Harari – Week 14

Government and economy became central pillars of human civilization in part because foraging, hunting, and agriculture no longer were the dominating and decisive aspects of human life that determined its rhythm. Industrialization led the needs for precise time keeping and scheduling, as one worker out of place could seriously delay productivity (Harari 353). Family units became less important, and individualism and individual contribution to society as cogs of the machine became much more important, resulting on an increased emphasis on overall community, service to society and interaction with others in order to exchange goods and services, and in the case of government, participate in civic duties and benefit from publicly funded projects and activities. Importantly, the Industrial Revolution gave states the ability to exercise their power (war machines, communications, etc) and created pressure for the average person to contribute to the economy (Harari 357-360).  In modern day, our families and relationship with the market and state are intertwined; we have to send our children to public schools or meet government education standards and abide by laws, we rely on grocery stores and malls to purchase goods for our families, and so on.

I think historians have a duty to document everything they can. The saying ‘those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it’ is cliche and said often for a good reason, and even today we can draw many parallels between contemporary issues and issues in the past, for example China’s rapid industrialization and labor rights issues, and similar rapid growth and workers rights issues in Victorian / gilded age England and Europe. History can teach us much, and we can learn from the mistakes and successes of those who came before us. On an ethical and moral side, we must also remember the cost of innovation and advancement, and the consequences of abusing science and fellow humans for the sake of knowledge (Mengele and Unit 731 come to mind).

Studying history is preferably one of the ways we can avoid extinction. If we however cannot avoid extinction, then at the very least our history can serve as a record for the aliens picking over our bones to look at, and maybe hopefully teach another intelligent race not to repeat what went wrong with us.

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