Having figured out this helps me a lot
Two sets of contractionary developments go together. Let’s review them.
Let’s take health as an example.
An Upward Trend
Life, and especially people, tends to improve things naturally.
Clearly, physicians can do more for patients than ever before, especially in the richer countries and for the richer people.
Formerly, pneumonia meant: wait till the morning, and then you’ll see if the fever broke or the patient is dead. Now you give an antibiotics cure, and that almost always does the trick.
There are millions of examples like that.
A Downward Trend
When unattended, everything will degrade and disintegrate without help.
Often, antibiotics have been overused. Some bacteria developed resistance to all antibiotics. Tuberculosis is back, on the back of the AIDS pandemic. But after 40 years of research, there is now a prophylactic for AIDS. Do you remember that AIDS was the worst illness?
We live with people more concentrated in giant cities and travel more than we ever did before when most people never left their village. So, a new virus like, COVID-19, or the inevitable bird flu mutation that will be contagious from human to human has a potential it never had before.
The terms Upward and Downward Trend I loaned from my friend and teacher Harvey Jackins. Most importantly, he suggested using the energy of the downward trend to fuel the upward trend. So, if you fell and broke a bone, use your need to cry to clean up tons of your early traumas.
NB: What we call handicaps don’t need to limit a person. Many Western people don’t know how to bake bread. They don’t feel handicapped since they simply buy bread. If everyone is eager to walk a blind person and lift someone in a wheelchair up the stairs, they are not handicapped.
An Overall Upward Trend
So, things go up and down in a sort of wave but, overall, will improve.
There are old problems never solved (world hunger), new challenges, and setbacks continually, but, overall, life expectancy is up and so is the quality of life, despite a mental health crisis in the richest countries and families.
Serious doctors are trying to eradicate the most common illnesses within a decade. No doubt, after that, followed by solving all other sicknesses. Then, we need to stop aging, reverse the aging that we had already, and get better at bringing people back from clinical death. Overall, we should reach healthy physical immortality for most people within a century.
An Overall Downward Trend
Yes, progress is exponential, but so is the danger of extinction.
Everything’s getting better, but the threats are getting unprecedentedly high, too. Humankind, with all our progress, is running toward the abyss.
What good does healthy physical immortality in 100 years if humans go extinct from climate change, greed, wars, murders, and suicides in 20?
Isn’t it strange that the better we get, the greater the risks of total disaster? Maybe it has to do with my refutation of Reductionism. The more complex something, the more vulnerable. In six short examples:
A brick wall may give shelter; a single brick cannot. An earthquake may reduce a brick wall to a heap of bricks; it will leave a single brick, a brick. So, walls are more potent and complex than loose bricks but also more vulnerable.
DNA in a living cell can repair and replicate itself; most molecules cannot. But it can also mutate fatally; other molecules cannot. So, DNA is more potent and complex than other molecules but also more vulnerable.
A plant can make new plants; a brick cannot make new bricks. But a plant can die; a brick cannot. So, plants are more potent and complex than stones but also more vulnerable.
Most animals can move about (walk, swim, jump, fly); most plants cannot. Most animals die out without food; most plants do not (seeds, spores). So, animals are more potent and complex than plants but also more vulnerable.
A human can think about ideas and the future, read, hope and pray, regret, be smart, let go of instincts, and use Free Will; an animal cannot. But humans can fail their better Self, fail to choose Good, ignore their intuition and feelings, really blunder (and later regret that); animals are always themselves. So, humans are more potent and complex than animals but also more vulnerable.
A rich person can buy things a poor person cannot. But in times of general misery (war, famine, danger of extinction), many rich people don’t know what to do and feel they cannot live without the comfort they are used to. Their terror of losing it all, their greed, endangers us all (their carbon footprint, factories). Poorer people are better at working with their hands and cooperating and are used to making do with less. So, rich people have more chances to buy health but also are more vulnerable and dangerous.
We need to expect that progress and setbacks follow each other.
Moreover, bigger successes come within reach, but so does total failure.
Only human action and activism can make humanity emerge victoriously.
So, an overall fitting attitude in life is one of cautious optimism, which nicely fits Harvey’s idea that people naturally feel happy (see babies).
An old friend of mine reacted: I won’t live so long anymore, but maybe I’ll still be around when we go extinct. An optimistic idea for those who are not picky about the outcome.