society


Not long ago I wanted to share all my impressions and findings with the world. After all, knowledge is useless if not shared.
As time passed by, I started to realise that it was a terrible waste of time. No one really cares what you have to say. Seems obvious now, but because I do care about sharing valuable ideas and knowledge, regardless of the person who expresses them, I just assumed others will do too. I know many individuals will argue that they do, but who they choose to listen to is often guided by their own self-esteem. They wouldn’t listen to a beggar in the street, but they would to a famous business man. Even though the beggar may be more honest in his life lessons than the business man who often spins a nice semi-fake story. Without a strong social position, your ideas are nothing.

So I will not be writing much from here on.

But I would like to share one last thing: the fundamentals of my logic and actions which give meaning to my existence.

I know my life, just like everyone else’s, is a bleep in the never ending darkness of space and time, a spark preceded and followed by infinity. And in the face of infinity, almost everything is meaningless: our homes, our cars, our fame, our lives, hopes and dreams.

Yet we give so much value to these small things in so far that people sell their organs for a new phone. It’s funny how, once we go beyond basic necessities, once we free ourselves from our struggle to survive, we find ourselves empty and aimless. For a time religion filled in this emptiness. But with religion withering away, our egos stepped in and set value to all these materialistic things in an attempt to give meaning to an otherwise meaningless life. We chase nothing but phantasms of our own mind.

Yet, as I wrote earlier, there is a dim, almost impossible hope that in the face of infinity, we may still find meaning to our existence. That’s because as individuals we may fade away and die, but as a collective we endure. Just pick up a book by Plato and read some passage, as you do his thoughts echo in your mind across millennia.  “Speak my name and I will live.” as an ancient Egyptian papyrus wrote.

Our collective knowledge, spirit, ideas and desire transcend the barriers of space and time and through it, our small, insignificant lives suddenly gain some meaning. We as individuals may die, but our thoughts and our genes live on in our collective consciousness. One can only hope that one day our distant offerings will reach the end of the universe and beyond and through them, we will too.

It is said we come with nothing in this world and leave with nothing, but in between we shape it and are shaped by it. If  there is any chance for our lives to have any meaning, however insignificant, we should make sure that those who follow us can pursue their path towards a bigger and brighter future. Our kindness will inspire them, our harshness will make them stronger, our greed and selfishness will chain them to the ground.

I choose to work towards that future and from that follow all my actions and attitudes.

I hope one day I will not be alone on this. That others would have figured it out and together we will all go to the end of the universe.

From my perspective, Carl Sagan has literally brought a revolution in the way people see and understand the world. Although it could be argued that his view on our society is in many ways self-evident, it is the beautiful way in which he can articulate and express this view that is really outstanding and touches not only the mind, but also the “soul” of those who are willing to listen to him. It is highly likely that his perspective on humanity and our place in the universe will leave an important mark on our history, even if this claim may sound farfetched today.

My main argument in this regard is the fact that, in his attempt to popularize science, Sagan has struggled to give meaning to human existence in a way which inspires us to do greater things, things which far surpass our focus on everyday personal achievements. In this way, his view on our place in the universe can give meaning to our lives in a way similar to religion.

I will leave you to him now:

Recently, the international world has began to slowly slide towards more tensioned relations:

– Terrorist bombings in the US

– Chinese and Japanese taunting each-other over some islands

– North Korea threatening everyone with nuclear weapons

– Even among EU’s member states, things seem to have gotten more tensioned in the past few years

While it’s too early to say anything for certain, to my untrained eye it would seem that the world is becoming more… “democratic”, although a much better word to describe it would be: “leaderless”. The transition from that unipolar US dominated world to the new multi-polar world is taking place and  the consequences of this may not necessarily be what some (especially those hostile to US influence) hoped for. But it’s doesn’t really matter what they or anyone else hopes to achieve or imagines to achieve in their local and international environment, because this is all part of the way our society evolves and changes over time. In the end … lessons will be learnt and our future will be shaped based on these past mistakes experiences.

North and South Korea

On the horizon
Source: italianinsight.files.wordpress.com

Not much needs to be said about the demographic evolution of the developed countries. Basically, in order to have a stable population that maintains itself over time, fertility rates (the number of children each woman has in average throughout her lifetime) need to be slightly above 2 (applicable only for the developed countries). For values below 2, the population is contracting over time, eventually disappearing altogether. For values above 2, the population is expanding, putting pressure on the environment. Right now, these fertility rates are around 1.25- 1.5 (source) in most developed countries.

These fertility rates are not country specific, but rather group specific. For instance in the US, the white population has a fertility rate of 1.8, while the black population has a fertility rate of 2.0 and the Hispanic population a fertility rate of 2.4. (source) In other words, the low fertility rates are a characteristic of White populations (and also Asian).

Taking the case of the US into consideration, this means that over time, the white population will eventually mix and disappear into other groups; groups that will become the dominant ones within society.

But this is only half of the story, another interesting evolution is that immigrants tend to make a lot of kids (above 3), when they arrive  in a developed country. However, their offspring tend to make significantly less kids. By the time these immigrants reach the third generation, they usually have fertility rates well below 2.5. Also, in the past decades, other less developed countries had witnessed sharp declines in their fertility rates, most likely due to much better means for contraception (source).

So what is happening?

Simple, people now have access to efficient means of birth control and they do just that, control the number of kids they want to have, the moment they want to have them and with whom they want to have them.

The problem?

The problem is that until now, nature sort of tricked us until into having kids. We loved each other, had sex, and as a wanted or unwanted consequence, sometimes this led to pregnancy and eventually childbirth. This is not a very happy situation for many people, since having kids requires responsibility and financial sacrifices: one must give up on a part of himself/herself for the benefit of his/hers children. Today many people don’t feel ready for this until they feel they achieved financial stability. In previous times, without birth control, the entire institution of marriage emerged. Its purpose was to regulate the way people of opposite sex enter into relationships so that unwanted pregnancies are avoided and children have some guarantee that someone will take care of them.

Our modern society allows us to decide very much on the whole child-making issue, we are no longer at the hands of nature or stigmatised if we have kids outside marriage, we can pretty much do what we want. Unfortunately, in a highly individualistic society, where the most cherished achievement is individual self-realisation, the result is predicable: kids fall on the second place.

Why a problem?

This is a problem because the above behaviour leads to extinction.

Let’s take the case of Japan with fertility rates of 1.39. Assuming all kids survive into adulthood (which never happens), then the population of Japan of 127.8 million will be reduced to 20 million in about 400 years and to 3 million in 800 years from now. To some this sounds like a lot, but in real, historical terms, this is a very short time, for instance the Roman Empire lasted for about 500 years.

If our behaviour leads to our own extinction, then one must conclude that current social values and behaviours (especially in the developed countries) are at odds with some fundamental biological characteristics of human nature and for that matter, of any other living organism. This is a matter of further debate and research, but it is without doubt an issue that requires further investigation.

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P.S. A friend of mine once told me that he doesn’t care much about kids, because what he really wants to do, is to become a great writer and have his books read by many people. I asked him: “If you are not interested in kids, then who will be left to read your books after you are dead?”