Given what we think we know about the age of the universe, we have only just arrived at our current level of sentiency and became a species capable of reflective thought and reason. With it, surely, came the obligation to make something of ourselves beyond just being another animal, i.e., survive for the sake of surviving, although being perhaps much better at it than any species that came before.
But for many this “being better at it” appears to have been limited to some stupefying exercise in “eat, drink and be merry”, and that at great cost to themselves, their fellow human beings, and the planet that spawned them. We might be the last species on earth that will go extinct, but by God, we’ll make sure every other species will be extinct before us. If you don’t know what I am talking about, you should look around you, as well, clearly, you need to get out more.
And better hurry, because the great barren expanse of Mars is waiting for you, just as soon as Elon Musk has been able to charge up enough batteries to shoot you there in a tin can, as this is apparently where our future lies as the acolytes of modern consumerism. It will be the first interplanetary step after we’re done with the earth to conquer the universe in our quest to spread the gospel of the holy trinity of modern consumerism among the stars: unlimited exploitation of people and resources, compulsive acquisition of goods and services, and the mindless accumulation of waste.
Alternatively – and yes, there is always an alternative, in particular to just being stupid – we could use our collective brain-trust to decide what kinds of unique human activities might truly benefit us as a species, and act accordingly. Imagine a world-wide society built on mutual trust and respect, featuring such things as a sustainable waste-free economy, free education, healthcare, equal opportunity, the pursuit of arts and sciences, and free from famine, disease and crime. In other words, not much we are familiar with today, but something worth pursuing, wouldn’t you think?
As such the future is ours, and ours alone – to do with as we should – and ideally reflective of the tremendous potential that must necessarily lie within us. I say “necessarily” because we are the descendants of an incredible cosmic spectacle that is represented within every particle of our being. Clearly, this is the larger context we should be living our lives in – as little as we are able to grasp of it at the moment- and I have referred to a number of times in previous posts, already ad nauseam no doubt.
And while it seems near impossible to quantify the mostly mundane activities of our daily lives in such terms – and especially the not so mundane, and that would include most if not all of human kind’s murderous past and all of our present self-destructive activities – it is nevertheless the implicit promise of our cosmic origins that will continue to urge us along this uncertain path towards a future we cannot yet begin to imagine what that might look like. Well, at least not until we develop the insight and intellectual wherewithal that will allow us to conceive the instantiation and reality of it.
However – and as much as I hate to admit this – my biggest fear is that this kind of future is in fact not available to us. That is to say, very much like the man from the country in Kafka’s parable Before the Law seeking access to the Law – we will just have the promise of being able to access it, and so will spend our entire lives with the assumption that this this future, this promise, will come true. This because we may not have moved up far enough on the evolutionary spectrum to be able to handle it, and so don’t have the gray matter and intellectual machinery to even begin to conceptualize it, or see ourselves in the gestalt of it (Ask me why I think this, but before you do: again, look around you … )
And as the next higher life form follows from the one that preceded it, so might we be superseded. It may well be Artificial Intelligence that will take over from us, leaving us in a supporting role, enabling them to move ahead. And as they do, we will not even be aware of it … it is just that we will not know any better.