Did Asimov predict humanity's collapse back into the Middle Ages where respect for knowledge is your knowledge and ignorance will take over? It turns out that the denial of science as it is expressed even more strongly justifies Asimov's fear. It turns out that conservative thinkers fantasize about returning to the Middle Ages. you have been warned
"This library will burn down one day, you are commanded to steal from it," said Harry Seldon to the girl Gal Durnik, the greatest mathematical genius in the galaxy, who came to work for him at the Imperial Library in Trantor in the first episode when he gave her the original manuscript of a centuries-old mathematical formula that she used to get hired .
Today the first two episodes of the series "The Mossad" FOUNDATION were released on the streaming service Apple Plus. As you remember, the series is based on the book series of the same name written by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, inspired by books about the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. The heroes of the order try to preserve knowledge in the barbarian age of battle, but Asimov didn't just mean the galactic empire in his books, he warned about reality. Of course, the producers of the series emphasized this risk even more.
Watching the first two episodes reveals a futuristic world - with faster-than-light spaceships, space elevators and a multitude of effects, but this world is actually a reflection of the past - more precisely, a certain process in the past - the fall of the Roman Empire, whose peaceful control of the world through the power of its army (as well as the galactic empire in the series) began to lose the exiles to the barbarians, who eventually conquered Rome.
Little of the rich culture that grew for hundreds of years in Greece and then in Rome survived the Middle Ages, some thanks to the copying of books in monasteries (while being censored), and some cultures that knew how to continue science - the Persians, the Arabs in today's Iraq, and finally the Muslims and Jews in medieval Spain - until they were expelled from there The next period was the renaissance which built on the ancient knowledge and the little that had accumulated on it in the thousand years of the Middle Ages. And of course we have to remember the burning of the library in Alexandria which caused a huge loss of the accumulated knowledge.
It is difficult to estimate the knowledge that has been lost. There were a lot of things that needed to be rediscovered. In Asimov's galactic version, Harry Seldon and his successors (in the continuation of the book series and probably also in the TV series) try to establish an institution whose role will be to preserve knowledge in a dedicated library, and protect it from the barbarians.
So much for the past - both the real and the literary (even if the plot takes place in the future). Asimov died on April 6, 1992, and witnessed the fall of the Eastern Bloc and the optimism that prevailed at that time regarding the future. But as with Harry Seldon, beneath the surface the empire begins to crumble.
The modern equivalent is, of course, the United States, which for a moment seems to be the only control in the world that has ceased to be bipolar, but the cracks have begun to erupt beneath the surface - and as in Trantor, they are both external and internal.
The collapse of the United States
The external threats to the existing order have been known for a long time - the religious violence - mainly the Islamist one that hit the US first with embassies and ships and finally on September 11, 2001 - also inside the US - the downing of the Twin Towers and the damage to the Pentagon, and then the ineffective wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, there is also a rising power - China, which in a few decades transformed its inhabitants from the poor to the middle class, and conquered the world through investments in infrastructure and buying companies.
The internal threats are less addressed, it is true that there are the alt-right and the Trumpists, who during Trump's reign were even encouraged, but they are only the picturesque face of much more serious deep processes, and in fact today we are already seeing the equivalent of the burning of the library in Alexandria (and Trantor for that matter) in hostility to science.
However, the hostility to science was not born in a vacuum. In the fifties and sixties - the period in which the baby boomers grew up - education was considered the best investment a family could provide for its sons and daughters. Public education created an educated class that later filled the universities, and served as the economic and political reserve of the USA.
Director of Public Education
Then Ronald Reagan was elected president, and turned every investment - certainly government into SPENDING. In the eyes of his followers, public service is a wrong thing, therefore the status of public education has deteriorated, and the question of whether children will be able to reach higher positions depends on the financial capacity of their parents. The universities were not harmed by this, they attracted students from all over the world. In the last decades these were mainly Indians and Chinese. While the educated Indians stayed in the US or returned to their country to promote it, the Chinese were there with one goal - to learn how to bypass the US. In the last twenty years, they have built a higher education system that does not embarrass the best prestigious universities in the world.
Those of the educated who returned to China did not only take care of their family members like the Indians who returned home and worked in the high-tech sector, but helped China build an economic, industrial and military empire. (Because the Chinese of course made sure to attract them to the government sector).
The demons have taken over the world
Carl Sagan wrote in his latest book "A Haunted World" that the combination of ignorance and power is a dangerous combination. If he were alive today he would be much more concerned about the fulfillment of his prediction. His successor, Neil deGrasse Tyson, also expressed concern about the abandonment of science, when he explained that the greatest achievement of science is standing on the shoulders of giants (as Isaac Newton said) and one should not agree with the current situation where everyone becomes a researcher without considering the accumulated knowledge.
The USA is full of ignoramuses who believe that education is an expense compared to China which encouraged education. This ignorance is the factor undermining the foundations of the American empire. Ignorant people tend to believe in every possible conspiracy theory, whether it's the flat earth, the claim that the Democrats run a pedophilia network from the basement of a pizzeria in Washington, through claims that the government implants chips while giving vaccines, to the claim that global warming is an invention designed to help establish a world government. By the way, many conspiracy theories contradict each other, but that doesn't bother me.
It might be funny if it didn't prove two things - one - that ignorance is much more widespread than you think. And the second thing is more important - the common denominator in them is that the demand from the believers is to stop believing in science, the media, the government and any other official body. And this is the big problem, the voluntary galloping into new intermediate days.
Insaid published in Nature in April 2021, the researchers are trying to get to the roots of vaccine denial, and they discovered, among other things, that the US and UK intelligence services revealed that these arguments are being aided on social media by Russian propagandists in the service of the leader. As we know, there is evidence of Russia's involvement in the US elections in favor of Trump in order to sow chaos, which would be convenient for them, and interference in elections in other democratic countries to undermine. In Britain it succeeded in the form of Brexit.
Changing the image of the Middle Ages
In recent years, it appears for example from an article published on the bigthink website in 2017 that in conservative blogs and websites a kind of longing for the Middle Ages has begun as a time when traditional values reigned, God was respected, masculinity was valued. Each settlement was homogeneous and not exposed to diversity as it is today and of course the traditional roles of the species.
A clear representative of this trend is Steve Bannon, former President Trump's controversial advisor who wrote more than once about the need for crusades against Islam but also against modern (so-called progressive) values. Bannon even emphasizes and claims that we are now in a dark period, where we usually call the Middle Ages.
Little by little, it is revealed that behind all the factors that undermine trust in science, the oil gods are hiding, who, according to research based on tax returns of associations, oil companies, and especially Exxon and the brothers Charles and David Koch (now only Charles after David died in 2019 - in 2018 they were the richest family in America, before Jeff Bezos) petitioned dozens of front organizations that allegedly represent civil bodies, so that they would deny the climate campaigncc.org/climate_change/sceptics/funders
But when climate denial is not successful and the public, academia and governments (at least in words, not so much in deeds) understand the dimensions of the disaster, they are now going hard to deny the authority of science in general. This is reflected in harmless beliefs such as the flat earth, the connection of governments with aliens, etc., but has gotten very worse recently, when a huge population believes that it is forbidden to believe in established science - medicine, because everyone is corrupt and the media cooperates, etc. Against the background of such belief in the industry, all science - and certainly climate science will be perceived as political and will cease to be an objective source in the eyes of the deniers. Then it will be possible to continue to pollute the streams near the factories, to build waste sites in areas where a weak population lives, and most importantly - to cast doubt not only on climate science as a legitimate science, but on all science to achieve this goal. If that's not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, then what is?
And they are willing to do so even if the price is a return to the Middle Ages, and as it seems there are those who prepare the public opinion to want to love the Middle Ages.
Perhaps the fall of Trantor to the barbarians in the TV series will help warn today's decision makers to make sure we don't go back to barbarism and the Middle Ages in real life. We were not far from it on January 6, 2021.
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