Is the world really a better place?

  • Thread starter Wellsi
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In summary, the conversation raises the question of whether mankind's goal has always been to make the world a better place, and whether technology has truly made us more civilized. Some argue that technology has only led to more extreme ways of killing and that mankind is naturally violent. Others believe that order cannot exist without chaos and that we are less civilized now despite advancements in technology. It is also discussed that the media and technology can have negative effects on children's behavior and perception of reality. There is also a more selfish viewpoint that the world may not necessarily be a better place for humans despite advancements.
  • #1
here is a good question which was raised in English classes...
"Has it not always been the endeavour of mankind to make a world better than the one we are living in?"
Technology has advanced us, sure, but do you guys actually believe that we are more civilized than in the 1880's or even the 1600's? I think that all that technology has done is really creating new and more extreme ways to kill each other, now that we have nuclear bombs and all this unmaned warfare stuff.
Perhaps mankind is just naturally violent? what do u guys think?
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  • #2
Wellsi said:
here is a good question which was raised in English classes...
"Has it not always been the endeavour of mankind to make a world better than the one we are living in?"
Technology has advanced us, sure, but do you guys actually believe that we are more civilized than in the 1880's or even the 1600's? I think that all that technology has done is really creating new and more extreme ways to kill each other, now that we have nuclear bombs and all this unmaned warfare stuff.
Perhaps mankind is just naturally violent? what do u guys think?

Mankind naturally wishes to be indeferent from the 'regulars.' If people think that the modern world is better than the old days, think, was WWI or WWII true displays of how far man has surpassed greed and reasoning or even concern for the welfare of others? Obviously WWI and WWII violated this. Even in a more modern world, man is not much better. Although this is an age of free thought and scientific advancement, people just need to ask whether things like drugs, religious tension, or common frustration is better than the older days. To me, it seems equal. After all, order cannot be made without chaos. Yin cannot be without Yang. What is calm cannot come without the adsence of violence. What is good must be evil.
  • #3
so basically one cannot happen without the other? where one exists so does the other? I can accept that fact yes, especially the one about order and chaos. But why do we continually fight wars... its been happening since the beginning of history... the greeks, the romans, the egyptians, spartans what ever race you pick, it always involves wars? Why?
Surely we must have some purpose on this world other than to kill each other?
  • #4
statistically, per 1000 people there is less murder now than there was before, its just more publicized when people get murdered now
  • #5
so that could be put down to being more civilized? Was that statistic taken from the same population of people and how far apart? Wars are almost a ritual thing now it seems, the US finished with Afghanistan (well not finished but moved out in a way) and moved right into Iraq. Previous to this we had Vietnam (both the americans and the french) and Korea and the cold war. as soon as one war finishes we end up in another. Am i wrong?
  • #6
i don't believe, as i think you have infered, that we as humanity have the mentality that we must be in a war at all times, rather that the 'big man' (ie. america) wishes to have more power through hoarding, believing he will be satisfied in the process. we THINK we are more 'civilised' because our technology is of a higher level than that of centuries, decades, and even years ago, but i believe that we are less civilised. true there are fewer murders per capita, but its more publicised, but it is because of this publication that we are more barbarous. would we not have learned our lessons already? we KNOW that people are out there daily being raped, tortured and murdered and yet we do not stop ourselves doing these very acts we abhor! so no, i say. we are less civilised
  • #7
Dresden said:
i don't believe, as i think you have infered, that we as humanity have the mentality that we must be in a war at all times, rather that the 'big man' (ie. america) wishes to have more power through hoarding, believing he will be satisfied in the process. we THINK we are more 'civilised' because our technology is of a higher level than that of centuries, decades, and even years ago, but i believe that we are less civilised. true there are fewer murders per capita, but its more publicised, but it is because of this publication that we are more barbarous. would we not have learned our lessons already? we KNOW that people are out there daily being raped, tortured and murdered and yet we do not stop ourselves doing these very acts we abhor! so no, i say. we are less civilised

This is true. The media act like thugs and technology doesn't always prove beneficial. Take a look at the 10 year old children playing GTA and Halo at such young ages. They become brainwashed as they cannot defferentiate reality from video game fantasy.
  • #8
yeah that was one of the biggest points my parents had when i first got my drivers licence...that cos i play ONE car racing game, that I am going to go screaming around at 500 kmph, and kill everyone and everything on the road :P hardly likely...but yes, it is disheartening when i see kindergarten girls aged 5 and 6 making decisions on how (and i quote) 'skanked up' they are going to get on the weekend after watching a 'bratz' video clip...
  • #9
arcade games like such can indeed be a cause i believe, but then again to you remember that kid in japan that killed himself because he jumped off a building because the characters in pokemon did it and lived? why do we confuse lines between reality and fantasy?
  • #10
I have a more selfish point of view on the question. The World in this instance is actually the people in the world (Global warming could or couldn't mean the "World" is a better place just not for humans)
Yes wars affect lots of people but I'm sure most people out there are far more concerned about the little things.

Standards of living have improved (World is Better) but purpose and life pressures have also increased (Worse)

For example in 1900 Women didn't work it was not deemed proper. A man would go out to a middle income job and earn enough to Feed, Cloth and House a wife and 4 children.
The the world became a better place and Women began to be treated as equal to men.
So in 2000 Women are expected to work. Both the Man and The Woman have to go to work to raise the money to buy a house. They have to decide if they want a house big enough to raise children in or have the children.
Young people have no chance of buying a house until they get to their 30's so they have loads of money but nothing to do with it apart from looking forward to getting into a debt that will trap them until they are 70 or living with their parents for the next 20 years. So they go out and get as drunk as they possibly can every weekend.

I may have a playstation but I don't have flexibility in my life so the World is not a better place IMHO.
  • #11
seems a good argument... i do economics at school and everything seems to be so caught up in price and making money. we are yet to do Economically sustainable developlment but right now we ARE doing globalisation. perhaps that has something to do with the way of the earth?
i mean humans DO seem to be (if not violent) then indeed selfish (not all cases - i accept that)
  • #12
Wellsi said:
arcade games like such can indeed be a cause i believe, but then again to you remember that kid in japan that killed himself because he jumped off a building because the characters in pokemon did it and lived? why do we confuse lines between reality and fantasy?

This has always been an issue. When I was a kid it was stories about children imitating Superman. I'm sure with my parents it was something else.

The issue with violent games is the quandry between peer pressure and parenting. You may not want kids to play GTA but if 75% of the playground is playing your kid will be singled out an bullied.
The minority parents who are not concerned about their kids behaviour have the global fall back of it's somebody elses job to discipline my child. And the community is prohibited by law from intervening.

Before cars and commuting and the ban on hitting kids everybody new everybody else and a child crossed the boundaries they would be seen, identified and reported for swift discipline.
Now the kids know that they can cross any bound they want because nobody knows who they are and there is no punishment that frightens them.

I'm not advocating hitting as the only punishment. My thoughts are that when children at school were reqularly punished by the cane the fear of the punishment kept most in line. A tiny tiny minority of teachers were out of control and used the cane badly on a tiny tiny minority of children, therefore they have removed a highly effective deterent from schools to protect a minority that is now disrupting the education of the majority.

Everybody when faced by a rule sees how far they can push it.
When driving, who drives just under the speed limit? You know that you can push it just over the limit without getting punished. But you fill your coffe mug to below the rim because you know that pushing th elimit will result in your hand getting burnt before you get back to your desk.
Children are the same, tell them not to cross a line in a playground and they will all see how close they can get to it, then on it, then across it.
Adults (Especially in employment with Mortgages) can be hurt financially very easily, and they remember punishments, so threats and fines work well.
Lost Causes with no job house prospect, don't care if they are fined or not and Prison is not that harsh, they get as many drugs as they want.
Kids can't be hurt financially and have short memories so it is incredibly difficult to find a punishment that has the power of a short sharp shock to the backside.

1. Bring back community
2. Find an effective punishment that can be employed by the community
  • #13
does this punishment you talk of necessarily need to be violent? i definitely agree with bringing back community that would help an awful lot yes
you might like to note that one of the essay topics i could have chosen for my Theory of Knowledge was "do we learn more by keeping to or breaking traditions?"
bringing science into it... quantum theory was totally out of order with Newtonian classical physics, yet it has the potential to unlock so much within our world AND it can allow for a "god" or "creator" what ever you call it
in economics, something had to change for us to learn, remember in the 1970's when stagflation occurred (a rise in inflation and unemployment at the same time) no one knew what to do, so we had to break our conventions and try monetarist theories to work it out...
this world you describe there where everyone is inline and orderly seems to be one where everyone is "sheep"? I certainly think that the world has become a worse place and that it needs to be fix, but i also believe there is a trade-off between community and discipline and advances - for only anaylsing a problem in one way all the time will not solve it
  • #14
Punishment can take any form so long as it seems a punishment. If you need money then taking it away is a punishment, if you have so little that you can't have more taken away or so much that it is not significant then it is not a punishment and something else has to be thought of.
Example: I used to drive fast, often very fast, I got caught and fined £100, I got out my cheque book and paid the fine, went out and drove fast. I got caught again and they threatened to ban me, I got away with another fine but also the knowledge that if I got stopped for anything in the next 3 years it was an instant ban. I drove very carefully for 3 years. I now drive better than I did, but know that if I get caught again the fine will be pretty insignificant. They found a punishment (on the 5th attempt) that actually got me thinking about modifying my behaviour.
So when your hypothetical child snatches something off a shop display and demands you buy it. You need to find something that will actually be a punishment. Refusal to buy the offending article doesn't work as the punishment and crime are too closely linked. Refusal of next weeks pocket money deosn't work as they have less future concept and come next week they would have forgotten why they are being punished. Sending them to the naughty corner is difficult in a shop. Hitting them with a large stick with a nail in works but is socially unacceptable. Screaming at them makes you look a pretty bad parent. What can you do it is every parents nightmare, and I'm sure that if you have not experienced it yourself you have seen parents getting it wrong. Disciplining children is on one hand essential and the other hand impossible.

Tying this in with the "sheep" syndrome I believe that government interference in acceptable punishment of children and other aspects of life makes us more like sheep, because there is no individual flexibility. In protecting a few the government often penalises the majority, but if they don't cover themselves somebody will take the oppertunity to blame anybody but themselves for their own misfortune.
Example: If whilst hanging decorations up this weekend I fall off the rickety chair I'm using instead of the ladder and break my arm, I would call myself stupid. If however I did that in the office, I would be expected to sue the company for not preventing me from being stupid. The company will want to protect it self and issue a blanket ban on all decorations. At home I am less sheep like than when on commercial premises.

I believe that genetically we are Anarchists and what we want is a better life for ourselves, we concentrate our lives on making ourself happ; this extends to our family as they give us personal pleasure so therefore we are very good to them. This extends to our job as it enables us to earn more for our pleasure, This extends to our property as this reflects our success to others gaining respect and personal pleasure. This extends to our local community for similar reasons and so on and so forth out across the world, but the further away it is from us the less influence it has on us.
Being nice to your next door neighbour has the potential that they will be nice to you and not use power tools at 3 in the morning. Being nice to the Polish Truck Driver on the motorway gets you no personal advantage apart from preventing your stress levels from rising.
The break down of community has meant that peoples goodwill is only centred within their property, they have no need to interact with others and get no gain from doing so as everything they need is available at home.

For those who argue that charity or religion is non-selfish I say that if giving to charity or going to church made you really sad you wouldn't do it.

We are genetically the same as cavemen, we want to eat, stay warm and pass on DNA with the least amount of effort. Everything else we do in life gets in the way. Therefore living in a cave with no clothes is a better world than spending 12 hours a day away from my family doing a pointless task to the financial benefit of somebody who doesn't know me. But I do have a Playstation and eneough free time to use it which UGG the caveman doesn't. But then again UGG the caveman doesn't miss the playsation and has no peer pressure to own one.
  • #15
so tying it all back to the original question, are we creating a better world than the one we are living in or is society desintegrating around us so that we are not as "civilized" as we would like to think?

i don't think the governments are helping one bit at all, they are quick to take the credit for something great, and equally quick to spread the blame for something bad all around everyone but themselves... and then there is the fact that (being in australia) we live in a democracy, but the distribuition of wealth here is such that the richest 10% possesses greater than their "share" if you will, and as such have a greater influence on the running of this country.
Most of the wealthiest people in this country have their fortune founded in media and stuff like that, and this enables them to exert far more power than the average john doe.
Sure the majority is supposed to rule, but when the majority is influenced by the minority, is this democracy? or a dirty style of it?
  • #16
If you look at Maslow's Heirarchy then those who are in self actualisation will say the world is a better place those between safety and Belonging will say it is not. The developed world has made the step to the top of safety very small but at the cost of making the the step from safety to self actualisation only open to a minority often at the expense of others.
In more primative societies there is less requyired to move into self actualisation although still few will achieve it, but the step up to safety is much more rickety.

As for Government and Democracy. What is Democracy? If you use the selfish gene model or individual anarchism then Democracy only serves to make some people think they are happier as they have a perception of choice and control and few much happier as they have the power to serve themselves.
And anarchistic nature will mean they will manipulate information and rules to keep the power to themselves rather than give it to others. The only thing that stops a prime minister or president taking total control is the knowledge that the people will punish them, so they are serving themselves best by keeping control and keeping the people, if not happy, not angry.
Of course that is not a bad thing as it allows the potential for any individual to achieve power which despotism does not.

Interestingly an economic model was created a few years ago that started out with all people being financially equal but risk diverse. Some lost everything, some lost most and a few 10% actually ended up with the majority of the assets. It seems that risk and luck play a major part in forming the human world and whilst there are people who are prepared not only to take risks but also pick themselves up and risk again and people who want an easy life without the possiblility of loosing everything, 10% of the world will control 90% of the wealth whatever you do to level the playing field.
  • #17
risk and luck hey? it all seems like something we can't explain... have you ever heard of the "god of the gaps" argument. It involves that we have a gap in our knowledge so we fill it by saying that it is an act of god.
I would almost classify "luck" into this as we do not know why sometimes things happen and sometimes they dont. Similarly i don't believe that averages in statistics are as powerful as most people give them credit for ... there was a comic in my maths textbook which went (and i have to agree)

"i don't believe in averages" "why not?"
"because its like saying that a man has his feet in the freezer and his head in the oven, but he feels pretty good, on average"

let me drag another concept in... fate? Are things set out to be what they are or does "god" play dice with the universe as Einstein famously quoted...?
Things might happen for a reason, the whole "greater good" idea is plausible but what do you think?

My mother always used to get into debates with me about space age and what not, about why do we spend millions on exploring space when there are thousands of people starving in africa? Personally, i think exploring space is a great thing, discovering where we come from or our purpose could fix all our problems, but then again maybe we are searching for it in the wrong place
  • #18
true panda that the presidents of countries x, y and z refrain from a total takeover of society because of the fear of what the people can do, but would it not be fear of what everyone else will do to them? sure they may have their military might behind them, but if, say, george w bush decided to do as you say, would not the world react in anger, getting help from the ever so nice neighbours mexico, who would be happy to help open their borders to invasion of america to erase billions of dollars worth of debt?
  • #19
international debt is indeed a ,masssive problem, globalisation contributes to this a little i would imagine, however the MNC's would be more responsible for this... take an african country (im not sure which one the name escapes me but Morocco seems to stick out in my mind) it is spending about 50% of its total income in just SERVICING the debts it has... that's insane. If there is one bad year of crops there because of african nations being reliant upon primary goods, this country would be in unbelievable debt...
like the australian public, we often "live beyond our means" and with the two speed economy it is very hard to keep the whole country within grasp...
If george w bush did decide to do something drastic like that, I am sure that there would be an uprising, but i don't see him doing that, more like China or India, these are the rising superpowers in our world i think...
and how can our world be a better place when we are destroying it through global warming? Do you even believe that is the case?
  • #20
now wellsi, I am sure youve seen the movie 'the man who sued god', and if eveyone had the mentality that 'it was an act of god', then why could we not sue god ourselves every time something, or many things, go wrong? then we get the interesting thought, how does god pay us? through the pope? then he has to admit god doesn't exist to win an appeal XD.

sure we may want to discover where we have come from, but what if there was nothing there? what if we are just a 'freak of nature', accidentally evolving? but then again, if space is infinite, there will always be more to explore...
  • #21
yes and here goes the blurring of reality and fantasy that we were speaking of before that is a movie. Movie from hollywood at that, and we all know that hollywood is more comercially driven than mcdonalds...
so what if we are just a "freak of nature" at least we know... I am sure there is something more to being on this planet than simply we exist because it just happened by chance... things are too perfect for that
  • #22
yes, i am more than aware of how hollywood is crosseyed when it comes to what's real and what is blatantly wrong, but there is still a grain of truth that can come with it. how do you know it is not possible for lightning to strike a boat and destroy it? can you not sue god? just because no one has yet, does not mean that its not possible. saying that it could not happen is exactly the same as saying that you are not able to find anyone, or anything, out there in the cosmos, for the chances i believe are more likely to happen to a boat being destroyed than accidentally finding sentinent beings
  • #23
boats have been destroyed by lightning before, and because lightning DOES strike in the same place (contrary to belief) it will happen again, but the situation where someone actually sues god? its a bit outrageous and desperate for me to understand why someone would seriously consider it...

So say there is nothing out there? Say we are the only race that exists in our universe? Well that means we are special. We are the only ones to exist, in this whole expansive universe. We must therefore have a purpose to life, do you agree?
If we are not the only ones, perhaps we will unite as a race (especially if these "aliens" are hostile which everyone seems to think will be the case). So either way it works... just what we need as a civilisation
  • #24
well if youre someone like billy connoley, then i expect you to want to sue god, or at least try to, but no i believe that to try to sue someone who has not even been proven to exist a waste of time.

then if we are ineed special, why don't we know it? why are governments putting billions of dollars into space programs for 'the benefit of humankind'? do we need a purpose in life? like you said before there is the 'god of the gaps' argument, and it seems like youre sticking by it, but do we need a god? I am not sure we do. many of my friends are religious, but to random faiths like wiccan. because the majority defines smaller religions as 'evil', should they be? why is there not just one cover-all religion? i have heard it stated that money is the worldwide religion, and that's the only one which seems to make sense to me.
however, to have a purpose in life means to have something to prove, but what's to prove, when there's no one to prove it to?
  • #25
ok money as religion - id go so far as to say that indeed, people do worship it. It is everyones desire as a child as soon as they know, everyone wants to be comfortable... but why don't we have one all covering religion? because we arent all sheep. Perhaps the deteroiration of conformity in the society has added to this, as you well know the amount of people who go to church and consider themselves religious has greatly dropped over the last 10 years. People don't feel compelled to go to church anymore. It doesn't have to happen. my mum often states that you don't need to go to church to be religious, but then again, less people consider themselves religious.
I don't believe in the whole chrisitian "god" per se, but i do believe that there is something above us that has played a part because like i said before it is all "too perfect" to just exist by chance - like water being less dense when it freezes, that one factor helped to create life
  • #26
does your mum govern your life wellsi? or do you still live with them? :P it seems to me that wellsi is answering his own question here...that he DOES believe that society is deteriorating! what's the problem with one covering religion? if its a totalitarian religion which teaches that all should be submissive to one or many gods, then what would be the problem? society would be far closer to perfect, as that kind of religion would also double as a justice and governmental system. in this, there would be a reduced chance of civil war, as the 'god' would be one all fearing being, who would have to show himself to work his goods :P.

i still believe that yes, water is less dense when it freezes is just the way of things. if ice was LESS dense than water when it froze, and we were having this selfsame discussion, would you not ask that question instead? does it REALLY matter if ice is less dense or not?
  • #27
to answer your question... yes it does matter than ice is less dense when frozen, because if it wasnt, imagine what would happen during an ice age, the water on top would freeze, sink because it is denser than the water, which would rise to the top, freeze again... its an eternal circle that if it was cold enough for long enough COULD freeze the entire ocean... and hence any life that was in it... and you might remember that life is supposed to have come from the ocean?
im a student of course i still live at home :) not even 18 yet hahahah and does she govern my life? its open to debate, id certainly like to think not hahaha
ok moving on, i do believe society is deteriorating, don't you? we have been fighting in horror conflicts across the world, and no matter HOW many greenpeace protestors or what not there are it still happens. Our school made an anti-torture poster this week to send overseas, but ask yourself honestly, is one poster from a school the person that receives it has never heard of really going to change anything?
I seriously don't think that the little dictator is going to be trembling in his boots at the fact that some school kids don't agree with torture...
problems with totalitarian religions? we why don't u ask yourself the question, sure we would all have one god and what not, but just "reducing" the chance of civil war? those riffs in the Persian gulf and especially in the Gaza strip really look too great to be mended... and i don't think the media is helping THAT situation either...
  • #28
ok, so maybe having ice that is less dense than water is rather essential for our existence, but its not only in an ice age that we would all die. the world would be in a perpetual state of frozenness, as there would always be somewhere for the ice to freeze, then there would be perpetual ice. therefore convection currents wouldn't exist, as heat would possibly sink instead (even though I am too tired to think of a justification for that atm lol).
gee it looks like this is an 'ask a wellsi' day :P
true society is deteriorating. as we were discussing in class earlier today, the 'dumbing down' of language is what seems, to me, to be a catalyst for the annihilation of culture.
i KNOW that the riffs in the middle east (a gross generalisation i know) are quite possibly irrepairable. THAT is why a totalitarian religion would work! one where god (or gods) SHOW their power in the forms of 'miracles'! what would be the problem with that?
  • #29
Is the world really a better place? Yes, the horizontal hemispheres are still divided, but if I'm correct no two western hemisphere countries have fought a war with each other in the last 10-15 years or so. I don't think it's the same case with eastern hemisphere countries, but if you want to point to some progress towards peace there would be your evidence.

As far as culture is concerned, free thought and science are taking grasp once again. It seems like more and more people are starting to become skeptics of religion, particularly Christianity and Catholicism. Then again Buddhism is making headway so maybe people are just seeking alternative religions, but from my perspective it seems like more people are becoming agnostic or atheist. Dresden, I know you were probably saying this tongue-in-cheek, but to suggest a totalitarian religion would reduce warfare and make people submissive is a rather flawed deduction. You would just be stirring civil unrest.

So is the world really a better place overall? Well, you can't really look at this question from an overall standpoint, but if you look at it categorically you will find progress in certain areas.
  • #30
Categorically looking at the world though really doesn't answer the question does it. You can't answer a question by examining one aspect and not another. For example the western hemisphere is much better in progress, but the east isnt. The question isn't "which part of the world is better" its more "is the world AS A WHOLE better than before?"

Is combining these two hemispheres an answer? I mean just looking at the division between east and west (loosely used terms i apologise) in areas like Israel / Palastine... is it really possible to hit a solution.?
  • #31
At all times the natural world is seeking equilibrium. However, change is the order of the day, and new factors enter systems disrupting equilibriums. At which point, systems attempt to incorporate the new factors, and once again seek equilibrium.
So it is with human systems. At one time, social evolution encompassed the individual. But humanity stretched its mind and developed capacity for family systems. Continuing to grow, society became tribal. Rome emerged as a city-state empire. Islam developed the world's first nation.
As society grows more capable of expansion, each stage is accompanied by two forces: those forces of decay which eventually work to tear down the barriers to systemic evolution, and those forces of positive growth which take society to the next stage.
Human history is a careening, sometimes staggering, growth towards greater complexity. We are now trying to outgrow nations, and emerge into a world state. Much confusion, antagonism and pain will accompany resistance and hanging onto the outworn shibboleths of past ages, while the trial-and-error expansion into the next societal system will cause it own problems.
Is it a question of "better" or of "inevitability"?

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