Harari argues that while families and communities survived through the Cognitive and Agricultural revolutions, they collapsed in the Industrial Revolution. Facing everyday scenarios, families and communities provided past humans with mom and pop stores, homeschooling, family healthcare, local violence, personal vendettas, and familial loans. The emerging state respectively replaced those aspects of life with new and powerful corporations, universities, hospitals, police forces, courts, and banks. The new industrial world allowed people to become “individuals” free of family burden and ties (Harari, p. 359). Harari’s cycle demonstrates strong markets and states leading to strong individuals ultimately ending with weaker families and communities (Harari, p. 361). The state and market may oppose one another at times, yet they both served the greater purpose of turning people away from community and towards individualism (Harari p. 360). As the traditional family ties were overshadowed by the new fast-paced industrial institutions, the state and market took leading roles in human culture.
The exact future of our species is uncertain, but I predict it will be the most captivating chapter in our natural history. Amidst technologies like genetic engineering, cyborgs, and artificial intelligence, historians will have their work cut out for them (Harari, p. 399-412). Scientists, engineers, and world leaders are not stopping the train of “progress”. If a technology is possible, then humans will create it or die out before they succeed. Humanity appears a bit one sided. We predominantly focus on what we can do, but not if we should do it in the first place. Historians can try to guide the scientists to make “ethical” decisions, but human development has never been totally stopped before. Moreover, most human advancement leads to the destruction of natural environments and life forms. This newest paradigm shift of intelligent design may be no different. It seems like a losing battle, but perhaps in the off chance that humanity changes its ways, social historians can prolong the human species for a bit longer.
1 thought on “Historian: A True Underdog Story”
Excellent work, Ben. The state/market creation of the “individual” is an interesting idea, and you present a great summary of Harari’s case for its creation. The deconstruction of strong family and community ties by industry is interesting for sure. Do you agree with Harari’s analysis of the rise of state and market? I think it fits well as an explanation for the rise of industry in our society, as being a “unique individual” is heavily promoted in our world (while at the same time, the “perfect” individual is touted as well). Your second paragraph is also fantastic as well. I agree that humanity’s desire for “progress” will never be sated, so all we can do is attempt to guide that progress for good, whatever that good may be. Historians can help us with this task by providing ethical advice for the technology our scientists create and the decisions our leaders make. Hopefully, the “human” aspect historians bring to the table can help us in creating a bright future for our species and our world.
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