What Science Has Forgotten

Many people think that science will eventually be able to explain everything that happens in nature, and that technology will be able to reproduce it. Perhaps that is so, but even then, that day lies far into the future. Probably a more likely scenario is that the further science and technology advance, the deeper the mysteries of the world will grow. Even with topics that we believe science has solved for good, when you take a closer look, you'll find that plenty of problems have slipped through the cracks or been swept under the carpet. Furthermore, these are often the issues that are closest to us and most important in our daily lives. Take hunches or intuitions or premonitions, for example. They may have rational-sounding explanations, but our gut feelings tell us something is not quite right after all. Such examples are not at all uncommon. When you think about it, there are lots of things that modern civilization has forgotten all about. Maybe the time has come to stop for a moment and try to remember. The seeds of forthcoming science and technology are impatiently waiting to be discovered among the things we have left behind.


Too Much Free Time

For the early humans, life was probably pretty much a question of hunting, gathering, eating, sleeping, raising children, and simply staying alive from day to day. The separation between labor and leisure only occurred when people started to live in permanent settlements and were able to store food. Even then, leisure was only available to a select few. Eventually festivals appeared and the surplus time became “sacred.” When people began living in cities in the early modern era, the efficiency of daily life advanced, and routine tasks were increasingly handed over to others or to machines. With the IoT, both work and daily life will get ever more efficient and labor-saving, and we will have plenty of time on our hands to do nothing.

Emergence is the phenomenon of properties that appear of the whole and are not simply sums of the properties of its parts. Evolution, intuition, not to mention the brain, are typical examples of emergent phenomena. In recent years, researchers have been attempting to create emergent phenomena through simulations, but although they can mimic the forms that emerge, they may be unable to produce emergence itself. Emergence is the sudden appearance of something unexpected. If a phenomenon can be planned in advance with all options prepared, it can no longer be called emergent. For example, no matter how far the functions of the brain are explicated, we may never be able to fully understand what we call the “mind” or the “soul.”


It seems that these are not simply functions of the brain, but are deeply connected with the interaction between brain and body, and the brain and the environment. Taken to its extreme, what you have for breakfast may affect what kind of ideas you come up with during the rest of the day. Moreover, groundbreaking ideas rarely pop up when you are thinking hard about a problem, but appear out of the blue when you’re doing something completely different like taking a bath or going for a walk.