👋 Hey friends,
What do you want in life? Do you want to be a good parent? Do you want to a have well-paying job? Do you want to make the world a better place for the generations yet to come or do you want to be a part of bringing the human species forward as a society through understanding more about the universe we live in?
Everyone will ask themselves at some point in their lifetime what they want to do with it. Mostly this reflection of our values doesn't take into account the human species itself. I mean why would it? It's my life, isn't it?
The famous author William MacAskill doubts that question. In his bestselling book "What we owe the Future", the Author says:
"Relative to everyone who could come after us, we are a tiny minority. Yet we hold the entire future in our hands. Everyday ethics rarely grapples with such a scale. We need to build a moral worldview that takes seriously what's at stake.”
But what does he mean by that? Does it mean that we have to focus our entire lifetime on creating a good society for future generations? There are arguments for that, but that is not what he wants to say. He states that the people who are going to be born have the same rights as we do today, so we should obscure our knowledge and work together to hold or even raise the standards of human society, technology and knowledge.
This is all fair and well but what I have been thinking ever since is whether or not there is a limit of understanding and why we as a human society strive for the omniscient.
Why do we strive for such an unreachable?
The human species, generalised to the only human species alive today, known as "Homo Sapiens", is about 300,000 years old. From that, it took us about 262,977 years for the first-ever human to write. It took us another 35,436 years to print the first-ever document for the press. But from there it only took us 389 years to build the first ever railway and another 147 years to the time when the first ever home computer was built. How did this happen? Of course, it had something to do with the Industrial Revolution causing a massive rise in population change never seen before on the planet but there was something way more important than that, something independent of time. Something that has driven humans for their whole time on this Earth which only was massively magnified by the population size of the Industrial Revolution.
What I am talking about is the human striving for knowledge and understanding which isn't bound by time. This strive for knowledge magnified exponentially due to the Industrial Revolution but it wasn't completely bound to the specific moment in time. Only our social ethics (generalised on the Western democratic and capitalistic ethical system) have evolved that scientific development was not just allowed but encouraged by the civilisation. Of course, the act of power was foreseen in such scientific developments and some inventions, such as the atomic bomb, which revolutionized not only warfare but also atomic and quantum physics, were invented due to the idea of the power it holds in the World War.
Still, knowledge as a key to social, medical, military and scientific revolution has given us the power to exponentially magnify the greater good of human society. Around the 16. hundreds only a few nations could consider themselves as pure democratic states but by the year 2021, only 400 years later, about 167 of the nations of the world have committed to a democratic system. People are driven by the idea of finding a system capable of supporting the greater good and fighting for the idea of democracy, not only to pursue their ideals, not only to strive for new ethical knowledge but also to leave their remarks in our world.
This brings us to the further logical argument of why we, as a human society strive for knowledge. During the time of the second world war and the increasing power of the Nazi regime in Germany, many rebellion movements fought against the governmental commissioners for a democratic state. The belief in succession doesn't come from the idea of gaining new knowledge but from the state of mind to create something that leaves your mark and makes the world a better place. But this reflects why we do try to understand the unknown. People, who for example work on finding sustainable ways to produce energy to cover the energy needs of human society while still being environmentally friendly, pursue this idea since they want to make the world a better place for the generations to come. Only through exploring the unknown we can improve future human society and leave our marks to enhance it.
What is contradictory about achieving a state of the omniscient?
After all the historical analysis of what the human species has striven for in the past and how the expansion of our general knowledge has reshaped the world we live in today, we still have to find a philosophically proven answer on whether or not this helps us in the future and whether or not we can define such development as a gratification of our general happiness.
The first answer might just be that we of course have a happier and more gratified life due to the amount of options, understanding and support we have found and created but what if the expansion of options doesn't give you happiness after all? As of today, high schoolers can decide between dozens of different options after their graduation. Of course, this is what democracy and capitalism bring us, the freedom of choice, but it also regards us with the responsibility for our actions. In many cases, this leads to strong anxiety for their future. On the other hand, we can not ethically support the ideas of socialism and central government economy since they steal the freedom we have away from us by providing us with pure and non-avoidable guidance. What I want to show with this is that we haven't yet answered every question there is because even after more than 300,000 years of human society there hasn't been one fully successful social and economic system that guarantees gratified happiness for all its followers. This problem is often regarded in philosophy and the question of whether or not we can find this perfect system and live in a perfect world (utopia) is regarded as an unsolvable manner.
This shows just how complex the world we live in is since even the behaviour science of creatures living on one of the billion planets in our universe gives us diabetes. Are we even capable enough to answer such oblivious questions and strive for the omniscient and if we do manage to know everything how can we prove that we know everything?
This question probably remains unanswered for a long time but I am certain that by trying to understand more about the unknown we can develop ourselves. If this development however is simply good or bad is a subjective question to answer.
In contemplating our desires and aspirations, we often focus on personal fulfilment without fully considering the broader scope of our existence. William MacAskill's insights challenge this perspective, highlighting our responsibility to shape the future for the benefit of generations to come. As we navigate the intricate tapestry of human history, our unyielding pursuit of knowledge emerges as a driving force, empowering progress and societal evolution. The path towards understanding, magnified by the Industrial Revolution, has propelled us to refine ethical systems, embrace democracy, and strive for the greater good. Yet, the pursuit of the omniscient raises intriguing questions about happiness, options, and the complexities of societal structures. As we grapple with these complexities, one truth remains: the pursuit of understanding and the quest for knowledge continues to shape our shared journey, fostering growth and transformation.
✍️ Quote of the week
“Whether the future is wonderful or terrible is, in part, up to us.”
William MacAskill, What We Owe the Future
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