The Progression of Man

Harari explains the feedback loop connecting science, empire and capitalism stating “Political and economic institutions provide the resources without which scientific research is almost impossible. In return, scientific research provides new powers that are used, among other things, to obtain new resources, some of which are reinvested in research”¹. That is, in modern times, they are intertwined. Capitalism, as a way of sustaining itself, uses the profits of production to further increase production, giving an incentive to invest in scientific research.² Empire provided a way of spreading the necessary worldview for populations to insert themselves into the scientific revolutions feedback loop.³ Harari mentions the US and USSR in the 50’s funneling money and resources into the research of nuclear physics as a way of increasing their power, which would allow greater access to resources which could then be funneled into more research<sup>4</sup> .

Progress, in Harari’s eyes, is the central idea linking science, empire and capitalism. I think that progress is the wrong word as it implies that we are moving towards an ideal society. It assumes that advances in technology and science are propelling us towards some predestined end. Society and culture change, whether the trigger be the introduction of a new technology, or something else.

  1. Yuval Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (New York, HarperCollins, 2015), 250
  2. Ibid, 312
  3. Ibid, 283-284
  4. Ibid, 272

4 thoughts on “The Progression of Man”

  1. I totally agree, I think progress is the wrong word. We think as a whole we are moving towards a perfect or ideal society, but in turn we just make improvements and those could lead to a downfall where they can’t make the same improvements. It’s like a balance scale that’s off, decisions moving forward have consequences elsewhere.

  2. you’re blog on the feedback loop is well explained and makes Harari’s point very clear. using the US and USSR and the connection to nuclear physics does a wonderful job at offering a perspective from a common piece of history most people from our generation especially those studying history can understand. I wonder what Harari means by progress? Perhaps just an advancement/ change in thinking or maybe simply just an increase of technology?

  3. While it is difficult to say that we are moving towards a future that is ideal, we are certainly moving somewhere at the very least. Rather than moving to a specific location, it is more like we are travelling in a direction, one that will change and reorient itself over time. Through this path our technology will advance, and our cultures will change. As our cultures change, what is viewed as progress will also change, and the line will reorient ever so slightly. It may be harder to predict exactly where we’ll end up, but I personally believe it is progress nonetheless. This type of progress has no real end, but is in the direction of the ideal society envisioned by those of its current time.

  4. I liked your idea of progress being the incorrect word. I also liked that you brought in the loop that we are in, because it doesn’t allow for all types of progress, but only the progress that is allowed by those in charge, money and power wise. I think it is important to mention the imagined orders that are the reason the money and systems we have in place today are due to the creation of imagined orders. Good post, and I like the stance you took on it.

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