Monday, March 28, 2011

Does Human Civilization need to hit Reset ? (New Scientist)


" ... even the average walking speed, also increase by 15 per cent per doubling of city size. "That's not good, I suspect, for the individual," he says. "Keeping up on that treadmill, going faster and faster, may not reflect a better quality of life."

Starting over: Rebuilding civilisation from scratch

The way we live is mostly down to accidents of history. So what if we thought it through properly?

IN JUST a few thousand years, we humans have created a remarkable civilisation: cities, transport networks, governments, vast economies full of specialised labour and a host of cultural trappings. It all just about works, but it's hardly a model of rational design - instead, people in each generation have done the best they could with what they inherited from their predecessors. As a result, we've ended up trapped in what, in retrospect, look like mistakes. What sensible engineer, for example, would build a sprawling, low-density megalopolis like Los Angeles on purpose?
Suppose we could try again. Imagine that Civilisation 1.0 evaporated tomorrow, leaving us with unlimited manpower, a willing populace and - most important - all the knowledge we've accumulated about what works, what doesn't, and how we might avoid the errors we got locked into last time. If you had the chance to build Civilisation 2.0 from scratch, what would you do differently?
Redesigning civilisation is a tall order, and a complete blueprint would require many volumes, not just a few magazine pages - even if everybody agreed on everything. But, undaunted, New Scientist set out to discover what might be on the table, by seeking provocative ideas that challenge what we take for granted. The result is a recipe for overhauling how we live, get around, and organise our societies - as well as reconsidering our approach to concepts such as religion, democracy and even time. Dreaming of a new civilisation is more than a thought experiment: the answers highlight what is most in need of a rethink, and hint at bold repairs that might be possible today.

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