Too Much of a Good Thing

In Harari’s text Sapiens he outlines how without empire and the spread of capitalism, science, would have never flourished into what it is today. Science was something that didn’t even come about until around 500 years ago when empires had finally found reasons to finance any scientific research. In order for there to be funding for scientific research and data collection there has to be a political, militaristic or profitable reason to perform such research as there really isn’t any other way to convince someone with capital to invest in it. Empires obviously didn’t just spend money on research for pure interest but rather to strengthen their state and to help the empire flourish. Capitalism has pushed scientific research even further the past two centuries as there is now more than ever a desire for continued progression. Capitalism is all about free market trade and in order to be successful in this form of economy the product, tool or invention has to be innovative and pushing the boundaries of its field. For example, nowadays even though there is very little war taking place, militaries push to have the largest and most innovative weaponry possible. For businesses and the healthcare industry the more innovative and successful their product the more money they will make. 


Humans are unique in the way we view progression especially in the past few centuries. No longer is progression just about surviving each year a little bit easier than the one prior but rather it’s to do monumentally great things that have the potential to change all culture. Historical empires and modern-day capitalist societies use “progression” as a way to grow stronger and more stable. Their technological developments helped them succeed in sustaining their empire and spread their control. Progression has pushed these empires to create a culture that as Harari describes as no longer natural. This can be viewed by some in a positive way and others in a negative but more than likely people’s opinions will always be split on this idea. Those who view it positive will point out how humans have been able to come up with technology and innovations that allow us to live longer, in less poverty and that we now live in a society that could eventually flourish into a technological paradise. Those who view it in a more negative sense will argue that humans’ capitalistic interest have led to nothing more than the destruction of the natural landscape for our benefit but now creating a situation that is unhealthy for not only other species but ourselves included. On top of that empires and capitalism has destroyed indigenous populations and set back countries drastically. Some see this continual search for progression as a course to the complete downfall of man.

2 thoughts on “Too Much of a Good Thing”

  1. Great summary and expansion on Harari’s concepts of science, capitalism and empire. I also was very intrigued by your explanation of both the positives and negatives that have stemmed from the human preoccupation with progress through and fueled by these three concepts. Although discussed in class, I still find myself pondering why is it that certain cultures get to reap the benefits of progress while others fall victim to the consequences. Wouldn’t it just be better to benefit the entire population and have the entirety of the globe experiencing and driving progress?
    Thanks for the thought provoking blog!

  2. Nice post! Good job boiling down Harari’s arguments as well. I also liked how you included opposite perspectives on an issue! It adds a lot more to think about when you acknowledge both sides. In general, I think of “progress” as moving forward. Our society has definitely moved for forward, but it’s worth contemplating if it’s moved in the best direction. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my bed, heated rooms, and food in an icebox, but overall I think our society, and those before, were perhaps too focused on having more and not focused enough on the good. It’s easy to say “We’ve progressed!” And feel good about that without truly thinking about what it is we have and the consequences of it all.

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