The Inexorably Positive Direction of Human Destiny

Philosophers, historians, and futurists have speculated about the outcome of human destiny and whether the arrow of history points in a positive or negative direction, or in any particular direction at all. Some of these speculations are utopian in nature, such as Ray Kurzweil's anticipation in the relatively near future of what he calls the Singularity, an accelerating rate of technological change that will allow the merger of human brain power and computer power. He predicts this will lead to elimination of illness, hunger, poverty, pollution and allow people to live as long as they wish.

The opposite pole of the speculative continuum contains dark visions of human decline, cataclysm, and even extermination. Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford, believes society severely underestimates the risk of extinction by its own hand. Unlike Kurzweil, he emphasizes the future dangers of technology "that could permanently destroy our potential for desirable human development. One could imagine certain scenarios where there might be a permanent global totalitarian dystopia" where oppressive regimes use technology for surveillance to weed out dissidents "so that you could have a permanently stable tyranny, rather than the ones we have seen throughout history which eventually have been overthrown" (The Atlantic, March, 6, 2012).

The field of Socionomics provides a specific model to guide and ground analysis of the future. Socionomics posits that social mood has a particular pattern based on the Wave Principle. This form is a five-wave sequence that essentially contains three steps forward and two steps backward.

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This pattern is seen in many types of social activity, including stock prices. The pattern is a fractal that repeats over and over in both short and long-term time periods. The rising waves involve positive social mood and denote progress and expansion, whereas declining waves embody negative social mood and denote regression and contraction.

In an uptrend, the two declining waves of negative social mood and regression only partially retrace the three rising waves of positive social mood and progress. Therefore a succession of multiple five-wave sequences will necessarily trend up over the long term, generating an upwardly-sloped sawtooth pattern. Bob Prechter wrote in The Wave Principle of Human Behavior that "setbacks are only partial and the long-term trend of humanity's progress is ever upward."

This leads to an exceedingly optimistic view about the ultimate path of human destiny. The inevitable conclusion from the Wave Principle is that over the long sweep of history, progress and expansion trump regress and contraction. Because social mood is endogenous to the Wave Principle, positive social mood therefore trumps negative social mood over the long term.

The field of socionomics has demonstrated that social mood is the underlying force that shapes social events. We can therefore extrapolate from the ascendancy of positive social mood the conclusion that every sphere of collective social activity will show progress and improvement over the long term. The extent of future cumulative progress is mind-boggling over long time frames. This conclusion is also consistent with historical evidence of vast progress in countless domains of human experience across many millenia.

This hopeful outlook has implications for all areas of human social activity and even our understanding of life itself. As Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker asked in 2011 in The Better Angels of Our Nature, “What could be more fundamental to our sense of meaning and purpose than a conception of whether the strivings of the human race over long stretches of time have left us better or worse off?”

This promising assessment of the future might be called into question by recent discouraging events that seem to imply a more pessimistic trajectory for humanity. The concept of a fall from grace has been a frequent theme in intellectual life, as shown by the historian Arthur Herman in The Idea of Decline in Western History. It seems the grass is always greener in the past.

But thoughts of the good old days and nostalgic yearnings for a simpler and presumably more innocent time obscure some forgotten realities. The harsh and brutal nature of life in previous eras, and the bountiful fruits of modernity, are graphically described in Pinker’s book. Social scientists and historians have compiled numerous facts documenting humankind’s progress, as reflected in their book titles: Getting Better, The Rational Optimist, The Improving State of the World, and The Progress Paradox.

For example, a recent study by 21 of the world's top economists evaluated the trajectory of 10 of the planet's most vexing problems from 1900 to the present to determine if there has been progress or deterioration. They also made projections from this data to 2050. The issues included human health, education, armed conflict, and environmental problems, among others. The study concluded that "overall, we can stop panicking. Things are generally getting better" and will continue to do so ( January 8, 2014.) These hard data show a 150-year trend of progress in addressing humanity's greatest challenges. 

Because the Elliott wave pattern is sawtooth in form and not a straight line up, it is inevitable there will be periods of backsliding and temporary reversal of gains. The tension between progress and regress, growth and decay, creation and destruction seems inherent to systems of natural life. Some of these periods of negative social mood will be (and historically have been) extremely intense and painful. But the Wave Principle tells us that the tide will inevitably turn--usually at a societal nadir when the outlook is bleakest and people despair for the future--and progress will inexorably resume.


A Megatheory of Human Destiny explains why human progress is inexorable.

Violence Will Continue to Decline provides an example of a social trend that has shown enormous improvement over the entire course of human history.