At The Knee of Life’s Exponential Growth Curve

Much of the reason for the exponential growth we see in the 20th and 21st centuries is because, for much of human history, things changed ever so slowly. Depending on what ‘slice’ of time you chose to look at, over a period of sometimes 5,000-10,000years, it looked as if evolutionary growth was almost stagnant. Of course, this is not literally true, but when you compare prehistoric growth to that of our modern day, it is truly incomprehensible. How did we get to this point, and more importantly, why did growth explode so much in just the last 500 years? The answer comes down not to lack of natural resources or a premature and still developing brain, but to a lack of trust in the future and a general doubt that life would ever be better than it was at that particular moment in time. Because of this generally doubtful populous, the idea of lending money never arose. That is, it never occurred to early human beings to invest in their future. Therefore, progress was extremely slow because nobody had the funds on hand to establish any business or service. At the time, there was no system or program in place from where you could acquire the needed capital. This is why, with the introduction of credit and financial loans, our global economy has boomed in a way far greater than we have ever seen throughout human history. The increased popularity and importance of science went hand in hand with the growth as mentioned above. When governments and private enterprises began lending funds to scientists to aid in their research, science took on a very new role. Science now found itself in a position where it was not solely focused on understanding the workings of the natural world, but now turned its focus to answering the question, “Will this project enable us to increase production and profits? Will it produce economic growth?” [Harari pp 314].
For me, progress often has many different means and depending on which meaning is being discussed, my opinion varies. In general, I see progress as a good thing, and I also think it’s both inevitable and inescapable. I think without this idea of progress there is no way I would be sitting here in the MSU library, typing this blog entry. It was the very idea of, and hope in progress that drove all the economic growth we benefit from today. Without that longing for the ever elusive “Better Life,” I don’t think we as a species would have had the motivation or even the inspiration to go through the necessary hoops that lead humanity to where it is today.

1 thought on “At The Knee of Life’s Exponential Growth Curve”

  1. I completely agree with your ideas of progress, that it is inescapable and inevitable. You said that progress is generally good; if this is the case do you think that the bad things eventually sort themselves out? Humans developed into greedy creatures, ultimately creating the institution of capitalism which has impacts that vary greatly depending on the person that you ask. Capitalism typically analyses the ‘have’s’ and the ‘have not’s’, meaning that people that are socially disenfranchised can become economically marginalized as well. I do not know what a different economic system would be better, but to me this form of fiscal progress has actually set us back and perpetuated inequality. The empire that we currently live in is one that has thrived for a few hundred years relative to the world, accomplishing a lot of technological advancements but ultimately dividing us. I will not contest the way in which the entanglement of science, empire, and capitalism have melded together because I agree with the explanation that you gave. However, I think that we have a lot of issues that stem from these big three ideas.

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