27 November 2011

Where the Trouble Starts

R. Joseph Hoffman, on knowledge:
Strictly speaking we do not need to know as much as we already do to survive and there is no guarantee that knowing more will guarantee our survival.  So it’s wondrous indeed that we care enough to put knowledge at the top of the human agenda.
History seems to cycle between humanism and theism.  The two beliefs always wax then wane, at the expense of the other, and appear to account for what I call the cycles of history.

The cycles of history can be described thusly:  Society is highly moral and entrepreneurial, leading to an increase in said society’s wealth, population, and standard of living.  Society is able to increase its collective intellectual capital, making it more knowledgeable, and, as it masters the environment, society is able to more or less secure its survival.  Having done this, society turns to looking after ensuring its comfort, which requires the accumulation of ever more knowledge.

As it amasses this knowledge, society begins to suffer from the pretense of knowledge, which generally leads to a rejection of morality.  This rejection of morality leads to wide-scale decline in the number of human beings, directly and indirectly.  Since collective knowledge is dependent on having a large population (cf. Neurodiversity), and since wealth is highly dependent on having large amounts of collective knowledge, the resulting population decline usually correlates with declining wealth.

Over time, the pretense of knowledge is done away with because it becomes obvious by the decreased standard of living that no one really knows much of anything.  With the god of knowledge being viewed as impotent, society turns again to the old morality, which leads to an increase in morality and entrepreneurship, and so on it goes.

Per Hoffman, I would be inclined to argue that society’s continuous push for more knowledge is troubling because there isn’t much that we need to know.  Pretty much everyone’s needs have been taken care of, save for those who are intractably unwilling or otherwise unable to take care of their own needs.  As such, the continued push for more knowledge is likely going to exacerbate the already visible pretense of knowledge that has affected society at large.

This pretense of knowledge usually encourages social engineering, which usually requires the deaths of millions (cf. Hitler) or billions (cf. Mao) of people.  This decline in population is quite impoverishing, and will likely lead to social decay as society, being unable to maintain its expected standard of living, plunges into unrest and discord, which usually leads to greater declines in population, leading to further declines in the standard of living.  This, I believe, is what leis in store for the western world.

Incidentally, these cycles of history can be roughly seen with the Children of Israel in the Old Testament.  As they became materially wealthy, they became spiritually poor.  Once they became spiritually bankrupt, they then became materially poor (usually, they became slaves to foreign nations).  Once they escaped their spiritual poverty, they were able to also escape their material poverty.  At any rate, it’s intriguing to see how spiritual poverty correlates to material poverty, and how there is a seemingly constant cycle from spiritual poverty to spiritual wealth that corresponds with a cycle from material poverty to material wealth.


  1. Pride goeth before the fall, always and forevermore. Alas, for all our accumulated knowledge, we always that old truism.

  2. @Ulysses- and we end up reaping the whirlwind as a result.