an alternative thought experiment by Nikola Danaylov
Gods always behave like the people who make them. Zora Neale Hurston, Tell My Horse
Before we have a story, any story, we must first have a storyteller. Therefore, the most important story, that which all other stories are derived from, the story-of-all-stories, is the story of the storyteller: the human story.
The human story has been written and rewritten several times already. The last time was somewhere between the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution when we dethroned God as the central authority in the Universe and took his place instead. Since then our story has spread the myth of the supremacy and centrality of the human being – of how we are the pinnacle of evolution, the supreme intelligence, and the masters of nature. And everything we have done since then, together with everything we are likely to do in the future, will stem from that story – the story of who we are, what’s our place in the universe, what we are here for, and where we are going.
It is, therefore, this story that is the cornerstone of our stunning progress and fantastic accomplishments. It is also the same story that underpins our failures and current predicaments – be it climate change, environmental destruction and species extinction, nuclear war, terrorism, pandemics, or even artificial intelligence. For it is this story that gave us Auschwitz and took us to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. And it is this story that will likely determine if we are going to go extinct like the dinosaurs, or if and how we might populate the universe.
Our modern challenges are not only new but also self-created. And exponential technologies – such as genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, big data, synthetic biology, 3D printing, crypto blockchains, and nanotechnology, are already causing both negative and positive change. But new kinds of challenges require new kinds of thinking. And self-created problems require first acknowledging and then learning from past mistakes. Finally, since we think in and are ruled by stories, we must rewrite the human story yet again. Because our current story is facing many new challenges. And recent events have shown it is starting to fall apart.
But before we can write a new story we must understand how the current story came to be, what are its main elements and what has been its impact. Only then can we hope to write a better story. This is not just a philosophical exercise but a question of survival for all life on our planet. Viktor Frankl, a Nazi Holocaust survivor, said it best:
Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of. And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake.