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Ronald Wright

Seeing the Future in the Ruins of the Past

Date:August 2010
Location:Canada
Topic:Philosophy

Ronald Wright, novelist, essayist, historian and philosopher, whose studies in history and archaeology reveal disturbing patterns in the rise and collapse of human societies – patterns that we are repeating today.

Archaeology, says Ronald Wright – who began as an archaeologist – “is perhaps the best tool we have for looking ahead” because it allows us to see patterns in the rise and fall of human societies over the ages. It tells us “that people all over the world, time and again, have made similar advances and mistakes.”

When societies fail – and almost all do, sooner or later – the story is remarkably consistent, as Wright points out in A Short History of Progress (2004). We see failing societies “sticking to entrenched beliefs and practices, robbing the future to pay the present, spending the last reserves of natural capital on a reckless binge of excessive wealth and glory.”