A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright

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Each time history repeats itself, the cost goes up. The twentieth century—a time of unprecedented progress—has produced a tremendous strain on the very elements that comprise life itself: This raises the key question of the twenty-first century: How much longer can this go on? With wit and erudition, Ronald Wright lays out a-convincing case that history has always provided an answer, whether we care to notice or not. From Neanderthal man to the Sumerians to the Roman Empire, A Short History of Progress dissects the cyclical nature of humanity's development and demise, the 10,000-year old experiment that we've unleashed but have yet to control. It is Wright's contention that only by understanding and ultimately breaking from the patterns of progress and disaster that humanity has repeated around the world since the Stone Age can we avoid the onset of a new Dark Age. Wright illustrates how various cultures throughout history have literally manufactured their own end by producing an overabundance of innovation and stripping bare the very elements that allowed them to initially advance. Wright's book is brilliant; a fascinating rumination on the hubris at the heart of human development and the pitfalls we still may have time to avoid.

About Ronald Wright

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Ronald Wright is a prize-winning novelist, historian and essayist, published in ten languages. His non-fiction includes the number-one bestseller Stolen Continents, winner of the Gordon Montador Award and chosen as a book of the year by the Independent and the Sunday Times. Hi first novel, A Scientific Romance, won the 1997 David Higham Prize for Fiction and was chosen as a book of the year by the Globe and Mail, the Sunday Times and the New York Times.His latest book is the novel Henderson's Spear. He was born in England, educated at Cambridge and now lives in British Columbia, Canada.
Published March 17, 2009 by Da Capo Press. 224 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Computers & Technology, Science & Math. Non-fiction

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As he tracks major transitions in the two linked “experiments” of agriculture and civilization that coincided with the opening of a favorable climate window in Neolithic times, Wright is logical and penetrating: The former wheat fields of Mesopotamia’s fertile crescent are now salt pans and flood...

Apr 01 2005 | Read Full Review of A Short History of Progress

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But having discounted the role of culture and social institutions in explaining civilizational collapse, Wright is left with almost nothing useful to say about what we, as a society, should do about our environmental problems (other than make ?the transition from short-term to long-term thinking?).

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