How do you perceive the progress of the world over time?


This is a “Check in” post.

Sometimes we tend to assume that our views of the world is universal and that how we perceive things around us is a common sense that is shared by everybody else. That is far from real, and talking with other people would surprise you in many way, yet it usually fails to alter your own perception of reality or even pinch your own world bubble in your mind.

Having said that, and while I started by saying that this is a “check in” post where I would like to examine my own reflection of the state of world over time, I think that this is meant more as a re-affirmation of my believes rather than an attempt to shake them up and   address what may have been twisted by certain attributes of my characters or previous experience in life. Yet, what I love most about blogging is the ability to share ideas and reflect with other people in order to build my reservoir of ideas, information and reasoning!

The question is: How do you perceive the progress of the world over time?   

Do you see it as “progress” as I implied in the question? Going forward? from a bad state into a better one? Do you think that human condition has been much worse than it currently is and that today we enjoy much more comfort and happiness than we ever enjoyed in the history of mankind? Is it a linear progression that keeps on going forward? or it is kind of ups and downs where the collective human awareness achieves much at a point of time and later on fails to capitalize on that and build on it? did we ever have times in our history where humans were better off than today? and are we heading towards a better life or setting ourselves towards a disaster?

The other day I found an image that re-arranges living creatures into a circle where all living beings are on equal ground rather than the hierarchal perception of evolution that we are used to where mammals are at the top of the animal kingdom and human beings at its crown. For many years, the notion of evolution meant to me “evolution”, from one state to a better one, from one simple organism with no intelligence, to a complicated one with higher awareness. It has always felt that life, whether it has been set to, or not, been progressing in a linear form to a better state.

It may not be necessarily true, nature may not be set to this kind of reasoning, multiple organisms may not be in a better living conditions than simple ones, for in nature, there are immortal simple organism creatures that maybe blessed with natural state that far exceeds human condition. Higher intelligence doesn’t have to be correlated with being better? does it?

I guess that it all has to do with whether we can derive a meaning for this world or not. Does everything have a meaning? or there is no meaning to anything? Do our minds try to build a shape of the world that doesn’t exist? Does “progress” have any meaning in a universal context?

How do you perceive our world? is it going forward or backward? or that is all nonsense?

7 thoughts on “How do you perceive the progress of the world over time?

  1. I think this world had its ups and downs since God created humans to dwell this earth and will be always,it’s a matter of time, place and events.We can’t deny that wars and conflicts changed humans destiny to the worse but at the same time, science by its discoveries and inventions were in parallel, there will be always good and evil it’s only a question of the powers that are ruling.


  2. Anonymous says:

    مقالة رائعة أخي فادي وتدل على معاني حاولت أن توصلها: النظرة البعيدة-التعمق-الفهم الشامل. قد يكون هناك عاملين ضرورين، في التقدم،الأول هو حقيقة ترسيخ معاني ديننا الإسلامي وشموليته وأنه نظام حياة متكامل الأركان والبنيان،لكن للأسف لم تكن عملية أخذناللدين منذ الصغر مبنية على التفهيم، شابها كثير من التلقين عبر العادات والتقاليد،فما لم نحسن دراسته في الصغرعرفناه في الكبر.

    عدم وجود مساعي حقيقية لدى المعلمين على تنشيط مواد مهمة-كالتعبير-لكي نضمن خروج جيل قادر عن التعبير عما في داخله ونفسه، فلا يعاني من مشاكل الرهاب الإجتماعي والخجل الأسري. جيل يعرف كيف ومتى يعبر عن مشاعره وعواطفه وأحاسيسه. كيف يندمج مع الآخرين،الدعوة إلى التأمل في الحياة وما أنتجته من التراث الإنساني والتجارب الفردية والتي تنمي معاني التأمل والتعمق في كل ما هو حولنا لترسخ مفهوم الترابط بين الطبيعة والإنسان. ففهم دروس الطبيعة مقدمة لفهم علاقات البشر والمجتمعات.

    الحقيقة هي دومًا شيء نحاول ايصاله للآخرين ونؤمن أننا نحن على الصواب. لأننا أحسسنا بمشاعر كل ما حولنا في الطبيعة والجماد.هذه تعقيباتي البسيطة على مقالتك الرائعة أخي فادي. أعتذر للإطالة وأشكرك أن منحتني فرصة قراءة شيء ملامس لحياتنا وفكرنا.


  3. I would say there is a general trend towards progress if you look at the big picture. Humanity existed for millions of years, and there is always a general trend towards a better world. However, when we “zoom in” for short periods of time, you’d find a great amount of variation. Things are going up and down continuously, but it is nonetheless improving on the large scale.

    I would say that if we plot human progress in say, 200 years intervals, there is almost always progress. But looking at things from year to year, or even a decade to decade, things will not always be progressing.

    And this progress is not linear, it is almost exponential. If we consider the social, philosophical, and technological progress for example, the discoveries of the last century (1900-2012) alone are much more revolutionary than the previous 900 years (1000-1900). And this is a general trend throughout human history, and it is the natural way of progress, so it does make perfect sense.

    The problem is for people to “absorb” those types of progress. However, the process of absorbing new values and philosophies takes time, few generations probably. And there are always forces and people that are conservative (resisting change), and hence those ups and downs will occur until the new ideas of progress are fully absorbed, after which new ideas come along and the cycle has to be repeated.

    This is my general view of human progress.


  4. ArabObserver says:

    Anon, so according to good and evil have effected the progress in the same strength? do you feel there is a general line of progress if you take a thousand years of example?

    أخ سعود، شكرا لك.. انا اتفق معك بموضوع التلقين و العادات و التقاليد لكنني لم افهم نظرتك الى الدنيا.. هل تعتقد اننا كبشر في تقدم مستمر ام لا؟

    DM, I was actually waiting for your input in this. Very well put.. what you said is actually inline of how perceive things.

    But lets take a philosophical angle.. what does progress really mean? if you take it from a universal perspective, not a human one.. does evolution mean evolution? or it is kind of random set of changes/mutations that didn’t not create *better* species? and humanity progress.. does it have a meaning after all?


  5. Yes, those concepts need definition, or at least specifying the scope. Obviously, we are not talking about “universal” progress (I take universal to mean pertaining to the universe). The earth is nothing but a tiny spec in the large universe. So, obviously we are talking about progress in a very limited sense.

    Evolution. I am assuming here we are talking about Darwinistic Evolution in terms of biology. The general mechanism of evolution is three folded: 1- Variation 2- Mutation 3- Selection. The general rule is: Mutations propose and selection disposes. So, we have variation of life forms that exist on earth. Those species reproduce, and genetic mutations happen. Selection is about survival of the fittest. Bad mutations disappear and good mutations survive, and might eventually become dominant.

    Mutations don’t make better species necessarily. In reality, most mutations are for the worst. The good news is that such “bad” mutations will not survive and will be eliminated. The good ones (which are the extreme minority) will get additional survival value and consequently “slowly but surely” dominate.

    In terms of human progress (that I focused my previous comment on), we are talking about the “productivity” of our species, which reflects back to the quality of life. Philosophy is at the basis of all human thought. Some philosophies are pretty solid, like philosophy of science. Because of that we have good foundations for technological progress. We have computers, we have space shuttles going to the moon, etc.

    However, our moral, ethical, and political philosophies are not solid (and those three things are distinct from each other). For this reason, we find that humanity is not performing very efficiently at improving the quality of life. Of course, progress is there, but it is not as consistent and efficient as technological progress. We still have problems of poverty, oppression, and lack of respect to human life.

    But it is important to note that the idea of progress is not well defined. Such definitions are subject to personal views. So, what I might call progress, someone else might call regress. However, if I *try* (a lame attempt) to make a somewhat objective definition of progress, I would make it analogous to evolution selection process. So, if we propose two human civilizations and suppose that they entered in conflict, the more progressed civilization is the one more likely to win the conflict. This definition is not the best possible definition, however you’d be surprised how good of an approximation it is.

    The reason the definition is weak, is that it focuses on military/warfare progress. So, a civilization with more powerful warfare technology is most likely going to win a conflict. The reason this definition works well (albeit not perfectly) is that in general progress is usually complementary. That is to say, for the military technology to be advanced, the economy and science have to be advanced. And for economy and science to be advanced, the intellectual level of people in a civilization has to be advanced, and for intellectual advancement morals and politics need to be advanced, and so on. And the relationship even both directions.

    It is not a coincidence that the most politically and morally advanced countries like USA are also the most powerful military powers. It is almost a kind of a package deal where improvement in one area will flourish other areas, and extreme retardation in one area (like religion in Arab regions) will regress other areas.


  6. Excellent points…the fact we’re having this conversation means we’re moving in the right direction. I really like the rearranged images into a sphere.


  7. I have been reading around and got some additional insight. First, let’s define the word “progress”. Progress is change through time towards a goal. So, if I want to buy a car, and I start saving money to buy the car, then the money I have is the measure of progress to buy that specific car.

    But when you try to apply the concept of progress to the human civilization, then you have to define what the goal is that you think human civilization is attempting to achieve. And only then can you attempt to qualify whether or not changes are happening towards that goal or away from it. And this is why different people might interpret the path of humanity now as either progress or regress, depending on their personal views about what that goal is.

    For a religious person, that goal is usually defined in religious scriptures. For a traditionalist, their goal is to preserve the traditions of the past, without different criteria of how far back in the past they define as their goal. Other people, would have other goals in mind. Personally, I would define that goal as maximizing my happiness. So, I would ask: “If I lived in this state would I be happier?!” And if the answer is yes, then that state becomes the goal. But of course, what brings one person happiness does not necessarily make other people happier; Though I still do think there is great similarity of the psychologies of people, so I expect people who define their goal as their own happiness are likely to agree with me.

    Now, just let me go to a different topic. I just want to illustrate the great prosperity of humanity that gets highly unnoticed by many. Human population doubles almost every seventy years. This has been at least the trend of the last few centuries; I don’t know how far back this trend has been going on. Now, just remember that we live in the same earth that our ancestors used to live in. The current population of earth is about 7 billion!! Now there was a time (probably few thousand years ago) where the human population was say 7 million people. So since that time, the population of earth increased a thousand folds!!

    You would expect that those people would have lived happier life, and their quality of life exceeds that of our time. That is because the naive approach would be, same resources of earth divided by much fewer people, which means each person has an average share of 1000 times more resources of a person living now. But we all know that this is bullshit. Nobody would love to live few thousand years back. So, what gives?! This is an important question.

    So, the quality of life has been increasing, while the number of people has been increasing as well (and hence their fair share of resources is decreasing as well). The reason this happens is industrialization, modernization, and technology. Many people would blame these phenomenon for their adverse effect on humanity. But humanity’s greatest challenge is not those phenomena, but rather the growth of human population which puts great strain on resource allocation. Nonetheless, we are still doing good because of modernity. If you do a thought experiment, and live in a modern world like today, but with a smaller human population like the older days, you’d find that would be *immensely* enjoyable. Do, the exact opposite and imagine the current population living in the old days, it would be disastrous.


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