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A short history of progress

by Richard Wright

Pagina 4 - May 2019
Our technological culture measures human progress by technology: the club is better than the first, the arrow better than the club, the bullet better than the arrow. We came to this belief for empirical reasons: because it delivered.

Pagina 4 - May 2019
Civilized people, we tend to think, not only smell better but behave better than barbarians or savages.

Pagina 7 - May 2019
Technology is addictive.

Pagina 7 - May 2019
Material progress creates problems that are - or seem to be - soluble only by further progress.

Pagina 8 - May 2019
Of coarse, our civilization's particulars differ from those of previous ones. But not as much as we like to think.

Pagina 9 - June 2019
Certainly there of been good and bad times to be alive.

Pagina 9 - June 2019
G.K. Chesterton remarked, "Man is an exception, whatever else he is. [...] If it is not true that a divine being fell, then we can only say that one of the animals went entirely off its head."

Pagina 10 - June 2019
Most people of 1600 were far more alarmed by priests and witches then by natural philosophers, the lines between these three were often unclear.

Pagina 21 - June 2019
In 1939, the anthropologist Carleton Coon drew an amusing reconstruction of a Neanderthal cleaned up, shaved, and dressed in a fedora, jacket, and tie. Such a man, Coon remarked, might pass and noticed on the New York subway.

Pagina 22 - June 2019
The variation between Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon skeletons does not fall far outside the range of modern humans. Put side-by-side, the bony remains of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Woody Allen might exhibit a similar contrast.

Pagina 22 - July 2019
The supposedly archaic characteristics of the Neanderthal were in fact an overlay of cold-climate adaptations on an essentially modern human frame.

Pagina 25 - July 2019
They eat no meat except the leavings of big predators; they are poor speakers, using telepathy as much as language; they have fire but few weapons, and have never suspected there is anyone else in the world except themselves.

Pagina 29 - July 2019
Someone funded logical absurdities once defined specialists as "people who know more and more about less than less, until they know all about nothing."

Pagina 30 - July 2019
Modern apes, which are also descended from the same original stock, our kitchen, not ancestors. Our main difference from champs and gorillas is that over the last 3 million years or so, we have been shaped less and less by nature, and more and more by culture. We have become experimental creatures of our own making.

Pagina 31 - July 2019
If we blow up or degrade the biosphere so it came no longer sustain us - nature will merely shrug and conclude the leading apes run the laboratory was fun for a while but in the end a bad idea.

Pagina 31 - July 2019
We have already caused so many extinctions that our dominion of earth will appear in the fossil record like the impact of an asteroid.

Pagina 31 - July 2019
history, tells us that the nice folk didn't win

Pagina 33 - July 2019
Civilizations are a specific kind of culture

Pagina 33 - July 2019
All civilizations are cultures, or conglomerates of cultures, but not all cultures are civilizations.

Pagina 34 - July 2019
At the gates of the Colosseum and the concentration camp, we have no choice but to abandon hope that civilization is, in itself, a guarantor of moral progress.

Pagina 34 - July 2019
As we climbed the ladder of progress, we kicked out the rungs below. There is no going back without catastrophe.

Pagina 35 - July 2019
the big changes since we left the cave have all been cultural, not physical

Pagina 35 - July 2019
Genius and madness, logic and belief, instinct and hallucinations, compassion and cruelty, love, hate, sex, art, great - in the individual, the sum of these is personality; in society, it is the collective personality called culture.

Pagina 38 - July 2019
Land at a dollar an inch: know that is civilization.

Pagina 40 - July 2019
The hunters at the end of the Old Stone Age broke rule one for any prudent parasite: Don't kill off your host.

Pagina 46 - July 2019
Our technocentric culture

Pagina 47 - July 2019
Technological determinism

Pagina 52 - July 2019
Change is not in our interest. Our only rational policy is not to risk provoking it.

Pagina 55 - July 2019
The greatest wonders of the ancient world is how recent it all is.

Pagina 56 - August 2019
Archaeology is perhaps the best tool we have for looking ahead

Pagina 57 - August 2019
Such thinking robs our forerunners of their due, and us of their experience.

Pagina 65 - August 2019
They told us about themselves in cuneiform script or clay tablets, one of the most enduring mediums for the human voice, a writing like the tracks of trained birds.

Pagina 73 - August 2019
In civilization, unlike the hunter-gatherer life, it has always mattered who you are.

Pagina 79 - 17 January 2020
No one, it seems, was willing to learn from the past.

Pagina 89 - 17 January 2020
...the shore was the world's end. (Ovid)

Pagina 101 - 17 January 2020
"Life expectancy was short, mortality was high, people were often sick, malnourished, and decrepit-looking." (Webster)

Pagina 102 - 18 January 2020
There's a riddle here: Why, if civilizations so often destroy themselves, has the overall experiment of civilization done so well? If Rome couldn't feed itself in the long run, how is it possible lead for every person on earth in Roman times, there are thirty here today?

Pagina 103 - 18 January 2020
A fast film of the earth from space which shows civilizations breaking out like forest fires in one region after another. Somewhere isolated and spontaneous; others were carried from place to place across the centuries, sparks on the cultural wind.

Pagina 103 - 18 January 2020
The Nile and its delta offered only 15,000 square miles of crop-land, an area the size of Holland drawn out in the shape of a lotus with its head touching to see.

Pagina 107 - 18 January 2020
Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up.

Pagina 109 - 19 January 2020
The parochialism of the present - the way our eyes follow the ball and not the game

Pagina 112 - 19 January 2020
Let nobody say the New World went down without a fight

Pagina 112 - 19 January 2020
Hollywood may have persuaded us that the "typical" Indian was a buffalo hunter. But all temperate zones of the United States, from the Southwest to the Southeast and north to Missouri, Ohio, and the Great Lakes, were thickly settled by farming peoples.

Pagina 117 - 19 January 2020
In more than one way, Franklin's countrymen became, as he called him, "white savages."

Pagina 117 - 19 January 2020
We in the lucky countries of the West now regard our two-century bubble of freedom and affluence as normal and inevitable; it has even been called the "end" of history

Pagina 119 - 19 January 2020
As the Victorian age rushed on, many writers began to ask, "Where are we going?" If so much was happening so quickly in their century, what might happen in the next? Butler, Wells, William Morris, Richards Jeffries, and many others mixed fantasy, satire, and allegory, creating a genre known as the scientific romance.

Pagina 120 - 19 January 2020
This dire necessity of "cheap production" of things, a great part of which were not worth producing it all

Pagina 121 - 20 January 2020
What, exactly, what is the point of all this economic output if, for so many people, it meant deracination, misery, and filth?

Pagina 122 - 20 January 2020
One of the dangers of writing a dystopian satire is how depressing it is when you get things right.

Pagina 123 - 20 January 2020
Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capitalism.

Pagina 124 - 20 January 2020
John Steinbeck once said that socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as exploited proletariat but it's temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

Pagina 124 - 20 January 2020
Marx was surely right when he called capitalism "a machine for demolishing limits."

Pagina 124 - 20 January 2020
Capitalism lures us onward like the mechanical hare before the greyhounds, insisting that the economy is infinite and sharing therefore irrelevant. Just enough greyhounds catch a real hare now and then to keep the others running till they drop.

Pagina 127 - 20 January 2020
American judge Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "I don't mind paying taxes; they buy me civilization."

Pagina 129 - 20 January 2020
If civilization is to survive, it must live on the interest, not the capital, of nature.

Pagina 131 - 20 January 2020
Wealth is no shield from chaos

Pagina 131 - 20 January 2020
Things are moving so fast that in action itself is one of the biggest mistakes.