The End of Things, and the Big Questions.

Harari posits that the state and market became some of the most central aspects of human culture due to the rise of science and the concept of “progress”. Humanity, newly armed with those ideas, began to build and hold a new trust that tomorrow will be a better day than today. Instead of one relatively static global economic “pie”, it was now possible to that pie to grow, to grow very rapidly even (Harari, pg. 218 digital version). In other words, they looked more to the future instead of the present, and this influenced how they spent and invested their money. Now willing to invest in the future, to put money away in the hopes that in a year, or maybe more, that money will come back multiplied or otherwise increased. Also a factor here is what is described by Adam Smith, in that a person, when they gain wealth, usually will not simply store it, but rather will reinvest it and thus produce even more wealth (Harari, pg. 219). Those concepts, coupled with the idea of “progress”, are some of the primary factors in enthroning the market and the state in our modern cultures.

As for what hole historians should play in consideration of the future, I would say one key contribution they can make would be in tempering some of the burning drives towards “progress”. We have seen time and time and time again how new technologies can, while improving some reduced slice of life, have massive negative consequences in many other areas. For example, consider the Berkeley Pit, which was dug in the drive for copper to power the new world. Or review the damages and harms done to people and animals by toxic materials mined up from their graves deep in the earth. As our reach grows, as we become more and more powerful, we become more able to severely harm the very place that we live. “Everything is connected to everything else” is one of the “Laws of Ecology” we have learned in this class. It is one of the jobs of the historians, armed with their understanding of the forces that have shaped societies, to ask “What happens when our actions and powers extend to everything? How cautious should we be as our power grows?”

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