The growth of knowledge

November 26 2012

Today we live like kings compared to our ancestors because they learned to control fire, to construct houses, to build air conditioners, and to administer penicillin. These are all solutions to problems that once existed. All problems have solutions, and solutions come in the form of new knowledge. These solutions always have problems of their own. When a solution has problems, it's tempting to want to regress to the "good old days", but this is a mistake, because those "good old days" were terrible. The solution is *more* knowledge.

Here's an example: On November 6 I voted against California's Prop 37, which required labeling of genetically-modified foods (GMO) in stores. There are various practical problems with both the proposition and with GMOs, but my main objection was that Prop 37 was, in spirit, a conservative regression away from progress. GMO solves problems, and has problems of its own. The solution isn't to ban or discourage or vilify GMO, but to increase knowledge in the form of *more* GMO. In 200 years people will ask of us, "How did they survive when their food made them obese? When their food gave them diabetes and high cholesterol and cancer? Why were they okay with food coming from animals who suffered so much?" GMO will bring unimaginable improvements (and new problems) to our descendants' lives.

Resist the urge to regress when a solution has problems. The only way out is through, with more knowledge. We all have a moral obligation to our descendants to be a force for the growth of knowledge, so that they may live like kings compared to us.

Lawrence Kesteloot
[email protected]
San Francisco, California

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