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