The radical self

Past performance is no guarantee of future outcomes. An increase in quantity won’t lead to a surge a quality. More is not necessarily better, and good yesterday doesn’t mean better today. Yet our mind seems to be wired to believe that the arrow keeps flying and that time, rather than agency, is the real engine of historical change.

Moore’s Law and Raymond Kurzweil’s predictions are both the daughters of the myth of progress. Given more time, any challenge will be overcome. We may not have enough time, some cry out in the wilderness of eco-apocalypse, but otherwise time will solve it.

Every major historical and cultural innovation the West has done – innovation relative to the rest of world cultures – has tended to morph into its radical self. The ‘discovery’ of the human person endowed with rights and the sacrosanctity of human life, which the medieval West started and the Enlightenment completed, the hopefulness of the future tense as a break away from the laws and claws of historical necessity and inexorable cyclicity, the elevation and transfiguration of the marginalised and downtrodden which flies in the face of human evolution — these are all accomplishments which, as the West relentlessly pursued them, led to formidable ideas which came to dominate our culture. Chief among these, the myth of progress, which is really why we always talk about the things we haven’t got but fear/hope one day we might, whether it’s artificial intelligence, transhumanism, energy self-reliance, or else.

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