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Sunday, 21 July 2013

What is the Prometheus Syndrome?

In a previous blog I mentioned something that I call the Prometheus Syndrome. What exactly is this? For those not so familiar with the mythology of the Ancient Greeks, I will briefly recount here the story of Prometheus, the Titan, who, in this mythology, created human beings.

Prometheus favoured his creation and feeling sorry for them, advised them badly, by showing them a trick which transformed humans into what I call self-deluded tricksters. What was this trick? It was but a simple deception. Not wanting Zeus to take the best parts of a sacrificed bull, Prometheus told humans to take the bones and to dress and hide them with a few bits of good meat so that they appeared to be the best, and to hide most of what was best, with entrails and the like. And Zeus fell for this trick, picking what looked to be the best, only to discover that it was not, which angered him much, and by way of punishment he denied men the fire that they could have used to cook the meat and to make for themselves a better life.

Yet again Prometheus foolishly acted in humankind’s favour, by stealing fire from the gods, and thus with the ability to make fire, the road to the development of human civilisation had been started. But this was too much for Zeus, and as punishment, Prometheus was bound to a rock with unbreakable chains, and an eagle was commanded to rip out his liver. Prometheus though, being an immortal, could not die, and at night his liver regenerated, thus the agony was repeated the next day, and the next, and so on for a countless age. And there he would have remained, caught in an eternal loop, if Zeus had not allowed Hercules to rescue Prometheus.

Here is the essence of the Prometheus Syndrome, a condition which involves people eternally reinventing themselves, their societies, their civilisations, in exactly the same form as in the past. This is exactly what is happening in Europe at the moment, and one can see it ever where, and it is at the core of Europe’s slow decline.

Here I can imagine many people thinking that this is not true. What about all this wonderful new technology? “So Paul, you are wrong!”  To which I could make many responses, but the one that I would stress at the moment, is “Do you mean all this wonderful technology that is destroying the world by causing a serious and worrying decline in finite resources, that is contributing to the destruction of the biodiversity upon which human life depends for its existence, that is being used by governments to monitor what you are doing, that is making warfare even more destructive, that is creating powerful multinational companies that only act in their own selfish interests, that in its manufacture is polluting the world, that is turning our oceans into a sea of floating discarded plastic bottles and containers, that is allowing humankind to fish the world’s fish stocks to the point of extinction, etc. etc. etc.”  Wake-up, you dreamers, and see the mess that your precious technology is creating, and most often, in the name of profit. This is exactly what I mean by the Prometheus Syndrome, this is how technology has always been, and will continue to be, until those unbreakable chains that tie the minds of scientists, engineers and technologists to the rock of the past, are smashed. This is a theme that I explore in my forthcoming novel entitled Moments in Time.

What I have briefly touched upon above are matters which, more than ever, need to be discussed, because sustainability fundamentally means developing a different type of technology, which in itself is a problem, for most of those who are engaged in technology development are, at core, Social Darwinists, who believe that there is only one best technology. But, the truth is that this one best technology is in fact mostly just bones dressed up with a little good meat. And now is the time to change this circumstance.

So who will break the chains, for it seems that there is no Hercules here to rescue these people from the eternal loop in which their fragmented minds are caught. And so the destruction continues, as does the delusion that we are making progress.

How to stop this is actually conceptually very easy: it involves changes in beliefs, values and behaviour, which is why also it is difficult to achieve, as people are not inclined towards making such changes, for this involves self-questioning, self-development, and the like, something which increasingly has no place in the modern world.

Putting aside the people who think that the only alternative to what we have is to go backwards, the implication of seeking out a different technology has profound implications, which will, in due course, receive attention in my writings; in the blog, on my web site, and in my books.

See also my later entry: The Prometheus Syndrome Explained.

1 comment:

  1. There is more about the Prometheus Syndrome, a more conceptual explanation in terms of paradigms and change theory, to be found at: