Friday, December 16, 2011


However dazzling the visions science gives us, of cosmology or microbiology etc., of at least equal importance is its practical value in helping us figure out how to live more comfortably, more successfully. Two questions then arise immediately. Is science tied to any particular measure of success? And, compared to what alternatives will science make us more successful?

For generations by now our cultural trajectory has blinded us to these questions. Science has enabled progress: every generation has lived more successfully compared to previous generations. Our success is obvious: just look at our amazing capabilities to build machines, to steer the wealth of the world to our purposes. Slowly though dissatisfaction with this trajectory has been growing. Also growing has been the effect of this trajectory on the world, as our growing human population meets tightening resource constraints. Ideally our thinking could lead the way to more sustainable ways of living, but it looks more and more like resource constraints will be the driving force.

Will our belief resist this change in thinking, our belief that science will put more and more resources at our disposal with every generation? Or can science help open our eyes so that reality can inform out beliefs. We can use science to live more successfully than we will if we cling to our blindness, but that is only a possibility.

The relationship between two discussions on the web highlighted this challenge for me. Dmitri Orlov talked about the ability "to abandon who you have been and to change who you are in favor of what the moment demands," while a thread on Bike Forums puzzled over a fellow who lives on his bicycle. Is Fred a bicycle tourist or a homeless person with a bike?

Orlov talks about seasteading, living on a sailboat. (I gather he walks his talk!) In honor of Fred, I would like to introduce the term "bikesteading".

A bicycle is surely a pinnacle of scientific technology. Bikesteading might not be the perfection of sustainability, but it might be one excellent response to the reality we're facing in the coming decades.

1 comment:

  1. see also