Do you ever find yourself wondering what on earth we are? I do. For me, the wondering often starts when I'm out walking. I wonder what it would be like to be wearing animal skins and carrying a spear, wandering over the hills in search of food. I wonder what my assumptions about life might be. How would I think about the past and the future? What stories would I tell to make sense of it all?
We've been around for a while: the oldest stone tools we've found are around 2.6 million years old. On the other hand, the invention of the wheel happened less than 0.01 million years ago. For millions of years technology developed at a snail's pace. On this timescale the discoveries of Newton and Galileo count as contemporary - and almost all of our scientific knowledge and technological expertise has been acquired in the blink of an eye.
One could -and people do- argue that we should turn our backs on further technological development and concentrate on developing a fairer world. I don't see the two as mutually exclusive. If there are developments as life-changing as penicillin, pain relief, central heating, etc., around the corner then we should not deny ourselves the benefit of them. Michael Pritchard's invention of the Lifesaver water-filtration bottle springs to mind. As for space, the recent warning shots across our bows from meteors and asteroids are ample demonstration of the need for us to be concerned for our environment not only on earth but in the wider solar system.
Where will we be in another 2.6 million years? Will our knowledge and expertise continue to expand at their current phenomenal rate? If so, speculations that seem far-fetched now could seem quaint by then. And then there's the even bigger question: what will we evolve into?
4 years ago