I very much enjoyed “Special Providence” and am glad to see that you are blogging. Very much looking forward to reading the next installments in this series. Thank you for writing!
I’ve been enjoying this blog very much, particularly looking through the (rather short) archives.
The rapid acceleration of change is fascinating, and it is instructive to look at how people in history have handled it. You could make a case that the change a Henry Adams or Lincoln experienced in their lifetime was more fundamental to how they live than what we experience, despite how quick and multi-faceted it is today.
It reminds me of the ironic line in Master and Commander when he sees a model of a revolutionary hull for a ship ‘What a fascinating modern world we live in’. As true in the early 1800’s as today.
Another change is that your writing is more likely to be read on your blog than in your books, particularly by younger people.
Looking forward to future entries.
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As more of a science guy than a humanities guy, my perspective is a little different.
A lot of the 1800-1900 technological advances were low-hanging fruits of physics and chemistry. So while Lincoln travelled by train and FDR travelled by plane, we’re still travelling by plane. Once those low-hanging fruits have been harvested, it takes a lot of work for more complex novel applications to come on-line.
Moreover, the sciences that have been exploding recently, especially biology, are much more messy and complex than physics and chemistry. But the same phenomenon holds. Making vaccines for smallpox etc was relatively straightforward, but making an AIDS vaccine has been tough.
So the technological changes we’re going to get aren’t in the things we might want or expect. For example, battery technology seems stuck. But we’re probably going to have to grapple with parents trying to genetically engineer their kids sooner than we’d want.
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While Ray Kurzweil’s evolutionary technotheosis may be as metaphysical as Teilhard de Chardin’s Omega Point, to which it bears a strong structural resemblance.
it is cautionary that the immanent materialization of quantum computing – the pieces are being physically assembled– beggars anything Adams or de Chardin could conceive.
While this potentially radical advance in IT cannot do much to extend the limits of materials science and hence engineering, it may accelerate the advance of technology to those limits , so materialism remains too important to be left to the Marxists.
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By now you’ve probably read “The Great Stagnation”. Cowen argues that the rate of change is actually S-shaped, and that we’ve already passed the steapest part of the curve and are now moving at a slower rate of change than we did during the 19th and first-half 20th centuries. Yes, we have the computer, but energy and mass consumption per capita peaked a while ago. We are not obsessed with “conservation” precisely because our resource use is no longer growing.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the 21st century is going to bring big changes. But the year 2110 might be more recognizable than you think.
Moreover, only technology changes. Human nature, not so much.