What would the seven sages have made of the digital world?

As a starting point for understanding the digital future we face, it’s worth thinking about what the ancients might think if they suddenly tripped into a time warp and landed up in the present day. A good set is the ‘seven sages’, each of which (thank you Wikipedia) was known for a nugget of wisdom – so we have:

  • Cleobulus: “Moderation is best in all things”
  • Solon:  “Nothing in excess”
  • Chilon: “Do not desire the impossible”
  • Bias: “Most men are bad”
  • Thales: “Know thyself”
  • Pittacus: “Know thy opportunity”
  • Periander: “Be farsighted with everything”

The list essentially divides into three. Cleobulus, Solon and Chilon essentially say that we should set realistic targets; Bias and Thales highlight the fact that we are imperfect; and meanwhile, Pittacus and Periander emphasise the importance of understanding what is coming.

Perhaps, if we had all seven in a room, they might have said, “Look, there’s a lot going on but most important is to understand your place in it, to build on it in a way that you can cope with it. Build a picture of the future but remember to take into account that technology can, and will be used for both good and ill.”

Does this get us any further? Periander states the nub of the matter – that everything is involved, and that being far sighted is the key. We need as broad a picture as possible if we are going to get anywhere.

Onward and upward.

P.S. The fact that ‘Mr Moderation’, Cleobulus of Lindos was well known to be a tyrant is duly noted!