An entire political, moral, economic and intellectual culture – roughly what is now called ‘the West’ – grew around the values entailed by the quest for good explanations, such as tolerance of dissent, openness to change, distrust of dogmatism and authority, and the aspiration to progress both by individuals and for the culture as a whole.

With the enlightenment: In all those cases, Universality was being sought deliberately, as a desirable feature in its own right–even a necessary feature for an idea to be true–and not just as a means of solving a Parochial problem.

Links to this note


The act of using Creativity to come up with new Explanations. See also:


The growth of Knowledge consists of correcting misconceptions in our theories. Ever since the Enlightenment this had happened through a tradition of criticism. New explanations are proposed, criticized, and then refined. Since the tradition of Conjecture and criticism has created all Knowledge and Progress it's absolutely imperative that we keep it. Free speech is critical. No idea should be beyond criticism.

Dynamic Societies

A society that is dominated by rational memes. Dynamic societies celebrate the ideals of the Enlightenment such as tolerance, free speech, and a willingness to change.


A statement about what is there, what it does, and how and why. Predictions about what is going to happen next are insufficient explanations.

Jump to Universality

The tendency of gradually improving systems to undergo a sudden large increase in functionality, becoming universal in some domain. The first Universal System we know of was DNA. All organisms on earth are encoded with the same alphabet of DNA bases, just using different combinations.


We have made virtually no progress over the vast majority of human history. Our species has existed for 200,000 years and for the vast majority of that time, people were alive, they were thinking, they were suffering, and they wanted things. But nothing ever improved. The improvements that did happen happened so slowly that archaeologists can’t distinguish between artifacts from eras separated by thousands of years. Then there was slow improvement, and then faster improvement. Then there were attempts to institutionalize a tradition of Criticism, which is the key to rapid progress—that is, progress discernible in a human lifetime—and there was also Error Correction, so that regression was less likely. That happened several times and failed every time except once—in the European Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.