Kenneth Ewart Boulding (January 18, 1910 – March 18, 1993) was an economist, educator, peace activist, poet, religious mystic, devoted Quaker, systems scientist, and interdisciplinary philosopher. He was co-founder of General Systems Theory and founder of numerous ongoing intellectual projects in economics and social science.
Boulding observes that the date that divides human history into two equal parts is well within living memory. In effect, our century (20th) represents The Great Median Strip running down the centre of human history. Thus he asserts,
“The world of today … is as different from the world in which I was born as that world was from Julius Caesar’s. I was born in the middle of human history, to date, roughly. Almost as much has happened since I was born as happened before.”
This startling statement can be illustrated in a number of ways. It has been observed, for example, that if the last 50,000 years of man’s existence were divided into lifetimes of approximately sixty-two years each, there have been about 800 such lifetimes.
Of these 800, fully 650 were spent in caves.
Only during the last seventy lifetimes has it been possible to communicate effectively from one lifetime to another–as writing made it possible to do.
Only during the last six lifetimes did masses of men ever see a printed word.
Only during the last four has it been possible to measure time with any precision.
Only in the last two has anyone anywhere used an electric motor. And the overwhelming majority of all the material goods we use in daily life today have been developed within the present, the 800th, lifetime.
This 800th lifetime marks a sharp break with all past human experience because during this lifetime man’s relationship to resources has reversed itself. This is most evident in the field of economic development. Within a single lifetime, agriculture, the original basis of civilization, has lost its dominance in nation after nation. Today in a dozen major countries agriculture employs fewer than 15 percent of the economically active population.
It has been pointed out that if there is another world war we will be living in caves again.
And working the land.