Active Thinking Topic 30 -  The more things change the more they stay the same

Tuesday 26 April 2022, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Any replies to the organizer -

Venue: ZOOM online

Focus Questions

1. What has really changed amongst humans in the last 20,000 years?

2. Assuming humans and the planet survive, how might people differ 20,000 years into the future?

3. There are claims that life overall is a lot less violent than it was a couple of centuries ago? Do you believe that? What's the evidence?

4. Medical science is still in it's infancy. However you chances of surviving an illness for a while have improved lots over the last half century. Has that survivability led to an equal improvement in the long term quality of people's lives?

5. As an infallible guide to daily living, billions of people accept documents which were compiled a couple of thousand years ago. The Bible, Quran and Talmud for example were constructed to fit the social and moral needs of middle Eastern tribal people two millennia ago. Ditto for the Buddhist scriptures in Indian society .... and so on. What form could an update on such old guide books take?

6. How has the art of politics evolved in the last couple of centuries .... or hasn't it evolved?

7. What do you wish someone had told you when you were a bit younger? Would you have listened? How much life-learning is successfully passed on from generation to generation? How much should be passed on?

8. Which age cohort in each generation is deluded? Are their delusions actually useful? A quota of individuals in each generation set out to change the world. A high proportion of their peers also consider that their parents and grandparents made a total mess of things. The feel that the answers to a better world are obvious, and not so hard after all.

9. Billions of people now spend at least a part of their lives now in an electronic universe online. Has that actually changed their values, morality, attitudes, breadth of understanding a) while they are in those online environments; b) when they return to earth and live as we have always lived?

10. Mass education from the 1800s on gave people enough skills to work in factories and routine offices. For many people, employment routines haven't changed so much, yet. However, for maybe 30% of the population, employment requires constant adaptation and learning new skills. How has child and teen education adapted to prepare people for constant change? Have actual teachers themselves changed much? If not, why not?


Extra Reading

Thor May (2020) "Reflections on Turning 75". Passionate Skeptic website @ [Quote: "I want a big, red reset button. The world I met ain’t like what I was told about.. (Yes, you are different. You charmingly met an alternate world and will disagree with everything to follow)."

North Navigation (May 20th, 2016) "The More Things Change, The More They Remain The Same". Navigation North @ [Comment: The phrase was coined by French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose". In this particular article an old teacher shows how the quality of teaching and techniques used have NOT in fact changed over his career]

Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz) (n.d.) "The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same" @ [Quote: "It therefore makes little difference if my opponent holds a spear, a machine gun, or a portfolio full of papers: enemies are always enemies, and friends are hard to come by. Human vices, such as envy, also have not changed much. In objective terms, today's poor may be far less poor than they were 1,000 years ago; but they still envy those who have more than they... " - views of a Jewish rabbi ]

Ben Denison (January 6, 2020) "The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: The Failure of Regime‐​Change Operations". The Cato Institute @ [Quote: "The United States has, at various times in its history, used military force to promote regime change around the world in pursuit of its interests. In recent years, however, there has been a growing scholarly consensus that these foreign regime‐​change operations are often ineffective and produce deleterious side effects".]

Christian Bible, Ecclesiastes 1:9 : "…8. All things are wearisome, more than one can describe; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear content with hearing. 9. What has been will be again, and what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 10. Is there a case where one can say, “Look, this is new”? It has already existed in the ages before us.…" . Biblehub @ [TM: The general biblical context seems to be that without God life is too boring to tolerate. Do you agree? (btw, the current consensus of biblical scholarship seems to be that The Ecclesiastes were written between the 3rd and 10th centuries BC)]

Thor May (2016) "Politics and Politicians : a volatile mix?". Passionate Skeptic website @ [Quote: "Politics is like medicine: sometimes useful, even necessary, in small amounts, but fatal if taken in an overdose. Politicians can be a useful species but are prone to going feral. Democracies often elect either mediocrities or confidence tricksters because large numbers of electors share similar qualities. In practical terms, is there a better way to manage national affairs?"]

Kurzgesagt (2022) "We WILL Fix Climate Change!" Youtube @ [Thor, comment: a hopeful argument that the more things change the more they won't stay the same .. (15 minute video)]

Lachlan Corne (2020) "The Changing Role Of Religion In Australia". Australian Union of Jewish Students @ [Quote: "the role of religion is changing in Australia in part due to the increasing secularisation and intergenerational transmission. Over time religious institutions will have less influence and in the absence of religion, young Australians will become advocates of a range of non-religious ideologies including environmentalism, feminism, and veganism. A decline in religiosity may lead to more division as differing world-views conflict or it could create a more tolerant and accepting society if diversity is genuinely valued."]

NSW Department of Education (about 2016) "Diversity of religion and spiritual beliefs" RacismNoWay website @ [Quote: "In the 2016 Census, Christian religion affiliations were reported by 52% of the population [ed. 96.1% in 1901]. Non-Christian religions represented about 8% of the population. About 39% of the population stated they had no religion or did not state their religion. Non-Christian religions in Australia include Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Islam is the largest non-Christian religion and accounts for around 3% of the total population. Buddhism, the second largest non-Christian religion represented in Australia, today accounts for 2% of the total population. Hindus and Jews account for 2% and less than 1% of the total population respectively". ]

University of York (June 16, 2020) "Study settles the score on whether the modern world is less violent." Science Daily @ [Quote: "A study by mathematicians has used new techniques to address the long-running debate over whether battle deaths have been declining globally since the end of the Second World War.... The results suggest that, in addition to a distinct beginning and end to the unprecedented bloodshed of 1910-1950, there was another abrupt shift towards a greater level of peace in the early 1990s. ... ]

Bret Stetka (November 9, 2017) "Steven Pinker: This Is History's Most Peaceful Time--New Study: "Not So Fast". Scientific American @ [Quote: "War deaths have increased dramatically in the modern era, new research contends, despite other statistics that suggest the risks of becoming a victim of violence have lessened."]

Hannah Bloch (July 16, 2016) "Taking The Long View, Is The World Getting More Or Less Violent?" National Public Radio (USA) @ [Quote: "So how worrying are things now? - It's incredibly difficult to say at the time, and can seem heartless, but it really is important to remember that the level of violence, and I'm talking about terrorism now, in Europe, is still incredibly small relative to other forms of killing — the most obvious one of which would be homicide. The homicide rate in Europe is about 1 per 100,000 persons, so Europe is much, much safer [than the United States]. And the level of terrorism would be very, very low relative to the number of homicides. If our concern is with violent deaths, terrorism kills dramatically fewer people [than] does murder.]

Tim Blumer (2012) "Cyberpsychology - Are we the same online? The expression of the five factor personality traits on the computer and the Internet". Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace @ doi: 10.5817/CP2012-3-5 [Quote: "This study provides an initial empirical approach to the question of whether the five factor personality traits – exemplary for the whole personality of a person – express differently on the computer and on the Internet. Therefore, the five factors of 122 student participants were measured by the NEO-FFI. In a second step, the same subjects completed a modified version of the NEO-FFI, in which all items refer to computer-mediated communication. Results indicate that with regard to four of the five factors, the absolute influence of personality on behavior and experience decreases in favor of situational impact. In the case of neuroticism, a different effect occurred. On the computer and the Internet participants report higher emotional stability than in the offline world". ]

Edge (n.d) "HOW IS THE INTERNET CHANGING THE WAY YOU THINK?" Edge website @ [Quote: "A human society would effectively become one individual if we could read each other’s thoughts through direct, high speed, brain-to-brain radio transmission. Something like that may eventually meld the various units that constitute the Internet".] [Thor, comment: This is a big collection of intelligent comments]

Aperture (n.d.) "How The Internet Changed Everything". Youtube @ [14 minutes]

Wikipedia (2022) "Human Extinction" @ [Quote: "Estimated probability for human extinction before 2100 - Overall probability 19%"]

Tech Insider (n.d.) "What Humans Will Look Like In 1,000 Years?" Youtube @ [3 minutes]

Kurzgesagt (2017) "What if We Nuke a City?" Youtube @ [9 minutes]

Nicholas R. Longrich (March 2, 2022) "Future evolution: from looks to brains and personality, how will humans change in the next 10,000 years?" The Conversation @ [Quote: "We will likely live longer and become taller, as well as more lightly built. We’ll probably be less aggressive and more agreeable, but have smaller brains. A bit like a golden retriever, we’ll be friendly and jolly, but maybe not that interesting. At least, that’s one possible future."]

Janina Nemitz (03 May 2021) "Increasing longevity and life satisfaction: is there a catch to living longer?" Journal of Population Economics @ [Quote: "Human longevity is rising rapidly all over the world, but are longer lives more satisfied lives? This study suggests that the answer might be no. Despite a substantial increase in months of satisfying life, people’s overall life satisfaction declined between 1985 and 2011 in West Germany due to substantial losses of life satisfaction in old age. When compared to 1985, in 2011, elderly West Germans were, on average, much less satisfied throughout their last five years of life. Moreover, they spent a larger proportion of their remaining lifetime in states of dissatisfaction, on average. Two important mechanisms that contributed to this satisfaction decline were health and social isolation. Using a broad variety of sensitivity tests, I show that these results are robust to a large set of alternative explanations".]

Philippa Perry (25 April 2022) "Technology makes me feel I don’t really belong in this world -For older people, the internet plays on the part which is in all of us, that is alone and unknown, says Philippa Perry". The Guardian @ [Quote: "As a retired woman living alone, I felt isolated during the various lockdowns. The answer seemed to be to rely on technology, which was fine when it worked, but it often made me feel more cut off from the world. For example, when I didn’t know how to unmute myself on a video call it was like having locked-in syndrome. I’ve been to a pub where I had to forgo lunch because I couldn’t order on the app. I know people who have gone abroad for holidays, but I’ve been too scared to go because of the passenger locator form, which you had to complete online while out of the country (how?). I have a mobile phone I often struggle with – for months I didn’t know how to answer a call, so I had to wait for people to ring off, then I had to call them back".] [Thor, comment : A whole group of people, like this writer, have persuaded themselves that their "technology problem" is about age. It's not. I'm 76. I've known these kinds of people when they were twenty. They were equally clueless about technology then, or even more so since it was less idiot proof. The only difference now is that the 20-something technological no-hopers go to a phone shop where someone is paid to do it all for them].

James Pogue (April 20, 2022) "Inside the New Right, Where Peter Thiel Is Placing His Biggest Bets - They’re not MAGA. They’re not QAnon. Curtis Yarvin and the rising right are crafting a different strain of conservative politics". Vanity Fair @ [Thor, comment: This is VERY long, but quite readable. I've included it here because it is a perfect illustration of something which happens with each generation - a revolt by 20-somethings against the existing system. Usually the revolt is led by a slightly older guru. Usually the causes they cite are genuine enough. Usually the 'solutions' they propose are full of hyperbole and short on understanding what will actually happen, especially to them. Most of them a few years later will have conventional jobs and a mortgage. In this case - the New Right breathlessly described here - the (American) enemy of the moment as described is the existing establishment, "the swamp" as Trump says. Their solution is to abolish the civil service, install a "benign dictatorship", stop immigration and imported manufactures, and return everyone to a single household male breadwinner, decently Christian, working in local industry ... When I was 20, "the enemy" was a system pretty close to what they describe as ideal .. I once read 16 books of Korean history and discovered that over 900 years the 'radicals' of each age oscillated right-left-right-left ...]

The more things change the more they stay the same  (c) Thor May 2022

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