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"Acceleration" rumination

February 13 2011 at 11:20 PM
Robert Ettinger  (Login R_Ettinger)
Veteran Member


A while back I said I would review Dr. Ronald Havelock's book, ACCELERATION: THE FORCES DRIVING HUMAN PROGRESS. I'm not ready for a full-fledged review, but some thoughts may be in order.

The author tries to do many things, with varying degrees of success as I see it.

First, he tries to show that, by and large, life has gotten better for most humans in recent millennia and centuries and decades. Well, some would point out that "civilization" (roughly corresponding to agriculture around ten thousand years ago) brought more human misery than all previous cultures. But of course if you look at America over a couple of centuries, you see wonderful progress. Life expectancy is much longer and "want" as it was known in other times and places almost non-existent.

A couple of centuries ago the typical American lived on a farm, got water with a hand pump from a well and had an out-house (rain or shine, summer or winter) for a toilet. To be poor generally meant to be thin and hungry and lacking comfortable accomodations. Today in America poor people tend to be fatter than rich people, and even the poorest usually have indoor plumbing, central heating, and color television. There are safety nets all around. Whether they are happier or complain more is another story, but by almost any measure in this country or Europe life has become safer and easier.

Whether Dr. Havelock's book can be deemed a "success" depends on what you demand of it. If you want information and entertainment, there is plenty. If you want some kind of sociological theory that will permit verifiable quantitative predictions, I don't see that. But I haven't finished it, and this isn't necessarily the last word.

Robert Ettinger

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