The Widening Gyre

As a core class last year, I took an architecture class that I hated. The only information I retained other than the staggering cost of all architecture supplies was the concept of feedback loops. Harari would argue that science, empire and capitalism make up large segments of humanities largest reinforcing feedback loops. This loop is defined by systemsthinking.org as, “one in which an action produces a result which influences more of the same action thus resulting in growth or decline.” Harari claimed that the history of the worldwide economy can be defined by one word: growth. This then he gives many, many, many examples of how empires driven by capitalism encourage scientific discovery, and how in turn our scientific discoveries have led to a new faith in science. The best example being the transition from people turning to Priests to scientists to solve the big questions in life. And eventually science turning to a government with a religious preference to fund its research.

Harari argues that humanity began to believe in progress when the acceptance of collective ignorance and faith in science as a problem solver were, “Married together.” One major point he brings up is that loaning money and a market for investment became prominent when people started to believe that the future would probably be better than the present. I buy the authors argument that our modern obsession with progress has served to further intertwine the linkage of all our key vocab words. Colonial Britain didn’t send scientists to document everything they discovered in India out of pure scientific curiosity. They spent money to eventually make money based on the knowledge they gained. Progress in a strict capitalists’ eyes would be a ‘knowledge is power’ argument that if the knowledge cannot be used – in this case to make money—then it isn’t ‘truth’ worth knowing.

2 thoughts on “The Widening Gyre”

  1. Nicely written Katherine. I agree with your remarks about the drive for progress creating the feedback loop linking science, empire, and capitalism. As the saying goes, money makes the world go round. A question I have from the reading is “what does progress mean?” In the link between our three topics, it seems that the accumulation of more of each is the binding principle. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts about what progress is, and whether or not our modern world is capable of changing how we view progress. Is it possible to learn ‘truth’ if that truth isn’t a shiny stack of money?

  2. I agree with your second paragraph. In a capitalist society it is not very liberal with information. Most of the technology is based from ideas from the Arabians to the Americas. As a society, we are able to share that information through trade. I think a more accurate statement is we became a capitalist society from a utilitarian knowledge based system. In modern times I would say that each nation is more conservative with their knowledge of technological advance. For example, the US of A isn’t going to tell china about the cool new advances of stealth nuclear missiles that we have in our arsenal of warheads. In my opinion, sharing info died before WWI.

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