Joseph V Higbee.com

How The World Has Changed

2010


Preface

When I started writing this my intention was to show how man had changed, in morals, attitudes, desires and so on, over the course of history. What I discovered is that he hasn't. Well! So much for what I thought I knew. But something must have changed somewhere for things to be as they are today compared to early history. So I looked. What I found follows.

The Question

For the purposes of this discussion, I will say that man's history begins about 2000 B.C.E. with about 27 million people, mostly located in the middle east and Asia. By this date men had changed from being hunter/gatherers, or even self-reliant farmers, into cooperative ventures. This change brought about most of the conditions of living that are with us today. Cities were established, empires began growing and religions became more complex in nature. There was a banding together of some for nefarious purposes, such as robbing and plundering, even as the cooperative producing of goods and avenues of trade were being established. The division of men into classes of wealth, power and status was well along, as was the self-serving desire for more of each, commonly called greed.
   As there were cities and empires, there was government with those who governed, or leaders, and those who were governed, the citizens. There was trade so there were financial arrangements. Food was a commodity of trade so some had plenty while others suffered with less. As people lived in closer proximity to each other, there was more problem with disease. On the other hand, even though history of this time is lacking in detail, we would assume that there were people working on such problems, having the honest desire to make better the lives of any and all. We might conclude then, that since the time there were enough of mankind to be mankind, they have remained, basically, pretty much the same. So, what's changed?
   If the basic nature of mankind as well as the basic underpinning of society is not much changed from the beginning, then what is different? Everything else. Other than man's basic nature, almost nothing is as it was in the beginning. So, the questions are: How did these changes come about? In what ways have they affected man? Are they good or bad? Where are we apt to go from here?

Some History

History has been much like a roller coaster, up and down. The biggest part of history has mostly been slow in the sense of change and uphill as respects the improvement in conditions. Some changes are not in themselves important here and we won't pay them much attention. Changes in rulership, for example, didn't usually have much longlasting effect. The same can be said for religion. Other changes are large in the overall change from then to now. Three things kept things from changing much on that long ride up.
   Language is very important in the way it has effected history. At our starting point around 2000 B.C.E., there were already lots of different linguistic groups. As time went on there became more as people spread and started new communities with citizens from different localities, some words from each would be used and with the usual slang and contractions, a new tongue would emerge.
   Communication between communities was next to impossible in all but the closest of population centers. Any sharing of ideas, designs or invention had to be pretty much on a person to person basis. They didn't usually get far at best and if there was a differing of dialect, forget it.
   Longevity wasn't long. Epidemics didn't come on the scene until around the middle of the first millenium C.E., but there wasn't much help for injury and sickness, and sanitation wasn't a word in any language.
   For our purpose, what effect the changes in the world have on man, that's about it until less than a thousand years ago. Almost nothing changed for over 3000 years.

A Slow Change

Change of any importance didn't begin until the early part of the second millenium C.E. and then slowly.But some changes did come and they were significant. It was the changes in this period that started changing the world.
   Property ownership had historically belonged to those who could hold it. If somebody, or government or group, wanted it and had the military force to take it, it was theirs. On an individual level this changed with the Norman conquest of England. The conquering leader, William, decreed that he owned all the land in England by right of conquest. He then made land grants to whom he would, giving them title guaranteed by the state. Almost all governments now follow that basic idea.
   Paper was made in China early in the common era, but the first water powered mills in Europe made it a relatively inexpensive and readily available product. Now the ability to share ideas, cures, research and everything else was possible as never before. Translation from one language into others was becoming common.
   The printing press wasn't far behind. This took all the advantages of having paper and multiplied them many times over. Communication, particularly of information, became the driving force of the many changes to come.
   Population started to grow at a faster rate toward the middle of this millenium. At this point in history, however, it like everything else hadn't changed much from the beginning.

Growth Gets Underway

> Population Growth Graph

As shared research found ways to prevent many pestilences and cure others man began to live longer. Thus the rate of population growth began to climb as did the population itself. The graph on the left tells it better than words. (Click on it to see a larger version.) Fortunately, for those in Europe anyway, shared research improved sailing vessels which were used to find the mostly vacant land in the Americas, allowing room for this population growth.
   Even as the colonization of most of the world was taking place, new ideas were being shared far and wide. Something would be put to use in one area and improved in another. Much of this was very beneficial to people and as things came to be in demand it started a commercialism that has gone beyond just satisfying needs to providing almost anything imaginable. If you can imagine it, and it isn't yet available, be patient it's likely on the way.
   With the industrial revolution, which really began to swing about the time mans population reached it's first billion in the 19th century, the infrastructure of things began to change. Everything, from laws and government, to banking, to power supply, to transportation, etc., it all changed. Railroad tracks, power lines, dams, sanitation facilities, you name it, it changed and was built. In a short time man went from horseback to travel at a rate hardly ever imagined. By the end of the 19th century, someone could even pick up a device and talk to someone else miles away. And then things speeded up!

The Last Century

If you compared the 19th century to a race car, the 20th would be akin to a rocket ship. And the 21st shows no signs of slowing in any noticable way. The acceleration in the occurance of new things has been breathtaking, exciting but hard to deal with over an extended period of time. To detail the many changes of recent years isn't necessary, we all know about them, and many of us have seen much of them happen. But let me point out that it seems communication, information technology, started it and is still at the forefront of change.

What's Changed

However, as we said to start, the basics are still the same. Cities, governments, people doing good, people doing bad. Wealth, power and status, with some who greedily desire each. Disease and hunger are still with us although in different proportions. So I repeat the question; If the basic nature of mankind as well as the basic underpinning of society is not much changed from the beginning, then what is different?
   And as I said, everything else. I can't even list all the things that are, but consider a few:

Summary

At the end of the sub-heading 'The Question', I posed four questions. This is the spot where they are supposed to be answered. In my rapid run through history I've tried to at least outline the answer to the question of how change came about. I just touched on ways these changes have affected men in the last sub-heading. And even in the areas I touched on I have left much unsaid. The third question, whether the changes are good or bad, I have an opinion on, do you?
   The final question brings forth even more questions; Is it possible to continue as we have been and if so, how so? If it is not possible what changes, if any, will allow preservation of life as we know it today? If those changes can't be made, what are the alternatives? Is there ANY persons, group, organization or other entity working on these answers, and if there is, are they likely to find them?
   These are questions I urge you to ponder. I can't give you the answers, at least not in this format. A direct exchange of questions, answers and reasoning, as well as a certain motivating power, are needed to convey them accurately. But there are answers and given time they will manifest themselves. When they do they will probably seem obvious, as answers when known sometimes do. But of course, by then it will be too late to take any action to alleviate their effect, or remove ourselves from it, if that be a possibility. So it is important to look for answers now.
   If you have looked for answers and come away empty, don't give up. I would suggest looking for a source high enough to actually know such things and then carefully seek out a true representative of that source. A real answer would help to identify the source and the representative, and a real source and representative would have a real answer.