Are We A Tower of Babel?
And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. (Genesis 2:1-9)
I’ve said that we should recalibrate our respect for the Amish-like folks who will inherit the Earth from our declining civilization, and try to see from their view what of our civ they might want to retain. In that spirit, as they are mostly fundamentalist Judeo-Christians, consider how they might view history in terms of the story of the Tower of Babel. On the web you will find many articles comparing tech in general, and AI in particular, to a Tower of Babel. (FYI, other ancient civs told similar stories.)
Genesis, the first book of the Bible, reports four civilization-scale events. First, humans were made and given dominion over Earth. Second, they sinned by eating fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, and were thus punished with work, pain, and death, and told to multiply and spread over the Earth. Third, humans keep sinning and God flooded Earth to kill all land animals except Noah’s family and animals. God then promised to never do that again. Fourth, humans all spoke one language, gathered into one city, and built a tower “to reach into heaven”, and not be scattered. God thought, “Now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” To prevent this and scatter them, God split humans into many languages. And God did not promise never to do this again.
So, the Judeo-Christian God apparently doesn’t like humans gaining too much density, height, unity, ease of talk, knowledge, lifespan, comfort, leisure, infertility, and abilities to do what they imagine. And he stands ready to again knock them down and break them up to prevent this. The God of the Christian New Testament did more things to help humans, but it’s not obvious he is any more approving than the Old Testament God of humans getting Tower-of-Babel-level uppity.
Over history, humans in rising civilizations have consistently gained on most of these disliked features, while falling civs have consistently lost on them. And over the last few centuries our new world civilization has gained a lot on most of these features, and will probably soon lose on most as we decline. In fact, lately we have seemed within striking range of radical Babel-tower-level advances in lifespan, comfort, leisure, knowledge, and ease of talk.
Thus one simple interpretation of this history, an interpretation that the Amish-like seem likely to embrace, is that God has disliked most human civilizations, and has caused their decline. Christianity in particular arose at the peak of the Roman Empire, and didn’t much care for that empire, which declined as Christianity grew fast to take it over. Just as Ancient Jews didn’t care much for the Egyptian civilization. And as our current world-spanning civ is the most civvy one yet, and has long been drifting away from its Judeo-Christian roots, God may especially dislike much of it, is causing its future decline, and is happy to see it replaced by people more devoted to him and his priorities. Sure, maybe God likes that we have given up on slavery and killing infants, and cut back on war, but that may not outweigh the stuff he doesn’t like.
While some civs have declined due to a lack of internal unity, few since Babel have declined due to worse talk. The main cause for the fall of Greece, Rome, and our civ seems to be falling fertility. It seems God uses different means to topple different civs.
Our now-small Amish-like insular fertile subcultures are already wary of excess density, ease of talk and travel, and knowledge. While these can be understood as ways to maintain insularity, they also fit the avoid-Babel narrative. Such groups are also quite decentralized, with each roughly hundred member group being autonomous; the Mormons instead created stronger central organization, which caused their failing to maintain high insular fertility.
We can also predict that these groups will continue to be wary of (A) ways that our civ defies traditional Judeo-Christian edicts, such as re sex, contraception, and gender roles, (B) ways that it discourages fertility, (C) ways that it promotes selfishness, pleasure, dishonesty, arrogance, and greed, and especially (D) ways that we “play God” with tech like radical life extension or full human-level AI, tech with the potential to prevent our coming civ decline. (Many who love most of our civ are also wary of (D).) These insular fertile groups may also remain wary of large-scale world unity and organization under secular institutions, preferring decentralized local autonomy and egalitarianism, and small-scale tech and organization.
So what techs might these rising Amish-like cultures who see civs-as-Babel not mind so much? Maybe new small-scale ways to dominate nature, such as new materials, energy sources, or space colonization. And maybe new forms of trade and economic organization compatible with local autonomy, local egalitarianism, and Christian-like charity. If you want to pursue innovations that you hope our descendants will retain, consider working on stuff like this.