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Is Civilization Really a Good Thing?

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    ronyaronya Arrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    edited October 2010
    ...?

    ronya on
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    Psycho Internet HawkPsycho Internet Hawk Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    ronya wrote: »
    European culture has great wealth, opportunity, and privilege, even if acquiring these things takes a long time and people suffer in the interim.

    I don't think it necessarily takes all that long to get to that point these days, so while there might be some decline in the interim, it could very well be a really short interim. I'm thinking of Japan, Singapore and the like, with substantial increases in quality of life within a generation.

    IIRC South Korea had one of the fastest growth rates ever for a while, up until the Asian financial crisis. It started off as one of the poorest countries in the world, ended up stagnating while it was one of the... top ten largest economies of the world? Then it fell to 11th place or something?

    I guess I should look some of this stuff up.

    South Korea also had an extremely protectionist economic policy during its massive growth, which sort of helped.

    Part of the problem is that current development theory under the IMF/WB still insists that opening up a developing country economically is equally as effective as opening up a developed one, when history seems to suggest otherwise. Protective economic policy isn't as useful when your economy is on the same level as most others, but it generally makes the transition period less painful.

    Psycho Internet Hawk on
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    CasedOutCasedOut Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    ronya wrote: »
    ...?

    Is that not what your post basically says? That they go through growing pains essentially.

    CasedOut on
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    ronyaronya Arrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    edited October 2010
    CasedOut wrote: »
    ronya wrote: »
    ...?

    Is that not what your post basically says? That they go through growing pains essentially.

    Well, "no pain no gain" tends to be interpreted as a prescriptive excuse for doing nothing about said pains. So I would not agree with that as a basic summary. I think it is reasonable as a descriptive statement, though.

    ronya on
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    ronyaronya Arrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    edited October 2010
    ronya wrote: »
    European culture has great wealth, opportunity, and privilege, even if acquiring these things takes a long time and people suffer in the interim.

    I don't think it necessarily takes all that long to get to that point these days, so while there might be some decline in the interim, it could very well be a really short interim. I'm thinking of Japan, Singapore and the like, with substantial increases in quality of life within a generation.

    IIRC South Korea had one of the fastest growth rates ever for a while, up until the Asian financial crisis. It started off as one of the poorest countries in the world, ended up stagnating while it was one of the... top ten largest economies of the world? Then it fell to 11th place or something?

    I guess I should look some of this stuff up.

    South Korea also had an extremely protectionist economic policy during its massive growth, which sort of helped.

    Part of the problem is that current development theory under the IMF/WB still insists that opening up a developing country economically is equally as effective as opening up a developed one, when history seems to suggest otherwise. Protective economic policy isn't as useful when your economy is on the same level as most others, but it generally makes the transition period less painful.

    At risk of dragging this thread off toward trade theory, this is not an accurate characterization of South Korean development policy, nor of World Bank views of South Korea.

    Plus: even if you dispute the effects of policy, it cannot be disputed that the Korean economic miracle was under a policy regime that both subsidized exports and liberalized imports considerably. Both exports and imports skyrocketed as % of GDP under the Park government.

    It would be more accurate to describe Korean policy as consciously picking development winners; if yours was a disfavored industry, or an industry competing with importers, well, too bad. You might even be arrested for your pains (this being, after all, a military dictatorship. Just after seizing power in the 1961 coup d'état, Park had the country's most powerful businessmen arrested for "profiteering". He then let them go, provisional on their investing in industries Park preferred. No doubt that exercise was also useful in demonstrating Park's power to the wealthy).

    Describing such policy as "protectionism" is somewhat misrepresentative, especially since its invokers tend to envision protecting established and dying industries rather than protecting new and upcoming ones, as per Korean industrial policy. And this is from a relatively pro-intervention POV; a more hostile perspective would note that Korean (and Taiwanese, and Japanese) industrial policy also had numerous expensive failures.

    ronya on
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    Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
    edited December 2010
    Pittsburgh City Paper: Wild Times Ahead
    Civilization, primitivists argue, germinates all our ills: government, which is necessarily repressive; private property, and thus crime; war; social, economic and sexual inequality; environmental degradation; and endless, numbing work routines. Progress is a myth, they contend: We've lost more than we've gained. Modern technology promises fulfillment but delivers isolation, cocooning us from each other, from nature, from the consequences of our destructive, unsustainable ways.
    ...in recent years, primitivism has found an unlikely ally: modern science.

    In 1968, anthropologist Marshall Sahlins presented a paper titled "The Original Affluent Society." Drawing on recent field research among surviving hunter-gatherers including the !Kung Bushmen of South Africa's Kalahari Desert, Sahlins proposed that foraging was in fact a rather attractive way to live.

    The !Kung inhabited marginal lands ... the most fruitful real estate having been seized by agriculturalists ... and lacked electricity, metal tools and permanent homes. But Sahlins argued that they were affluent because all their needs were met. The !Kung spent only a few hours each day gathering food. The rest of the time they played, socialized or slept.

    "The research suggests that the more complex socially organized society you live in, the more you have to work," says Pitt anthropology professor Richard Scaglion, who in the 1970s spent a year-and-a-half living among the Abelam people of the New Guinea highlands.

    Scaglion says the Abelam have a pretty sweet life. They're not pure foragers, practicing slash-and-burn horticulture and living alongside free-roaming, semi-domesticated pigs. They also have some (imported) metal tools, including machetes. Yet the Abelam have little sense of time and don't distinguish between work and play. They just live. Their health is good and their life expectancy comparable to ours ... minus, of course, artificial life support.

    In a 1987 article in Discover magazine, Jared Diamond ... later a Pulitzer Prize-winner for Guns, Germs and Steel ... called agriculture "the worst mistake in human history." For the first million or two years humans and their ancestors walked earth, "Hunter-gatherers practiced the most successful and longest-lasting life style in human history. In contrast, we're still struggling with the mess into which agriculture has tumbled us, and it's unclear whether we can solve it."
    Some argue that surely we'll keep the party going. Surely we'll find ... or invent ... new sources of energy. Optimists cite the "Green Revolution" in agriculture: In the face of warnings about overpopulation, new technologies enabled the global head-count to double from three billion to six billion, between 1960 and 2000. But what enabled such growth was the chemically dependent modern agriculture that has meant soil depletion, runoff that poisons and clogs waterways, and the plowing under of wild lands ... not to mention oceans of fuel for shipping crops across hemispheres. New solutions always have new costs.
    But eco-pocalypse is based on more than reading tea leaves in Revelation. Rain forests and polar ice caps really are vanishing. Fisheries and petroleum reserves really are drying up, while sea levels and environmental toxins rise. Of the hottest 20 years on record globally, 19 have come since 1980. The Worldwatch Institute estimates that to protect the environment and promote economic equity, rich nations "may need to cut their use of materials by as much as 90 percent over few decades." The Party's Over author Richard Heinberg suggests that to stave off the worst of coming cataclysms we should adopt small, radically decentralized, semi-autonomous communities living off sustainable energy.

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    Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
    edited December 2010
    I feel like the article I linked and posted quotations from makes some good points. Agriculture, the civilizations that it enabled, and the technologies created by civilizations have caused many problems.

    My main point of contention, though, is that abandoning civilization and technology in favor of the hunter-gatherer society our ancestors engaged in would eliminate not only civilization's problems, but also its positive aspects. If not for civilization, people might not be able to create elaborate artwork, games, or other products of human creativity due to the pressures of a nomadic lifestyle, a lack of tools, and an inability to exchange ideas.

    To deny civilization and technology, in my opinion, is to say that humans should live like any other animal. We aren't any other animal, though; our unparalleled intelligence gives us the potential to do things that no other creature can. Critics of modern life say that the things we have accomplished are negative, and that ideas of progress mask the fact that our intelligence has caused even more harm than good to the human race and to the planet.

    If this truly is the case, then what good is intelligence? Does that not mean intelligence is an inherently negative characteristic? The prospect that any possible intelligent species, human or otherwise, can only create things that ultimately degrade itself and the world it inhabits is horrific; it makes intelligence into a sick, cosmic joke and paints humans as the most pitiful creatures imaginable.

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    ShanadeusShanadeus Registered User regular
    edited December 2010
    Without civilization I would have died several times over so I my biased opinion is that civilization really is a good thing.

    And we'd never get off this planet without it, a simpler way of living would simply cease to be once the sun starts heating up or the earth naturally change in a manner that will lead to human extinction.

    Shanadeus on
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    electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited December 2010
    Shanadeus wrote: »
    Without civilization I would have died several times over so I my biased opinion is that civilization really is a good thing.

    And we'd never get off this planet without it, a simpler way of living would simply cease to be once the sun starts heating up or the earth naturally change in a manner that will lead to human extinction.

    Also the meta-stable states problem.

    Even if we have to do more work now, we enjoy luxuries for it we otherwise wouldn't have. More importantly, as a civilization, we're slowly creeping over the technological event horizon where we get the Culture.

    electricitylikesme on
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    poshnialloposhniallo Registered User regular
    edited December 2010
    Shanadeus wrote: »
    Without civilization I would have died several times over so I my biased opinion is that civilization really is a good thing.

    And we'd never get off this planet without it, a simpler way of living would simply cease to be once the sun starts heating up or the earth naturally change in a manner that will lead to human extinction.

    Also the meta-stable states problem.

    Even if we have to do more work now, we enjoy luxuries for it we otherwise wouldn't have. More importantly, as a civilization, we're slowly creeping over the technological event horizon where we get the Culture.

    We're never going to get the Culture.

    It's too dull.

    Everyone will want to join SC and then splinter-groups of pseudo-SC-wannabes will start a civil war.

    And... repeat.

    The records of this cyclical clusterfuck will be stored on a lone GSV hiding in the galactic core, named A Surfeit of Technophilia.

    poshniallo on
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    electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited December 2010
    poshniallo wrote: »
    Shanadeus wrote: »
    Without civilization I would have died several times over so I my biased opinion is that civilization really is a good thing.

    And we'd never get off this planet without it, a simpler way of living would simply cease to be once the sun starts heating up or the earth naturally change in a manner that will lead to human extinction.

    Also the meta-stable states problem.

    Even if we have to do more work now, we enjoy luxuries for it we otherwise wouldn't have. More importantly, as a civilization, we're slowly creeping over the technological event horizon where we get the Culture.

    We're never going to get the Culture.

    It's too dull.

    Everyone will want to join SC and then splinter-groups of pseudo-SC-wannabes will start a civil war.

    And... repeat.

    The records of this cyclical clusterfuck will be stored on a lone GSV hiding in the galactic core, named A Surfeit of Technophilia.

    I would point out that, as was the motivation for my armed insurrection thread, while SC makes for good stories, I suspect most people presented with the opportunity to safely exist having two-minute long orgasms would just be happy to continue to do so.

    I mean, SC agents have the unique distinction in the Culture of sometimes dying violent deaths. As opposed to regular citizens who never do unless they choose to make it possible to. While lava rafting.

    electricitylikesme on
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    ElJeffeElJeffe Not actually a mod. Roaming the streets, waving his gun around.Moderator, ClubPA mod
    edited December 2010
    This thread is old, thus the new Civilization Thread wins.

    ElJeffe on
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