THOUGHT: We need to turn 2020 into the 20-20 Vision Year, to reverse the tacit, potentially suicidal, switch away from thinking and reasoning which occurred in the 20th century and which has left us facing seven+ existential crises. In this instalment we look both at the crises and the Kernels of Hope. The potential for gloom is severe, but as it is nearly all man-made, it is also removeable, given a sufficiently determined refocus onto reason and logical problem-solving.
Seven well-known existential crises may be listed:
This is the threat to millions of people worldwide from rising sea levels, parched land, food shortages, forest fires, etc.
This is the long term threat to millions of people worldwide from toxic air in cities produced by polluting vehicles and factories.
This is the long term threat to millions worldwide who survive on a diet harvested from the oceans.
This is the threat posed by new contagious epidemics worldwide and from a decline in the efficacy of standard anti-biotics caused by overuse.
This threat is posed by three main causes (1) childphobic education which is putting too much pressure on children leading to mental breakdown, (2) an immense overload of confusing information, fake news, lying, social media and ever-increasing complexity in technical know-how, (3) the apparent lack of any lucid leadership to resolve the many contradictions which arise in modern systems inter-acting in unforeseen ways.
This is the danger of nuclear annihilation.
The danger here is collision with a large meteor or asteroid: it is now considered that the (low) probability of this is greater than previously estimated.
These are not the only severe crises facing us. There is the possibility of financial breakdown, law-and-order breakdown and social breakdown. Each of these crises is capable, in extreme circumstances, of wiping out the human race. They are all, except the Meteorite Threat, the consequences, or by-products, of human policy decisions. The reasoning behind the decisions and lapses which have led to these outcomes has evidently been substandard. (The Meteorite Threat is, incidentally, the easiest to solve using rocket technology.)
In addition there is, ironically, the looming danger of a quasi-fascist hegemony by Big Brother type mega IT multinational companies using AI and in-depth personal data to take over all matters of politics and organisation on the pretext of averting the existential crises.
HOW CAN WE USE THE KERNELS OF HOPE?
The answer is by resolving a chronic state of conflict, despair and negativity among the human race’s de facto thinking leadership. (Incidentally, if we suppose that one person in ten thousand is a Thinker with a capital T, this implies that the human race has more than half a million Thinkers.) Awareness of this chronic despair is probably the main “ultimate shock” which explains why so many sincere people have switched off and ceased to even try to cultivate logic, rigour and reason, why so many have succumbed to Carpe Diem, and why so many of the least robust have succumbed to mental breakdown or substance abuse.
If we treat humanity’s confidence in human reason as a meme, which should be strongly present in all the council chambers of the planet, we are forced to acknowledge that it (this confidence) is virtually extinct at the global level. There is no particular issue which is responsible for this deficit. Rather it is a distinct general lack of confidence which trickles down from the top, from those who have looked into the abyss created by contradictions in modern knowledge, like the celebrated pessimists of the 20th century, Yeats, Spengler, Heidegger, Huxley, Sartre, Koestler, Bronowski… The Twentieth Century was “The Century of the Depressive Intellectual”. When we ask “Why?”, the answer is unmistakable: the opinion leaders among opinion leaders were appalled by the consequences which flowed from a bland admission into the Generally Accepted Wisdom of two exceptionally toxic items —those listed in the first part of this Blog. To accept into mathematics an axiom which says, in effect, “We can’t understand set theory” was inexcusable.
To accept into physics a theory which says, in effect, “We are compelled by the laws of physics and chemistry to act and think in the way we do” is to destroy the possibility of veracity being involved in any way in physical theorising, not to mention the other vital aspects of human genius listed earlier “courage, creativity, love, honour, reform, responsibility”. Veracity is a sign of moral fortitude which disappears if all our mental life is determined by the physics and chemistry of our brains. Without veracity —a determination to seek out the truth whatever the obstacles may be standing in the way— human knowledge is impossible. Without knowledge, civilisation is impossible. To adopt a major theory of physics (Relativity) which had this clear implication…was inexcusable.
Can the Kernels of Hope make a difference after so much mental damage has been done? It is a good question, because although the Kernels of Hope reverse these dreadful 20th century betrayals, they don’t reverse the damage. It is like repairing a hole in wire netting which was supposed to prevent rabbits from eating the lettuce. Repairing the hole won’t bring back the lettuce. Norms of confidence in the potency of human reason have been drifting downwards for more than a hundred years, and most damagingly, among the Ablest Thinkers. We need a dramatic new positivity to stand any chance of reversing this grievous trend. We are now in an extreme situation, where only special, unexpected, striking, successful reasoning can stand a chance of baling us out. This is the agenda for the current Blog. Part 3: January 2020.