Showing posts from August, 2019

The Rise and Stagnation of Modernity

Although aspects of it trace back hundreds of years, what I call “modernity” emerged in the 20th century, in the West. As I define it, modernity includes the following: Industrialization and mechanization Urbanization Abundance Low child mortality Low fertility In this essay, I will describe some of the major advances that created modernity during the middle part of the 20th century. There is no right way to divide up history into chunks, but because it is early 2019 as I write this, I am going to consider the hundred-year period from 1918 to 2018, and I’m going to divide it into two 50-year periods, with 1968 as the dividing line. These two chunks correspond roughly to (1) the emergence of full modernity, and (2) late modernity (sometimes called “post-modernity”). In 1918, the West was modernizing, but it was not yet modern in many ways. By 1968, the West had attained full modernity, as I define it. Since 1968, the condition of modernity has been maintained

What is the Self?

“What am I?” is a deep philosophical question. It can be rephrased as “What is the self?”. First, let’s think about it in terms of objective reality: physics, biology, and psychology. Physically, you are an object. You are an object, but a different type of object than a rock. A rock is a collection of atoms that are stuck together. At any moment in time the body is a collection of atoms, but atoms are always flowing in and out of the body. The form of the body is stable, but its constituent matter is always changing. In that way, the body is more like a stream than a rock. The form of the body is maintained by circular processes, including the chemical cycles inside cells, the flow of the blood, the beating of the heart and the rhythmic firing of neurons. Life exists because the processes of life perpetuate themselves. Life is circular. It consists of feedback loops. But life is also a flow. Energy from the sun flows through the biosphere and powers the cycles of life. Energy and

A Wild Cathulu Appears

There was an especially strange murder case in Canada recently. It involved two young men, Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky, who were 19 and 18 years old respectively. They lived in a small town in British Columbia, and both worked at the local Wal-Mart. One day, they left town and headed up north. They said that they were going to the Yukon to look for jobs. But they never made it to the Yukon. In northern BC, they killed three people, seemingly at random. Then they burned their vehicle for some reason, which made them into suspects. They drove a stolen car across half the country, ending up in northern Manitoba. They burned their stolen vehicle (why?) and then disappeared into the bush (“bush” means forest/wilderness in Canada). It’s not clear what they did next. They seem to have wandered more or less at random for 10 days. At one point they stole a boat, but didn’t travel very far in it. Their bodies were found two weeks after their car was abandoned, only 8 km away. The