AD 2072, The World.
People have had many understandings of the laws of the Universe in the past. They weren’t all labeled understandings of the ‘laws of the Universe’ but essentially suggested what we mean by them—that is, the rules that the Universe obeys in all its workings and how it exists. In some societies however, people liked to believe what they knew (perhaps because God had told them or it was God that they knew about) as something that was definitely, ultimately, by no means could it be refuted-ly true. That they had reached an ultimate understanding of the world through the lens of some certain dogmatic theory. That was obviously false to believe. Since to begin with, they are all refuted by our current understanding of the laws of the Universe. Some of it was good though for temporary stability. And the knowledge ingrained within parts of the society were good also as it has kept everyone alive to say the least. Nevertheless, it came with danger and the false assumption of our explanations as being aligned with the final truth leaving little room for improvement or criticism. The explanations we have of the Universe now however, are fallible (as they always were) that is, liable to error, and accepted to be so by the whole tribe. That is good for progress.
Half a century ago many people’s definition of the world was limited to the planet Earth. For most now though, the World seems to be an infinitely bounded place with infinite possibilities—only limited by the amount of Knowledge and consciousness people possess (of which of course there is also always infinite to be attained) and by the laws that govern the Universe.
A few people are grasping the change from the green-blue planet (which was turning grey as used to be depicted in children’s drawings at school with a sad Earth face) to the red rusty Martian soil—they are adapting as planned. Earth is well. Don’t know why people in c. 2020 were stressing so much about it all. But perhaps it was that tension which led to greater pressure to innovate to get our species out of such a mess—a planet that was reaching toward being uninhabitable for it’s supposedly most intelligent species and their civilization. So we’re grateful for the stream of people that did not, in mere pessimism, think that humanity was doomed and for those that thought we could, through technology, change things and for those that created innovations through new knowledge creation that led to Earth being habitable still for ours as well as millions of other species that make Earth, Earth.
But a human baby grows and eventually walks out of the cradle on which it had slept and grown. Earth is home, but a few humans (in relative terms to the whole population) have moved out. It will always be a special place in our hearts, that’s for sure. But we needed to step out and explore and get a grasp for the World outside the world inside our minds. Staying in the cradle forever would have inhibited that growth and if, by unfortunate chance, we were to get too heavy, we could break that beautiful cradle without any pillow to save us below. We’d fall to the ground and, well, that’d be the end. But we didn’t let that happen. Not yet. Reaching Mars is a giant leap but it is just the beginning. As hinted before, we’ve grown optimistic. It isn’t so much to do with genetics how optimistic a human must be, but a sense of understanding. If people are given certain ideas and they understand, they can become optimists. This is not an irrationality. We know that anything that is permitted by the laws of physics is possible. We just need to know how. So people, as they have understood, don’t prophesy evil outcomes when they see problems arise. They hopefully look forward, eager to create the Knowledge required to solve the problem since they understand that it’s just something they don’t understand yet, that’s the real problem behind the problem. And that they can solve that with Knowledge.
Thanks to real education we could bring understanding to this scale. In school, children are treated as people. The previous static, bureaucratic, pointlessly grade-driven, curiosity-hindering, creativity rotting, incentivized to make people machine-like system of education though was good at making more people acquire existing knowledge and get by with a reasonably fine life, it didn’t create efficient means for new knowledge creation as a whole for society to solve their pressing problems that needed so. It’s downright wrong to call it an education today but a while back that which was known as “education” eventually got obsolete with the new sustainable method that replaced it’s honorable position. People understand. New forms of education which stirred the change that arose a while ago (and which were actually aligned with learning) were called “alternative educations”. But it was wrong to call them so with hindsight and the traditional one an “education”. For all the reasons, the old traditional system was not aligned with learning and today it would be a disgrace to relate the supreme word “education” with it. It was almost inevitable for it to get replaced. It’s easy to look down upon old systems and criticize them with hindsight but we may as well be the ones being criticized a few generations down the road. Circumstances change. Systems need to adapt. It is necessary to be dynamic as an intelligent species civilization. Coal, petroleum and other older conventional sources of energy received much of criticism due to their effect on the environment. But they were also a great accelerator of progress for our species. On finding out they had flaws, they needed to be thoughtfully replaced by a better means to create energy that satisfied the present circumstances and still led to the progress of our species. Similarly, the system of teaching worked for creating the required factory workers during the industrial age (c. 1760 AD) but then it needed to adapt to the 21st century time.
Future looks exciting. Our civilization is not left to chance but to our choices. We realize our agency and accountability in making a future we want. An open society, unafraid to innovate, based on improvement and a tradition of criticism, not on dogma, unbounded by what we can create only with the sufficient Knowledge. It’s cool to be alive in the world in 2072.
Thanks to Dwarkesh Patel and my father for reading and commenting on an early draft of this post.