5 top areas of progress over past 500 years ?

cyberianpan

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In the West I think we've obviously made large progress as a species in the past 500 years. I wonder what do other posters think are the top 5 areas of progress, here's my first stab (in no particular order)

Transfer of knowledge (includes education)
We've become very good at sharing knowledge and discoveries amongst millions of people

Specialisation of labour & complex co-operation
People are able to specialise very strongly in one area, nearly all jobs take weeks of training and most takes years. This frees up people to pursue their own niche & best talents.

Individual rights
Rather than the State, the Crown or the Church rights are now vested in individuals

Diminished violence
We've massively reduced our violent tendencies

Scientific/empirical method

We rigorously test and refine hypotheses and discover new truths

What do others think ?

(note I'm claiming the 5 above as the fundamental/source/causation factors - so outcomes such as increased wealth, health etc come from them)

cYp
 
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jmcc

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Don't forget the number one area of progress in the last five hundred years - War.

It created many inventions and even more social change.

Regards...jmcc
 

cyberianpan

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Duh, health is the obvious answer.
Life expectancy is about three to four times what it was 150 years ago, never mind 500.
Life expectancy is an outcome.

Can you name any significant contributions to increased life expectancy that don't have their roots in the 5 factors I suggested above !? :D

cYp
 

JCSkinner

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Life expectancy is an outcome.

Can you name any significant contributions to increased life expectancy that don't have their roots in the 5 factors I suggested above !? :D

cYp
The life expectancy improvement is directly caused by two things - better sanitation and better health care. Oh, and the scientific method pre-dates the past half-millennium by some way, you know.
 

Bobert

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Massive developments in engineering have allowed for mankind to transcend any limits we might have reached 500 years ago.




We could easily have built a road through the valley, but why when we could build a bridge?



Massive developments in defence have brought about the most social change in the last 500 years then since homoerectus.



Advancments in medicine have allowed us all to have a second chance.
 

Bobert

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The European Union has shown it's self to be the greatest example of human cooperation ever.
 

spidermom

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Undoubtedly what has made the difference in the last 500 is the water we drink and how we dispose of the water et al we produce!!!
500 years ago the water we drank was fermented (ie alcohol) as this was its safest form!!(did cause a few problems in itself mind you!!!)
and what we produced fermented in the streets for us to inhale as we walked by!!

You need only look at the aftermath of any natural disaster,earthquake,volcano etc or manmade ie the Gaza or lest we forget Zimbabwe to see what the human toll is without clean water to drink and decent sanitation!!

Source: Government of Zimbabwe; World Health Organization (WHO)
Date: 08 Jan 2009

Full_Report (pdf* format - 100.6 Kbytes)


* Please note that daily information collection is a challenge due to communication and staff constraints. On-going data cleaning may result in an increase or decrease in the numbers. Any change will then be explained.
** Daily information on new deaths should not imply that these deaths occurred in cases reported that day. Therefore daily CFRs >100% may occasionally result
1- Highlights of the day:
- 632 cases and 28 deaths added today (in comparison 709 cases and 26 deaths yesterday)
- 52.7 % of the districts affected have reported today (29 out of 55 affected districts)
- 88.7 % of districts reported to be affected (55 districts/62)
- All 10 of the country's provinces are affected
- Matate area in Gokwe South (4 households affected), Rumour in Munyati Area of Kwekwe , Makuwerere and Rambire in Mberengwa.
 
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Magror14

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Areas of progress in the last 500 years.

The Age of Enlightenment and the concepts for government which have flowed therefrom.

Universal state funded education

Mass media, Computers and the internet

Public healthcare and Medicine generally
 

Kevin Parlon

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Essentially, everything that's happened in the past 500 years are offspring of earlier innovation. I think perhaps the most important one being the Scientific Method.

You didn't mention communication; The notion of typing a sequence of numbers into a small box anywhere in the world, and talking to a person in the next town, never mind the next continent would have sounded perfectly insane to people 200 years ago, never mind 500.

Just another comment, specialisation really began circa 9,000 years ago and can't really be said to have been something that evolved within the last 500 years. Specialisation was one of the first (and probably the most important) side effect of surplus generating agriculture. The innovation upon which our entire civilization is based.

Cheers,

Kevin.
 

Evil Eco-Fascist

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Well it's certainly interesting to think that a relatively poor person in today's western world probably has a higher life expectancy that a Roman Emperor. It's just a pity the whole system is based on a completely unsustainable usage of the earth's natural resources.
 

Conor

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Playstation 3, with HDMI connection.
 

Green eyed monster

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That one is a little hard to believe given the countless wars and imperial conquests and genocides that has happened in the last 500 years.

Medicine is a major development though.
The article is persuasive however, it is undeniable that sadism has been greatly reduced in the last 500 years, we still find reasons for killing in large numbers today when there are better solutions, however. In the 17thC they reckon 11 million people died in Europe during the Thirty Years War, that is nearly in touching distance to WW2 death figures and this was when Europe's population would have been only a small fraction of what it is today. Europe has discovered peace in Europe and even the idea of making war in distant lands attracts enormous controversy. Of course while less violence is good on the face of it, it is possible to create a non-violent world in which people are tightly controlled by the state, the Hobbesian horror which he mentions happens in the absence of a state is the other side of the coin to 1984. Controversial as it may be to say it violence also plays a role in regulating human population levels, and they are extremely high and climbing in many countries - mankind is going to have to find a way to deal with that issue. A problem i have with Pinker's style is that he falls into his own trap... when he states...

The decline of killing and cruelty poses several challenges to our ability to make sense of the world. To begin with, how could so many people be so wrong about something so important? Partly, it's because of a cognitive illusion: We estimate the probability of an event from how easy it is to recall examples. Scenes of carnage are more likely to be relayed to our living rooms and burned into our memories than footage of people dying of old age.
But then to make his argument states...

In sixteenth-century Paris, a popular form of entertainment was cat-burning, in which a cat was hoisted in a sling on a stage and slowly lowered into a fire. According to historian Norman Davies, "[T]he spectators, including kings and queens, shrieked with laughter as the animals, howling with pain, were singed, roasted, and finally carbonized." Today, such sadism would be unthinkable in most of the world.
Thus recalling extremely emotive examples and applying the example as the norm, it is also worth considering that people in times past valued cats as pets enough to breed and domesticate them (Mohammhed is said to have been a cat-lover).

Has he never heard of Francis of Assisi or even the principle of Ahimsa (do no harm even to small animals) existing in India well before the time of Christ? Non-Violence and empathy were they appear are ingrained in human beings on an emotional level, more primal than the intellectual level which he credits with reductions in human violence in the world (though i freely admit that it helped enormously when violence became almost taboo).

Good thread.

I would say that exchange of information has had the largest effect since it is the bloodstream for everything else (printed books for example are a subset - education etc). It has a multiplier effect on the widening of human knowledge and the development of sophisticated societies, sharing knowledge obviously results in more rapid progress than when a people advance in isolation - one way it works is in the way the sharing of knowledge overcomes sacred cows and 'irrational' taboos in societies (eg The Enlightenment). The effect the Internet alone has had in a few decades has been extraordinarily revolutionary, it is difficult for us now standing in the middle of the stream to appreciate the size of the change.
 

seabhcan

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Europe has discovered peace in Europe and even the idea of making war in distant lands attracts enormous controversy.
This "enormous controversy" is not great enough to actually prevent war making in distant lands - as we saw with Iraq.

But "controversy" has a long history. The spanish conquest of the Americas was sold to the tax paying public as spreading christianity. Same with the British conquest of India. In the 1880's there were riots in London against the British occupation of Egypt - which the government claimed to be a temporary measure to ensure the human rights of minorities (christians). It was temporary - they left in the 1950's.
 

Green eyed monster

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This "enormous controversy" is not great enough to actually prevent war making in distant lands - as we saw with Iraq.

But "controversy" has a long history. The spanish conquest of the Americas was sold to the tax paying public as spreading christianity. Same with the British conquest of India. In the 1880's there were riots in London against the British occupation of Egypt - which the government claimed to be a temporary measure to ensure the human rights of minorities (christians). It was temporary - they left in the 1950's.
That's true, the Spanish were also not allowed to enslave Indians unless it could be shown that the Indians could not be 'improved', eg evidence of cannibalism (such as finding human bones around their homes which may not necessarily have been evidence at all) would be enough to fulfill the legal pretext.

We still use phony 'good intentions' pretexts today.

However my point was that in medieval times the protests we have seen (such as those against the Iraq war) wouldn't have been even tolerated, despite their limited use in preventing such crimes, as you say. I suspect the only reason they are tolerated is because the state is confident in it's power to override them.
 

Twilight

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Looking at this interesting thread I thought it very sad that it is really only in the past 20/30 years that women have been allowed do so much more than they were allowed before, without the risk of being burnt at the stake or laughed out of it altogether. The difficulty for women in some fields still remains, such as less pay for the same work, etc., and the physical and sexual attacks seem to be the one aspect of man's brutality that has not been lost over the past 500 years.
 

cropbeye

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Dont buy

I don't buy the one about specialisation of labour

in fact millions of people have ended up in jobs that have been casualised deskilled

and reduced of any scrap of craft and thus the ability to have a means of living

which has an intrinsic level of satisfaction of personal pride and purpose.

So many so called diciplines today are largely inter deployable and down to mostly pushing

a few buttons and spewing out some human recources liguistic balderdash.
 


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