Friday, December 2, 2011

Has Civilization Peaked?

I was having a lengthy philosophical discussion with a good friend of mine last night about the types of civilizations on the scale of the universe.  Some guy posited that there are 4 types of civilizations.  Type 0 is the type we're in right now, where the people of a planet are not united under one banner.  It's many factions of the race that are constantly vying for power and dominance over the others.

A Type 1 civilization is like how alien races are generally portrayed in movies.  The dominant race of the planet is part of one system of government.  All of the peoples are united under one banner, and they don't compete against each other for power, but rather they expand out into space as one giant, planetary nation.  Type 2 spans multiple planets.  If we were to colonize other planets, then our boundaries would be decided by the planets we control.  Instead of states like Ohio, we would have provinces like Mars.

Type 3 is like what we see in Star Wars, i.e. government is galaxy-wide.

With that background, the question arose between us: will we as a civilization ever progress past Type 0?  I think not.

There are a lot of barriers to becoming a type 1 civilization.  Right now, it seems as though people are trying to resist the idea of globalization, or growing interconnectedness.  We see this with diversity movements.  People want to distinguish themselves from others, which is a good thing, but I think that many have it wrong.  Instead of just saying, "I'm an individual with my own heritage," it seems like people are constantly trying to cast themselves as "I'm other."

I don't want a planet full of boring cookie-cutter people, but too often do people have the attitude that one culture is superior to another.  It's not that we want people to recognize our individuality, we want people to see that we're part of a "better" culture.  Fundamentalist Christians never want to be mistaken for being Muslims.  Conservative Americans never want to be mistaken for Europeans.

And this is where all the war and suffering has come from.  It's all about what Germany wants for the German people.  It's all about what Britain wants for its great British empire.  It's all about what America can do to keep America on top.  And because there are large groups of people constantly struggling against one another, because they think that their particular group is superior or more deserving of Earth's resources than the other groups, we engage in conflict that prevents us from progressing as a civilization.

"But Jack, it's okay that we're different.  One world government is a bad thing, because people are so different."  Yes, people are different.  As a species, we are sharply divided by cultural differences, but this sharp divide is not a good thing.  If we stay a type 0 civilization, I strongly believe that we will eventually destroy ourselves.

There are now 7 billion people on this planet, and I'm not sure how many of you realize this, but Earth's resources are finite.  Fossil fuel, rare earth metals, copper, food, shelter, land: all of these things are in finite quantity, and they are things we depend on to survive.  As the human population swells, the struggle to control these resources will only increase in intensity and frequency.

Because humans can be ridiculously stubborn, and because everyone is always right, I think that we're destined to be in perpetual struggle for as long as humanity exists.  Hardly anyone ever admits that they're wrong, and because people are still willing to die for their beliefs, we've become intellectually stunted as a civilization.  It's not that we lack the capability to intellectually progress, it's that we lack the will.

Ask yourself this one question: when was the last time you changed your mind about a major belief that you held?  What I've noticed over the past 8 or 9 months that I've been blogging is that both sides produce very compelling arguments.  Both sides pull out factoids, statistics, and theories that actually support what they're saying.  Unless the facts are complete lies and fabrications, then by all accounts both sides are right.

But few of you would be willing to admit that, because few of you realize that you're only right because you're trying to argue a particular point of view.  You're not trying to discuss the larger picture.  That's why all of you always go back to money when trying to prove your points.  "Education is broken because there's not enough money being spent on the kids!"  "Education is broken because bad teachers are overpaid, and good teachers are underpaid!"  You all fail to realize that there are deeper problems underlying all of our ails.

Humans are more concerned about being right than actually fixing a problem.  Until we can learn to get over ourselves, we're going to be intellectually stuck forever.  And as long as we're intellectually stuck, we will never progress to a type 1 civilization.  We will perpetually remain in conflict, and we'll likely destroy ourselves.  The guy who articulated this idea suggested that we may not have come into contact with alien races, because type 1 civilizations are extremely rare in the universe.  Most civilizations likely destroyed themselves, and if we had the capability, we'd likely discover their ruins on other planets.

Is that what we're destined for?  Will an alien race visit Earth one day, only to find the crumbled remains of a once thriving civilization?


Silverfiddle said...

We will always be a "type 0."

It would take a horrible global tyranny to even attempt to get us to a "type 1," and I doubt it would accomplish its directive.

What would you consider sufficiently unified? What are the criteria?

Why do you say what we have now is bad? Compared to what? You'd have to devise a whole alternate theory on how a unified world would have produced even more progress than our blessedly diverse one has.

We're just not wired this way. Look at the EU. Unifying and homogenizing among the various countries has only rekindled regional chauvenism, with phenomena like Scotland distancing itself from England and Catalonia reasserting its distinctness from Mother Spain.

Each person is unique, and peoples evolve based upon a myriad of factors including geographical and genetic dispositions.

One World will never happen, and thank God for that.

Jack Camwell said...

Considering this planet is a slaughter house precisely because we can't get along, yes I'd say what we have now is bad.

It might be that type 1 doesn't exist anywhere, or it's impossible to achieve, but yes, I'd rather humanity unite to achieve a common goal rather than factions murdering each other to achieve their own ends.

Again, I'm not advocating for everyone to be the same. I just think it's worth while to consider the fact that we may eventually destroy ourselves.

KP said...

Is it possible we (humans) are less a slaughter house right now than ever before? Is it possible we are at our very best?

I don't mean we don't have tons of room to grow; but man, the human race are only teenagers. Give us some time!

Harrison said...

Will never happen, nor should it. The world is too diverse (as you said), climates are too different, economies are too different, and yes, everybody thinks they are right. There are just too many people to be ruled by one person. Imagine the corruption that would go on not to mention the geographic rivalries.

The Euro is a good example of this... strong national traditions forcing people apart but just plain lying happened when the weaker countries economically speaking were allowed to join followed by the political BS to explain why they were allowed to join and why they should be allowed to stay.

Not being united helps prevent bad ideas from spreading and infecting everyone else because different countries react in different ways keeping watch out over the others who would seem them be taken over.

This is why empires fail.

Can't get behind a One World and Star Trek might have claimed they didn't have money because everyone worked for the betterment of society but that's just a big crock.

Using a silly numerical scale, with "0" being what exists now simply says it's inferior.

I don't want to be a 1, 2, or 3. 0 is fine by me.

Jersey McJones said...

Okay, this is like Sci Fi, so let's take a big look at big spans of time.

Could, would, humans, say 50,000 or 1,000,000 years from now universally find a way to do away with all superstition, prejudice, and willful ignorance?

It's a fun thought. But galatic empire? No. That's just silly. Not without people at least getting along.

We can not behave like colonial powers, ships off to sea in the galaxy. It just can't work that way.


Scotty said...

Even in a type 1 civilization, someone is going to be relegated to cleaning the shitters and they're not going to be happy!

Anonymous said...

Well Jackie... I know we have talked about this, but here are my thoughts on the subject. BTW the "guy" you refer to is Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist.

In a way, you can classify every human being as a type 1 civilization... after all millions of living cells comprise each one of us and they are driven towards a singular purpose (survival) and are the masters of the resource, energy, temperature, and defense systems of the human body.

The catch is... each of the cells is ultimately commanded by whatever mechanism or construct that gives us consciousness... My brain is telling my fingers to type this... but by what authority am I commanding my brain?

In order for such a system to work on a global scale, each person would have to function as a cell in the body of humanity... each with a selfless and unifying role. Clearly this is not going to happen anytime soon...

I believe that the only way to advance to a type 1 would be through a global catastrophe that reboots the human race. We have become too dependent on misery and suffering to change at this point.

You mentioned in one of your articles viewing our planet from the eyes of an alien... well try viewing us from the eyes of the planet earth itself. The planet thinks we are simply a very pesky group of apes that has been hanging around making a mess of things for about 150,000 years or so, and really making a mess the last 2,500 years... and stepping it up to being a full blown disaster zone the last 150 years.

The earth has seen our ilk before, Dinosaurs, who dominated the life force of this planet for 20 million years were erased from existence. These Dinosaurs didn't have our intellect of course, or culture for that matter... and no the little green Geico lizard doesn't count.

For the better part of 60 years we have had the means to annihilate ourselves, a feat that even the Dinosaurs couldn't match.

When you think about how vulnerable we are individually on this planet without our advanced intellect its astounding. We were prey for thousands of years to sophisticated predators and even today in some parts of the world humans are still considered prey for animals. I doubt any man or woman alive could defeat a grizzly bear in unarmed combat for instance... but give us a tool such as a rifle, or a polearm even and the balance swings in our favor so far it unsettles the natural order. How do you balance that? Our potential is so far beyond the perception of every other lifeform in our "custody" that it is downright ludicrous.

I think it will come down to this: either we are extinguished by our own devices, or nature will extinguish us. Solar Flare, Asteroid, Virus, complete breakdown of our climate, total consumption of our resources, etc.
I personally lean to the first outcome.

I suppose the point of all that rambling was to try to get people to realize that our choices are simple... either we find a way off this rock, or we are doomed. Technology alone cannot save us, clearly... and I also think religion cannot save us. No.. our answers have to come from within. We are the solution, the keys to the kingdom are within the hearts of minds of every one of us.

If any of that did not make sense, blame my lack of college education =p.

Always On Watch said...

Once any point of view is entrenched in any particular individual, that individual rarely changes his mind.

For that reason, I believe that blogging as a whole is ineffective -- except as a possible news source.

Don't we all tend to read the writings of those we agree with? This is not a new development in human behavior.

Jack Camwell said...

I'm sure you've seen how much I disagree with Silver and others. So no, I don't always read the writings I agree with.

Granted, it's a lot easier and less frustrating to read what I agree with, but ultimately that's fairly pointless, unless what your reading has a different perspective or angle on the issue at hand than you're used to.

D Charles QC said...

The variables and questions are way larger than any simple answer can give.

I would rather concentrate on the actual question about advancement - are we advancing. The answer is yes and the sad reality is that we advance mostly out of conflict than in peace. We are, as Isaac Asimov says, a complacent race.

Though having said that, if you are after efficient perfection then Borg is the answer! Mind you Captain Pickard clearly said that the greatest achievement in humanity was our imperfections and uniqueness and in that case, let us be proud Type 0's!