Sometimes I wonder if there really is progress, or if we just keep rearranging the furniture. I mean, finally there's going to be entropy, but you can arrange it so that some subsystem of the universe prospers by increasing entropy in the rest of the big system.
Life miraculously does this. According to Newton, you and I are not really supposed to be here. But from the human point of view, can we learn as a species and find a way to live with each other and the rest of nature?
Somebody, maybe Derek Jensen or Jared Diamond, suggested that agriculture was humanity's biggest mistake. With ag, we got hierarchies, private property, women and children as chattel, war, slavery, depleted soil, the beginnings of all the heartaches that we wonder and anguish over in the 21st century.
As agriculture outpaced forager depletion of the environment, industry has outpaced agriculture. The best, most nearly complete model of the world economy predicted economic collapse in this century, absent certain changes. There may be cameras on Mars and a Worldwide Web, but things like that happen at a cost.
I'm working on some projects that I think demonstrate human progress.
I'm working to bring Nora Bateson's cinematic portrait of her father Gregory, An Ecology of Mind, to the Twin Cities. Bateson thought that an epistemology that was neither superstitious nor materialistic could bring us into a relationship with our planet that could last and make us happy. The trick will be to get a speaker to answer questions. Bateson was a very -- um -- knowledgeable fellow and can be hard to follow.
I'm helping neighbors to build relationships in south Minneapolis that we hope will allow a smooth transition from an oil economy to one that will let us thrive on down the corridors of time.
My current Face of Wisdom for Zenith City Weekly is Dimitri Mendeleev. Mendeleev took the handful of elements isolated by the 1860s, and arranged them as we know them in the Periodic Table, leaving spaces for elements remaining to be discovered. In other words, Dimitri took the dribs and drabs that had been discovered, and teased out their relationships. He gave us the beginning of a theory of matter!
List other global understandings of existence: genetics from Mendel to the Human Genome Project, quantum mechanics, cybernetics, chaos theory, natural selection, ecology. These indicate progress in that our noodling around and trying to understand every single thing by itself has given us a comprehensive and accurate understanding of our place in the universe.