Sunday, March 20, 2011

What the Mayans can teach us about wind turbines -- and the gridlock of civilization

A fascinating new book reveals how, when society becomes more complex, Man substitutes belief for science - as the ancients discovered to their cost.

Something is happening to us. All of us. And it's happening at the same time. We've lost our ability to solve our most dangerous problems: skyrocketing debt, terrorism, natural disasters, nuclear proliferation, faltering education, the rapid depletion of the Earth's resources.

Despite having more technology, knowledge and wealth than at any time in history, every advanced nation has become gridlocked. How have we arrived at this point?

The answer comes from the most unlikely of sources, 152 years ago. When Charles Darwin discovered the slow pace at which living organisms adapt to change, he inadvertently stumbled upon the reason that civilisations stall and eventually collapse.

Simply put, human beings are a 'work in progress'. So, at any point in time there is a biological limit to the levels of complexity we can discern and manage. When we reach that limit, progress comes to a standstill.

In other words, we can only progress as far and as fast as evolution has equipped us to. The uneven match between human evolution, which is slow, and the rapid rate at which societies advance, eventually causes every civilisation to reach an impasse. (read more)