Header image via: IslamSciFi
Let’s talk about humans.
As an evolutionary species, we haven’t changed much.
For about 90% of our past, we just sort of bumbled along, playing with sticks and just generally being a very average species.
It is only literally in the last 1% of our time on Earth has everything sort of just exploded into mayhem: societies, supermarkets, smartphones and socks.
The time in which we live is the craziest, scariest and most exciting time that humans have lived. Ever.
I came across an analogy about this concept from the fantastic Tim Urban, where he lays out the history of us into a book format…
The Book – History of Humankind
Picture the history of humankind as a book. We have been around for about 100,000 years which equates to 2 centuries per page.
Now imagine a couple of aliens pick up the book about the ‘History of Humans’ and begin to read it.
So, page 1 lists all of the incredible achievements that man accomplished in the first 200 years of its existence. Page 1 is probably pretty empty. Perhaps Caveman Steve held the record for largest mammoth killed for 30 years running. The records aren’t clear this far back.
Likewise, page 2, 3 and 4 are all likely to be pretty sparce.
In fact, all of the way up until Page 450 (going back just 10,000 years), nothing really happened. Just hunting and gathering, small migrations and tiny biological changes. If you are an alien and reading this boring book about this boring species, I would be surprised if you made it to page 20, never mind page 450.
Anyway, we hit page 450 and its the agricultural revolution. These boring humans have started to grow their own food, started to build communities and are starting to interact at a larger scale. A fairly interesting development, but nothing to really get the aliens out of their seats.
Then we hit page 490, just 10 pages away from you today. Jesus Christ comes and goes, starts the world’s largest religion, changes our calendars from B.C. and A.D. and does a lot of other cool stuff.
Islam is born on page 493, page 498 sees the Enlightenment as well as ‘the discovery’ of force and gravity, page 499 includes Darwin and Einstein’s ground-breaking theories.
Then BAM! Page 500, the last two centuries. World Wars, Facetime, Mobile phones, automobiles, the industrial revolution, population from less than one billion to over seven billion, you name it, we’ve done it.
In fact, there is so much going on that not only are the aliens stunned at humans doing so little then so much, but the font on page 500 is incredibly small just to fit in all of the devlopments of the last 200 years. The book has never seen a page so full and incredible.
Never have humans been moving so fast, developing so fast and I think it’s pretty cool that you and I were both born on page 500 rather than page 124 or 206.
What happens after Page 500?
Here’s the crazy thing about the ‘History of Humankind’ book. We are part of it and we don’t know if it only has 501 pages, 1000 or 1 million.
We don’t know if the book will continue to be written on other planets, galaxies or dimensions. We might even ditch the whole book and analogy concepts all together as they become prehistoric tools of the naive page 500 humans.
So where are we going?
Of course this is up for debate.
On page 500, people born near the top of the page couldn’t even imagine what the bottom of the page would look like. So never mind trying to guess what the next pages will look like.
Some of the ideas though are actually pretty entertaining:
Here is one artist’s depiction of the year 2000 drawn in 1900. A very modest flying machine that seems to be able to fit about ten small letters on board. Nobody anticipated getting things as well as letters delivered. Nobody anticipated the whole world to be flying commercially.
This bulky contraption was revolutionary at the time. Yet just a quarter of a page later it is now a mobile, camera, searches this thing called the internet, tracks heart rate and fits in your pocket. Just 50 years ago none of this was even conceivable.
The point is that this part of the book that you have been born into is pretty crazy and page 501 that you will probably live through part of will most likely be even more chaotic, unpredictable and unfathomable to us as a SmartWatch would be to a 19th century farmer.
So what can we try to expect from the next page?
Page 501 – Mars
It looks increasingly likely that on page 501 humans will colonise Mars. This would be stage 5 in an organisms life cycle that we have never seen before:
1) Emergence of Life
2) Development of complex cells
3) Origin of multi-cellular life
4) Life moving from ocean to land
5) Life moving from one planet to another.
Number 5 is probably going to happen on page 501, and you are going to be here for it. That is crazy.
Page 501 – Artificial Intelligence
It also looks increasingly likely that Artificial Intelligence is going to play a massive role on page 501. If left uncontrolled, it could spell the end of the book. Nothing happened to us for the first 450 pages and now things are happening almost too fast.
We’re biologically wired for a world when nothing changed ever.
We’re primates that aren’t really that good at planning or visualising our futures; that’s why we often pick easy rewards now rather than better or more sustainable ones later.
That skill was not needed until the last 5 or so pages, now it’s super important, especially with something as potentially dangerous as AI, which we know near nothing about.
If Artificial Intelligence does get out of human control, there is a high possibility of bad news. You only have to look at human’s relation to its own planet and fellow species about how a species with superior knowledge can go about their business that is designed for only their own goals and fancies.
Reasons for hope and action!
Awesome people are already working around the world to not let AI get out of hand and to stop super-advanced AI reaching the hands of one person or set of people. This magic wand is probably better shared for everyone’s benefit.
Most of you, like me, are stepping on to Page 501 in the prime of our lives.
The world has never been so malleable, full of opportunities, discoveries, breakthroughs that are happening every day.
Look around you on your desk, in your living room, on the street, even in your bathroom. How many things are fruits of the last couple of pages of mankinds book?
What will the next page give us?
How will it change us yet again as humans?
For so many years the aliens were bored reading our biography, now they can’t put it down.
We are at the start of page 501, possibly the end of the book or hopefully, just the start of a new chapter.
It’s up to us to make it the best one yet.