A Short History of Progress wass written by Ronald Wright in 2004. The book comprises the 2004 Massey Lectures. You can listen to the series on-line as well. While the the book was published over a decade ago, the messages within could have published this morning for they apply, perhaps even more so, today. The lessons Wright draws from history are very relevant as the Paris climate summit begins this week.
The book isn’t about climate change per se. The author is a “historical philosopher” shows how our modern predicaments are as old as civilizations. He traces our species from our beginnings to the present. We read about the successes and failures of civilizations throughout our history. He asks and analyzes why many (most?) civilizations in the past became extinct and he draws a picture of where we are today and the need to pay heed to the past in our actions today and in the future.
One phrase he uses more than once is “every time history repeats itself, the price goes up”. As you read you wonder why mankind continues to act in certain ways, much of which would make you want to belong to kinder species. In asking why we continue to do some things, Wright uses computers as an analogy. He says if man were a computer then we would be hardware running on software that hasn’t had an upgrade in 25,000 years. Wright notes if you don’t believe that, just listen to the news.
It’s not possible to make light of Wright’s take on things. For the ordinary citizen we can urge leaders to make a difference (as we hope the world leaders in Paris will do this week) and we can take action in ways to make the world a better place.
To use the analogy that mankind is akin to computer technology. I would hope that despite mankind’s ancient hardware we can find a workaround that keeps us from repeating history and helps sustain our future. What are your thoughts?
Yesterday there were marches all over the globe in support of the Paris climate summit. Here are some pictures of the 100% Possible march in Ottawa. And a few more: