10 October 2021
Things don't just improve
In today's society, many people take for granted that things just improve. Computers are getting faster every year. Medicine sees one innovation after the other. Our understanding of the world grows and our decision making improves. Not just that, these improvements seem to accelerate! If something is not good enough today, just wait and it will be better.
None of all this is self-evident or guaranteed to happen. For there to be improvements, someone actually has to do the work. It is hard enough to match yesterday's quality, let alone improve on it. It is so very easy to let good organisational structures and safeguards decay or be corrupted. Sometimes they are even deliberately dismantled. It is also easy to create actively harmful organisational structures, this often happens on its own during growth periods in the presence of bad incentives or careless people. Quality control is a constant struggle in every aspect of life. If you look away for a moment, things regress.
The misguided idea that the passage of time implies improvements condemns us to passivity. Passivity leads to stagnation and ultimately regression. To push society forward, be it scientifically, philosophically or socially, there needs to be a significant number of vigilant, proactive people who care. People who recognise and address problems themselves, rather than having someone else do it. People who care about the right things and are honest with themselves and others. Doing the right thing is unrewarding, tiresome and painful because it involves saying what nobody wants to hear, starting what nobody wants to believe in, overseeing what nobody wants to be responsible for, and most of all, sacrificing what nobody wants to give up.
Significant progress was almost always initiated by independent thinkers and doers who often held points of view that were initially very unpopular. It is therefore of utmost importance to never assume that we already know the definitive truth or are in possession of the ultimate moral code and to refrain from outright dismissing or even suppressing fringe opinions systematically. A reduction in free speech will inevitably result in stagnation because if you cannot challenge the status quo, you cannot move forward.
We are the architects of our societal structure. We choose our morals, we design our laws. It is on us to prove that we have agency and that we can think ahead. We as a species must now prove that we are mature enough to use the advanced technology we have. It is the biggest test of intelligence in human history.
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