What is Enlightenment 2.0?

My publisher asked me to set out the meaning of the phrase ‘Enlightenment 2.0’, which appears on the jacket of The Jolly Pilgrim, but isn’t formally explained in the text.

‘Enlightenment’ refers to the European enlightenment of the eighteenth century. This was the phase of history when humans (well, some humans) started to question certain assumptions laid down in prehistory and undertake a systematic, evidence-based investigation of the universe.

‘2.0’ is a reference to Web 2.0, the period in the early to mid noughties when the World Wide Web began to be characterised by user-generated content (e.g. Facebook / Wikipedia) as opposed to passively viewed content. In this sense, 2.0 implies the evolution and maturation of something.

In summary, ‘Enlightenment 2.0’ refers to a period of history (which I posit we are now entering) when humans (well, some humans) start to take advantage of a more rational, reasoned and systematic conceptual architecture for assessing – and regulating their behaviour within – the world around them.

That is: we’re a species of evolved fallible ape, making up civilisation on the fly, from scratch, without a rule book. Deal with it.

I refer readers to Part 10, subchapter 2 (page 373) of The Jolly Pilgrim.

If one were to accept that world view, one might share my conclusion that humankind is doing remarkably well at something that there is no underlying reason to suppose it should be able to do at all.

One might even take the view that this epoch represents an extraordinary upward trajectory in human affairs, and that – if we keep our heads – our species can look forward to ever more glorious ages of collective self actualisation and enlightenment, that will ultimately lead us to the stars.


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