Re: Technology (Was: imaging the world)

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Thu Mar 09 2000 - 05:33:33 MST

"J. R. Molloy" <> writes:

> Anders wrote,
> >Reminds me a bit of agronomy. I see it more as a science than a
> >technology - the science of freeing people. The problem is of course
> >that we have no idea what such a technology would be at present. A
> >great deal of philosophy, psychology and sociology would likely be
> >involved, perhaps also economics. But at present we only have a few
> >scattered ideas about what it would be, and a few tools for it. Hmm,
> >we better get working on inventing it! :-)
> Yes, indeed we had better get working on it. How shall we start? I'd like to ask
> if humanity has taken a wrong turn. One that has led to tyranny and
> superstition.

Where could it have made the turn? I think the only obvious point
where humanity might have made a truly irreversible choice is the
development of agriculture. Once you have it, a lot of things change:
population increase, cultural changes, plagues and cities become hard
to avoid (?). If we somehow had avoided it and remained
hunter-gatherers humanity would have remained stable. Now we have got
onto the change track instead.

Without cities tyrants will just tyrranize their tribe and their
neighbours, but clearly tyrrany is older than cities and would still
have been present in a hunter-gatherer humanity. In fact, when we look
at our primate relatives we find quite a bit of tyrrany going on, so
the reasons for tyrrany seems to go back far into our evolutionary
past. Increased technology and population has just made tyrants more

Superstition (I define it as doing and thinking things there are no
compelling reasons to think they are correct) is also much older than
agriculture. If cave paintings were intended to improve the hunt
magically (as opposed to give instruction or act as decoration) then
we have at least 50,000 years of superstition. And there have been
signs of ceremonial burial of neanderthal humans with flowers and
tools, suggesting a belief in an afterlife around 70,000 years ago.

Anumals can easily become superstitious when given operant training -
if you intermittently reward a pidgeon for pecking at a certain
symbol, and it happens to stand on one leg when it gets a reward, it
sometimes develop the association "symbol peck + one leg = reward" and
will always stand on one leg. I expect that we have had superstition
long before we climbed down from the trees.

So tyrrany and superstition are really older than Homo sapiens. They
are not something we chose and fell out from a golden age, but rather
something we want to get rid of to reach a future golden age.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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