(I had posted this before as part of something longer, but I realized out to have been two seperate posts. This is the first half and the second part, about television, is below. So if you read the first paragraph and realize you already read it, feel, there is almost nothing new, so feel free to skip this.) I think those who lived through the enormous technological growth and changes of last century might be reasonable to conclude that technology, while it clearly has benefits, has been an overall a destructive force.
We had little understanding of the repercussions of our science/technology and in the excitement of finally seeming to crack the secret codes of the Universe, wanting to move forward at almost any cost, we reeked havoc along the way.
Life was made worse in multiple ways. Cities became dirty and polluted, people were compelled to work in dangerous, cruel conditions for long hours with meager compensation. And of course, the two World Wars.
In a way, this seems like it was the inevitible result of societies and individuals suddenly having radically more power to alter the world and interact with each other than ever before.
In fact, it seems almost inevitble that once the technology was invented, countries that had previously been relatively minor players on the world stage but who were unusually smart and industrious would quickly move to exploit this new understanding to try dominate the world before anyone else, which is what we saw with Japan and Germany.
And it seems almost inevitable that once technology gave people more power to join together and fight their oppressors in hopes of instituting new, modern ideas of governing that they believed would make society more equal and more just, they would: just like we saw in Russia and China and elsewhere. It seems inveitble that as we learned we could synthesize dangerous chemicals to solve our problems we would do it before understanding the negative consequences. And it seems inevitible that once we were able to farm on large scales, we would do it so much that we would ruin the soil, leading to apolocolyptic clouds of dust blowing across the country.
And it seems inevitable that with so much change happening so quickly and on such large scales, things would go poorly. For someone who lived in the 40's and 50's, that the world was on the verge of collapse either from our own hands or the apparently fulfilled prophesies of the coming apocalypse seemed difficult to refute. Just as with the ancient Romans, the ills of urban life led to us romanticizing 'The Noble Savage' longing for our simpler past. (the Romans romanticized the Celts in the same way we do tribal people today)
Technology seemed to have taken societies ills and turned up the volume to 11, allowing our self-destructive tendencies to expand faster and bigger than our ability to control or understand them.
But at a certain point, a few decades ago, everything began to change. As Science and technology continued to progress we began to have a better understanding of the consequences, even developing governing boards to regulate and restrict how we used our continuously increasing knowledge about how the Universe functions while the social sciences has helped us better engineer society for good living.
In a way, the prophesied millennium has come. If prophets from the past had seen today, with our long, healthy, peaceful lives it would seem like a golden utopia. This is the most peaceful era of humanity. Crime is at historic lows, fewer people die from war than ever before. It is no longer considered okay to be racist, let alone own a slave. We have recognized the equality of Genders and are coming to recognize the equality of sexual orientation. The rates of rape and child abuse are lower than ever. In nearly every measurable way the the world seems to be improving. Of course, we have done damage to the environment, but it was initially out of ignorance. It is hard to change the inertia of an entire economy based on fossil fuels but we are trying and eventually, I believe, will succeed. All of the chaos from last century seem to be mere growing pains.
Yet all of this has come as we've learned to rely more on our own understanding, rather that of Gods or ancient books. The more we as a society have turned away from prophets and scripture the better our world seems to be. The Millennium come, but from our own hands, not Gods except for the God Technology.
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