Cultural Traps Happen

That is the story of finding Archimedes of Syracus’s description of a modern infinitesimal approach to integrating the area under a curve.  One of the two most-fundamental operations in engineering calculations.

Proof that mechanical arts were far advanced in Greece in 100 BC.

Then Rome happened, Greece was conquered, Archimedes was killed by Roman soldiers, intellectual progress was re-directed to military conquest to capture slaves, building roads, aqueducts, weapons and running an empire where only slaves did things with their hands.

1500 years later, the world got back on track. 2000 years later, we discovered the loss of 1500 years of opportunity of civilization because Rome happened.

Wonder if they knew they were off-course, were moving away from habits of mind that would produce health, wealth and a lot of fun, if not happiness?  Could they have known?  Would they have believed anyone who told them?  How would you make that argument?

Would your argument have any effect in a society where the elite’s wealth came from slave raids, where Julius Caesar enslaved Gauls 100,000 at a time, becoming unbelievably wealthy himself and sharing it with his soldiers?

Systems have dynamics.  Water flowing downhill creates whirlpools.  Roman military technology + slaves ==> Roman Empire. 800 years was a good run, as Empires go.  Recent history suggests Empires don’t last that long now, but 800 years was likely a lot of Archimedes.

Wonder what Archimedes have been killed since? Opportunity costs are hard to measure,  Empires aren’t good at that.

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