Blog #11
(Part 3 of 5) Inventions – for good or ill: 68

Written by
Lory Kaufman

C) Inventions – for good or for ill:

Ponder this: Every invention we humans have ever created has allowed our population to grow.

I include in the definition of invention not just scientific discoveries and the never-ending developments in technology, but also human organizations. Governments, businesses, corporations, even money and economic systems, these have all spurred on the continued logistical capacity to administer larger populations. This means intellectual inventions are just as powerful as technology, probably even more.

I’ve invented the Zero!”
“What did you say?”
“Oh, nothing, nothing.”

— Hindu astronomer and mathematician, Brahmagupta in 628

In most societies growth = bigger = better = progress = good. This is the conditioned and accepted norm which most people grow up to believe. Subconsciously we accept economic growth as a self-evident positive truth not to be questioned. Most don’t even know to question it. However, it is not an absolute true. This thought in itself, the mindset that growth is good, is an invention which we have been conditioned to accept.

While inventions certainly gave a portion of humanity a comfortable lifestyle over the centuries, this was only possible because there was a much smaller human population and the resources of planet Earth seemed inexhaustible. The vast majority of us didn’t appreciate that our actions as a species was unsustainably degrading the ecospheres we were living in. For the most part, we were too busy just taking care of our self and our family.

There is also an irony from an ecological point of view. While most green and steady-state advocates embrace how technology lowers the use of natural resources in a product, there is a short sightedness in not seeing how many inventions actually end up creating a situation where more natural resources are consumed. And excellent example I love to cite is the cruise ships industry before the Covid pandemic. While marketing of this type of vacation, advocates constantly bragged how oil usage per-person kilometer of travelling on such ships had gone down because of innovation. This was in a large part because computer design technology and new building methods which allowed larger and larger ships to be built, making this type of vacation treat available to less affluent sections of the population. This meant that in the end, with more people taking part in this type of recreation, the net amount of oil consumed actually grew. I think much can be said for air travel. OTHER EXAMPLES.

Another under-appreciated aspect of inventions is how they have been used over the centuries to concentrate wealth and thus the power to control society into the hands of fewer and fewer people. While this overlaps into the blog on “Rewards”, it’s important to say that another new necessary norm in a steady-state economy must be that inventions must be used for the overall benefit of society, instead of the enrichment of the few and impoverishment of the many.

I therefore contend that humankind must also burn into our collective consciousness a new way of thinking, that; the purpose of inventions is not only to be more productive with less, but they must also allow populations to remain low while helping to keep the whole of the human population’s quality of life high through technology and societal agreements.

This is the exact opposite of today where the explicit goal is to increase productivity, increase profits for as few as possible, continue to increase consumption, and therefore, perhaps inadvertently, increase ecological degradation.

For those individuals fully ensconced in the mindset that what I’m suggesting is taking away the privileges that they’ve earned because of their hard work, two things. I would refer you back to the opening paper where I stated that a steady-state economy will, when properly implemented, give better life experiences to well over 99% of the population. This includes the vast majority of entrepreneurs and business people. This is because the majority of this section of the population is subject to the same containment by the economic system in place.

Also, to paraphrase Mark 8:36;

What good is it for an individual to gain control of the whole world, yet forfeit the future of their progeny?

In other words, what’s the point of controlling the world if you are doing it ultimate harm?
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