In thinking about the Urn of the Eon, I had an idea, a way to put the issue in perspective–although not a right or wrong perspective.
If you were omnipotent but could only perform one act, one miracle to change the world, what would it be? Would you end hunger? Eliminate all weapons of mass destruction? Stabilize human population growth at zero? End all disease? Wish our air, water and soil free of all pollution? End all forms of political and economic tyranny? Wish for the discovery of cold fusion power? Ban processed vocals from pop music?
Our choices in this exercise point towards the Urns from which the problems they address evolved. Some trace back to multiple Urns. Some to a very specific leap in culture. If we are to draw a tree of Urn evolution–as Martin suggests–what Urns are way down in the trunk? Would our omnipotent wish be used maximally by going as far back as possible, or is that not necessary?
An example: If I were to end all disease, it would be a boon to all living individuals. It would free up tremendous human and physical resources for other endeavors. But it would undoubtedly explode the population, reducing infant mortality and increasing life spans around the globe. This sheds a light backward towards the URN of agriculture–the leap by humankind to control the cycles of plant and animal growth instead of merely following and exploiting them seasonally. Agriculture directly lead to huge increases in population, the creation of cities and political systems, the emergence of crafts and the arts as we know them. And the domination of the world’s eco systems–thus the pollution wish is closely related here as well.
If we get very detailed with this, it it may seem as though our tree has flowered and shed fruits which have seeded new trees. Indeed, the trees may have become a forest, making it harder to find the original tree.
Has humankind made commitments in its evolutionary adventure that we can no longer control, commitments that now rule us as opposed to support us? And if so, is this a good thing, a dangerous thing or maybe neither…it simply is?
In the previous posts I have mentioned a few of my favorite human mega events as candidates for the Urn of the Eon. But, there are so many more.
What do you think ranks as the most momentous leap (one step for man–a giant leap…)?
Share your ideas below and I will fashion a list–let’s say a primary election from which we can begin to whittle down some choices–or at least discuss them.
Perhaps it was the release of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club…the discovery of penicillin…the invention of Frosted Flakes…gun powder…the sail…the American Declaration of Independence…
Let’s see where this goes.
Click leave a comment below to the right.
We can travel back in time as far as we wish when searching for Pandora’s urns.
There are numerous points in human cultural evolution that one could nominate for urn of the eon. For instance, it could be stone tools, or the early control of fire, the development of complex spoken language or, as is favored by many, the development of agriculture and animal domestication. Interestingly, the latter appeared independently in both the old and new worlds at different times and places–as though it is a part of us that was waiting to emerge eventually given the right circumstances.
To me, this begs the question–if we jump forward a few millennia, passing a few more significant urns such as written language, the mastering of metals, the wheel, written language, ocean faring boats, steam power, electricity, flight, nuclear energy, space travel and the digital revolution, we find ourselves in the present. What are the new “right circumstances” awaiting us with new urns?
Are we now creating them ourselves?
The great anthropologist, Leslie White, postulated that human culture is now evolving on its own determinates–separate from our physical evolution–indeed, perhaps driving our current physical evolution. Is human ‘culture’ a being? Does it respond to its environment under the pressures of selection–apart from the evolutionary and survival needs of Mankind, its host?
Is ‘culture’ that what Pandora released from her box–or urn?
Is the urn of the eon still awaiting us?
So, where does one start with a new blog?
Let’s go back, let’s go really early, let’s go to the beginning…
Pandora’s Box is a fascinating myth. The box–actually a clay urn–is opened by Pandora, the first woman on Earth according to Greek mythology. This releases all the forces of evil upon the world before she can manage to close it. (Sound vaguely familiar?) But the urn is not empty. What remains inside is the spirit of hope.
This allegory seems exceptionally relevant to human cultural evolution and may be compared to a large number of major defining leaps in our technological journey. SCIFLIESBLOG will discuss many topics concerning technology and the evolution of the arts and societies, but all will loosely relate to the allegory of Pandora’s Box….you open the box and you must react to the circumstances.
So, the beginning?
Once upon a time there were hominids on this earth that roamed unclothed, without language as we know it, or any recognizable technology. Perhaps a giant monolith appeared and zapped our early brothers and sisters, prompting one to pick up a a bone and use it as a tool–a weapon. Maybe a supreme deity presented it to us as a gift. I prefer to give us credit for stumbling on to this mighty achievement on our own after a long period of chance, observation and experimentation. However it happened, that clay jar in the head of those early hominids opened and out of it poured a new future–if one wants to interpret that as evil, that is a possible choice. Evil or not, it triggered a long chain of amazing changes reaching to the screen I a looking at right now–and the screen, phone or pad you are now staring at as well. We became hooked on technology, inseparably committed to a new and forever unfinished path.
We have taken this ride as a species but the rest of the planet must travel with us. We have opened more and more clay jars, each unleashing an unstoppable wave of change, at times a tsunami, at times a slow tide…but all reach back to that first stone, that wooden or bone club.
Have we struggled with the forces we have unleashed?
Certainly. And we will continue to open Pandora’s jars–for better or worse–and yes, we will continue to find that in the jar is pervasively and miraculously still a wonderful hope.
Thus begins our discussion of Pandora’s many jars here at SCIFLIESBLOG.
Ken Mazur 1/06/2013