For reasons that I cannot quite understand myself, I have been researching lately about the anthropological achievements and milestones in science and philosophy. I had never regarded the members of the ancestry with much awe and respect. After all, knowledge being constantly built on the shoulders of other individuals, we as a race are bound to progress and become more intelligent. That is precisely why in every house we observe that the embryo outsmarts the elderly. That is also why I have always been delighted about living at this precise moment, that latest I ever knew, the most advanced we have ever been in our understanding of the universe and things inside of it.
I am pretty certain that there is some degree of truth in believing the progress is always as steady change always for the better. However, reading about the findings of the ancient world makes one think twice. I was brought up as a traditional Hindu Brahmin and had access to all the ancient literature and mythical texts and as I grew up I gradually classified them as fairy tales. After all their estimates of age of the universe closely match those of modern geologists; they demonstrated prowess in surgery, metal work, engineering, mathematics, astronomy and philosophy. The calendar that we have been following was worked out four thousand and five hundred years ago and it still works accurately and all the star positions and movements are consistent with modern astronomical observations. Classical music that we are taught in our childhood has musical notes that are sorted in a way that is just as efficient as any computer algorithm can program it. There are even texts that explain things like aeronautics. Every such ancient culture seems to have some sort of great discovery and conception and they are only getting rediscovered. On hindsight, it is surprising that I ever had a revelation of this sort, because like I mentioned, all the facts were told to me already when I was much younger.
If we can come up with the Theory of relativity just a couple of hundred years after Newtonian physics was proposed, it is hard to see why we still know so little about space when star position and rotations were accurately discovered so long ago. Only some of the inventions are passed on like those of Newton and only by learning that and further exploring the theory newer ones come about. On many occasions the knowledge is only made available by a handful of people who really search for documented information. I think of the brilliant theory of Genetics proposed by Mendel who got frustrated by people not accepting the same and spent rest of his life in service to a church. It was half a century later his works were read by scientists with similar interests entirely by chance and were concluded to be a very sound explanation of how attributes are passed on through generations. It is very probable that a lot of such great discoveries never came to light at all or they did by the time someone else rediscovered it.
Many cultures including my beloved India had a lot of disruptions from the invading armies and most of these invading armies before the dark ages had no interests in culture and progress, they were just warrior men. Many relics got destroyed and many beliefs suppressed by spread of another new force called Religion. It is not a coincidence that we happen to attribute almost all progress to Europe. Part of the reason is they never went through a cultural change as big as other parts of the world. Greeks and Romans were ethnically similar people and the whole of Europe shared a lot and most importantly under the powerful empires most of the texts were preserved. That cannot be said for all European countries though. That said, nothing much can be done about all the information that is already destroyed. The key thing here is I would like to insist on the importance of people paying attention to useful topics and document the knowledge and pass it on to generations.
I was going to say we are having almost all the available knowledge nowadays in electronic format and was going to end this passage in a positive note. But the days when people were denied information are replaced with those where people do not want information. Progress seems to be completely redefined; it is no longer measured by our wisdom and understanding of everything around us. No, it is something else. It is a tablet that can allow you to shoot zombies, a bloke designing see-through television, a generation that has no vocabulary and a library filled with self-improvement books. It is not bad that the library does not contain anything useful, young people prefer their study online in You-tube. Apparently it is not a poor source by any means. Every few months they broadcast just as much video content as they did in the past four decades. Annoyingly, most of them are about people falling over. Perhaps the youth watch such things to spot a flaw in theories of classical mechanics, I am not so sure.