History and the Great Filter Paradox (was Re: retrograde technologies?)

Darin Sunley (umsunley@cc.umanitoba.ca)
Sat, 05 Jun 1999 01:23:28 -0500

"Raymond G. Van De Walker" wrote:

> Apparently the industrial revolution in England was a very rare,
> anomalous event, that almost didn't happen. By luck or a blessing of
> God, England came late to the nasty wars of the 17th century, and all of
> England's classes (Protestants all) were threatened with extinction (by
> Catholic Invasion threats). The universal threat permitted progressive
> taxation, including taxation of the nobles. The lateness and
> progressive-ness of the war taxation permitted ENgland to save up reserve
> capital, enough, barely, for the industrial revolution to snowball into
> Victorian England.

Someone (I THINK it's Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but I could be wrong) writes pretty much the same thing about the origin of science among the Ionians in Pre-Socratic Ancient Greece. It was apparently the combination of a maritime economy, the existence of a leisure class, and geographical isolations that allowed the Ionian philosophers (thales et al.) to fisrt try to reason about the world in a matieralistic manner, rather then attributing it all to Deity X.

Something Pirsig DEFINITELY mentions is how fragile science was after it started. No one seems to have invented it other then the Ionians, and they did end up losing it. It was only the Arabs keeping it long enough for Western Europe to get back on track that allowed for the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, and hence, modern western society (aka, the Age of Wonders :)).

It's perspectives like this that make me feel a little bit better about the Great Filter paradox. Eukaryotic cells are hard to do, and science is hard to do. Thus we can hope that the leap form eukaryotic cells with science to Powers is less then impossible.