Would Erasing All Human Knowledge of History Be a Good Thing?

Thanks to Maddy R. in Ithaca, NY for this week’s topic:

Maddy sent us this interesting topic, which she said came from the podcast Hello Internet. In addition to being a cool question, I ended up getting hooked on Hello Internet through this, which is totally my kind of podcast—so thanks Maddy.

The podcast features discussions between C. G. P. Grey and Brady Haran, and in the episode Maddy pointed me to, Grey poses the question:

If you had the power to erase all human knowledge and documentation of history, would you?

The question is a bit vague, so to further clarify:

Today’s world would be the same and people would still have the basic understanding of it—i.e. I’d know that I’m an American, that the US is one of many countries, that Barack Obama is our president, etc., but the knowledge of what it means to be an American or the history of how America came to be would be gone. In other words, the historical baggage of each country, religion, ethnicity, etc. would be gone. (It’s not a perfect thought experiment, but you get the point.)

On the podcast (episode 29, starting at 54:30), Grey says unequivocally that he’d do it. He points out that there are so many places in today’s world where many people in one place hate the people in a place very close to them (i.e. India/Pakistan, Israel/Palestine, South Korea/Japan etc.), but that the reasons for the hate often either stem back to things that happened hundreds of years ago involving people that are all dead now, or they stem from things that happened recently, but that those things only happened because of other things that happened in history. In other words, relations all over the world are fucked up because of things that people did in much more barbaric times. Grey thinks that in a world without history, we’d simply ask the question, “Where in the world do people need the most help right now?”

Haran strongly disagrees with Grey, suggesting that A) Without history we’re likely to repeat many of the worst parts of the past, and that erasing history would make the world a worse place, not a better one—i.e. it might eliminate hatred but it would also eliminate wisdom, and B) Regardless of whether erasing history would make the world a better or worse place, it would be a bad thing to do since history is the great story of our species and that stories matter a lot in life—he asks, “What is the point of life if it isn’t stories?”

What do you think?

 

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  • Phil C

    Difficult question to conceptualise. Erasing history would definitely be most beneficial to the problems we currently face. Also, if we don’t lose any of our morality, then the problems we faced in the past [I.E the holocaust, the crusades] surely shouldn’t repeat themselves? However, this brings into question how closely morality and history are linked..

    • Guest

      But we are only erasing history, not culture of knowledge. The crusades, for example, probably wouldnt repeat themselves, because we think differently now than we did then–not because of historical knowledge, but because social rules, laws, science, knowledge in general has grown and evolved. And this we would conserve.

      • Aletta

        “Not because of historical knowledge, but because social rules, laws, science, knowledge in general has grown and evolved.” — And why is that? If you don’t have a reason for doing something a particular way, other than “it’s the way it’s always been done”, how long before some innovative upstart comes along with a different way of doing things?

        And what’s the chance that this “new way” is something that panders to our baser instincts, rather than some benevolent community spirit? Without history standing behind us going “oh yeah, remember the time you did something like that already? Remember how that turned out?” — it would turn into a shit show.

        So I agree with @Phil C in questioning how closely morality and experience are linked. It’s pretty ungenerous to assume that ALL our goodness is merely an aversion to badness we’ve seen before, but I think a decent whack of it is.

        My immediate thought with this was to shift it to one person: If you could erase all your own personal history and start afresh, would you? Of course it depends on how good you feel about your life. I think most people here would say no, but there are a lot of people who could feel completely justified in saying HELL YES.

  • Guest

    I agree with Grey. History makes us base our decisions today on things that happened years ago, and many times lead to riduculous results. I live in Paraguay, and several historical happenings have left behind horrible legacies. The main political party, for example, still operates operates under the deceitful and corrupt practices that were established years behind during the dictatorship. If people forgot all about the wars we have had and the terrible leaders we have had, they would base their decisions on logic and would act more pragmatically. I think that if it were possible to erase history, people would start digging and exploring and eventually redescover history enyways. But they would see this “new” history with fresh eyes and no preconceptions and see things as they actually were–no bias. Erasing history would erase bias, which is something that greatly hurts society.

    • Knowl Edge

      It’s about getting smarter by learning by our mistakes. We as human beings are not going to choose smart, if we haven’t learned what dumb is. This world would be pretty boring if everything happened logically and pragmatically. This world should be as it is, because it is a privilege to see us evolve and learn by our mistakes, and see the polarizing differences between choosing by nature, and choosing deliberately by knowledge and a higher consciousness.

  • AZNAce

    I probably wouldn’t do it. It wouldn’t make a huge difference because many of the supposed “historical” issues – the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute, the Israel/Palestine conflict – those are borne out of practical, material considerations moreso than historical or ideological ones. And seeing that is the case, erasing history would not only be useless in the sense that it wouldn’t change anything, but it would also be destructive and remove our awareness of our past, and the ability to learn from it.

  • jasvisp

    History isn’t just what happened a long time ago it is what happened last week, yesterday and today. So erasing history would mean waking up everyday with no memory of what happened the day before. I think we would all be wondering why we are here.

    • Snake

      I’m pretty sure he means it like a reset button, a one time deal.

      • jasvisp

        I see. But “a one time deal” then means history begins at the first day of life without historical reference. How does one operate without understanding what came before and/or the reason life is being lived?

  • Most people already don’t know history, and it’s already harming us.

    Erasing history would be a disaster. We’d have to start all over again—re-learning the terror of war, the danger of absolute monarchy, the benefits of constitutional republics and democratic elections, the value of freedom of speech and of religion, etc., etc.

    Sure, there is baggage from history, but that is trivial compared to what we can and should—must—*learn* from history.

    I can’t believe that serious, educated people even need to debate this.

    • PS: It’s not as if erasing history is going to lead people to all get along with one another. Pre-historic tribes often hated and fought the tribes living right near them. We had to learn over time how horrible that is, and how to all get along (as much as we have so far). War and aggression are natural, animal tendencies; peace is an achievement. Erasing history would largely reset that achievement to zero.

    • fearian

      Amen

  • Tyler

    Erase it all. The world would be far better without religion and racism.

    • Lontar

      What makes you think those things wouldn’t just reappear?

      • Snake

        New religions might reappear, but they wouldn’t be based off millennia old ideals and so they would be much closer to philosophy. Racism is learned- if it disappeared, there would be nothing to bring it back.

        • Lontar

          Good point on the religious front, though I believe people would find something equally petty to gnash their teeth about. Pettiness is damn near instinctive, IMO.

          On the racism front, while it is and can be taught, I think is a much more primal impulse based on fear. People will exclude, manipulate and exploit each other for anything arbitrary if they’re able to. The whole “you’re different from me, therefore you threaten me” mentality extends far beyond the race issue and the teachings to combat it are based on, you guessed it: history.

  • Badmon

    A lot of things in history happened, because of human instinct and human nature, things wouldn’t exactly repeat themselves, but actions would definitely be acted by human nature. And we wouldn’t know why things were as they were, leaving us with important questions, with no answers. and some would probably take advantage of it, with incentives of self interest. Remember, as we have learned throughout history, the human being by nature, mostly chooses by self interest. Bizarre things would happen if history was deleted, but everything would be acted by instinct. When we choose good heartedly, we do it because we know it is a better decision, than not choosing good heartedly, because we have learned the consequences by self interest. We learn and we act with that knowledge. We don’t act good, without having learned what the consequences are by choosing bad or good.

    Here’s one thought provoking question: If you lost your own history of alcoholism, and discovered alcohol, would you know whether it was bad for you or not?

    The same goes for humans. If humans were to lose their history, would their next act be of long term interest or short term interest? Of course its going to be short term, cause we wouldn’t know what would happen in long terms, cause that is not a choice of human nature, it’s a deliberate choice of knowledge and experience.

  • Nathan M

    Questions for those who would hit the Erase button:

    What has innately changed about human beings, so that we won’t behave like barbarians anymore?
    Does hatred come only from the past, or does it come from the human heart?

    Are people truly good?
    Do you lock your door at night?

    • ccblademan75

      No, because I sleep with my blade.

  • Lontar

    This is a rather intense hypothetical isn’t it? With no historical leaning, the word morality loses all meaning. I’m not sure if humans are fundamentally “good” or “evil”. Like Grey says we would forget our reasons for hating each other. However, we would also forget our reasons for caring for each other. I feel like we would be thrust into a very tribal world, with self-preservation and mob mentality prevailing.

    Yes people are taught racism, sexism, ageism, myriad forms of hate. But do people naturally accept those that are drastically different from them? I think that at some point (and this is true of myself) I had to be taught to be inclusive of people very different from me. To this day, it takes a certain amount of effort to do that. I’m a naturally intolerant person who must make efforts to be tolerant. If we don’t have a historical basis on why it’s wrong to exploit a certain group of people, it would almost certainly happen immediately and on a massive scale.

  • jonas

    Erasing the sense of sharing history would most probably be a good thing. But this wouldn’t happen by erasing history. I believe human relationships are very slowly moving to a peaceful eqilibrium with the guidance of history and its mistakes.

  • tweinstre

    No,I wouldn’t. Why? Because I think that the misery of this world comes not from our knowledge (or lack thereof) but from human’s innate nature. People will therefore always find a way to hate other people. Even if all of our knowledge is erased,soon there would be new divisions. People will always divide themselves.

  • JKG

    One big thing with this is that, in a place like North Korea, erasing history would probably erase the god-like image they have of the three Kims, and could very likely help a lot of things. But this is also weird, because “historical baggage” is incredibly vague. If you got rid of ideas of religion, would there still be bibles? And history is also science, why would erasing history not get rid of Newton’s discoveries, or what we know happens when we drop an atom bomb? This is super sketchy

  • fearian

    As others have said, we are simply likely to repeat grand historical mistakes. And the idea that in a more ‘advanced’ age these would be less likely to happen is *very* naive. I believe world powers would simply execute these mistakes with frightening ease and more devastating effects.

    { To throw out an example, leaders have country A have no idea why they should let country B mess step out of line. Country B is smaller, weaker and yet has more resources than country A. In this world without history, all we have is our identity as a state, and the knowledge that this OTHER is in the way of our best interests. }

    As a real world case study, look at Russian acts of aggression in the last few years/decades. Russia acts in Russia’s interests *wherever* it can. European states loudly and sternly warn of how badly this approach has gone in the past and work to avoid a border dispute becoming an international war, becoming a world war. Because remember, no-one is going to suddenly say “lets go to war with country B” – But without the case study of what leads to war…

  • Jiri Roznovjak

    Probably not.

    People are jerks by themselves and often times they use history only as a pretense to kill each other. It is the same as with religion – even if the world had only one (or no) religion, leaders would

  • knotdragon

    Thankfully it’s hypothetical because many people without a real appreciation of the sheer beautiful complexity of human history would get rid of it out of a lack of appreciation of this and a desire for something “pure” or “new”. It’s the greatest story ever told, its a true story and its a warts and all example of human nature repeating itself in many different forms over and over. Forget about learning about our mistakes, its about our aspirations and how far we’re willing to go to achieve them. Its about our ability as a species to achieve almost anything, good or bad, when we coalesce momentarily.

  • Crouchy_289

    Its not the KNOWLEDGE of history that causes the problems but the STUPIDITY of people. I dont know how on Earth you, a man of science could seriously consider that erasing knowledge could be beneficial at any level to humanity.

    • knotdragon

      Sigh…

      • Crouchy_289

        when i saw the title i thought it is some kind of a joke, it is shocking for me that someone can really think it would be a good idea. Its like nazis burning books or ISIS destroying historic sites.

        • knotdragon

          Yeah but he’s asking people to think about it, not championing it as a valid concept in and of itself. ‘Tis merely a discussion, don’t shoot the questioner 😉

          • Crouchy_289

            Still for me its scary that this could be a question for anyone. But maybe I was just watching too many “Richard Dawkins speaking to extremely uneducated people” videos on youtube today, so I am a bit too protective when it comes to knowledge 🙂

  • AgentMidnight

    According to one of my history teachers, something like this happened to India, where they didn’t really have any knowledge of their past. We didn’t delve too deeply into the topic, but if anyone can verify this or explain how the country was affected, I would appreciate it.

    • C KARTIK

      The regions now known as India,Pakistan,Bangladesh used to be one country but due to religious issues and a few other problems,the countries split up.Initially,it was India and Pakistan post-WW II in 1947 leading to their mutual and hasty independence.Later,in 1972(if my memory serves me right),Bangladesh formerly called East Pakistan split from West Pakistan.
      The 1947 episode was marked by millions of mass slaughter,rapes and plunder.
      The 1972 episode was a little lesser when compared to the former.

      History’s almost ever written by the victors.So,the history read by children on both sides of the fence admittedly accuse the neighbours of starting the fire.The blame games continue till this day.And the violent acts such as insurgency,proxy wars(not to mention the 3 Indo-Pak battles/wars) continue to this day.

  • Reuben Hopper

    Maybe this discussion wasn’t meant to help us figure out if we should erase history or not but for us to look back and think about how important history is.

  • Kamil Kolasiński

    I have to agree with Haran. I don’t trust humanity to be inherently good, without the bagage of history. History is theory in practice. We like to hate. We like to have more than others. It wouldn’t be an erase button. I’d be a repeat button. It is possible that suddenly we’d all accept each other… But is it worth the risk? We’ve come so far when it comes to acceptance and tolerance. We slowly eliminate hatred and prejudice. With every generation, there’s more care for others. We invent new things to help those in need, regardless of the folder that they happen to fit into. What if it were all to disappear just because someone couldn’t think: “I don’t want to be like THAT guy.”? I wouldn’t push it. The risk is too great, and I don’t like gambling. Slow and steady wins the race.

    TL:DR – No, cause learning from mistakes and stuff.

  • Zach

    No- losing 200 years of science means that the first effect is mass famine and fairly rapid breakdown of machinary, which means mass death.

  • Jenni Nelson

    First of all, I’m really happy that WBW has discovered Hello Internet, as they’re my #1 internet ship.

    I wouldn’t erase it because it’s so irreversible. What if we need something, like ancient plague records? Or paleontological records for understanding evolution? Our history has value beyond its geopolitical side. It’s also a scientific record. Brady is right: it’s the story of our species, and valuable in itself. For that, I don’t think I could erase it.
    On the other hand, Grey has a point. I think what he was probably idealizing is a perfect clean slate, rather than a destruction of knowledge, as Brady and I visualize it. A perfect clean slate would require more than just forgetting history. A clean slate would be more like plopping all humans down on a new earth, with no borders, a single language, instruction manuals, and no in-group-identities or other divisive views. It’s a wonderful thought experiment, I suppose. If you were God, what worldview would you manually insert into everyone’s head?
    Anyways, the geopolitical stories that everyone “ought” to know for fear of repeating them, aren’t real history. They’re stories. They create a ‘national identity’, but they’re never a full understanding. I think that if we erased all the physical records, but kept our memories/group-identities intact, our world would operate as it does, and keep ‘repeating’ history. If we did the reverse, we’d be far better off. We’d still ‘repeat’ history eventually, but it might be less severe.

  • John Theis

    How long would it take for humans who have had the slate wiped clean to find new issues to bring up? Sure there might be a peaceful utopia which would last for a short period of time before someone said something about another countries president and before you knew it we’d have a whole new range of grudges leading to intolerance, hatred and all the other good stuff that they bring along with them. And without the weight of history that currently bears down upon us to let us know what happens if those feelings are left unchecked, it wouldn’t be long before some seriously bad stuff is happening.

    Even with the benefit of 1000’s of years of history to look at we are still capable of the most appalling atrocities, without that, and with today’s technology I think we could be capable of eradicating ourselves from the face of the planet.

  • It reminds me of the South Park episode where Richard Dawkins started shagging Mrs. Garrison, and many years in the future the otters were screaming “Science damn you!” while killing each other over what flavor of atheism was the correct flavor of atheism.

    Erase all the history, erase all the blood feuds and pointless infighting and religious traditions and national borders, and what do you have 100 years later? The same features in a different wrapper. Human nature is what it is.

  • ODM

    No. History demonstrates to us how we got to this point. Whether good or bad, the present is an answer. We need to ‘show our working’.

  • Herodotus, the father of History, wrote a history book with intention to “make people understand the cause of war”. Many other historian follow him. Because of the work of these historians, we do understand now that people make war because stupid people do stupid things. And because these stupid people never read those history books, they keep hating other people. Hmmm… No. I don’t want to erase history. I want people to learn more about history to avoid them being stupid.

  • Josh

    I wouldn’t I would rather work through this and learn from it. Erasing the past would work short term but then someone is accidentally killed or hurt and it snowballs from there. Maybe I’m being optimistic but I think if all people were better educated and taught to make more rational decisions when it affects a large population we would he better off. Besides you’re forgetting about all the good and motivational stories that have come from the past.

  • 0hJay

    Terrible idea, we would repeat so many horrible mistakes. I’d rather work on letting the past go.

  • consanguinity

    Looking at history, loads of it really sucks. There’s no other way to put it. But history’s there for a reason. Most people who are in positions of power are too dumb to learn from history and make a difference, so I don’t really think that the learning idea that other people in the comments introduced will actually happen. But without history, humanity would not be a whole. It would just be a shell of the present, wandering around with no idea what to do. Great historical events that deserve to be remembered would dissolve without recognition. It would be ideal to just wipe out all the bad events, but who knows what sort of changes in the course of history that would make?

  • Great Pierre

    I think I lean towards erasing history but the better option is if people were all well-versed in history. The reason we’re not going to have another Hitler is because we have history showing us what happens. But at the same time, lots of deep seated hatred between people is over bullshit that happened hundreds of years ago between people who are currently dead. I’m open to having my mind changed, but I think Grey has a point.
    Also, Hello Internet is awesome.

  • Nutt Thungsap

    Erasing mankind history is a bad call. Bad things happened in the past is not because of the history itself but the people that reproduce hate again and again. Some come from the knowledge in history, yes. But I’d say the reproduction of hate occurred because those people are bullies and rotten at their core. History has a little to do with that issue. and doesn’t deserve to be erased at all.

  • Vikram Kalra

    Erasing ‘historical baggage’ would not eliminate our basic tribalism. There will still be rivalries and conflicts that exist without historical influence, like a simple high school football rivalry, or like one race hating another based only on their looks.

    It’s innate in us to compete to win for what we value, and losers are sometimes jealous. I think the bad starts there.

    I might consider erasing jealousy but a new issue would probably take its place to restore our (currently evolved) equilibrium.

  • Hadrien Roche

    One could argue that it’s already done. How many people have an actual clear and deep understanding of history ? I really don’t see as any kind of solution.

  • JustSayin

    I agree with Haran. History is the foundation for all learning. Without it, there would be no perspective and no depth of understanding about anything. No one learns from the future.

  • nielmalan

    I take it that you mean just the memory of history? That the books will still exist?

    Then I’d say yes.Curious people would start reading it again, and there’d be a collective gasp at what we’ve done to each other, and collective wonder at what we’ve achieved. We’d then look at how we run the world and make changes to that.

  • lldemats

    Of course not. Overcoming bad shit is part of what makes us great or at least pretty good. If we erased the bad shit we would be erasing the good shit.

  • Chiel Wieringa

    I think getting the facts straight about history would be a much better idea. The hate is not derived from knowing history, it’s a result of “knowing” a distorted version of history. The victors of history always tell their version.

  • Madame Blue

    A quote on the wall of my high school Government classroom: History repeats itself because nobody listens.

    If we eliminated all human history, we would be performing the ultimate act of not listening, and we would solve absolutely nothing. Even if it meant that all our tribalisms were eliminated, the original ones would likely reassert themselves. Alternatively, new ones would form, because people constantly find new and innovative ways to bully, harm, and generally piss each other off.

    Education, reflection, and analysis are much better ways to combat human pettiness and hatred.

  • Geopolitical and religious history, def yes. If given a choice i wouldnt erase history of science, medicine etc but if not given I’d go with erasing it all. As humans we take our past and ourselves in general a bit too seriously. We here for a finite time, wev def not done too well with how wev brought ourselves up, its getting late and we have too many fundamental issues going wrong. so why not give ourselves a clean slate. What makes us so scared of the future that we want to hang on to our past.. Stories are ok, but our very survival is at stake. And whoever has read both sides to our historical stories. Victors write it and when have they bin wrong.

  • Y Shourya

    This reminds me of a quotation from George Orwell’s 1984, “He who controls the present, controls the past. And he who controls the past, controls the future.” That is to say, a lot of the decisions and policies that shape our world today, often bear some inspiration from the IMAGINED past.

    This can be a good thing -look at how Western Europe has rallied itself back from the moral evil and barbarism of WW2, to form the European Union. Today, the ‘turmoil’ in the EU is about the Greek financial crisis. Serious issue though it is, it is still a laughable First World Problem compared to what plagued Europe, about just four score years age.

    At the same time, nationalism also draws from an imagined past. To quote Orwell again, – “Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self deception.” Or as Einstein said it, “..is the measles of mankind.” Quite a few issues plaguing our world can be solved if it weren’t for our nationalistic pride drawn from an imagined past, and to ‘avenge’ for past crimes. (See the two Koreas, China vs Japan)

    As for religious history, I do think deleting that alone from the annals of our history would do tremendous good to this world. Ideally, this would mean no more extremists inspired by outdated ideologies, no more religious tensions in the world, etc. (see Middle East, Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Spanish Inquision, Caste system, etc)

  • Vilius Puidokas

    LOL. well, removing a reason for emotion does not remove the emotion itself, so now you end up with millions of people still feeling indifferent to each other without any idea as to why..

  • Anthony Churko

    I don’t understand how anyone could believe that ignorance of history leads to peace.

    Absolutely, there are groups of people who hate other groups of people for events that happened centuries ago. But that’s a stupid reason to continue hating somebody. History may be the excuse for the hatred, but pettiness, ignorance, and irrationality are the actual cause. If you took away the excuse, they’d just find another one.

    Ignorance is not an antidote to ignorance.

  • Korakys

    This is not even close for me. Keep history.

    I’ve tried Hello Internet before, but I just disagree with everything that comes out of Grey’s mouth, which is odd because I really like his videos.

  • HockeyMom47

    Keep history. Without it, we would also stand to lose the expressions of those times that were created in art, music, poetry, theater, film, etc.

  • Bindle

    I had an alternative thought: Suppose we introduce a policy that after the last person who knew you personally dies, your *name* disappears from history? So Alexander the Great, Peter, Catherine, Alfred, etc, all become X the Great. How would that affect those who would wish their names writ large across history’s heavens? Would Alexander the Great have done the same as he did?

    And how would it affect those, say, who toil in other fields? X’s theory of gravity? X’s uncertainty principle? X’s Mona Lisa or David? The collected plays and sonnets of X? X’s Razor of minimal assumptions?

    What would humans do if their part in the doings would not be remembered beyond their grandchildren?

    • Paul

      Probably it would lead to a under achievement of knowledge, the way I see it, every humano wants to write his name in history, even if it’s a small one.
      Books, science, sports, music, arts, even religion would dissappeare.
      Also fewer children because people want to be remembered through them.

  • Butch

    Human nature and culture seem to dictate our behaviour as a whole, removing historical reference would probably only serve to allow us to recreate all of our triumphs and failures with impunity.

    • David Morris

      Correct

  • David Morris

    Better the ignorance of history does not lead to peace. History proves the ignorance if history does not lead to peace. In fact it does the opposite. One reason why black people are racist towards whites is because of slavery and Jim Crow laws. Ironically by keeping this part of history alive all we are doing is creating more hatred. Isreal gets away with violating the Geneva Convention because of the Holocaust,. They use it as a blanket to commit atrocities. something no other country in the planet (other than the US) can do. Communism did terrible things, but the memory of empire has caused the Russians to feel vulnerable and the need to prove strength.
    However, there is a negative side. History is more than just war. It is also invention. Without the knowledge of history how could we enjoy Mozart, or Michelangelo? Without history how could we know the passionate speech of MLK? Or the greatness (or lack thereof) of the founding Fathers? There is good and bad throughout history. But, overall I believe it would make the world a better place.

    • David Morris

      Of course we would just repeat most history. But, hopefully the worst things like slavery and the holocaust would not be repeated

  • Nunzioni

    Wouldn’t billions of people die very quickly? Erasing all historical knowledge would have to erase a lot, if not all, scientific knowledge, and a world without scientific knowledge would have no idea how to support 7 billion people. Everyone would have to relearn everything super quickly, and people would be scrambling to do that while starvation was ravaging the planet. Our whole infrastructure would collapse.

    • Jeff Alberda

      I don’t think that’s the point of the question. It’s not erasing our advances and our technology, its just erasing the history, politics, personal and passed down issues that have galvanized people against their neighbours.
      Harans point is that we would lose the lessons from those issues. Without knowledge of the Nazi war crimes against the Jews etc would we be better off having those wronged without their biases or the Germans with no account of how their letting fascism run amok in their country negatively affected them. Or would we be better off with Americans not remembering Pearl Harbor but the Japanese not knowing how imperialism led to their downfall?

      We would have all the operational knowledge but none of the baggage from being wronged and also none of the learning from our past mistakes.

      • MoonRazor

        So erasing all of human knowledge of history would mean, we would still have a stable society but we wouldn’t know who we are? I’m having trouble wrapping my head around this topic because I don’t understand how we could be operational without knowing our history. In your post you ask “Without knowledge of the Nazi war crimes against the Jews etc would we
        be better off having those wronged without their biases or the Germans
        with no account of how their letting fascism run amok in their country
        negatively affected them. Or would we be better off with Americans not
        remembering Pearl Harbor but the Japanese not knowing how imperialism
        led to their downfall?” But if we are forgetting all knowledge of history, would we even know if we are Americans, Jewish, Japanese etc? The awful things that happened in the past wouldn’t even matter at that point. Unless I’m thinking too hard about this.

        • David Morris

          No we would not

          Nationalism is the measels of mankind a juvenile disease. And although I do believe race exists (biologically) and is not a social construct, racial hierarchy is a social construct. No race is better or worse. So in erasing our past we also erase the hate and ideology that divides mankind. Build a new society and hope we don’t fall in the pit traps of the past. Of course that is assuming we still have the morals we have today, which obviously come from history. It’s a long shot, but worth the chance.

          • MoonRazor

            I like that you believe in humanity enough to embrace the idea of deleting history from our minds. How long would you expect us to live peacefully under those circumstances? Human nature would eventually cause some sort of conflict. Just seems like a drastic leap for such little returns.

  • Sekai Yukki

    If you look at it from a more personal scale, ignoring history is like ignoring whatever wrong you did in the past. It’s true that the mistakes of the past can carry over to your future and affect how you live, but without the mistakes you made, how will you succeed? Humans learn from their mistakes so they won’t make the same mistake again. And that’s why human rights have come a long way. We now have international laws in place that protects prisoner of war and punish people on their war crimes, so tragedies like the Nanking massacre and the holocaust won’t happen again in the future. It’s true these events created a lot of hate, but these will die down with time and as people learn to forgive (It’d be pretty weird to hate someone for things their country did 1000 years ago rather than 100 years ago). War happens, and people do shitty things during the war, regardless of country. And historical consequences like this makes the future decedents realize that what they did was a BAD thing, and we shouldn’t do that again if we are in the same situation.
    So no, I would not erase history. Ever.

  • chriseverett01

    If one were to erase something, wouldn’t it be more interesting to imagine what the world would be like if we suddenly lost the ability to hate? Imagine a virus that disabled or destroyed the part of the brain that allowed hatred – and this virus infected the entire population of earth. While we would still know our history and technology, past wars would seem like an abstract concept. Similar to Vulcans, we would view ancient conflicts as illogical yet mildly fascinating from a clinical standpoint. For me, that would be a fascinating thought exercise.

    • David Morris

      But what else would go missing along with hate. The hippocampus (correct me if I’m wrong) controls our emotions. In getting rid of one would we not get rid of them all? What would an emotionless world be like. Without love or any other emotion how can we advance? Remember it is emotion good or bad that drives innovation.

  • DeeDee Massey

    Don’t do it. Because, then I’ll never know why I came into this room.

  • MoonRazor

    My snap decision would be to keep our history in tact. I read part of a book called The Future of the Mind by Michio Kaku. In that book it states that we build our lives around our past using the best outcome of any given situation to progress towards to best possible future (this was sort of how consciousness was explained). Our history is part of our consciousness and for it to be erased, all the trial and error that we have experience with would be erased. Erasing history would mean we would have to forget a vast amount of knowledge that we need to exist as a race. We would have to start from scratch. Im wondering if an acceptable outcome is even possible from erasing history. I say acceptable because I cant fathom a positive outcome.

  • David

    I honestly cannot see any valid argument for erasing history.

  • tom s

    History is pretty much made up in the US by the publishing houses. Total lies like Lincoln was a great president and not the inept war mongering shill for the northeast elite that he was are fabricated as facts.

    • David Morris

      This is true, look up the Anaconda plan.. Could have starved the south to reintegrate instead of a war costing almost a million lives. Lincoln was a fool.

  • Jerome

    No.

    But if you do do it, erase what?

  • Cankrist

    Keep it! One of the reasons that humans evolved to be the dominate species in the first place is the ability to transfer wisdom, lessons, and experience down to lower generations.

    Unfortunately, part of that “experience” includes mistrust of certain groups, religions, and ideologies, but is that really so bad?

    Personally, I’d rather keep the knowledge of the Holocaust and all of the warning signs available for future generations than get rid of past racism, because even if we wipe out all of the previous built up hatred in the world, that doesn’t mean that it won’t find a way to reassert itself.

    I mean, we were once a blank slate, were we not? And look how that turned out.

    • David Morris

      Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge from past experiences into future ones… Sorry to say, but we are failing in that regards. Just look at Ukraine 100 years ago a similar situation lead us into war… You think we learned from that? I doubt it, considering politicians are not historians. Or the US arming ISIS, like we armed Hezbollah, both of which turned on us. Or the fact that everywhere our military goes it destabilizes the region making things worse… Humanity has no wisdom

  • Manu Tena

    I think that if we erased history to remove old fights and confrontations, we will recreate those fights again. Humans are stupid and need to love and hate. Human ambition will always create conflicts no matter where we go and no mater how much history we know.

  • Michael Nelson

    Goodness this question made me cringe as soon as I read the email heading. This is an immediate and very strong no thank you please. If you left everyone self aware but without a historical notion of who the human race has been or what we’ve learned with our time here, we’d be losing so much. Science would be blasted out of the water. Science is reliant on standing on the shoulders of giants, working on previous experiments and continuing the long search for knowledge. With all that information wiped, we’ve pulled the floor out from our feet. We’d literally be at square one, every person who knows science would have relearn because as the question says, we wipe all human knowledge which includes what we know. We wouldn’t even have thesis and reports to reread. We’d have to go back through the Stone Age before we got back to the Renaissance where we learned so much. So in my opinion, I’d be willing to keep the hate humans have made in exchange for the centuries of knowledge we have accumulated. The benefit of the wipe direct even compare to the cost.

  • ericsp23

    First off, I reject the premise that forgetting about the past will make things better in the present. People will still hate each other and do bad things to each other, they’ll just do it for different reasons The “they have something we want, so we will take it from them by any means necessary” mentality does not need any historical precedents to exist. Maybe it would make things better in some parts of the world, but in my opinion we would lose more than we would gain in the process.
    Also, I think historical knowledge can sometimes cut the other way too. Look at Europe after WW2. The major nations of western Europe put aside their rivalries that went back centuries and started to cooperate with one another. After the carnage of two world wars, everyone realized that things had to change or these horrific wars would continue to happen. Obviously things aren’t perfect, but there hasn’t been any major wars between western European powers since WW2 and things are much better now than they were in the past when such wars were not uncommon.

  • Delly

    I say no, don’t erase it. If you erase it, you aren’t solving history, you’re ignoring it. Those who suffered through World War 2 aren’t just going to move on if you take that part of history away. You aren’t acknowledging the suffering and how we as a species overcame it, and makes them feel shitty. I do concede that history mucks up relations between countries and all that, but isn’t part of being human knowing your roots? Erasing history tells us about our past to improve our future as well, without knowing about Hitler, how would we have known about the tyranny of the third reich? History tries to tell us not to make the same mistakes again. And anyway, history is too ingrained in society. Even if we do erase it, people are bound to be curious.

    Hey, but some history is just a bunch of propaganda spinned out by governments to make us feel better about being patriotic. Look at North Korea.

  • While the “going to the dogs” mentality held by many pessimists continues to flourish, the fact remains that humanity is on an upward trajectory. Current wars, while horrifying, pale in comparison to horrors of the World Wars and the plethora of civil wars that raged across much of the world with the collapse of the colonial era. Health care is becoming more accessible and more advanced every day. When compared to the days of slavery or feudalism, human rights are becoming more respected and wide spread than ever before. Hunger is decreasing, education is increasing. The world is still a shit place for many people, but I would venture to say that it is becoming less shit by the year, even if the progress is not always obvious. This advancement is built on an increase in human wisdom and understanding, the advent of a global community where race, religion and nationality are becoming less important, and minorities are becoming better understood and more accepted, and human rights are more respected than ever.

    If we removed all knowledge of history, and in particular of the atrocities that were committed in the past, it would make a re-living of those atrocities more likely. We would revert back to the most obvious divisions between us, we would naturally gravitate towards those that share our skin colour, our hair colour, those that sound like us, those that live in our communities. This would mean bad news for minorities all over the world, because they would automatically be outnumbered, and any conflict would escalate to slaughter and subjugation.

    A more interesting question for me would be, would it be a good thing if we maintained our history, but removed the mechanisms of power. i.e. if we woke up tomorrow and our bank accounts all showed the same number, we all had access to quality education and health care, the wealth of the world was distributed evenly between countries according to their population. Because ultimately it is the entrenched balances of power that perpetuate the divisions between us. Remove those and lets see how the world realigns.

    • jonathan

      I agree with you Mr. Randera-Rees. The world is on an upward trajectory for sure. Steven Pinker in “Better Angels of our Nature” points out that you never see village hangings anymore… even the USA with its death penalty (One of the last in the world) doesn’t use it nearly as much as countries did centuries ago.

      There is no promise that this will continue though. We have to be able to remember our mistakes and learn from history. The more history I learn the more precious our place in it becomes… We are learning from our mistakes I think.

      What a happy thought!

      Jonathan

    • Scott

      I’m with you Samir. I would venture we are only on this upward trend BECAUSE of history. You cannot divorce the present from the past. It’s like saying “what if we could bake a cake without putting in a single ingredient?” It’s just not possible. And the idea that erasing history would somehow end the ills that persist seems short-sighted at best, and quite reckless. As this is a thought experiment, I’m not breaking into cold sweats here. But erasing history to me would be fraught with tremendous unintended consequences; in my opinion, they would be of the unfortunate variety. I found the idea pretty intriguing at first. But the more I think of it, the more I think it would be disastrous to erase human history.

      The bank account idea is something else to think about. But I believe that competition has led to a lot of very good things in society. A by-product is a disparity of wealth. And I would absolutely agree that in many cases, the imbalance is out of control. But I’m not convinced the an equalization of all net-worth and privilege is the answer to that particular problem. I’m not a stats guy, but I wonder what an equalization of all income based on population would mean? How many people would see their net-worth increase and vice versa? Would low population countries be left with enough capital to function? I’m thinking perhaps Greenland might struggle? This is not math to be trusted too much, but I took GDP of the globe and divided it by the population, and got $10,609.12/person. Then, doing the same at the national level, I got the following:

      1) USA: $52,587
      2) Switzerland: $84,816
      3) Greenland: $22,449
      4) India: $1,499
      5) Iran: $4,763

      I was not surprised to find that USA and Switzerland are wealthy, in global terms. I was surprised a bit by the next three. No conclusion here. But you definitely made me think, Samir. And it’s interesting to think that were this to happen, Greenland would suddenly have less than half the GDP it currently has, not to mention Switzerland’s absolute free fall.

  • trogdr

    hmm this is hard to answer since this is a complicated topic if you say history does this mean everything we know of the past what about knowledge what about skills those are all connected what about philosophy
    BUT WAIT what about all the people dying being killed this would erase religion and all the damages it did to us
    hard question nice dinner table

  • John Bain
  • Jerry Bradbury

    “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. ” – George Santayana

  • Vivid

    Damn, the act of even asking the question scared me. But I accept if it is being asked at big platforms (Hello internet, and of course, wait buy why), it may have some significance. But for me personally, I can’t begin to answer this question without terrifying myself. I think many people are against wars only because of the horrific nature of historical wars, otherwise a war is just a heroic way of defending something. Suppose you don’t know WW-II happened, nuclear weapons used in Japan, and how terrible Vietnam war was – then what’s stopping any country to cause war again. It would seem as if it is a good thing. That the country waging the war is a hero and rightly defending something. It would all seem as a “necessity”, till we realize the dead-count.
    In my country (India), there were some shitty rituals (burning women alive after his husband died). And I’ve read that the most intelligent people here believed the ritual to be a good thing for some reason. What if we forgot all these atrocities that we caused? Wouldn’t we start at the beginning and do that all over again?

    • Thomas Dirscherl (Primer2004)

      In your opinion: How many people would have burned women alive if they hadn’t known about all the instances in the past when women had been burned alive?

      Knowing about history was the reason for the shitty rituals in the first place.

      I agree with you in the nature of the question though. Many possible Interpretation, many inconsistencies.

      But it is interesting to see that people feel the world learned from WW2, but ignore that it happened because of the knowledge of WW1.

      While history most of the time consists of pure horror, knowledge of history seems to connote an irrevocably positive concept in peoples’ minds. Astonishing.

  • David

    When was the last time a historian ran for the office of the President or Senator in the U.S.A. and win? We should demand that all our politicians can prove they are experts in American history before they even THINK about running for office. Some kind of academic exam is in order, at the very least. Five or six generations of a political order like that, maybe this country really would start learning from past mistakes and become less ideologically driven.

  • Jake S

    Absolutely not. Everything we have learned was through trial and error and wiping out our history would wipe our our perspective of who we are, what we came from and what is most important now. Without knowledge of the past there would be nothing to base our future decisions off of. Humanity would lose all of its experience and would have to start from square one on deciding what is right and wrong.

    Besides the moral issue, the logistics of deleting all of our history would be another problem. How could we forget the past without forgetting almost everything we know about the world? All of our art and literature is full of our history whether it is fiction or not, so it would have to go. How could we know that the earth is round without knowing how we know it? Each human being’s thinking would have to be altered in a way that is difficult to even comprehend. Without our history, we could not be human.

  • Joe90

    There are many individuals and governments that have tried to expunge history and learning . This should provide as much of an answer as you need.

  • PHN

    A pessimistic thought struck me at once. Knowledge of history is sparse among large portions of the population; a history-neutralized present might be indistinguishable from our own time in the minds of many.

  • Rusty Shackleford

    Just plain asinine question, to be frank. I’m curious what the take was on “Hello Internet”.

  • Jeff

    After reading through the comments, most of them seem to be”ARE YOU CRAZY!!??ABSOLUTELY NOT!”
    And I would have too agree. At first i disagreed because i thought that would solve all the racism in the world like black-south and imperialist-colonist type. But then I thought “Would it?” White Americans would see the desperate condition blacks and Latinos are in and view them as a lesser species, as the southern American do now. Same with some former colonies.

    • Thomas Dirscherl (Primer2004)

      And then they would look at their President and conclude that they must be the lesser species?

      • Jeff

        most likley be the same racist bastard type thought again, so yea

  • Jim Mataczynski

    Can I just erase my history and start over?
    Unfortunately, most people (including a lot of influential people) seemed to have erased world history already. Why are ‘we’ and our ‘friends’ trying to stabilise a few randomly drawn up, mideastern countries. Look, I don’t like seeing people hurt or killed for no good reason. But it didn’t work for the UK, CCCP, France, US.
    So, no don’t erase history. Better yet, scream it to our political every day and every second. Maybe they’ll get a clue. However unlikely that is.

  • Edward Wittrock

    If we do not study history we are likely to relive it.

  • Edward Wittrock

    What Do the Fascists do in arabic, ahrab, Mohammaden countries when they want to Have complete control The masses. . . keep them away from other persons history. I am not being xenophobic here just reporting what is happening daily in the mid east. Women beating or killing other women that allow what the beater ajudicates is too much dermal tissue. what happened to ” I can see your eyelids knock it off”. unlimited power removes all limits from zealots.

  • wobster109

    No, I would not do it. As lovely as it feels to imagine that humans are naturally, inherently kind and caring, I feel what’s more likely is we are naturally fearful of people who look different. We’ve learned to respect people of other races and cultures because our long history teaches us that they are human. If we lost our history, we’d have to rediscover that, slowly and painfully. We had to learn that slavery is cruel, that women are equal, that workers have needs, and that gays love their families. These lessons did not come easily; we won them with our blood, tears, and lives. Regaining our lost wisdom isn’t likely to be much easier the next time around.

    • Thomas Dirscherl (Primer2004)

      History taught us we could easily enslave them or kill them. Looking at them teaches us that they are humans.

      Let’s say you didn’t know about the Native Americans, Napoleon, Ceasar, Hitler or Vietnam. How on earth would that make you or anyone else come to the conclusion that women shouldn’t be equal?

      Let’s stay at women’s rights: Are women allowed to vote because we learned from history? Which historical event would that have been? Or… Were women not allowed to vote in the firat place because of historical reasons?

  • Thomas Dirscherl (Primer2004)

    I’m truly baffled. I had expected the majority of commenters on this site would agree with my view on this: Delete it! I’m aware I’m a little late to the game, but still I want to understand what mistakes I’m making analyzing this.

    I think thouse of you considering it wrong or crazy to erase history from our minds make the mistake of not taking into account the historical context of past events (yeah, “erase history”, because “historical context” sounds a bit strange, but stay with me on this). All those terrible things which happend in the past, they happened for a reason. Just like the terrible things happening today.

    Take East Germany. The Stasi was collecting data on essentially every citizen. A bad thing, as we all know. Since 9/11, the 5-Eyes are collecting even more data, and not just of their citizens, but on everyone. Many people are not opposed to this, because they consider their security a greater good than freedom. I’m sure – at least in a few decades – the vast majority would consider this development a big mistake. But in the historical context of peoples fear and the “war on terror”, that’s the direction the world was heading.

    Where I’m going with this is: If I had thrown you in the historical context of the crusades, don’t be too sure you wouldn’t have participated enthusiastically (adventure, steal some things for your family, etc.).

    Let’s take another angle. What would you (yes, you!) do differently if you didn’t know history? Would you nominate the head of the Ku Klux Klan for president because you’d suddenly hate black people? Would you think it was a good idea to attack another country for their ressources? I don’t think so. Now if you’d lived in the medieval times, that might have been another story. Food was scarce, violence common. The trade-off between raiding another village and the fear of bringing your children through winter might have resulted in a different assessment of the situation.

    I do not see a reason why the mistakes of the past should be repeated if we didn’t know about them from history. Can you name a possible mistake which was avoided because we knew better from history?

    Probably there are a few, but there also are a few conflicts in the world which solely stem from history. Actually I think most of the current conflicts are due to history. As well as most of the past colflicts happend due to history. THat’s why they teach you history at school, to understand why this war or that war happaned, because without the things that happened before the war, the war wouldn’t have happaned. And quite often it should have been enough if people just hadn’t known the past.

    • Panda

      “Can you name a possible mistake which was avoided because we knew better from history?”- slavery, disease, anti-lgbt, to name a few.
      Personally, the problem I see with your analysis is that deleting history sounds like it removed all the inherent traits of humanity. It will removed the fallacious belief of people about others based on history yes, but what makes you think it will also remove basic human traits: curiosity, survival instinct, greed, etc? So then what makes your neighbor country more deserving of the boundless food supply while your own country is suffering from famine? Would you just let your country kick the bucket when available resources are right next door? Or expected the neighbor country to help “for the better of humanity”?

      • Thomas Dirscherl (Primer2004)

        Well, things like “neighbor countries” (or “my country”, for that matter) would not mean very much to me. And they wouldn’t mean much to my neighbor seither.

        But of course there would still be greed, curiosity and everything else, so I suppose we’d still need to sit together, trying to figure things out. Just like today. And just like today not some things wouldn’t work out. But “we have been a superpower for decades, thus our marine definitelly needs to keep their access to the mediterranen sea” would not be valid reasoning anymore.

        Slavery? Disease? Anti-LGBT?

        Disease does not fall into the “history” category. But the others are actually perfect examples of mistakes NOT beim avoided at all.

        There has been Anti-LGBT for centuries, probably millenia. And not even Hitler made the rest of the world aware what a stupid idea it is to discriminate (and worse) sexual minorities. Look at Saudi Arabia, look at Russia, look at the Bible Belt.

        And slavery is an even better example. The old Egyptians had slaves. Die the Romans learn that this is

        • Panda

          The premise was that you have “basic understanding of human knowledge and documentation of history”. Advancement in medical field (which prevents more and more diseases) doesn’t happen without recorded knowledge.
          Your examples are flawed in a way that history is made out to be the key factor that leads to repetition, ignoring other factors that we both agreed would still exist without history. Slavery repeats itself. Is it because of history? Maybe. Or is it because greed, the superiority complex that led them to steal human and resources? Just as likely. Likewise with LGBT. Anti-LGBT wasn’t even a thing until modern time. For the countries that approved of LGBT, did any of them became anti-LGBT once again? Perhaps I’m ignorance in that aspect but you’re welcome to prove me wrong.
          Knowledge and the ability to logically reason doesn’t just happen overnight, much less improvement in said ability. Your reasoning are based under the impression that people in history has the same knowledge and understanding as people today. Once you learn to accept that kidnapping people, forcing them to work for you is wrong, only then will be able to grasp the ugliness of slavery. That is where progress happens. Does that means everyone will learn from history and all become better people? Of course not, because history isn’t the only factors that drive humanity.
          Wiping history will ensure that next generation will not have to learn of all the ugliness in history, but without it, the grasp of causes and consequences will be lacking or even absent. After all, without ugliness that happened, how do you reason that your action can lead to something terrible? What is stopping someone from snatching people, collared them down and do the work for him/her? Nothing. It’s a world full of uncertainties at which can either lead human to ASI level or repeats things that could make Hitler looks like a saint. You’re stepping into the unknown claiming that it would be a much better world without knowing what you’re stepping into.

          • Thomas Dirscherl (Primer2004)

            History was not the “key factor that leads to repetition” regarding e.g. slavery, I didn’t want to infer that. It’s just: Knowledge of history certainly didn’t prevent slavery, as one can easily see from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_slavery. Throughout history, people knew there was slavery. And still slavery continued.

            I’m not saying slavery happened due to history (though that might probably be true for other atrocities like the burning women alive when their husband died in india, as mentioned by another commenter), but I’m saying the idea that we don’t have slavery now because of what we learned from history is wrong.

            That’s what I find so baffling about all this. You’re using slavery as an example to prove your point, and I’m also using slavery to prove my point. Same with the “impression that people in history have the same knowledge and understanding as people today”. In my view, your reasoning is based on that impression. Thus you conclude that without knowledge of history, people would behave like cavemen again, speaking figuratively.

            Overall this discussion reminds me of discussions with religious people, who insist that there can be no moral and no empathy in the world without God. They think if you don’t believe in God, you just walk around killing and raping people, because in their worldview, a higher moral being is the only way to peaceful coexistence. I think saying “knowledge about history is necessary to prevent mistakes from the past” is just as wrong as that.

            • Panda

              I do wonder what intrigued Abraham Lincoln to end slavery in the US then, how we came to think that slavery is bad today. How did our understanding of morality progresses? I did mentioned without that moral progression, history can (and did, a lot) repeat itself. No one is arguing that. No one is even arguing that knowing history WILL prevent ugliness from repeating. History is again, one of the many factors that drive humanity. Keeping history doesn’t necessarily has to prevent anything, but deleting it doesn’t either. Yet you’re the one claiming “But it would be better than this mess.”. As far as I’m concerned more uncertainties open up for more possibilities, both better and worse. How are you so certain that it will be better? A leap of faith?

            • Thomas Dirscherl (Primer2004)

              I’m looking at the world’s conflicts. Middle East, Pakistan, North Korea, Africa, Russia. Those conflicts did not start just so, most of them are ongoing struggles between cultures or religions which have been going for decades or centuries. Without history, these could all end. Only conflicts for ressources would remain, which are just a tiny part of our current conflicts.

              Thus I think the possibillities for better by far outweight those for worse.

            • Panda

              Do you honestly believe that most of the world conflicts today are over “religions” or “cultures”? IS fighting for Islam? Anyone buys that except IS followers? North Korea fighting against oppression? Anyone buys that? I’m not even sure their citizens or officials buy that. They might have started out over religions and/or cultures, and not all of them do, but who would buy the idea that most of the conflicts today are over religions or cultures except the ones within the conflicts themselves?
              In a complex system, removing one aspect, which undoubtedly is not perfect, doesn’t necessarily makes the system better or worse. For a decision that would affect an entire world, the one with more uncertainties would never be picked. And on that note I’d end my contribution to this conversation.

  • cotpoe

    This is truly an ironic question because in my opinion – the problem is not that people have too much access to history but that they have too little.
    “Those who control the past, control the future. Those who control the present, control the past”

    Every power structure re-frames history – with additions, distortions, deletions depending on what suits them. Over many periods this repeated distortion leads to a public “history” that is little more than storybook caricature of past.
    Knowledge is power and true unvarnished picture of the past would be great knowledge and wisdom in the hands of the public If the masses actually knew what went behind the great theatres – wars,treaties, organized cults or whatever greater good opium is being peddled etc they would be too skeptical and self-aware to bow to the whims of the powers that be. The Propoganda games of Statecraft depend on keeping the people ignorant, to distort their knowledge of the past so that things can be framed and ignorant masses controlled more easily – their passions inflamed when required, their focus distracted when necessary and of course when war is required, appropriate demonization of the “enemy” can be carried out so that they readily sacrifice bodies and broken families for “just” wars.

    It is untarnished access to a) true past history and b) Critical Thinking skills that is truly required for a vigilant citizenry. A properly informed and critically thinking mass is the fundamental requirement of a free democratic society – something even Plato recognized thousands of years ago.

    And of course, every power that be tries its best to curtail precisely these two aspects. Hence why appropriate “education” of the children is one of the first steps of a new regime ( whatever form it may take).

    We as individuals without our personal life story – life memory would be greatly diminished ( Suppose a person loses his lifetime of memories). After all all our past – times of peace,love and happiness and times of pain,trial and tribulation forms who we are and forms a platform for our further growth.

    The same is true for humanity as a collective. The problem is that in this case – humanity’s life story-memories is not available clean and undistributed. Rather memories are incomplete and distorted – deliberately so in order to gain control over the narrative so that it is difficult to make proper use of it for the future.

    • cotpoe

      A simple point illustrates how bad loss of historical memory is. If you observe the patterns of history with the swings from oppression to relative freedom and back to oppression, it is easy to see how within 3-4 generations that is about 90-120 years all the hard wrought lessons and experiences are lost. At best a generation is able to remember the lesson of their grandfathers or 1-2 generations more.
      Thus the cyclical pattern observed: bondage, awakening,courage and struggle, freedom and liberty,prosperity,selfishness,apathy,dependence and then back to bondage.

      This is precisely the reason why the cliche “history repeats itself” ( or at least rhymes) – since following loss of historical memory, mistakes are repeated since human thought remains unchanged.

      This is because while our technology has evolved at rocket speed, our institutions at a snail or tortoise pace – our thought, the way humans think has remained virtually frozen.

      In the face of this unchanged human behavior, It is our poor tattered distorted much maligned history that allows our civilization to move in its ‘two steps forward, one step back’ zigzag upward path. Without it, we would be doomed to self-destruction with increasing probability ( considering our accelerating sci/tech knowhow)

      Rather than thinking of erasing the so called “burden” of history, we collectively should be thinking of how to propagate it over time without loss of quantum of value and distortion so that in this epoch of inflection points and exponential sci/tech growth, we can prevent increasingly more cataclysmic mistakes.

  • Wayne Newsome

    Don’t erase history, we just need to erase individuals’ personal memories for a day. Then we wouldn’t know which side we were supposed to be on! It’s hard to oppress someone else if that someone else may be yourself. You would be forced by circumstance to be objective, forced to consider all sides before acting, forced to treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated – is that what we were trying to achieve by this thought experiment?

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