Patterns in Progress

The following is a excerpt from an article by John Horgan, I haven’t decided whether I should believe him or not:

A broader view of history suggests that the modern era of explosive progress is an anomaly—the product of a unique convergence of social, economic, and political factors—that must eventually end. Science itself tells us that there are limits to knowledge. Relativity theory prohibits travel or communication faster than light. Quantum mechanics and chaos theory constrain the precision with which we can make predictions. Evolutionary biology reminds us that we are animals, shaped by natural selection not for discovering deep truths of nature but for breeding.

The greatest barrier to future progress in science is its past success. Scientific discovery resembles the exploration of the Earth. The more we know about our planet, the less there is to explore. We have mapped out all the continents, oceans, mountain ranges, and rivers. Every now and then we stumble upon a new species of lemur in an obscure jungle or an exotic bacterium in a deep-sea vent, but at this point we are unlikely to discover something truly astonishing, like dinosaurs dwelling in a secluded cavern. In the same way, scientists are unlikely to discover anything surpassing the Big Bang, quantum mechanics, relativity, natural selection, or genetics.

Just over a century ago, the American historian Henry Adams observed that science accelerates through a positive feedback effect: Knowledge begets more knowledge. This acceleration principle has an intriguing corollary. If science has limits, then it might be moving at maximum speed just before it hits the wall.

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One thought on “Patterns in Progress

  1. Evolutionary biology reminds us that we are animals, shaped by natural selection not for discovering deep truths of nature but for breeding.

    Nice idea. The goal of human life is to think as less as possible and to have as much sex as possible.

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