I’ve been busy this week as a result of a new idea for something at work — that’s why things have started out quiet. Yet there are two other ideas floating around my head begging to get out. This is one of them.
I listen to a lot of science podcasts. In them, I hear discussions about how the dinosaurs lived for millions of years, how the earth and the universe are billions of years old. I then look at us puny humans. As an intelligent species for which we have a record, we’ve been on the planet for what — perhaps 20,000 to 100,000 years. If you want a written record? Under 10,000 years. We are truly an insignificant blink the the life of this planet.
I think about this every time I drive down a street and look at the houses. Will our houses be here in 50 years? 100 years? 200 years? What will Los Angeles look like a million years from now. We don’t have any human artifacts that old. We consider something “historic” when is it 100 years old. That’s one lifetime. We have an over inflated view of our significance.
Contrast what our civilization looked like at the time of Christ. Compare our civilization to what it looked like even 200 years ago. In the past two centuries, humans have done so much. We have built so much, and we have destroyed so much. We have reshaped this planet for good and for bad in an astoundingly short time period.
Who knows what the future will bring? Consider the differences in society between 1813 and 2013 — a scant 200 years. Look at the differences in society between 1013 and 2013. Between the year 13 and 2013. How can we even guess what our society will look like in the year 3013 or 4013, let alone the year 10,000. If we are lucky enough to last as long as the dinosaurs, can you even imagine a world 400,000 years from now?
We’ve blundered into what we’ve got. We’ve built and destroyed without thought to the long term picture, counting on our ability to muddle through. I’m not sure whether that will be good enough in the future.
One Reply to “We Are Insignificant | We Are Awesome”
Great post. And the sense of awe is only increased when you consider some of the what-ifs . . .
2000 years ago. Some key decisions are handled slightly differently, slightly better. Some key people at key times make a few slightly better decisions. The Roman Empire doesn’t fall. The Romans continue to occupy Britain. Some of the great minds of the Empire are in Britain puzzling over some of the same mining problems that would vex people in the late 1700’s in our timeline. They come up with some of the same solutions. And so the already-ingenious Romans also kick off the Industrial Revolution over 1,000 years early (in actuality, an argument could be made that they weren’t that far off). Because the Roman Empire doesn’t fall, we’re spared 1,000 years of the Dark Ages. What would our world look like today with an additional thousand years of progress . . . ?
1961. A mishap over Goldsboro, NC causes an atomic bomb to begin the process of detonation. In our timeline (as described in today’s news), the bomb remains one switch away from actually detonating. In our imagined one, the bomb goes off. A few key mistakes are made in the Soviet military after a nuclear detonation is detected. The Soviets retaliate. The US detects the Soviet strike and does the same. Our civilization, after a scant 10,000 (or 100,000, depending how you measure) years, for all intents and purposes, comes to an end. A few pockets of survivors exist today, scattered around the planet, barely scraping by, barely surviving, enduring the untold hardships of a devastated ecosystem and nuclear winter.
The difference between our world as it exists today, a futuristic wonderland 1,000 years more advanced, and a devastated planet with humans barely managing to survive really isn’t that great when you really think about it. That fact, too, always amazes me.
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