Ideological Menaces to Humanity

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There is a danger that an ideology will sweep the world, kill hundreds of millions of people, and settle the whole world into a rigid society that will last for millenia. Presumably such a society would forbid escape of dissenters into space and would limit or forbid further scientific and technological advance. It probably also forbid the free formation of corporations that would disturb existing market sharing arrangements.

On a smaller scale, this has happened before. The Egyptian society of the pharaohs and Chinese society settled into static forms that changed only when attacked from the outside. The major religions of Christianity (especially in the Eastern Orthodox form) and Islam developed static societies, even though they had plenty of wars.

World wide communications make it possible for a world-wide ideological movement to conquer. Maybe we aren't quite at that level today, but with communism gone, there remain only Islamic fundamentalism and Chinese communism capable of restricting their people's access to international ideologies.

Suppose that 20 or 50 years from now, it becomes possible for the leader of a movement, say an ideologue as talented as Hitler, to address the whole world and get fanatical followers in all countries. We can imagine his cause being environmentalism and his followers getting their kicks from smashing things. Call him or her the green Hitler. This seems improbable, because prosperity seems to keep the numbers of seriously combative people down, e.g. to the number of European football (soccer) hooligans, but we can't really be sure. The football hooligans don't have a single great leader to recruit more and organize them into a mass movement.

Another menace is a dictator getting power because of a world wide economic depression.

As portrayed in many science fiction stories, expansion of humanity into space and its political fragmentation presents one possibility for reducing the danger of ideological monopoly. It looks like it will be quite a while for colonies independent of the earth to develop.

[More to come].

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