We can’t know what we don’t know however we can know that we don’t know or as Socrates taught us the recognition of our ignorance is the beginning of wisdom.
The society and civilization in which any human lives and operates is like water to a fish. Something they move around in, something they need to survive, it is also something they don’t even notice. If we wish to understand the world in which we live we need to realize that the civilization which serves as our support and framework is based upon vast amounts of knowledge those who fill its ranks give no thought to whatsoever.
It is also necessary to understand that civilization isn’t something consciously created by man. Civilizations build up over time by humans interacting with and attempting to modify their surroundings. As such our civilizations are more accretions than structures.
What our civilization is today is no more the conscious product of some master plan than the course of a river. Life flows into the channels of least resistance and is moved by forces that act upon it. We can no more predict what our civilization will look like in a few generations than one of our 17th century ancestors could have described the lives we live today.
What will be invented tomorrow that will change the future in ways we could never imagine? Thirty years ago in 1983 who would have thought we would all walk around with minicomputers we call cell phones? Or that there would be hundreds of television stations? Or a worldwide internet that can cross-pollenate thought at the speed of light? What may be around the next corner is anyone’s guess. One thing is for sure, thirty years from now we will live in ways we never imagined today.
This is the foundational problem that undergirds and eliminates the possibility of success from any of the utopian central-planning schemes that litter History and of the ones we are trying today. The planners cannot take the place of masses of people living, innovating and creating. No one person or group can substitute their decisions for the independent decisions of everyone else without short circuiting the system and causing civilization to stall out. No one is as smart as everyone.
If two minds are better than one how much better are 100,000 or 1 million or billions? Over and over those who think they and they alone are intelligent, far seeing or inspired enough to shape the future have grabbed the reins of power and tried to impose their vision on the world around them. Sooner or later reality comes along and teaches them that it just won’t work. We have people trying to guide trillion dollar economies who know nothing of economics, and people trying to guide History who know nothing of History. We are surrounded by political savants who know how to get elected and not much else. Some even have the hubris to list running a campaign as a life skill that qualifies them to run the lives of everyone around them.
What is even more bizarre than this is that people believe them and vote them into office based on such sketchy experience and vague promises as hope and change. Then when the Rube Goldberg plans they devise fall apart and everyone is worse off than before the savants say, “You just didn’t give us enough power to accomplish the task.