We are turning away from logic and rationality and the perhaps naïve hope in technology that existed fifty years ago. Universal education has had little effect on scientific or technical understanding. In my own lifetime I’ve seen a dramatic drop in understanding by young people of mechanical and electronic devices or the principles that lie behind our great technological advances let alone anyone’s knowledge of the world or our history. And this despite the fact we can look up almost anything on the internet. We seem to have an epidemic of a lack of curiosity and a failure even of the imagination. David Graeber wondered a few years ago what happened to the great scientific/technological dreams of our youth and he wrote in 2012 the following:
Where, in short, are the flying cars? Where are the force fields, tractor beams, teleportation pods, antigravity sleds, tricorders, immortality drugs, colonies on Mars, and all the other technological wonders any child growing up in the mid-to-late twentieth century assumed would exist by now?
It was right around 1970 when the increase in the number of scientific papers published in the world—a figure that had doubled every fifteen years since, roughly, 1685—began leveling off. The same was true of books and patents.
Graeber goes on to say that it is the bureaucratization of academia and science which tends to take up time and energy of the world of science. It has become a the culture where original thought is discouraged and penalized. It was, after all, one of John Kennedy’s most lasting visions that was fulfilled when astronauts landed on the Moon that, essentially, at the apogee of space exploration. Yet, after that the almost ecstatic belief in the power of science began to decline; we lost faith in its ability to solve collective problems, somehow. Perhaps this hope for a transformed world wherein we only would have to work maybe fifteen hours a day seemed unfulfilled as the 70s and 80s actually increased our requirement to “work.” Serious scholars who were wondering what we would do with all the free time automation would create stopped writing about it by the time JFK was murdered.
Buckminster Fuller was convinced during the fifties and perhaps earlier that we could create a world where providing a basic income to all citizen would actually be productive since the freedom from want and anxiety would, he believed, free up human creativity. He literally said that if we all were relieved of the stress and anxiety that forces us to work at jobs we don’t like which today seems to be our inevitable fate that one out of a hundred people would, by playing around, discover some technique or scientific principle that would pay for the other ninety-nine people to go fishing or just hang out and party. I don’t believe that this notion is naïve or stupid. Bucky Fuller was one of the great minds of the 20th century and his view was shared by many at one time. If Americans could mobilize for WWII with practically no military and be instrumental in defeating the Axis powers in the Pacific, the North African and European what couldn’t we do? If we could mobilize to go to the Moon in under ten years of its announcement in less than ten years then what couldn’t we do?