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Ask Hubski: How will history judge us?
b_b 1213 days ago  ·  shared by 20
text  ·  #askhubski
I try to read a lot of history. I read many histories of science, and lately I've also read several histories of the Spanish Conquest of South America. One thing that always strikes me is how morally abhorrent we, as a modern society, find many things that were accepted as commonplace to many people of past centuries. Take, for instance, a famous science example: In the post-Civil War times there were many studies that "proved" that blacks were inferior (inferior not really every being well defined) to Native Americans, who were inferior to Asians, who were, of course, inferior to whites (and even within whites there was a hierarchy that showed that British reigned supreme, imagine that!). These studies were done by scientists at respected institutions like Harvard, many of whom were leaders in the abolitionist movement, so they weren't exactly back woods, slave-driving crackers. The studies were all scientifically flawed, and these days we wonder how they could have been so blind. But, they were so affected by their conviction that blacks were subhuman, that the data they collected could only be interpreted this way; no one could see the forest for the trees.

There are so many examples throughout history of things that were, in retrospect, unconscionable, but that were unrecognized at the time. I often think about what practices we are currently engaged in that will be judged by future generations as absurd or morally wrong or just plain sick. But its difficult, because, of course, we can only see with the moral and historical perspective that currently exists. Hindsight isn't possible in the present. What do you think? What is the worst thing about now that we accept as common, everyday practice?

I was talking with mk recently, and he suggested that our food delivery system is probably the most accepted, but most morally corrupt thing in our modern world. I can't disagree. This question bothers me a lot, however, so I am very curious for any thoughts.

scrimetime 1213 days ago  ·  link
Our education system. There has to be a better way for something so incredibly important to our future.
eb 1213 days ago  ·  link
I think Colbert had it right "So.. home work becomes room work and at home you get to watch youtube!" in the interview with Salman Khan (people will study the lessons online, maybe, and then they will go to school to discuss/practice them).

I like the idea... :)


winston 1213 days ago  ·  link
mk 1212 days ago  ·  link
You might also consider the ratio of defense spending to education (or anything else), to appear pretty horrific to future society.
scarp 1213 days ago  ·  link
They would probably shame the USA's obsession with military defense and terrorist hunting, and how we spend a disproportionate amount of time and money on those endeavors than we do on scientific funding. Of course, there are plenty of people saying that now -- just as there were probably plenty of people decrying 19th century racism -- but the minority voice of reason tends to get drowned out until it becomes the accepted view several generations later.

On a lighter note, perhaps they will find it quaint (or horrifying) that people used to drive their own cars. Maybe one day I'll tell my grandchildren of a time when huge box-like machines rushed by each other on massive expanses of concrete, separated only by painted white lines and contained by crude metal guard rails, killing a million people a year in fiery collisions caused by human error. Additionally, they ran on fossil fuels and pumped out poisonous gases from the rear. Almost everyone owned one!

thenewgreen 1213 days ago  ·  link
huge box-like machines rushed by each other on massive expanses of concrete, separated only by painted white lines and contained by crude metal guard rails, killing a million people a year in fiery collisions caused by human error. Additionally, they ran on fossil fuels and pumped out poisonous gases from the rear. Almost everyone owned one! -When you put it that way, it does sound pretty ridiculous. Along those lines, perhaps they will also find our ability to allow money interests to take precedence over the common good. How could they have allowed fossil fuels to be the primary source of energy for so long?
dublinben 1212 days ago  ·  link
I think it's incredible that our motor vehicles rely on violent explosions hundreds of times a second and we consider that safe. The amount of unnecessary risk we take in all ways should shock future generations.
kleinbl00 1213 days ago  ·  link
"Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist."

- Kenneth Boulding

NotPhil 1212 days ago  ·  link
> Economists are like computers. They need to have facts punched into them. -- Kenneth Boulding
scarp 1213 days ago  ·  link
Massive, reckless consumerism.
NotPhil 1212 days ago  ·  linkx 2
I suspect our entire economic system will one day come to been seen as one of the most perverse attempts at social engineering we've ever foisted on ourselves.

No-liability ownership of imaginary legal properties called corporations required to compete with each other for growing profits by chewing up resources at a rate that's created the greatest mass extinction since the Cretaceous period. Pollution from industrial processes that threatens entire oceans and the climate of the whole planet.

Sweatshops populated by people working around the clock for starvation wages who churn out disposable, meaningless, goods which we end up burying in the ground after a few days or years. Middle class debt slaves running around and around in a rat race to avoid bankruptcy.

Colonization, warfare, and coerced "free trade" treaties to force the system on everyone on the planet and create bigger markets.

Our economics has to be the most depraved thing to come out of the Enlightenment.

thenewgreen 52 days ago  ·  link

Yeah, it all seems pretty bleak when you put it that way. The system will NEVER CHANGE itself though, it needs to implode or be over-run by force. What do you think the catalyst will be? Will there be one or will we just run that rat race right in to our own annihilation?

NotPhil 43 days ago  ·  link

We've made the economy our dominant institution. If we wish to regain control over it, or replace it, we'll have to strengthen our other institutions, which will mean making them independent of the economy first.

It'll happen, but who knows what will spur the change or when it'll occur.

caio 1213 days ago  ·  link
Fossil fuel. Any non-sustainable action that effs up Spaceship Earth really. http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/david_deutsch_on_our_place_...

Also, spacefaring. People saying humans should "spend the money down here", as if we were not already part of the universe, makes me nuts. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kardashev_scale

And guns. People say "sometimes, war is the only way." I have a gut feeling that's just not true. If you have to resort to violence, even through intimidation, then you're not resolving a conflict, you're imposing a solution. I don't think this method has a long-term duration. http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_van_uhm_why_i_chose_a_gun.htm...

thenewgreen 1213 days ago  ·  link
Great question. First as for the food delivery system, it's a valid point. Today my wife was eating some crackers and commented on how good they are. She read the side of the package and it said, "made by our artisan greek bakers". I said, "those crackers sure traveled a long ways to get to our table" and she said, "there's no way they were actually made in greece". Sure enough, they were a "Product of Greece". -Why the hell should we be buying greek crackers? I mean, they weren't that good. Why should I be eating a tomato in Michigan in January that was grown in Peru? WTF?

Anyways, to give a couple of answers to your question What do you think? What is the worst thing about now that we accept as common, everyday practice?

1. "Can you believe they didn't know how to prevent all cancers and that they used to irradiate the body to treat cancer?... even HEALTHY cells"?

2. "Can you believe they used to only have 2 parties and that money played a role in politics"?

3. "Can you believe that Hockey wasn't the most popular spot in the United States"?

4. "Can you believe that people were called "minorities" based on things such as sexual preference, skin color, and ethnicity?

5. "What was cash? Why didn't people just use their credit ring?" -That ones for you mk

6. "Intelligent design? WTF was that all about"

Panel, if any of these things come to pass... you'll hear about it on wait, wait don't tell me, the NPR news quiz.


That was fun.

forwardslash 1213 days ago  ·  link
In reference to #2, I remember a Simpsons episode where two aliens take over the bodies of two presidential candidates and when they were revealed to the world someone in the crowd shouted something about voting for a third party and everyone laughed. I didn't really get it until many years later when I watched some American electoral news and was baffled at the thought of having only two parties.
scrimetime 1212 days ago  ·  link
b_b 1213 days ago  ·  link
Re: the food system. That's a good point about importing ridiculous things that could be made close or lived without. I was thinking more about factory farming when I wrote that.
b_b 1213 days ago  ·  link
Its fucked beyond belief. However, here in the States, if you buy meat, you are getting factory farmed meat unless you specifically seek out meat that was raised otherwise. Its a tragedy of epic proportion.
thenewgreen 1213 days ago  ·  link
The main reason I went veggie. It's WAY fucked up. But seriously our entire system of acquiring food is fucked up.
b_b 1213 days ago  ·  link
I want to. I wish I had the wherewithal and will power. I've tried, but I think I'm addicted. I don't know if that's possible, but I wouldn't be surprised. The best thing that could happen is some courageous politicians actually take on the farm bill this year when it comes up for renewal. Meat shouldn't be illegal, but its price should reflect its true cost, which includes enormous damage to the environment and the suffering of countless animals.
caio 1213 days ago  ·  link
Today I dined with my mother. We went to the eye doctor and after that, we ate. I couldn't tell what she had because my pupils were dilated, but I had a vegetable quiche, some slices of pineapple, tomatos, cucumbers, some carrots and a little soy. I had about 2 pounds of food. Mind you, this was not a vegetarian place, but it was in the upscale part of town, so their salad buffet was better than just lettuce, tomatos and peas.

I get the lure of meat. Thing tastes fucking good! I didn't become a vegetarian on my own account. Most of it was because of my girlfriend. Sometimes it was hard - not like detoxing in Trainspotting (http://youtu.be/OaSuSnUJm3E), jesus, no - but it was a hard habit to break. Only after I cut down on red meat, I realized how the goddamn thing is everywhere and how it comprised most of the food on my plate.

So, if I may, I don't think you're addicted, I think it may just be the habit. "Custom is the great guide to human life." -- David Hume

mk 1213 days ago  ·  link
Yes, factory farming was what I was getting at.

Although it's already controversial, I can imagine that unmanned drones killing people will not be judged by history very well. In fact, the act of nations waging war altogether looks less and less reasonable when we can have conversations like this one with people from all over the world. Wars are becoming more ridiculous but no less tragic. Unfortunately we in the US are not a nation at war. Our nation is doing some war, but I couldn't personally tell you how well or badly it's going from my own experience. Drones help take that to an extreme, and that's why I think they will be judged poorly.

Aside from factory farming, I have to look at the urban ghettos in the US that are almost completely ignored by middle class and upper class society. So much that goes with this, especially the racial disparity and incarceration rates, this is going to be judged with horror. Look at the public schools in Detroit Michigan. IMO the mindset of slavery is alive in the US. It will be asked how something like that could occur in the 'wealthiest nation' without a genuine moral deficit.

thenewgreen 1213 days ago  ·  link
I agree that factory farming is horrendous but so too is having our food travel thousands of miles to get to us. I used to work for a food distribution company years ago and it's just stupid. Is it nice to be able to eat Mahi at a restaurant in Cleveland that was swimming off of the shores of Oahu only 72 hours ago? Sure. But is it ethical?
b_b 1213 days ago  ·  link
#3 is a given!

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