Yet, people aren’t reporting higher levels of meaning or happiness than before.
And not just at a global level, but also at a personal level. Why?
Any idea of progress, because it comes from our LINEAR thinking, is always unidimensional but life is incomprehensibly multidimensional.
Masses were convinced to hope for a better life in heaven after death.
Adherents of any ideology – including science – hope that the world will finally be a better place to live, only if everyone followed their ideology.
These are good ideas, coming out of a pure intention to improve the world.
But as we’ve seen in the horrors of Soviet Russia, the dropping of nuclear bombs by the freedom-loving America, utopia is far from what humanity got when it adopted any such progressive vision.
As we collectively pursue progress, what we become angry about is the loss that we’re incapable of anticipating at the time of conceiving our progressive visions.
Capitalism has given us all the riches, but it has taken away our closeness to family, nature and virtues.
Every time we think that if only we fix this specific problem, all will be well.
Only if we stopped polluting, everything would be great.
Or only if we implement universal basic income, we can finally declare Earth a utopia.
Same day deliveries were great, but they took away social interaction.
Science is great, but it created a void of meaning.
The loss of that richness is only obvious in retrospect.
It’s as if things will finally get better only if humanity adopts a new philosophy in response to an old philosophy.
Today, right-wing movements are rising in response to it. If and when such philosophies succeed, something else will be lost and new philosophies will be proposed in response to those losses.
Our salvation is always just around the corner. From Christianity to communism to democratic, free-market society – everyone has promised a better world but what they’ve delivered is underwhelming reality.
We want to go to the moon? It’ll come with carbon emissions. We want fiercely independent men and women? It’ll come with a loss of benefits that marriages provide.
Hope is like the Venice vacation that promised romantic Gandola rides but delivered it along with a million, sweating tourists.
If you don’t know tomorrow will be better than today, why live at all?
Does this mean we’re either delusional about hope or nihilistic about lack of it?
We need to question whether progress is an appropriate word to describe the trajectory of humanity as a whole, and a human life in particular.
People rarely saw any new invention, technology or idea during their lifetimes.
We notice loss of friends as we ‘progress’ professionally & notice loss of nature as we ‘progress’ materially
To describe what really happens in complex, emergent systems such as humans or human societies, I’ve started preferring the term ‘unfolding’.
Adopting this term, we'll finally be honest about history in say that society doesn't progress but unfolds from one idea to another
Steering is not automatic, blind or random. Rather it is a response to an empathy for whatever the present moment is and whatever future gets unfolded.
Just like Minecraft, there’s no winning in it, only doing.
It'll bring progress only in a few specific ways, and that's why we will feel sorry for what it leaves out.
I wrote about it earlier:
It’s high time we abandon the idea of progress, and accept that humanity unfolds over time and all efforts of improvement come with a corresponding, unanticipated loss.
There's no progress, only unfolding.