Musings on Social Progress

I can’t put this is a more formal form.  Not at least at my abilities today.  But I’ll try to explain something I think really does need to be collectively understood.

First we should eliminate any need for a spiritual or religious explanation for our existence.  Not at all to simply push aside any religious or spiritual claims, but simply because its not needed to understand the inquiry here.

If we exist and we do, there is the possible need for the assumption or understanding that in order to live amongst each other in the most peaceful or most free manner there are some necessary boundaries.  Ayn Rand seems to teach it the best in regards to our natural freedoms.  The freedom to live as we want, provided we do not encroach on another’s freedom.

There can be all sorts of implications and/or extrapolations from this but Rand is quite clever in the foundational way she explains freedom and its relation to society.

Another consideration is something well pointed out by Szabo in relation to Adam Smith’s inquiry into the division of labour.  The specific and basic point here I wish to highlight and somehow connect with Ayn Rands philosophy on freedom is that there is necessary technological advance needed for a superior standard of living and freedom.

I want us to understand this in regards to science (and eventually what we see as its counterpart or enemy “religion”). Science in many ways only progresses as a social consensus, which from some views is quite purposeful.  The methodological process, peer review, the reproducible experiment, all become tangible means for social advancement in this form.  And finally of course tangible invention and technological advance are implied results of theoretical and experimental insight.

Many examples can be found.  Circumnavigating the earth would be a perfect way to change thousands of years of belief the world is flat, whether or not the wisest or most educated men of different times already knew the world as round. Such navigation would require a nation of a certain wealth, that grew to a high enough level of sea commerce.   The printing press would be another tangible invention that could affect unparalleled social growth. But there could be no comparable technology without certain economic evolution in regards to favourable and large scale division of labour.

What I think is interesting is that what I wish to point out, seems to go quite against Lord Actons sentiments in his letters that include his famous quote.  A fictitious example that could explain my basic point is that in a world in which we haven’t yet evolved to circumnavigate the earth, a society and its leaders cannot really be expected to behave in any way in which the earth was seen to be round.

This has many implications in regards to the history, our present circumstances, and the future going forward together.

If we understand bitcoin or even basic crypto-technology we might understand how unsolvable problem can be used as security mechanisms that can even hold transferable value.  In some ways, from some perspectives. we are paying to solve previously unsolvable problems and there IS value in this process (which is why the energy spent has a net gain for society in the favourable sense). But we can also note that this security in the long run, from another perspective, isn’t perfectly sound.

This might be seen as favourable or not favourable. Much like technological advance gained by war, each security breach is a lesson or evolution in security.  Perhaps bitcoin will cause our governments to try to step up to quantum computing to maintain control over the financial system.  Would this be seen as a social gain or loss in terms of weighing technological advance vs freedom? Hint: Today its a paradox or near dilemma, in the future we might view this problem from a different perspective.

But we should also note, looking to the past history of man, that it would be quite rational to have a social consensus that adhered to the laws provided by the level of technology of the time.  In other words if your society cannot possibly circumnavigate the globe, then socially it might be fair to call the flat world thinking “science”. Or of course in another way we could suggest that society one thousand years in the future, will probably see us today as extremely religious.

We see today with experiments such as the large hadron collider, we will soon have tangible evidence to shape our social view of what “this is”.  Nash talks about the effects space exploration might have on the social paradigms we hold in relation to “property” (and therefore “wealth”)

There really seems to be a lot to inquire into here.  It suggests that an individual can have very correct theories through very real insight (a mathematician perhaps thousands of years ago proving the world is round by theory etc.), but that the unwelcoming society may have a point too.  A man with insight might not understand what society can or cannot bend too, but a wise man would.  This suggests too that there can be extrapolated from great ideas, tangible implementations of these ideas.

It also suggests a limitation on social progress, however, there is interesting insight to be found on this topic because of the advent of the internet (there might somehow be a way to scientifically out grow our perceived limits).  Regardless outlining the fundamental limitations might be useful especially in dialogue.

I should mention in regards to “trust”, which really should be seen as the function of predictability, it cannot fully be realized by theory.  And society in this way might be seen as quite rational to not “trust” theory but to rather wait for the tangible breakthrough that might be exploration, or technology, or some duplicable experiment etc. Society might be seen to “know better”, in regards to change with a(n even small) possibility of risk of ruin. This may be something of natural order, it might be something we necessarily evolved to, or it might be just a certain perspective.

Lastly, and I want to write about this otherwise, we should think of progress and decentralization in relation to, at least theoretically/philosophically, changing dimensions.


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