Humans lack a sense of proportion
Posted on Oct 22, 2012 in Opinion
We live in an amazing time. In the span of only half a century, space has been transformed from a mere pipe dream to concrete reality. Though it is still dangerous and expensive, space travel is no longer a novelty. A permanently manned outpost circles around our planet, and private companies like SpaceX are successfully launching spacecraft into orbit. NASA recently landed a two-ton rover on Mars using the most complicated reentry system yet.
Watching footage from space launches and videos of missions, the future of humankind seems bright and promising. It is not hard to believe that, one day, we will venture beyond the confines of this planet, traveling into the final frontier.
Yet, when I look back to Earth, all that seems like wishful thinking. Wars are fought across the globe as we squabble amongst ourselves over a piece of land, over a few drops of oil, over beliefs and ideologies. The military forces of the world stockpile enough nuclear weapons to sterilize the Earth. Countless lives are lost in disputes that could be settled if we chose to see each other as fellow brothers in the human family, and not as sworn enemies.
Not only do we bicker incessantly, we are destroying our planet. The careless burning of fossil fuels is raising the global temperature at an alarming rate. The positive feedback loop created by the increasing temperature will only accelerate the rising temperatures, destroying more habitats even faster. The viability of the biosphere is at stake.
This leads to a sobering explanation of the Fermi paradox, which asks why, despite high estimates for the probability of life across the universe, we have not yet contacted any. The Great Filter explanation, first postulated by economist Robin Hanson, says that life is not rare, but intelligent life, more likely than not, manages to destroy itself before it expands beyond its home planet.
With the way things are going on this planet, it seems that humanity is fated to become one of those civilizations that destroys itself.
What is going wrong? Above everything else, I think we humans, as a species, lack a sense of proportion. Currently, we behave as if we are the kings of the world, as if the planet is in service to us. We are like that teenager who has not understood the responsibilities of living by himself or herself, taking everything in life for granted.
We have not yet grasped how small and insignificant we are, how fragile and flimsy our existence is. We have not understood that we are living on but a grain of sand, and that mother Earth, unlike our human mothers, might not give us a second chance.
When we understand our fragility and insignificance, we might understand how petty and meaningless our squabbling is, how careless we have been towards our planet. Maybe then, we would realize the error of our ways. Maybe then, instead of working against each other, we would start working together. Maybe then, we might not exterminate ourselves, but go on to travel between the stars.