Posts Tagged ‘Human Nature’

How much do we really need?

September 27, 2015

The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.
        ==Attributed to Gandhi

I believe that, with good luck and good management, the world is capable of feeding the world’s people through the hoped-for demographic transition, when population growth levels off.

But I doubt that the world is capable of keeping all of the world’s people at as high a material standard of living as I enjoy as a middle-class American, barring some breakthrough that is beyond my imagination.

numberRTE_DVstuffwedon'tneedOf course the world is not limited by my imagination.  I have no way of knowing what the future will be like.  Many of fears of 50 or 60 years ago proved unfounded.  Maybe my present fears will prove equally unfounded 50 or 60 years from now.

But, as the saying goes, hope is not a plan.  Suppose things are what they seem to be.

What is required to provide for everyone’s need?  How much is enough?

Back in the 1930s, thinkers such as Bertrand Russell and John Maynard Keynes projected that economic growth would, in the foreseeable future, provide enough so that human beings—at least those in the USA and UK—could cease striving for more and lead lives based on higher values than acquiring money.

This didn’t happen because the definition of “enough” changed.

I am unhappy if my Internet connection goes down for a few days.   I am in acute discomfort if my gas furnace ceases to function.   But I was happy as a boy without those things, and so were my parents.

If you go back in history, highly civilized people such as Ralph Waldo Emerson or Samuel Johnson lived happily without electricity, indoor plumbing or private automobiles, and their contemporaries put up with pain and discomfort that people today would find unendurable.

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Adam Curtis and machines of loving grace

April 17, 2015

All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace is a remarkable three-part documentary film series made by Adam Curtis for the BBC.  (Click on the link if the embedded videos don’t work.)

He explores the consequences of looking at the economy, at nature and at human nature as an self-regulating cybernetic-like system, governed by automatic feedback, without the need for human thought.

Thinking this way make people assume that political action is futile and it is better to stand aside and let things come into adjustment automatically.  This is profoundly anti-democratic.  Also, it doesn’t work.

Love and Power is about the idea that the economic system will come to a desirable equilibrium based on individual self-interest without outside regulation.

He reports on Ayn Rand and her attempt to set up a utopian community based on the virtue of selfishness, and on Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who internalized the values of Ayn Rand.

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Reason and human nature

June 30, 2013

All human beings are rational beings.

All human beings are emotional and intuitive beings.

All human beings are moral beings.

robert-weber-the-dawn-of-reason-new-yorker-cartoonWhen someone says he is above reason, I believe that the person is either unaware of his thinking processes or has a hidden agenda.   A person completely without the ability to think rationally would be unable to function in the world.

When someone says he is unemotional, I believe that the person is either unaware of his feelings and desires or has a hidden agenda.  A person completely without feelings or desires would have nothing with which to reason about.

When someone says he is morally neutral, I believe that the person either is unaware of the moral nature or his beliefs, or has a hidden agenda.  A person completely without morals would be a dangerous psychopath.

Experience is subjective.  Facts are real.

Everyone experiences life in a unique way which never can be fully communicated to others, although great artists come close.  In that sense, and that sense alone, we each live in our own separate reality.

At the same time, there is the reality of facts, whose existence is not dependent on our beliefs and which are the same for everyone.  Our knowledge of facts will always be partial, tentative and subject to correction, but it behooves us to understand them as best we can, because they will catch up with us if we don’t.

As someone once said, it is possible to ignore reality, but it is not possible to ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.

I wrote this post as a generic response to my acquaintances who tell me that my thinking is superficial because of my belief in reason.   Of course I do not believe that there is a rational philosophical or scientific system that, once  you understand it, explains everything.  What I do believe in is the reality check.   If my ideas don’t make sense, or if my ideas are contrary to the facts,  I should stop believing in them.

Does this make sense to you?  What have I got wrong?  What have I left out?