Think Twice before You Find Fault with Modernity

Think Twice before You Find Fault with Modernity

Below is a brief editorial from Robert Higgs of the “Independent Institute.” It comes to the defense of modernity and tries to bash those who criticize. Take a look, and see our comments afterward.

“Modernity has never lacked for critics, people who see only regression from a nobler or more glorious past when men were men and women liked them that way. But for the economic or cultural historian, such an outlook is the sheerest balderdash.

If I had lived a thousand years ago, I would almost certainly have scratched out a precarious living, constantly on the edge of starvation, chronically ill, and culturally embedded in an inescapable wasteland of vicious error and destructive superstitions. I would never have thrilled to a song by Handel, a concerto grosso by Bach, a symphony by Beethoven or Brahms. I would never have watched any of Shakespeare’s plays or read any of his poetry. I would never have encountered even the intellectual gems that existed in the works of Aristotle or the classical Greek dramatists, never have learned Euclidean geometry, never have met with the ancient contributions to astronomy, because I would almost certainly have been illiterate and too far removed from any place that harbored learned people. And in those days, before the development of printing with movable type, the only means of spreading existing knowledge remained as always before the laborious copying of existing works by hand and the slow passage of copies from hand to hand. In short, life would have been poor, nasty, brutish, and short, even if not solitary.

People who glamorize the remote past practice a highly selective filtering of gold from a mountainous mass of ugly, toxic dirt. Life was hard even for those who sat in luxury above the masses and exploited them. They knew nothing of bacteriology; their children died in droves. The masses worked against heavy odds to extract enough from the soil to make their survival possible, and many failed to meet the test. Even if one doesn’t like industrialization and its consequences, one cannot escape the reality that what preceded modernity was materially, intellectually, and culturally close to zero for nearly everyone. Something is surely amiss when modern critics, enjoying all the material comforts and conveniences as well as the cultural amenities available at the push of a button, venture to dismiss modernity as if it were something even one in a thousand of them would give up.”

fault with modernity


I hate when people over-simplify their arguments.

In this case – Mr. Higgs presents a simple argument – assuming ALL modern conveniences and advancements were gone – and we were taken back 1000 years ago.

If that is the argument, not many sane people would want to go back ten centuries. That is what he’s attempting to label those who shun certain modernities.

However, there are some logical reasons to take a pause and at least discuss the ramifications that some of the modern technologies have presented humanity.

What are some faults with modernity?

Take GPS for instance. So many people now rely on “turn by turn directions” that some are saying that apps like Google Maps are making people dumb. Following robotic instructions does nothing to help your thinking ability.

Over-documentation of life. Most of you now have a vast digital library of your life stored in the cloud. Besides privacy issues, it’s causing anxiety as well. No one can just enjoy any experience anymore without the need to share it instantly. And I think their own memories are fading as a result. So has the ability to tell a colorful story just using your mouth and words. Continually comparing your life to others has also been said to cause depression.

Math skills are down the tubes. Trial and error has been replaced with YouTube how-to’s. Long in-depth multi-layered conversations have been replaced by one-sentence graphic memes. Exercise “trends” higher, while the brain never gets worked out much at all anymore.

I could go on with a hundred more examples. Especially social media and the “hive mind” epidemic.

In the end – careful moderation with these modernities is in order. But that is hard for most of the population because a majority of these tools (especially social media) are purposely addictive. And most also take advantage of the “ease of use” factor – which just inspires laziness.

Sure, there are arguments that society is just morphing into a new era – where everything is automated, and so on. But if everyone is reliant on the machines, who will be left to fix or run things if and when they stop working? (See Idiocracy for what the world will look like).

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