jump to navigation

Cyclical history? September 17, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Speaking of Charles Stross’s blog… interesting comment below the line which had the following to say about history, and future history…

I happen to think humans will be around for 5,000,000 or 10,000,000 years, largely as we are now (the argument for why I think this is a good portion of Hot Earth Dreams, and I’m not going to repeat it here). After a few thousand years, our current global civilization be utterly forgotten. No one will speak anything like English, no one will practice anything like our current religions, current races and ethnicities will not exist, and so forth. Our distant descendants probably have agriculture, work iron, have guns, and so forth, but they’ll have no idea who invented any of these, how old their technology is, or how often it has been reinvented.
That’s our likely future. It’s not an infinitely static future of crystal spires and togas, nor is it a cyclic future. It’s a chaotic future where, even when civilization exists and there are archaeologists, they’ll only have fragments from previous millennia, and only know the history of the previous few thousand years, as we do now. Even now, our notion of history is basically the last 3,000 years of our 100,000 year history as a species. Civilization has been around for pushing 7,000 years, but most of us have no idea what happened before 1000 BCE, except that they pulled Tut’s brain out through his nose after he died.

I think I only agree with that in part. Is it likely that knowledge is gained and lost on such a basis? Is it impossible to see civilisations surviving sufficiently long to make such collapses – at least in terms of tens of millennia unlikely? Or is there a technological point where knowledge can be retained even in the teeth of some sort of global collapse so that future civilisations can gain access to it and use it subsequently.


1. An Sionnach Fionn - September 17, 2016

I suspect that archivists will become the internet archaeologists of the next millennium, sifting through ancient servers and long-forgotten nodes of a global (and possibly interplanetary) comms net. I wonder will some research student doing a thesis on ancient Irish political history a thousand years from now stumble upon a frozen cache of the CLR website and what he or she will make of all our passionate concerns and ruminations?

I feel a story coming on! 🙂


WorldbyStorm - September 17, 2016

Or ASF as well! 🙂 I can see them now!

I was just thinking about the original comment. I’m not against the idea that knowledge is won and lost and across millions of years that’s more and more likely. But a couple of thousand years – not sure about that. I think that caches would survive if not here then off planet.

BTW, really liked the piece on RSF. Did you read the ROB biography from about ten years back? I’ve always had, despite profound political differences, considerable admiration for him. I know a few people in SF who knew him well but took a different path too.


An Sionnach Fionn - September 19, 2016

Yep, I read the Ruairí Ó Brádaigh biography and was fascinated by the impression it gave of a sort of enduring tradition of resistance that surmounts temporary political or ideological interpretations. The old Fenian idea of the “Phoenix Flame”, passing from generation to generation, especially within certain families. That is something which inevitably attracts elements of “cultism” to itself, something I meant more as a social observation. Secret societies of one sort or another always take on those aspects if they exist for long enough. History provides “tradition” and custom.

Unfortunately some people took the piece as a “character assassination” of the late Ó Brádaigh and I believe it caused considerable anger in RSF itself. Actually I was told so in no uncertain terms. Like yourself I admired him but that doesn’t stop one from believing that he was wrong post-1986 and those who followed him were also wrong. And still are.

RSF is literally an organisation without a purpose. It is the flat-earth society of Irish (republican) politics. I cannot understand why is remains so stubbornly wedded to its beliefs when politics is the art of the possible not the impossible (to misquote Von Bismarck). There are some great, genuine people in RSF and they are just throwing away their potential on a literal lost cause.


2. Jim Monaghan - September 17, 2016

Shades of Irish monks saving western civilisation. used as an episode of Babylon 5 and this was lifted from a Lord Dunsany story.I disagee with this The idea of monks preserving technology after a devastating nuclear war on earth as seen in the episode “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars” seems to be at least influenced by the novel A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.. Cannot remember which one. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_works_by_Lord_Dunsany Oh Dunsany deserves a revival


WorldbyStorm - September 17, 2016

I think I saw that one.


An Sionnach Fionn - September 19, 2016

Dunsany’s “The King of Elfland’s Daughter” is such a strange, oddly affecting story. On the other hand I was baffled by “The Gods of Pegāna“.


Starkadder - September 19, 2016

I agree- Dunsany was an excellent writer. On the other hand, Patrick Maume’s entry for Dunsany in the DOIB reveals he
was so right-wing (anti-socialist, pro-fox hunting, Southern Unionist, anti-Indian independence) that I suspect if any of us ever met him, we’d end up having a shouting match with him if politics were mentioned.


EWI - September 19, 2016

Dunsany was, of course, captured by the Four Courts garrison during the Easter Rising, who apparently being ‘literary men’ gave him special privileges.

Liked by 1 person

3. roddy - September 17, 2016

O’Bradaigh was genuine in his beliefs and would never have approved of what his splinter group became.His failure to understand the North and the attitudes of both Nationalist and Unionist left him totally at odds with political realities.


WorldbyStorm - September 17, 2016

I think that’s true. He ‘lost’ Belfast. Not the only one to do so either amongst Republicans. Costello too…


Jim Monaghan - September 17, 2016

Belfast always had a attitude that the 26 Counties was “liberated” territory, so they were always impatient about the inability of the Dublin leadership to deliver.The Hayes affair to Costello’s difficulties. The gap worked both ways


4. gendjinn - September 17, 2016

Against a Dark Background.

Oh, and jaysus lads, I admire the optimism! I doubt we have centuries left, let alone millennia. Absent Destination Void speciation events.


5. Joe - September 19, 2016

Just merging the two elements of this thread: I am optimistic that RSFism will be on its last legs in about 3 million years time.

Liked by 1 person

EWI - September 19, 2016

I am optimistic that RSFism will be on its last legs in about 3 million years time

I suspect that in the end, as the planet dies around them, it’ll actually be a fight to the death, Kirk-style, between the last Provo and the last Sindo columnist.


WorldbyStorm - September 19, 2016

🙂 Could be….


6. Gewerkschaftler - September 20, 2016

The human race, like rats, are hard to kill off.

However, I don’t see any reason not to posit at least a partial collapse, given the suicidal tendencies of capitalist societies.

I’ve often wondered about the bootstrap problem afterwards.

Suppose the standard distopian future comes to pass ,and our hunter-gatherer descendants come across a stash of our complete digitised ‘useful’ knowledge, would they be able to use it, assume they could read it?

It takes more than know-how to attain the levels of productivity that we have. Societies and their networked material and social structures as well as implicit knowledge grow over many generations.

And equally it may not be possible to re-bootstrap without access to the climate-damaging fossil fuels that we continue to burn as if there were no tomorrow. We don’t have a blueprint for an renewable-energy based materially complex society.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: