It seems that in the modern western world, we take knowledge for granted. The rise of the information age means that at the touch of a button on my phone I can find out almost anything about anyone, or anything. It surprised me yesterday to learn that during the course of history, we have already learned and then lost a vast amount of knowledge.
In around 700BC the Greek alphabet was established and gave way to writings by Homer, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle which revolutionised the way people thought about the world and the entire Universe. During this age of ‘Classical antiquity’, Greek thinkers established that the earth was a globe, guessed that there were fundamental particles which made up matter, thought that we evolved from more primitive species and had advanced political, economic and architectural skills amongst many other things most people assume to have been discovered in 18th and 19th Centuries.
So why did all this knowledge disappear? It is largely to do with the collapse of Rome (which adopted Ancient Greek ideas). This collapse meant that the dominant ideology of the next thousand years was Christianity, which dogmatically eradicated any ideas which didn’t correlate with the teachings of the bible and the church. No one really knows exactly why the Roman empire collapsed; decadence, christianity, slavery and military problems have all been blamed but the cause is far less important than the outcome. From around 400 AD onwards the complex teachings of the Greco-Roman period were all but replaced by barbaric teachings and the Christian religion (a time now called the Dark Age).
So, should we be so confident that our world of 3G, Google and even the written word will stay forever? If all it takes is the rise of a religion and the fall of the Roman empire to eradicate all rational thought then who’s to say that our age of information will stay forever. After all, there are many things capable of almost destroying the human race (Super-volcanoes, nuclear weapons, climate change, asteroids, etc). Not that I want to depress you or anything…