The Human Scope of the Universe

17/10/2019

If there is one thing that I am constantly amazed by each and every day, it is the utter ignorance of the human race and the minute perception and scale we have of the universe and time. Everyone, particularly people my age and younger who don’t remember a time before digital technology being the norm, can’t seem to imagine life without modern technologies like the Internet, for example. And that’s just the technological aspect.

For example, what would be do if the Internet ceased to exist tomorrow? That is a concept we cannot begin to fathom the ramifications of because we have so deeply engrained every part of our lives into this technology. We can speculate, of course, that the world would simply grind to a halt and chaos would break out, but that is just speculation on such a broad level that it’s negligible. The same could be said if we were to lose half the global population – it is a concept so grand in scale that it is impossible to imagine it.

That point, however, should be one we take the time to consider, because some climate research suggests the current population would be unsustainable if temperatures go above the 4°C some people predict by 2100 if we don’t change our emissions habits soon.

There are things that the human mind cannot comprehend about itself, including parts of consciousness and thought, and yet the vast majority of people never even consider that fact. We have walked this earth for hundreds of thousands of years – a flash in time – and yet have difficulty conceiving a world without us inhabiting it simply because that is all we have known. We talk about short and long-term ideas ranging from a few years to the next century, but do not touch the potential of the next millennia.

The Andromeda Galaxy and our own are set to collide in a few billion years, something on a cosmic scale that we can excitedly talk about but never truly understand because living memory of us, if not even the human race, will have been completely obliterated by the continuance of time when it happens.

Some may find that idea daunting and have trouble perceiving a future without the Internet, without themselves or some legacy, without the human race. But I find solace in the fact that the scope of (to borrow Douglas Adams’ quote) life, the universe and everything is beyond our conception or consciousness. It brings to mind the Terry Pratchett quote from the Hogfather, “humans need fantasy to be human” – that sense of awe, of wonder, of uncertainty is what makes the lives we do lead so worthwhile.

Yes, we are but a spec on a spec in space and time, but is there not something beautiful in knowing that we are a part of it in some way? That, paradoxically, our lives can harbour so much meaning and yet be incomprehensibly inconsequential?

These are just thoughts in a short piece because I couldn’t think of anything else to write, and it may well be gibberish. Beautiful, incomprehensible gibberish.

 

Previous piece: The Wrong Media Coverage on Extinction Rebellion

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