I look at myself in the mirror, I see slight bags underneath my eyes, and on my chest and beard I see a gray hair or two. I’m not an old man, I just turned twenty-three, but much has changed since I first started having political thoughts.
There was a time where I believed that I alone could change the world – I had a messiah complex, to put it mildly. There seemed to be so much suffering in society, yet little seemed to be done about it. What was needed was a revolution to push aside our archaic notions on where our civilization was heading. I spent many hours, thinking and genuinely believing that the time of action was around the corner.
Whilst never a communist, I harboured some affinity to the ideals. I believed that the main reasons such systems had never worked, was because it was always presupposed that people would work out of the goodness in their heart. Technology, I decided, was the key to all this, and if only our society could develop enough of it, we could reach a state of utopia. People would not have to work, and all would be well.
Now, I do still think that automation has the capacity for a society of such wealth and excellence, that none before it could compare. Yet, I’ve grown more humble over time. I have my doubts that I, or for that matter anyone, could artificially design such a society. Some of the most horrible crimes in world history have been made in the name of good intentions, and designing a supposedly better society: from the Maoist “Great Leap Forward”, which killed millions through starvation and scarcity; the Nazis wanting to rid society of what they deemed the dregs of humanity; or the acts of Gavrilo Princep wanting to rid the world of what he believed to be an oppressive system with the Habsburgs in the Balkans, which had WWI as an aftermath, just to name a few.
I think science’s early success in understanding mathematics, physics and the like has given us plenty of arrogance to go along with it. The Enlightenment had the detrimental effect of making us believe that everything was computable, and immediately understandable. This is fine and doable in contained systems where you can isolate the forces, and understand how they behave in relation to each other. It’s a different tale altogether when you’re trying to understand systems that aggregate on the input of each other, and even worse, may react to the information that has been computed so far.
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