We Need All the Brainpower We Can Get

I don't believe, as some people fear, that economic growth has come to an end.This is equivalent to saying that we'll never be any richer, more prosperous or more technologically advanced than we are right now; that you and me, the people alive today, are living through the zenith of human civilization. I find this implausible. Innovation and change have been churning away for thousands of years, and it's unlikely that we just happen to be living in the one era when it's all about to come … [Read more...]

Have We Hit the Limits of Growth?

Ever since the Great Recession and the grindingly slow recovery that's followed, it's become an especially urgent question whether we can expect the future to be more prosperous than the past. Singularitarians and other techno-utopians predict that technology will make economic growth an ever-upward exponential curve, bringing undreamed-of material abundance and making each generation's life vastly better than the one that preceded it. On the other hand, skeptics argue that minimal or zero … [Read more...]

The Clock of the Long Now

I recently became aware of the Long Now Foundation, a futurist group whose mission is to plant the seeds of long-term thinking in society. It's a cause I have a lot of sympathy for, so it's worth publicizing what they do.The foundation is headquartered at The Interval, a cafe and public forum in San Francisco's Fort Mason. On display there is their library, a scale model of their 10,000-year clock (more on that in a moment), and all kinds of other curiosities. A screen above the bar shows a … [Read more...]

Building the Ramparts

I dream of the day when this blog is obsolete.It's not that I'm tired of writing for Daylight Atheism. I've been doing it for ten years, and I could easily carry on for another ten. But I wish there was no longer a need for it. Writing about atheism, in a way, is boring: you can only do it for so long before you notice that all the wildly diverse supernatural beliefs that humans profess reduce to the same handful of fallacies and fears, just dressed up in different masks. I'd be happy if the … [Read more...]

New on the Guardian: Loud Fear, Quiet Hope

In 2015, our attention was riveted by crisis, disaster and violence, and politicians flourished by pandering to bigotry and xenophobia. But behind these discouraging headlines, there's a quiet trend of progress unobtrusively transforming the world.That's the topic of my latest column in the Guardian, Buried in the darkness of 2015: the seeds of hope for a better 2016. To find out more, read the excerpt below, then click through to the full piece:In 2015, the brutal violence of the … [Read more...]

The Post-Work Society

Laziness is a good thing.For as long as civilization has existed, people have been trying to live as well as possible with as little work as possible. That drive has created kings and kleptocrats who get rich by robbing their subjects, but it's also led to every technology that makes work easier, from horse collars to steam engines to industrial robots.Think of how few people in the industrialized world work in jobs that have a direct connection to the necessities of life: agriculture, … [Read more...]

When Rationalists Reinvent Religion

I enjoyed this story by Dylan Matthews on Vox about effective altruism, an idea I'm all in favor of and wanted to say more about.EA is the philosophy that we should use science, rather than warm fuzzy feelings or guesswork, to direct our charitable giving where it will do the most good. Compared to the enormous need in the world, the amount of money and energy available for charity is small to begin with, and too many of those scarce and precious dollars and volunteer hours have been … [Read more...]

The Maturing Secular Community: Fewer Personalities, More Good Deeds

Editors' Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on the Future of Faith in America: Humanism. Read other perspectives here.I've written about the future of religion and the coming secular era, but there's another side to that coin. Namely, if religion is declining, what will happen to the non-religious? How will the secular community change as it grows and matures over the next few decades? I don't have any special insight into the future, but we can make some educated … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Post-Scarcity Economy

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IDagny's next stop in the valley brings her to a familiar face:It was not a pass, it was a wall of laminated rock with a complex chain of pipes, pumps and valves climbing like a vine up its narrow ledges, but it bore, on its crest, a huge wooden sign...: Wyatt Oil.It was oil that ran in a glittering curve from the mouth of a pipe into a tank at the foot of the wall, as the only confession of the tremendous secret struggle inside the stone, as the … [Read more...]

When Would You Rather Be Alive?

Reading the news is always a marathon race between hope and despair, but that conflict has been especially sharp these last few months. While every era has its doomsayers, they've lately become a lot harder to dismiss.Europe remains slumped in depression and wracked by infighting over the future of its union, with no way out in sight. America is sweltering under political stagnation, fraying at the seams from breathtaking inequality and the brutal violence of a police state, and there's a … [Read more...]