2017-04-19 / Voices of the People

Chicken Little had it all wrong

Our modern world is not a falling sky

Empty a dozen white marbles into a bucket of white marbles, and then pour the bucket into a garbage barrel full of white marbles, good luck finding the marbles emptied into the bucket. They are obviously there, distinct from the other marbles in terms of origin, but impossible for any person to recover.

Had the marbles been red, I could have identified them precisely from the white marbles, by sifting through until I recovered twelve red marbles. So, what just happened there?

The universe is moving from a state of order to disorder, and they call that entropy. The best way to describe entropy: in any situation there is generally only one way it can go perfectly right, and an infinite number of ways it can go wrong. Without an outside influence, a critical number of incorrect outcomes occur, and a system breaks down.

For example, the cells in your body completely replicate every seven years, and as they replicate they lose a fraction of information. Eventually they lose so much information further replication results in disorder we see as aging. The person always eventually dies.

Humans can intervene, imposing order through system maintenance or alteration, which works directly against deepening disorder. There are little things I can do, exercise, diet, regular medical checkups and treatments, that can marginally influence the growing disorder, maybe buy me a decade more of quality time, but I will still die. Advance technology will eventually profoundly intervene, creating an influence that will stop the replication mistakes in human cells. This is how aging will be stopped.

This will have a cascading influence. Brilliant men die, men like Einstein, who, had they had more time, would work with other brilliant men born after their time, and this would greatly accelerate the development of human knowledge. This would increase our ability to intervene against entropy.

When we look at the rise of human civilization, we see it as humans applying influence against entropy. For many aspects of human life there is movement from order to more intricate order. So even as entropy breaks down individual humans, and breaks down everything altered and created, like buildings, bridges, wristwatches, cell phones and automobiles, the growing body of human knowledge and skill continues to create social and technological progress away from entropy.

It is easy to see this when it comes to technology, but we often fail to see progress when it comes to society. The myth is society is breaking down, moving to disorder, the moral fabric is decaying. The evidence of this appears to be everywhere, and even holy books speak of an approaching Day of Judgement.

It is easy to lose sight of overall progress, because in the Information Age, we are far more aware of how things are going in the next valley, on the far side of a sea. When Krakatoa blew in the 19th Century, the blast was so powerful it was heard hundreds and hundreds of miles away. But it took information weeks to spread around the globe. Now, that same explosion would be known worldwide, in seconds.

We see patterns of natural disaster that appear to confirm religious prophesies but the actual occurrence of such has not changed, just our awareness has altered, and so we perceive a pattern that reaffirms what we already want to believe is true.

The same holds true when it comes to moral decay. Man’s inhumanity to Man is as old as mankind itself. The idea it is getting worse is belied by the bloody details of violent history. The social order can hardly be breaking down when Blacks are no longer lynched from trees, segregated by Jim Crow, when Lakota are now citizens, who can vote, eat at any restaurant in Rapid City they want.

Racism still persists, and it is still a huge problem, but progress has definitely been made since the 1950’s. Lyndon Johnson’s New Deal created the foundation of an ever evolving social contract. It is not the equal of Western Europe, where they have single payer healthcare, free education, spend far less on the military, incarcerate far fewer citizens for victimless crime, but it is getting better with every passing decade.

If you think the justice and jail conditions are bad for Lakota now, read up on how they were most of last century, when people supposedly had superior morality.

Human intervention has altered the decay of human culture, not just technologically, but morally and ethically. We are improving as a species in every meaningful regard, the future is not bleak, it is bright with a promise small-minded people fear and reject.

(Contact James Giago Davies at

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