April 19, 2006

Onwards and… Which way?

I was reading on Wikipedia the other day about someone called Peter Singer. Among various other things was his belief about the poorest people in the world. His argument goes along the lines of: It's immoral for us to go out and buy expensive unnecessary things and generally live life like we do when we know of the suffering due to poverty that is going on and could give some of that money to them.

In general, I completely agree with this principal. I hate the way half our world is in such a bad state when we quite evidently have the technology and ability to deal with it. It's pretty despicable the way we look on 'ourselves' as just those in our country or culture and consider people suffering around the world to be alien to that and not our responsibility.

Of course, it's a nice idea, but am I going to suddenly abandon my life and dissappear off around the world to help them? No, probably not. I can't pretend to be able to justify this but I can say I believe I can make a bigger difference in the long run doing research, especially in fusion. Now that brings me around to another point: if the most advanced countries stopping advancing and spent their time bringing the rest of the world up to our level we wouldn't be moving the human race on as a whole, in understanding and in technology etc. I was talking about this with someone the other day and their response to this was to question whether advancing in technology and knowledge is neccessarily 'forwards' for the human race. With all the stresses and troubles of our modern and supposedly more comfortable lives, are we really better off than those who spend their lives with nothing to worry about but finding dinner?

Personally I've always believed it's important to improve our understanding of the world around us and this is probably what's taking me into physics. This also isn't likely to change but I've never given it a second thought before and now find myself wondering exactly why I believe this. I guess its natural to want your life to be about something, to have some point and maybe this is just the best way I have of getting there given that I have no religious beliefs and don't believe in any form of afterlife. However, I did spend a brief period in the middle of the Exmoor forest when I was little just fishing and helping my dad recover firewood to heat his little cottage and I can see the appeal of that kind of lifestyle. Also I think part of why I enjoy gliding is that it gets me away from computers and all the associated hassle. On the other hand I wouldn't have the experience of and ability to fly if it weren't for the (1920s) technology of the gliding itself.

Are we better off with advancing technology and so called 'quality of life' or would we be better off if everyone was happy just living?

- 3 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Technology all the way. Mankind is built to advance and explore, and to poke the world we see around us in an inquisitive fashion in order to better understand it. As you said, the reason for the difference between rich and poor is mostly that the west has advanced, not that the other countries have fallen so very far behind. Science and technology opens our eyes to a whole world that we were previously ignorant of; I for one think mankind to be much stronger for losing this unawareness.

    20 Apr 2006, 01:49

  2. Peter Singer has some quite bizarre views. There was one paper he wrote about society's responsibility to engage in a process of euthanasia on behalf of disabled children. After being widely condemned for this he then said, "I was surprised that it didn't go down well in Germany." The Germans had Dr Mengele at Auschwitz, so I don;t think they were likely to embrace the man they now refer to as "Himmler in academic tweeds" in the German press.

    I'd be careful when quoting Singer to be honest, Oli.

    27 Apr 2006, 02:57

  3. I didn't say I either read any of the rest of it or agree with the man in general. It was just that particular point that made me think about the rest of that post.

    27 Apr 2006, 09:34

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