If You’re Not First, You’re Last

Similar to science and all facets of society, science, empire and capitalism, are strongly interconnected and in a constant relationship of growing, waning, and changing due to the influence of each other. Through the seemingly instinctual human attraction to a constant state of progress and competition, both empire and capitalism, two completely humanly fabricated social facts, fuel advancement and discovery in science. Conversely, innovation and development achieved through science creates a need for more or new forms of power to be implemented through either empire (government) or capitalism to maintain control of these three power houses and to supposedly ensure ongoing progress for the populace to benefit from. For example, scientific (astronomic) discovery regarding the true structure of the universe literally not revolving around the earth challenged concepts of spirituality and religion, which was a positive for the growing empire and rulers desire to rule without input from the church both for the sake of power and for the benefit of receiving taxes directly from their populace. This drive therefore began the intense funding and public support and upmost trust in science and scientists.

Stemming from Harari’s argument, I do agree that progress is the driving factor between the social, political and economic structures that have formed within modern humans. Attraction to and almost dependency on progress and competition definitely seem to be instinctual human traits. Possibly due to the fear of what comes with stagnancy, whether it be failure of relied upon social systems, threats from other countries or lack of luxury in life, people as a whole are constantly focused on progress and bettering one’s own condition. Due to this, the power houses of modern humans, science, empire, and capitalism have created a type of interconnected monopoly on progress and the support of the populace as trusted institutions to ensure said progress for everyone.


2 thoughts on “If You’re Not First, You’re Last”

  1. I like your statement that attraction and dependency on progress and competition seem to be instinctual human traits, I completely agree with that. Even from the beginning of Harari’s book, he discusses the cognitive revolution and agricultural revolution in those means as well. We have been an ever-expanding species who, according to history, have always depended on progress to expand our lifetimes, expand our food systems, expand our weaponry all to ultimately make our lives “better” and safer. I also like your take on the interconnectedness of science, empire, and capitalism as a monopoly on progress. Without scientists performing science, without empires striving for more power, and without society and monetary values influencing capitalism, we probably wouldn’t progress in this day and age. If one of these is missing, we would see a change in progress.

  2. Shayne- interesting interpretation of the first prompt: you claim that new technologies and scientific discoveries require capitalism and empire to keep them under control. This is an interesting way of looking at things that I hadn’t considered through the reading. I think you may be onto something, although I’m not sure that Harari was pointing exactly to that.. Your second paragraph however, contains a number of striking suggestions that go beyond the reading, such as our propensity to depend upon competition and progress. This is a great point, because it shows how we are inclined to give up our agency when we put faith in the capitalist system and science. You also observe a sort of apprehensive adversity to stagnation of ‘progress’; the fears that accompany it in regards to the institutions that hold society together. Your claim that science, empire, and capitalism have created an interconnected monopoly on progress is a very astute way of putting it, and I think Harari would agree. Nice.

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