I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but I have trouble evaluating the rigor, applicability, and validity of a theory whose key terms are only defined in terms of each other. As described up to this point, civilization advances interconnectedness (which increases as a result of innovations like language, writing, moveable type, digital information processing, etc, and which determines the rate at which such innovations can spread), which is directly related to functional density. There are no definitions here, and so the given relations between concepts cannot be verified or evaluated in any substantive or analytical way. I do not question whether Michael has rigorous definitions for these concepts, as he has clearly given the theory much thought. But without being provided with a more precise, concrete, and independent formulation of each of the key terms, interested and careful readers will be unable to reproduce the logic inherent in the theory and thereby achieve non-trivial agreement.

For example: the idea of interconnectedness is frustratingly ambiguous. Does interconnectedness refer to frequency of communication, or accuracy of communication, or some particular quality of communication such as coherence or relevance? And how would these aspects of communication relate to each other, within the definition of interconnectedness? In the vague sense of it that I currently grasp, it seems like interconnectedness would also increase conflict and confusion, as individuals are exposed to a wider range of opposed and irreconcilable communications. Couldn’t this increase in conflict and confusion lead to societal stagnation, at least enough to balance out the positive effects of innovation dispersal? Isn’t it possible? Maybe not, but without a more rigorous formulation of the concept of interconnectedness, the reader may be left with such unanswered doubts.

I have to go study for final exams, but I want to give this horse one more swift kick. I am still dissatisfied with the idea of advancement as described. You’ve given four dimensions of advancement: “increased freedom for individuals, increased health and standard of living, increased happiness and fulfillment, and increased security from internal and external threats.” But you have not given any account of the fact that it is often the case that an increase in some of these benefits comes only with a decrease in others. For example, it is a major concern that increased security from the threat of terrorism in the United States will only come with a decrease in personal freedom. Innovations that provide for greater security may cost us in terms of freedom. Or again, maybe such trade-offs are not necessary in your theory- but the reason why your theory excludes this possibility would have to be explained before it can be accepted. Furthermore, each of the four given dimensions of advancement is of so complex a nature that it is impossible to gauge how they might be affected by interconnectedness or functional density, as they are currently described.

But believe me, I wouldn’t be so nit-picky if I didn’t see great potential in what you have described thus far. I look forward to hearing more, if you have the time and desire to provide it.



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