Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Why A.D. 2011 beats 100,000 B.C.: More choices, free will, freedom

by John Horgan

Scientific American

January 3, 2011

Has civilization been a big mistake? My friend and former neighbor Kirkpatrick Sale thinks so. Sale is a smart, feisty critic of modernity, and especially technology and big government. His writings have inspired environmentalists such as Bill McKibben, whose book Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet (Times Books, 2010) cites Sale.

Sale's book Rebels Against the Future (Basic Books, 1996) celebrates the so-called Luddite rebellion of British workers against textile factories in the early 19th century. The book ends with a rousing call for a new Luddite rebellion, in which we reject computers and other technologies that increasingly rule our lives.

Sale serves up a similar anti-progress message in After Eden (Duke University Press, 2006), which argues that our despoliation of Earth is bearing us toward "a conjunction of crises that will create havoc, war, starvation, disease and death on a wide scale in every land on earth, and bring our civilization crashing down around our heads." Yikes! Sale yearns for the simple, pre-technological existence of our Paleolithic ancestors, nomadic foragers who according to Sale lived in harmony with each other and with nature before civilization messed everything up.