Concept of the Question: Is Human Progress a Myth?

Why the Question “Is Human Progress a Myth?

Examine the Pie Chart below relative to human progress. What problems do you see reflected in the chart? What solutions do you see? Why aren’t the problems being solved or are being solved too slowly? What new data do we need to answer these questions? We can’t just give guesses to these questions or just give an uninformed opinion. Critical thinking requires that we outline the problem, have facts, use science and have a goal to reach to solve the problem. Try to explain what evidence there is for your opinion.

Then, of course, the painful part; the difficult political decisions involving education, leadership, cooperation and compromise. Sometimes sacrifices, loss of some luxury and transformation of whole industries –loss of some, gain of new — will be needed. Will mankind proceed in that direction? Is there enough time for this torturous process? Some wise thinkers believe only radical changes on the social, political, economic and cultural side of human affairs will solve our problems depicted in the graph. Will standard democratic processes allow for this?

US Energy consumption 2014-jpeg

Notes on Chart above: This data is for sources of energy used in all sectors including transportation, electricity production, space heating, etc. To see changes in this data over the last 30 years see the data source. It is reported in quadrillion Btu’s by the Energy Information Administration; for this chart, we have converted it to percent of total. If we consider electricity production alone for 2014, the sources for that production were fossil fuels 67.9%, nuclear 19%, solar 0.4% and wind, biomass, geothermal 6.5%.


Explanatory Note and Suggested Reading: Where did OHEA derive the Question and Concept of: “Is Human Progress a Myth?

In a recent OHEA meeting we chose two articles to read for discussion; they may be read by clicking on their links below. These articles are pessimistic in tone; the hope here is to explore whether that tone is justified.

Facing the Myth of Human Progress: Why the Human Experiment is Failing so Quickly/by Chris Hedges

NASA-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?/by Nafeez Amed (The technical version underlying this study may be read here) The introduction to this last technical article is here:

There are widespread concerns that current trends in population and resource-use are unsustainable, but the possibilities of an overshoot and collapse remain unclear and controversial. How real is the possibility of a societal collapse? Can complex, advanced civilizations really collapse? It is common to portray human history as a relentless and inevitable trend toward greater levels of social complexity, political organization, and economic specialization, with the development of more complex and capable technologies supporting ever-growing population, all sustained by the mobilization of ever-increasing quantities of material, energy, and information. Yet this is not inevitable. In fact, cases where this seemingly near-universal, long-term trend has been severely disrupted by a precipitous collapse often lasting centuries have been quite common. A brief review of some examples of collapses suggests that the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history, making it important to establish a general explanation of this process 

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