The End of Ideas ?

“One of the strangest portents of the end of progress is the recent discovery that humans are losing their ability to come up with new ideas.” says Bryan Appleyard in this Times article. Thanks to Sam at Elizaphanian for the link.

I’m not sure the specific argument measuring “innovations” holds up to much scrutiny, but the whole article is a reminder that all markets can go down as well as up, even the Darwinian one. The direction of “progress” is driven by morals, not technology or science (or nature) in its broadest sense. In fact the Metaphysics of Quality would suggest the natural direction is towards ever more “sophisticated” intellect – winning memes. Whatever that means, it probably means we should not expect to recognise new innovations by the standards of the old. Technology has progressed beyond the “physical” already, or at least its centre of gravity has; or rather physics has progressed beyond the material.

Clear as mud ?

3 thoughts on “The End of Ideas ?”

  1. Crystal, actually 🙂

    Another thing that struck me about the article is its complete denial that that reason, science and the enlightnment’s secularism could be faith-based. Appleyard’s summing up, where he talks about Jews, Christians and other end-of-the-world crazies, reads very differently if you think that secularism in itself is a faith of sorts (or as you say, that “progress” is a moral statement). It seems more like another (newer) religion finding its own variant of an armageddon. The difficulty for Appleyard, perhaps, is he has no “second coming” to cheer him up 😉

    Have you read the Ingenuity Gap btw? Touches on similar ground to the article.

  2. All this sounds worth investigating — I wish I had the time. My first notion upon a partial reading of the Times piece was that it depends on the definitions of innovation and progress; then, who is judging; then, isn’t this a matter of quality? Is someone working with a rubber ruler here (stretchy measuring scale), or are we in an entirely different ballpark, playing a different game? Perhaps innovation has come to a Mies van der Roh “less is more” place.

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