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Is the Western World as a civilization declining?

  1. Oct 28, 2005 #1
    I was just thinking, in the past 50 years, there have been almost no revolutions in how we in the "west" do things as a civilization.

    We still use low velocity machines to move us from place to place by and large. We have a finite capacity to generate energy and that is reaching its maximal usage. Really the only things that have happened to us that have revolutionized the world have been cultural mainly, that being the internet.

    We might be learning more and more data, but data does not convert to revolutions in technology that allow for the progression of civilization and culture. To progress in civilization and culture, we need to be able to generate massive amounts of energy, become exponentially more efficient than we are at harnessing and using that energy, and we need to be able to move ourselves around at greater velocities so that more can get done.

    Think about it. All the cultural and civilization progression that has taken place has been at times when generating greater amounts of energy has become possible or a new, more efficient way to travel great distances have arisen.

    All the cultural and civil regressions that have happened have come at times when energy production and locomotion have remained stagnant for too long.

    I think that the west is in trouble, and I think that in the future, unless the world moves forward, we will all be in trouble.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 28, 2005 #2
    Widespread use of the internet is barely a decade old
  4. Oct 28, 2005 #3


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    How fast do you want to go? Your speed getting around the city is determined more by having a lot condensed into a small area than by energy. Even for long distances, energy isn't the main reason planes fly slow - the expense of the rest of the plane, plus the fact that people are annoyed by sonic booms is why planes fly so slow.

    We're not approaching the maximum usage of our energy. The use of nuclear energy is artificially restricted. Developed nations try to prevent third-world countries from using nuclear power because of the fear they will also develop nuclear weapons. Americans try to prevent development of nuclear power plants in the US because they're scared of a Chernobyl-scale accident. Artificial constraints can be dropped when the price of energy gets too high.

    The biggest technological revolutions have occurred as a result of new technology in communications - not energy. A new, more efficient means of communicating has always resulted in a lot of isolated pieces of knowledge suddenly being joined together. A technological breakthrough by one person turns into a second breakthrough by someone else who's only obstacle was the piece of the puzzle provided the other guy. Written language, the printing press, and radio were huge breakthroughs that caused technological revolutions in fields other than just communication.

    I think you're over estimating the frequency that revolutionary developments occur. I think most people today have seen so many incredible developments in their life time that its hard to imagine that most humans in history were lucky to see one major technological development in their lifetime.
  5. Oct 28, 2005 #4


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    Compare a household from the 40's to what we have today.

    If you don't notice any incredible achievements, you need to look harder. Hell im surrounded by them right now.
  6. Oct 29, 2005 #5
    Recall, all of you, I have defined progress as being dependent on Energy production capacity and locomotion speeds.

    The internet and all other technologies that CONSUME energy are transient to the larger picture here.

    We need LOTS of energy to do a lot of new things, and if we can not produce more energy, we end up stalling in progression.

    I only threw locomotion in there because that has a direct relationship to moving materials around.
  7. Oct 29, 2005 #6


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    I think we are wasting energy, look around you, how many things can you see
    that you could do without, how many gizzmos are in cupboards unused ?
  8. Oct 29, 2005 #7


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    I don't think the title matches the the OP. The title says declining, but the OP seems to be describing a slowdown in the rate of advancement, not a decline. I would tend to agree with the slowdown in advancement.
  9. Oct 29, 2005 #8
    The slowdown is related to the decline of civilization though. at the end of the roman empire, they had done almost nothing as far as development and advancement.
  10. Oct 29, 2005 #9
    This is an insane thing to say. There has never been a 50 year period in the history of the world where things have moved forward so quickly as the past 50 years. I can get from San Diego here to Boston or York in six hours or so. For the price of a $5 phone card I can call a friend in Italy and yak for 8 hours straight.

    I think you've gotten your ideas about where we could be with transportation, and energy production from watching Star Trek.
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