery and you can't assimilate that and you wouldn't if you could and if you did it would keep changing.

and semiotics is simply a semantic net & that's how we understand things usually when we pretend we "understand" especially within the confines of such paradigms as the possibility that we might someday learn it all.

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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby Solt » Fri Nov 26, 2010 12:48 am UTC

inhahe wrote:it's the only way to save us within our current cultural ideology that says cure it with technology when technology was the problem to begin with.


Oh definitely. Technology is what caused smallpox and polio. I'm with you 100%.

inhahe wrote:i.o.w. the universe is made of mystery and you can't assimilate that


Wow dude. If I answer this the way I want to I think I'll die of sarcasm. Can you explain how you arrived at this conclusion?
"Welding was faster, cheaper and, in theory,

produced a more reliable product. But sailors do

not float on theory, and the welded tankers had a

most annoying habit of splitting in two."

-J.W. Morris

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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby inhahe » Fri Nov 26, 2010 1:19 am UTC

Solt wrote:
inhahe wrote:it's the only way to save us within our current cultural ideology that says cure it with technology when technology was the problem to begin with.


Oh definitely. Technology is what caused smallpox and polio. I'm with you 100%.

inhahe wrote:i.o.w. the universe is made of mystery and you can't assimilate that


Wow dude. If I answer this the way I want to I think I'll die of sarcasm. Can you explain how you arrived at this conclusion?


you can give your sarcastic reply if you want. i'm not afraid of it. ;) i'm kinda curious; i appreciate the power of sarcasm. i just don't use it that often.

one of my irc nicks was sarcasmos. :)

as for smallpox and polio, it could have been technology. how many other animals get such epidemics? it's our historical sterilization of our environment that weakens our immune systems. [theory]

other technologically related factors could influence it too, things that group people closer together, store bacteria and/or viruses in more unlikely places, provide more means for people to transfer them amongst each other, etc.

i'll agree though, it's a pandora's box of a question whether we need technology in general. i won't try to answer, but at least i admire Kaczynski for arriving at his own conclusions.

my main point wasn't just that technology was the problem to begin with, but i did have Einstein in mind when I suggested that we're trying to solve today's problems with technological and scientific solutions. “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

either way, i could suggest that it's the materialistic, reductionistic, separatist, scientific, axiomatical ways of thinking that would try to assimilate the universe in any way in which it even remotely makes sense that we could understand it all, AND it's also the paradigm that caused a lot of our problems today -- all of them, in fact, excepting the ones that people had before agriculture.

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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby Solt » Fri Nov 26, 2010 3:14 am UTC

inhahe wrote:you can give your sarcastic reply if you want. i'm not afraid of it. ;) i'm kinda curious; i appreciate the power of sarcasm. i just don't use it that often.


I would, but this is Serious Business so I'll pass on angering the mods :lol:

inhahe wrote:it's our historical sterilization of our environment that weakens our immune systems. [theory]


Hold on, that's a completely different issue. It doesn't matter how strong your immune system is, smallpox still kicked a lot of asses.

inhahe wrote:as for smallpox and polio, it could have been technology. how many other animals get such epidemics?


Plenty do, and they beat it by the old laws- survival of the fittest. Those whose immune systems can adapt will survive, the rest will be culled. Thus it's rare for a species to actually be wiped out by disease. It would be the same in the human population, but we actually view any deaths as unacceptable. I see no way to argue that this isn't a technology-led improvement. Yes, technology amplifies diseases in some cases- bubonic plague comes to mind- but technology has also let us avoid the mass die offs that would afflict any species in the natural course of coming into contact with a new virus.

The simple fact that cancer rates have skyrocketed is proof. I suspect a person like you looks at that fact and thinks "well so many man made things cause cancer... tobacco smoke, mercury in our water, high fat diets, etc... clearly our technology is killing us". That's fallacious thinking. What's really going on is that we've beat practically every other disease so that people are finally living long enough to experience cancer and brain degeneration. In the past everyone died of disease long before cancer got to them, so it was an unknown disease. Today it's one of the few things that can still bring us down. If that's not technological progress right there I don't know what is.

inhahe wrote:other technologically related factors could influence it too, things that group people closer together, store bacteria and/or viruses in more unlikely places, provide more means for people to transfer them amongst each other, etc.


Well you have to ask yourself what you mean by nature then. Because humans evolved to be social animals. That is what nature wanted us to be. Can you call it "technology" when we find a better way to follow our natural instincts?

inhahe wrote:“We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”


I think this depends on your definition of "problem." As an engineer (admittedly biased), I see problems as disease, starvation, war, and death by exposure to the elements - all things that nature gave us. Someone else might see problems as global warming, pollution, and death by cars. I see these as intermediaries that will work themselves out in time. The march of technological progress will eventually make gas so expensive (by using it up) that green technology will become the economically sensible alternative, will eventually make cars perfectly safe, will eventually allow us to use energy without polluting, and so on. There are examples of this as well. Remember CFCs? They destroyed the Ozone. Oh noes, technology is screwing us over we have to take a step backward in order to fix the problems our technology caused, right? Well that's not what happened. What happened was that the same guys who invented CFCs invented another, safer refrigerant and fix everything. What about how whales were almost hunted to extinction because their oil was a great liquid fuel source? Boom, crude oil was discovered. What about how the cotton gin expanded the incentive to keep slaves? Boom, the industrial revolution made it irrelevant.


inhahe wrote:either way, i could suggest that it's the materialistic, reductionistic, separatist, scientific, axiomatical ways of thinking that would try to assimilate the universe in any way in which it even remotely makes sense that we could understand it all, AND it's also the paradigm that caused a lot of our problems today -- all of them, in fact, excepting the ones that people had before agriculture.


You like to sound smart and academic but them's fighting words.

I think I've essentially covered what I wanted to say as a response above, but just to reiterate: you're full of shit. Your perspective is completely messed up. Please, give me some examples of technology that has caused more problems than it's fixed or alternatively of a problem that you view as having been caused by technology that results in us being worse off today than we were pre-agricultural revolution. I'll give you two examples of technology that's fixed more problems than its caused for every good example you give me.

Of course "proof" is part of the scientific paradigm and you seem to reject that so I hope you don't think you've won just by definition.
"Welding was faster, cheaper and, in theory,

produced a more reliable product. But sailors do

not float on theory, and the welded tankers had a

most annoying habit of splitting in two."

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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby inhahe » Fri Nov 26, 2010 5:50 am UTC

Solt wrote:
inhahe wrote:you can give your sarcastic reply if you want. i'm not afraid of it. ;) i'm kinda curious; i appreciate the power of sarcasm. i just don't use it that often.


I would, but this is Serious Business so I'll pass on angering the mods :lol:


hrm.:]

inhahe wrote:it's our historical sterilization of our environment that weakens our immune systems. [theory]


Hold on, that's a completely different issue. It doesn't matter how strong your immune system is, smallpox still kicked a lot of asses.


What i'm trying to say here is that you gave them as general examples of ailments and i'm saying that, generally, our sterilization of our environment makes us more susceptible to epidemics. that could include the smallpox epidemic. of course, even if it doesn't, one could ask if your examples are just cherry-picking; i mean, yes, if nothing more than ostensibly, technology does 'solve' some things.

inhahe wrote:as for smallpox and polio, it could have been technology. how many other animals get such epidemics?


Plenty do, and they beat it by the old laws- survival of the fittest. Those whose immune systems can adapt will survive, the rest will be culled. Thus it's rare for a species to actually be wiped out by disease. It would be the same in the human population, but we actually view any deaths as unacceptable. I see no way to argue that this isn't a technology-led improvement. Yes, technology amplifies diseases in some cases- bubonic plague comes to mind- but technology has also let us avoid the mass die offs that would afflict any species in the natural course of coming into contact with a new virus.


i don't know much about animal epidemics, but cancer comes to mind and i haven't seen a lot of animals with it [and i suspect those that do probably got it from artificial influences].. do they ever get things like smallpox? is it as often and widespread as our having had to deal with it?

in any case, we do see death as unacceptable and i don't believe that's specifically caused by technology, but the mentality that harnesses technology [in such imbalanced ways] and the mentality that doesn't understand death properly are intimately related (and perhaps not exactly one and the same). but the point here regarding technology is that it ENABLES us to 'cheat' or postpone or whatever death... mostly medicinal technology, so evolution no longer culls us, to a large degree. but that's another issue of course, which you brought up and it comes down to how much our genes have been changed so far by domestication and how it relates to diseases. all i was pointing out was that sterilization of environment makes us more susceptible.

The simple fact that cancer rates have skyrocketed is proof. I suspect a person like you looks at that fact and thinks "well so many man made things cause cancer... tobacco smoke, mercury in our water, high fat diets, etc... clearly our technology is killing us". That's fallacious thinking. What's really going on is that we've beat practically every other disease so that people are finally living long enough to experience cancer and brain degeneration. In the past everyone died of disease long before cancer got to them, so it was an unknown disease. Today it's one of the few things that can still bring us down. If that's not technological progress right there I don't know what is.


That sounds plausible, but that doesn't make my thinking fallacious ;/ in any case, you could be thinking that it has to be 'one or the other' when in fact it could be both -- it could be our artificial elements that cause cancer [and i'm sure there's -many- case studies to show that artificial things we didn't expect to do cause cancer, and pollution, and, cancer takes so long in some cases to develop and can happen in so many ways that it's not such a far leap to assume that in many more cases it's caused by artificial elements not to our knowledge] AND it could be that we're living so much longer. as for the latter, i've never read anything one way or another regarding cancer development in animals kept alive well beyond their normal period.

inhahe wrote:other technologically related factors could influence it too, things that group people closer together, store bacteria and/or viruses in more unlikely places, provide more means for people to transfer them amongst each other, etc.


Well you have to ask yourself what you mean by nature then. Because humans evolved to be social animals. That is what nature wanted us to be. Can you call it "technology" when we find a better way to follow our natural instincts?


we're social animals, but living in cities isn't exactly a natural lifestyle, nor the way we normally conduct life in general..
'finding better ways to follow our natural instincts' is definitely a loaded phrase. which are our natural instincts, and at what points are we just finding better ways to follow them, and at what points are we, uhh, doing other things and/or misled? i mean, you could just assume that everything we do is natural, or indirectly instinct, but that would seem to cut out a lot of the picture that we probably don't see, and, i hope you're even skirting around attempting to equivocate 'technology' with 'everything we could possibly do' because that just makes the word meaningless. ;]

inhahe wrote:“We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”


I think this depends on your definition of "problem." As an engineer (admittedly biased), I see problems as disease, starvation, war, and death by exposure to the elements - all things that nature gave us. Someone else might see problems as global warming, pollution, and death by cars. I see these as intermediaries that will work themselves out in time. The march of technological progress will eventually make gas so expensive (by using it up) that green technology will become the economically sensible alternative, will eventually make cars perfectly safe, will eventually allow us to use energy without polluting, and so on. There are examples of this as well. Remember CFCs? They destroyed the Ozone. Oh noes, technology is screwing us over we have to take a step backward in order to fix the problems our technology caused, right? Well that's not what happened. What happened was that the same guys who invented CFCs invented another, safer refrigerant and fix everything. What about how whales were almost hunted to extinction because their oil was a great liquid fuel source? Boom, crude oil was discovered. What about how the cotton gin expanded the incentive to keep slaves? Boom, the industrial revolution made it irrelevant.


i agree, the issue isn't so cut-and-dry. i guess i could refer to my comment below, and say that everything we solve that wasn't a problem before agriculture is solving technology with technology. but then, are there different kinds or gradations of technology and is that the same thinking, etc.. obviously i'm getting to semantical about it, but what can i do - i didn't invent the quote:}


inhahe wrote:either way, i could suggest that it's the materialistic, reductionistic, separatist, scientific, axiomatical ways of thinking that would try to assimilate the universe in any way in which it even remotely makes sense that we could understand it all, AND it's also the paradigm that caused a lot of our problems today -- all of them, in fact, excepting the ones that people had before agriculture.


You like to sound smart and academic but them's fighting words.

I think I've essentially covered what I wanted to say as a response above, but just to reiterate: you're full of shit. Your perspective is completely messed up. Please, give me some examples of technology that has caused more problems than it's fixed or alternatively of a problem that you view as having been caused by technology that results in us being worse off today than we were pre-agricultural revolution. I'll give you two examples of technology that's fixed more problems than its caused for every good example you give me.

Of course "proof" is part of the scientific paradigm and you seem to reject that so I hope you don't think you've won just by definition.


it's hard to point at examples when basically technology has become a way of life. have you seen koyaanitsqatsi? i would just submit that overall, quality of life hasn't improved that much... quality of life is a feeling.. despite all outward appearances, and many factors determine how we feel that are above our understanding, and in fact, our mindset, whether you want to call it linguistic, technological, mechanistic or scientific, is partially to blame for us not seeing the -subtle- things that detract from our quality of life. it's like the spice: it gives with one hand and takes away with a thousand others.

here's just one example. eat fresh foods, including fresh, raw meat when you must eat meat, and i theorize that you'll feel absolutely incredible like you've never felt before. but who knows this? barely anyone. all our food is prepackaged and stored and cooked and riddled with other ingredients, for the most part. what we eat is one of the principal determiners of our health and general well-being if not the main one.

there's more i could go into but then this really would be Serious Business and it's not the ops i'm concerned about. ;)

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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby HungryHobo » Fri Nov 26, 2010 11:55 am UTC

The problem with technology is that it often works so well that it makes the problems it solves invisible and so people adopt views like above.

To quote Professor Terry Pratchett:
"If you said to a bunch of average people two hundred years ago “Would you be happy in a world where medical care is widely available, houses are clean, the world’s music and sights and foods can be brought into your home at small cost, traveling even 100 miles is easy, childbirth is generally not fatal to mother or child, you don’t have to die of dental abcesses and you don’t have to do what the squire tells you” they’d think you were talking about the New Jerusalem and say ‘yes’. "

It's like vaccines, they work so incredibly well that people forget everything about the problems they're solving and stop using them because they have absolutely no idea whatsoever how incredibly horrible the alternatives are.

Alexander Fleming should have statues a thousand feet tall dedicated to him in every major city, penecillin has saved so many lives.

People have a stupidly romantic view of the past as a time when everyone lived "naturally" in some kind of commune with nature when in practice life would have been a constant struggle to get enough food, keep your children alive and stop the water from leaking in.

In practice life was hard, painful and short.

Imagine living in a world without technology, particularly medical technology:

What percentage of your children would you expect to simply get sick and die in modern society?
No penecillin, no antibiotics of any kind.
No vaccines.
No propper dental care.
No anticeptics or "sterilization of our environment "

One of them coughs and coughs and coughs, unable to sleep, unable to take a propper breath, gasping for air sobbing with the pain of it before finally dieing of whooping cough.
Another gets smallpox, I honestly don't even know the symptoms of this and thankfully I'll never need to but it was apparently a horrible horrible way to die.
If you're not nobility then still more likely suffer from malnutrition and their growth is stunted, for most of human history famines were regular events.
one of them gets a toothache, it gradually gets worse and worse.... they're pretty much already dead, the abcess will just get worse and worse until they die.
Most of you are sick and dirty because of course technology also includes knowlege of sanitation and germ theory, a good stink is the only thing to keep the deamons of cold and flu away.
and of course we don't have all those nice sterile cheap building materials so what exactly is your home built from? if you want to go back before farming it's probably a cave or tent.
In the middle ages bread was something you broke apart with something heavy then soaked in water to make it soft enough to eat but thank god it didn't have preservatives in it.

In my great great grandparents day families with 10 children were normal but when looking at the family plots in the graveyards it's noticeable that there's a *lot* of names with dates like "emily smith 1801-1803" because quite simply a lot of kids didn't even make it past the age of 5.
That is not a world I want to live in.

your immune system is not magic, if you live in a dirty unsterile hole in the ground and get sick with something nasty you're quite likely to die.

For most of human history large families were normal, even when the overall populations stayed fairly stable because so many of them died.

quality of life most certainly is a feeling.
And being reasonably sure that your children will make it past the age of 5 makes it far easier to experience that feeling.
Not having a buggered leg from a childhood polio infection makes it far easier to experience that feeling.
Not being starving makes it far easier to experience that feeling.
having a fully working brain because you got propper nutrition as a child while your brain was developing makes it far easier to experience that feeling.
Being able to treat an infection or injured limb by methods other than amputation makes it far easier to experience that feeling.
Being able to travel far from your birthplace easily makes it far easier to experience that feeling.
Not having to avoid plague houses makes it far easier to experience that feeling.
being able to have surgery when you need it and with Anesthetic makes it far easier to experience that feeling.


Yes some people will still sit in their warm, dry houses with a belly full of food, their body free from disease , their clothes warm and dry, their family also mostly free from bacterial and viral infections and complain about how life is miserable.
but they'd be miserable anyway and probably dead in a technology free world becuase they're just emo.


Your viewpoint is an artifact of technology working so incredibly well and working so smoothly to improve your quality of life that you don't see it, don't even think about it, don't even realise what your life would be like without it.
Thus you only see the handful of bad things about modern technology and imagine a world without them and utterly forget to include the awful things that same technolgy has utterly removed from your life.

Cancer accounts for about 25% of all deaths in the US.
Heart disease accounts for about 26% of all deaths in the US.

Now imagine tomorrow we found a perfect cure for cancer(we won't because it's a really diverse and hard problem but lets just imagine anyway).
suddently that 25% of the population aren't dying of cancer any more.
but they have to die of something unless we also figure out clinical immortality.
So suddenly the death rates for heart disease jump up to 34% of all deaths.

people like you then cry that modern living is causing us to all die of heart disease and to solve the problem we just need to give up modern technology and all those cancer treatment technologies in order to make the problem go away.


and the mentality that doesn't understand death properly are intimately related (and perhaps not exactly one and the same). but the point here regarding technology is that it ENABLES us to 'cheat' or postpone or whatever death... mostly medicinal technology, so evolution no longer culls us, to a large degree.


Evolution has selected for those willing and able to "cheat" death at any and every chance they get when it comes to keeping their children alive until breeding age.
Evolution still culls children with incurable genetic diseases or a tendency to run into traffic but thankfully we're working hard to cheat death even in those circumstances.

Simply eating lots of vegetables is quite good for you absolutely, fresh ones are more tasty.
you might want to avoid raw chicken.
Also in hunter gatherer days meat would have been something you got extremely rarely so the paleo diet is kind a silly. roots, grains, fruits and vegetables would have been the staple with a rare bit of meat as a topup.

Try learning about what actually goes into food, a lot of those E numbers or long chemical names aren't anything special when you stop thinking of them as *complicated chemical things* and actually look at what they are.

The easiest way to preserve food is to salt it,spice it or freeze it most aren't much more complex than that.
Give a man a fish, he owes you one fish. Teach a man to fish, you give up your monopoly on fisheries.

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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby Solt » Fri Nov 26, 2010 12:22 pm UTC

HungryHobo puts it very well, if not a little dramatically.

And, like HungryHobo I prefer the economic approach. If you have the skinny on how to live a better life by being technology free, why are you sitting in front of your computer posting on xkcd? Go live that life.

inhahe wrote:here's just one example. eat fresh foods, including fresh, raw meat when you must eat meat, and i theorize that you'll feel absolutely incredible like you've never felt before. but who knows this? barely anyone. all our food is prepackaged and stored and cooked and riddled with other ingredients, for the most part. what we eat is one of the principal determiners of our health and general well-being if not the main one.


It is known that restricted calorie diets are healthier for you in pretty much every way. There was a widely reported on experiment not long ago where monkeys (of some sort I don't remember) on restricted calorie diets had shinier coats than their companions who were fed about 30% more calories. This is known to us as a result of science, and technology. Now the fact that many people do not follow such diets is not the fault of technology.

Another thing I should point out is that it was the invention of fire, and the subsequent ability to cook meat, that allowed primates and proto-humans to evolve into humans. Cooking meat before eating increases the amount of nutrition we get from it, which helps feed our energy hungry brains (this was in the days before agriculture). If you present any kind of wild animal with a choice between cooked and raw meat, it will always go for the cooked version. Nature knows that cooked is better, and it prefers it.

So it is true that our diets are not optimal, and technology has allowed it to get this way but really, it's our primitive brains telling us that fat==good that causes us to overeat and eat unhealthy foods and demand processed food for convenience. In any case, the whole system solves a much larger problem than it causes- starvation and malnutrition. Processing is absolutely necessary to make food widely available and cheap. Go cry about how unhealthy our modern processed food is after spending a few months with starving third world children. I bet anything you'll change your mind.

inhahe wrote:That sounds plausible, but that doesn't make my thinking fallacious ;/ in any case, you could be thinking that it has to be 'one or the other' when in fact it could be both -- it could be our artificial elements that cause cancer [and i'm sure there's -many- case studies to show that artificial things we didn't expect to do cause cancer, and pollution, and, cancer takes so long in some cases to develop and can happen in so many ways that it's not such a far leap to assume that in many more cases it's caused by artificial elements not to our knowledge] AND it could be that we're living so much longer. as for the latter, i've never read anything one way or another regarding cancer development in animals kept alive well beyond their normal period.


Yes, it does make your thinking fallacious. Here is the fallacy: Fact: Cancer rates have skyrocketed. Fallacious Conclusion: Something has caused cancer in massive numbers. Truth: Death by factors other than cancer have dropped dramatically. Cancer was always there.

Regarding your last sentence there, I heard the other day on the radio that the leading cause of death among domesticated dogs, overwhelmingly, is cancer. Cancer is actually a very 'natural' way to die. Cancer is the mechanisms that allowed us to evolve in the first place- the ability for our genetic code to mutate- finally running amok. It takes a long time on average for it to happen, but it shouldn't be surprising that it does happen. Every animal is susceptible to cancer for this reason.

Yes, scientists have published many studies identifying correlations between different environmental factors and different types of cancer. There is no study of a population that has access to antibacterials, vaccines, and anti-parasitics but no other technology to see whether they get cancer. So it is impossible to do anything other than speculate about the true relationship between cancer and technology. I admit it's probably possible to reduce cancer rates in the above situation. But we can essentially achieve the same effect by living a healthier lifestyle within the context of modern society. I see no inherent contradictions there, only a matter of implementation.
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produced a more reliable product. But sailors do

not float on theory, and the welded tankers had a

most annoying habit of splitting in two."

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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby Blaze Master » Sat Nov 27, 2010 8:35 am UTC

Has anybody of you heared about the Works of Syzyf ? In my opinion its just like that even if we think we know something there's always somethings we don't know and our memory isn't perfect too we learn new things but sometimes forget the old so its not possible to contain all knowledge even if we acquire new things we will loose old things just as it happened in the past, there's many old books or science's known to us in ancient times and now lost...

So we can't say we know everything for example its a mystery how Egiptians knew about building pyramids while its hard using even modern equipment. Or answer me how did the greeks knew about planet constelations or Egiptians knowing about sun eclipse's ???

Don't you think were missing on something ?

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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby Soralin » Sun Nov 28, 2010 1:33 am UTC

inhahe wrote:i don't know much about animal epidemics, but cancer comes to mind and i haven't seen a lot of animals with it [and i suspect those that do probably got it from artificial influences].. do they ever get things like smallpox? is it as often and widespread as our having had to deal with it?

Oh yeah, check this out for a nice example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuKjBIBBAL8 (And a great bit of nightmare fuel. :))

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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby poxic » Sun Nov 28, 2010 2:06 am UTC

inhahe wrote:i don't know much about animal epidemics, but cancer comes to mind and i haven't seen a lot of animals with it [and i suspect those that do probably got it from artificial influences].. do they ever get things like smallpox? is it as often and widespread as our having had to deal with it?

Yes. Since my own cat was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last week, I've met two people with cats also recently diagnosed with a form of cancer, and several nearby coworkers who have had animals die of cancer in the past.

We're keeping our pets alive for much, much longer than they would have lived in the wild (average lifespan for a wild housecat-sized cat is 3 to 4 years). Hygienic food preparation -- they aren't eating raw, diseased rodents or birds -- and occasional medical intervention, plus a safe, predator-free place to live, has extended the average cat's lifespan to 13 or 14 years, or more. (One friend's cat lived to 23.)

When they -- or we -- live so much longer due to Science!, we're bound to end up with conditions that are the direct result of long-term body processes. Cancer is simply the body's normal cell cycle turned overly aggressive. That's why it's hard to cure -- we're fighting the exact same processes that usually keep us alive and healthy.
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Re: What will happen once society learns everything?

Postby SummerGlauFan » Sun Nov 28, 2010 4:59 am UTC

poxic wrote:
inhahe wrote:i don't know much about animal epidemics, but cancer comes to mind and i haven't seen a lot of animals with it [and i suspect those that do probably got it from artificial influences].. do they ever get things like smallpox? is it as often and widespread as our having had to deal with it?

Yes. Since my own cat was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last week, I've met two people with cats also recently diagnosed with a form of cancer, and several nearby coworkers who have had animals die of cancer in the past.

We're keeping our pets alive for much, much longer than they would have lived in the wild (average lifespan for a wild housecat-sized cat is 3 to 4 years). Hygienic food preparation -- they aren't eating raw, diseased rodents or birds -- and occasional medical intervention, plus a safe, predator-free place to live, has extended the average cat's lifespan to 13 or 14 years, or more. (One friend's cat lived to 23.)

When they -- or we -- live so much longer due to Science!, we're bound to end up with conditions that are the direct result of long-term body processes. Cancer is simply the body's normal cell cycle turned overly aggressive. That's why it's hard to cure -- we're fighting the exact same processes that usually keep us alive and healthy.


Every one of my dogs that I kept until their death died of tumors. My cousin's dog lived so long it's body was covered in lesions (well ok, not covered, but you couldn't pet it without hitting a lesion).

I've had relatives die of cancer, as well as mental diseases, but all were because they lived to be so old. The youngest natural death in my family that I remember was an aunt in her 50's. That's likely a decade or two longer than someone would expect to live without medical care. Most were 70's or 80's, well outside normal human lifespan before modern medicine. My Grandpa died a couple of weeks ago, due to several factors, including hazardous work conditions he had to endure when younger (their correction is a result of technology), poor diet choices (not related to technology at all), and a body that was 70 years old. Even when his lungs started to fail, technology in the form of oxygen tanks allowed him to be with us for a full two years longer.
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