The Nietzschean Ladder

Asking the question “compared to what?” helps in putting things into perspective. The year 2020 was bad. Yes, but compared to what? It looks bad only when compared to what one would have expected from the relatively peaceful and prosperous past few years. Humanity has endured a lot more pain and suffering in many wars and pandemics. It’s far from being the worst year ever in human history. I am afraid that the worst effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are yet to come, and when they do, 2020 will not look as bad.

Friedrich Nietzsche’s aphorism “Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker” (What does not kill me, makes me stronger) is obviously true of infectious diseases. If an infection does not kill, the organism develops immunity and becomes better at fighting infections. In an analogous way, if a collective is able to survive a shock by developing an appropriate solution, it becomes better than what it was before the shock.

I introduce what I call the Nietzschean Ladder. To do that, I derive a lemma: Technology is repurposable.

Faced with a problem, people usually figure out a solution eventually. In other words, they develop the technology (which is best understood as knowledge of how to get something done) that addresses the problem. Once developed, the technology finds application in entirely different areas and thus leads to improvements in the system that would not have happened had the original problem had not arisen.

Civilization advances by climbing the Nietzschean ladder which goes thus: Civilization is at state C1; problem P arises; solution S found that addresses P; solution S applied to other domains which move civilization to state C2 which is superior to state C1; etc.

In the present context, the Covid-19 pandemic induced advances in mRNA technology, and in time this technology will be used in other areas, thereby advancing medical technology. 

In general every improvement in the human condition is a result of some problem successfully solved. It is often impossible to foresee the impact of a problem. 

Consider this. The solution to the problem of complex textile manufacturing was the Jacquard loom invented in 1804 by Joseph Marie Jacquard. The innovation involved punched cards. Charles Babbage (1791 – 1871) started work on his Analytical Engine in 1833. The analytical engine, the first full-fledged general purpose computer, used Jacquard’s punched cards. The computers we use are direct descendants of Babbage’s analytical engine which used repurposed textile loom technology.

It’s impossible to predict the future in any detail. The particulars are totally beyond our view but the trend is quite clear. Here are my predictions.

  • Fusion energy will be commercially produced by 2030. That would lower the cost of production of all goods and services. Per capita income will double.
  • End of poverty. Currently around 10 percent of the world population suffers poverty. By 2035, poverty will be over.
  • The world will be free of the religion of peace by 2040. Rising global prosperity, increasing standard of living, universal access to information and the growth of technology will force that event.
  • SETI will confirm ETI before 2025. The detection will most likely involve the detection of energy use by Kardashev type II civilization.
  • Before 2025, there will be proof that some of the unidentified flying objects (UFOs) are indeed products of extraterrestrial technology.
  • China will establish a base on the moon by 2030.
  • Balochistan will become independent before 2030.

That’s what the crystal ball says. Alright, be well, do good work and keep in touch. Have a Happy New Year 2021.

Author: Atanu Dey


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