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The myths of tomorrow

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Peuri, Apr 15, 2018.

  1. Peuri

    Peuri Game

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    I am currently reading Yuval Harari’s 2011 book Sapiens, and in it Harari argued (probably not the first one to do so) that it was not our species’ capability for language or thinking alone, but our capability to construe social constructs such as tribes, Gods and states, and with them co-operate in a large scale, that allowed us to seize the planet from the other homos, such as the neanderthals and erectus that were walking around some 100000 years ago. This got me thinking about today and how we are in a process, I would argue, of redefining or totally unraveling some of the central social constructs that have shaped the way in which we have been able to build the world that exists today.


    When I look around today, I would say that currently there is going on a sort of iconoclasm, where previously central concepts such as nationhood or manhood are being obliterated, because, as the thinking goes, they are social constructs, and as such they are deemed not true, and as such meaningless and to be abolished. This is easily seen with the concept of gender or sex becoming murkier and murkier as the years go by. But on a larger scale democracy, progress, science and even the truth are being questioned all the time. Now, this of course is what postmodernists have argued since the latter half of the 20th century about the corrosion of the universalist narratives. But I would like to ask can our species survive this kind of obliteration of our previously common myths, if they really are the basis of our co-operation, now that we have realized that the things we believed in are not really true at all.


    In Sapiens Harari argued that because of these myths our species was able to bond with larger groups than the immediate circle of people we know, and co-operate with them. Harari gives the example of two catholics who, without knowing each other previously, can go on a mutual venture because they share the same beliefs and values, and as such they can trust each other to some extent without a long standing personal relationship. In contrast the chimpanzee without social constructs can trust only those he knows personally. These myths of course, have been the basic building blocks of the societies of the world always. In the middle ages what kept the serfs in their fields was not only the physical power of the knights, but also the serf’s belief in the divine order of things and the belief in the legal contract of serfdom. All fictions. There had obviously been peasant rebellions from time to time, but the enlightenment changed the scene, because now instead of trying to return to some golden age of the past where the nobles were just, the whole society was to be reorganized. So what made the peasants rise in the 18th century was not only the dire situation of France’s economy, but also the narrative of liberty for all. A fiction. Similarly in the 19th century, it was the belief in the nation that rallied millions of people under one flag to work together, and obviously against those deemed not part of the nation. A fiction. At the close of the cold war and the fall of communism the nation was replaced with globalism and the belief in the end of history, where free market capitalism and democracy would unite the whole world. Painfully obviously a fiction. When one narrative that kept the world together was fading, we always supplanted it with another.



    But now that we have realized that these narratives we tell each other are never really true, but literally figments of our imagination, and that in them lies the power structure of contemporary society, can we ever construe a new believable narrative to unite us all? If you look at the world today democracy for example seems to be less and less believable. China and Russia are not even trying, and the west is losing faith too. But is it losing faith because democracy itself is somehow unworkable, or because the narratives that unite the people of a state are becoming unbelievable?


    So what do you think will be the myths of tomorrow, or is the whole analysis untrue, and we do not need these myths to function as large scale societies? Will we construe myths of our common humanness upon which we can rally together? Will the Internet bubbles burst and our societies fall into civil war between the various narratives of “alt-right” vs “SJW”s or what ever, or are we poised to succumb to totalitarianism again, where the strongman will tell the masses that what they really want, and the purging those deemed not wanted? Am I making sense or just spouting trivialities or nonesense?
     
    Kaitzilla, Hygro, pob and 2 others like this.
  2. EnglishEdward

    EnglishEdward Chieftain

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    The AIs will likely regard humans as merely unreliable mobile units to be phased out in due course.
     
  3. El_Machinae

    El_Machinae Colour vision since 2018 Retired Moderator

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    I think that the myth of property will continue for quite awhile, I think that people very instinctively understand the concept of "that's mine" and then scale up that instinct to have property being owned. Now, things like IP downloading kind of negative this idea. I've seen both the rich and poor download illegally, without even considering forgoing the download because they weren't paying for it. But when pressed, they didn't think that they were actually 'stealing' from the content creator.

    The same people wouldn't dream of watching a nickle fall from the pocket of someone, and then not tell that person. No matter how rich that person was. I think the concept of "that's mine" is pretty deep in our psyche.
     
  4. Berzerker

    Berzerker Chieftain

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    Stealing will be with us for quite a while too ;) But is it really a myth if 'thats mine' is so instinctive? And it is... Stealing and property proliferate throughout nature.
     
  5. Berzerker

    Berzerker Chieftain

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    We seized the planet long before states and large scale cooperation and we probably did it because of "us & them" and because we could. We even have myths about these earlier peoples and their demise.
     
  6. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Myths of (the far) tomorrow will revolve around mystical creatures like elephants, giraffes, whales, eagles, lions, etc.
     
  7. Peuri

    Peuri Game

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    Is this a joke about global warming or Trump's upcoming post-apocalyptic Mad Max dystopia, or a jab at my scaremongering way of speaking about the corrosion of social constructs? Because are not "species" and "lion" social constructs too?
     
  8. Peuri

    Peuri Game

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    Sure we did, but nonetheless, as Harari argues, it was our species' capability of larger than 50-150 people co-operation through myths like trade that allowed us to best the other homos. What do you mean with "myths about these earlier peoples"? Paleontology and arceology?
     
  9. Thorgalaeg

    Thorgalaeg Chieftain

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    The Terminator: The Skynet Funding Bill is passed. The system goes on-line August 4th, 1997. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug.

    Nice.

    However Skynet was a bit dumb. It needed almost a whole month to reach self-awareness. AlphaZero needed only four hours of self-training to go from zero to god-level in chess.

    Meanwhile here i am trying to defeat a simulation of an 8 years old Magnus Carlsen...
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
  10. luiz

    luiz Trendy Revolutionary

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    Eh, we are abolishing old myths and creating new, entirely false myths. Now we have a bunch of "politically correct" or multicultural myths which are complete fabrications and plain fake history, but there is no lack of serious academics endorsing them because they think they're politically useful.

    Myths aren't going anywhere. If anything they're becoming ever more deliberate and less "organic" .
     
  11. innonimatu

    innonimatu Chieftain

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    It may seem so, but we're not. Those are far more permanent that the news make it seem.

    Postmodernism is itself a social construct. And one that has had its time, we are "post" it.
    1. universalist narratives never took over the whole world. At least not the same narratives.
    2. "social rebeliouness" among the elites (which is what "postmodernism" was about) has always happened. It's a generational thing, an economic cycle thing, environmental thing, I don't know. I do know that it's nothing new to the 21st century. People just coined a word for it way late in the game, as the social sciences were busy classifying everything. I bet the era of the religious wars must have felt very "postmodernist" for some intellectuals then. You've even had an era of literal "iconoclasm"! Imagine what a crumbling of old certainties that must have been for the people living through it. As usually all these changes come as edicts from above that find fertile ground among a portion of the population and wreck havoc with the lives of the other part.

    I don't know what the myths of tomorrow will be. Even if I have hope for some. I do know what the people of tomorrow will be like. like the ones of today and of yesterday.

    Shared community beliefs and arrangements are indeed what keeps communities together. And change does destroy previously existing communities. But I don't find that particular example enlightening: catholicism by itself never made for trust in business! It went on as it would with protestants, hindus, whatever. Historically, social class, nationality or"ethnicity" made more of a difference.

    That is very... stirnian. It is also false (and the guy was a douche, his one lasting contribution to history was demonstrating to his contemporary Marx the problems with the philosophies of what we now call "negative liberty"). Beliefs shape society, either keep it stable or change it. One whole reorganization of society along the lines of the break with feudalism had happened at least once before in European history, at the time of the fall of the Roman Empire. It was a period preceded by slavery and later extended serfdom, which seems to have caused large "peasant rebellions" (unfortunately the written sources are not very good), and finally a breakdown of order and a new more "elective" system of rule. This was supposedly imported with the invading barbarians, but I do wonder... might it have been just the culmination of a process of degradation and logical reaction against it by the mass of the population? Which ultimately undermined the position of the administrative elites in the cities?

    The liberal order of the 19th century did take a different turn. Elements of elective rule were introduced but cities grew rather than wither. It was a gradual transition, from the ancient regime to the modern nation-states. But there is the interesting parallel of it leading to the breakup of large "multi-national" empires.

    You keep calling it fiction, but is it fiction of people believe it? Live it? The kind of fiction that can kill you is not fiction.

    Faith is lost when the narrative does not match the living reality. Then it becomes a fiction. And the reaction against it is an indication of social vitality. I'm not saying that the reaction always takes a good path, but it's necessary that some reaction happens. Inevitable...

    The “alt-right” and the “SJW”... I'll just quote Gramsci: "The old is dying and the new cannot yet be born. A variety of morbid symptoms appear."
    These should clear up soon. I believe we're heading towards another era of global decentralization of power. Slowly and against the resistant of very entrenched interests, or suddenly if the manage to destroy the whole thing in their desperate clinging to power.
    It is true that ever more complex technology would suggest the opposite: globalization, so the tale goes, arose inevitably from progress of communications, transports, from the complexity of building technological products. I'm not buying that. These global chains of supply, this carting of energy and raw materials around the globe, this "fiction" of claiming ideas as exclusive property, they take a lot of unnecessary effort to maintain. They are the products of empire, the requirements of empire, to keep it running. Some social surplus burned to support the weight of the social administrative machinery...

    Perhaps, if there is any parallel with the breakup of the Roman Empire, we're still missing that final act of political dissolution. This is the fourth century with the "barbarians at the gates" and the peasants rebelling against their optimates. History does not quire repeat itself, of course.
     
  12. Broken_Erika

    Broken_Erika Neurotic Panda

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    The Greatest myth of Tomorrow:I'll do it tomorrow.
     
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  13. Berzerker

    Berzerker Chieftain

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    :(
    some of those Greek myths of bizarre animals may have stemmed from dinosaur fossils, like the ceratops family becoming the griffon - a lion/eagle with 4 legs, claws and a beak.

    Why is trade a myth? The Zulu have a myth about a distant time when their ancestors (the artificial ones) made war on the 'apemen'. Other cultures have myths about earlier, more primitive peoples who failed to satisfy the gods for one reason or another and were destroyed. This large scale cooperation doesn't appear in the record until more recently, but I dont suppose we evolved all that much between 35kya and 12kya so maybe population density played the decisive role.

    How do we separate language/communication from this capability to best our hominid relatives?
     
  14. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    It's actually just commentary on Michael Jackson's fascination with children
     
  15. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam GiftOfNukes

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    When evidence upends parts of the old construct you need to replace them.

    Tribes, gods and states are both very much alive, despite that tribal thinking has largely run its course as a useful thing to humanity and there's no longer and clear evidence based reason to carry a religious preference. It's hard to get away from this stuff, apparently. I would love to see rationalism dominate this junk as a construct at the world level, sadly I'm not sure I'll see it.

    States are still the best known model for administering societies as far as I've seen/heard.
     
  16. civvver

    civvver Chieftain

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    Not everything you mention is a myth though, like how you said the concept of gender and sex is becoming murkier. From a scientific perspective it's not. It's a biological imperative to reproduce. We built most of our social constructs around this biological will to survive and have offspring. We built families to better care for offspring. Then families bonded into tribes for protection. It's only now in the modern age that we're really able to throw off those thousands of years of biology because technology finally means we don't need as many offspring or need to depend on family for social interaction. The question is going to be can our psychology handle going against our natural biology and desire for those kind of interactions. People seem more depressed these days as more and more of their life is online and families are smaller and more disjointed.
     
  17. Gori the Grey

    Gori the Grey Lord of Misrule

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    There will always be what Harari and you call myths: metaphors and narratives of which a given society is largely unconscious and which quietly govern interactions among members of that society.

    That we can see the myths of past generations more clearly than they could is simply the benefits of hindsight, not that we are operating without "myths" (in that broad sense of the term).
     
  18. Berzerker

    Berzerker Chieftain

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    The nuclear family myth gives way to even greater isolation
     
  19. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Another drone in the hive mind

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    The myth that will be remembered fondly is that we are all in this together. As has been mentioned, the biological imperative to protect offspring lead to family units, and tribes, because "the wild" was out there; be that wild a pack of wolves or a clan of lesser hominids. But that same drive is what produced nation states because once the wolves and the lesser hominids were thoroughly subdued "the wild" was still out there. It was us. We like to act like the old days of 'us humans are in this together' haven't ended, and that the idea that we will be invited in so we can form a mutual defense against the ever present wolves still applies, but it doesn't. Other people are going to treat a stranger like they are the wolf, not an automatic ally against the wolf...and that makes a categorical difference in 'humanity.'
     
  20. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam GiftOfNukes

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    Our biological tendencies pre-date the agricultural revolution.

    Reproductive tendancies pre-date it, but much of the nuclear family concept and surrounding social constructs fit a lot better with ideas built around making stable agricultural societies, not something that was as attractive for hunter-gatherers.

    You could therefore make a legit case that a number of our thousand+ year social constructs are already the product of "technology", and that if we're failing now, it's moreso that we're not properly adjusting to other innovations.
     

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