Are we smarter today than in the past?

May 11, 2018 by Joshua
in Perception

We look at technology, culture, cities, and so on and consider ourselves advanced relative to past people and cultures.

They thought the Earth was flat. The couldn’t draw with perspective. They didn’t know that germs caused many diseases.

If we’re so smart, imagine this: if you could magically go back in time knowing everything about today’s world, could you make the world a better place? If so, how?

Sure, if you went back 20 years you could buy a stock you’d know would rise or bet on a sports match and get rich, but that’s not helping others. Actually, it’s redistributing money to yourself at their expense.

If you appeared in medieval times, how would you improve their lives? Do you know engineering enough to help build things? Even if you did, would they have the technology to act on it?medieval art

Would telling them that matter is made of molecules, atoms, or quarks and leptons help them? Would you expect them to believe you?

What could you explain about how we see the universe differently so they’d understand you? Can you explain experiments? Could you perform them so they’d believe you?

Could you teach them math they don’t know? Could you prove things they couldn’t?

Could you teach them about antibiotics, nutrition, or anesthesia?

We don’t understand most STEM things

The point is that we as individuals don’t know much about technology. What we know mostly doesn’t apply outside our context.

What about the arts and culture?

You could talk about poems, paintings, and so on that arose since then, but could you make those things? Would people before Beethoven or whomever appreciate them?

What would telling them about your smart phone or the internet do?

You’d know what would happen in the future, but what would that matter to them in their lives?

They probably know their world best

They probably know their worlds best. They probably improve it as much as possible. What they don’t change is probably outside their ability to change because of the social systems they live in.

If you think you could improve things by changing their systems, what systems in today’s world are you not changing that you could?

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