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OpenSociety

Ever feel depressed thinking about our society? How people seem to make stupid choices or none at all? Especially when the others win the elections, when you read too much news, when some depressing movie? Well, it is time to be grateful, now!

I am -- and possibly you are as well, depending on where you live -- we are living in the greatest world history of mankind has ever known. The western world. Most of us have peace, prosperity, health, security. Most other people do not, most other people never had, and most of our ancestors did not.

The Open Society

I you are feeling down, read The Open Society and Its Enemies by Karl R. Popper, ISBN:0691019681.

For more about Popper, see the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

The Open Society is an incredibly profound book that starts out to defend the open society as we know it. In order to do that, Popper debunks the great philosophers that have tried to teach the opposite, starting with Platon.

Platon argued in The Republic, ISBN:0140440488, for a philosopher king: wise, benign, well educated, controlling a city state, a warrior caste. No plays and no fooling around to corrupt the feeble minded. This, Popper says, cannot be anybody's wish. Life would be miserable. And there is no improvement possible, as all but the king's closest friends live in humble, sheep-like stupidity.

Next are Heidegger and Hegel. Both were magicians with words, wordy magicians, profound and deep. By constant redefinition of words, texts emerged that no sane person could understand. For an example see Hegel's Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline, ISBN:0826403409. (Sadly, Schopenhauer who taught at the same university as Hegel, had much less success.) Anyway, Heidegger and Hegel are also debunked by Popper. One, because nobody understands what they are saying, and two, because Hegel's theory of historical determinism is not scientific. The theory states that society advances through stages until it finally reaches a state of perfection. Karl Marx adopted this theory, claiming that societies advance through stages from feudalism and capitalism through socialism to communism.

In the last part of the book, Popper examines the problems the solutions available:

What emerges is the Open Society.

David Brin has called the prerequesites to this the OthernessZeitgeist. As people embrace criticism, science flourishes, governments are peacefully transformed, people can speak their mind. The world might be loud, confusing, a scary place perhaps. Bad news keeps coming in, we feel remorse for the pollution of our environment. But in the end, there has never been a more peaceful period, a richer people, a more sharing culture, a more respecting world than the current neo-West.

Karl Popper asks the reader to fight a cynic interpretation of history in his book, "All Life is Problem Solving," ISBN:0415174864. And David Brin does just that in his book "The Transparent Society," where he defends openness and transparency against the masks and secrets of modern day cypherpunk ideas. Because we are not living in a tyranny. Because hiding everything will reduce accountability. And that, both Karl Popper and David Brin agree, allows us to talk freely, criticise one another, prevent the greatest blunders, and help save the world.

These days, however, we are struggling with openness as well as with transparency. The TransparentSociety, as David Brin calls it, seems unavoidable.


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