P R O M E T H E U S :: the purpose of humanity
P R O M E T H E U S
:: the purpose of humanity ::
P R O M E T H E U S presented fire to man, thus, stimulating the creation of civilization and technological progression. When a person reaches a certain level of awareness they often ask themselves an existential question: what is my purpose? While we may come up with a purpose in the microcosms of our individual lives, what happens if we expand the concept to the macrocosm of our entire species? What is the purpose for humans and their existence? This existential question’s answer is dependent on myriad variables involving ideologies, beliefs, and awareness. Our purpose for existence must be seeded in our intellect. After all, we are the most intelligent species on the planet … right?
Humans have sought aesthetics in the intangible, resulting in the inception of our genius to develop art, music, science, math, the Internet, and memes. In 2010, scientists at The Craig Venter Institute (< 1 mile from my current lab @ UCSD) generated a novel synthetic self-replication organism whose parent was a computer code (Gibson, D.G. et al. Science 2010). In May 2014, scientists in the Romesberg lab at The Scripps Research Institute (where I was trained) have successfully expanded the genetic alphabet by creating a new pair of “letters” that the cellular machinery can recognize (Malyshev, D.A. et al. Nature 2014). Also in May 2014, Quantum physicists have discovered a method to transport two quantum objects instantaneously via teleportation (W. Pfaff et al. Science 2014). So yes, our intelligence rivals any other species on the planet, but wisdom is not inherent in the nature of intelligence.
“Our economics system was formed when the planet and its air, rivers, oceans, lands all seemed infinite. They evolved long before we first saw the Earth as the tiny organism that it actually is. They are all alike in one respect, they are profit driven and therefore, focused on short-term gain. We understand what is happening to our world, yet we continue to pump green-house gases into the atmosphere at a rate not seen on Earth for a million years” Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson (Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey S01E11). Our global industrial output disperses ~30 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year, causing our atmosphere to contain 40% more CO2 than pre-industrial times. Experts in the field have come to the general consensus that we are destabilizing our environment and affecting not only our species, but all organisms and ecosystems. Our civilization turns a blind eye while focusing solely on what is profitable and petty trends that will be irrelevant within the year; leaving the burden on future generations. Out of sight and out of mind until the Scorpio stings…but at that point, it will be too late. The disconnect between what we know and what we do as a collective is becoming more prevalent with every subsequent generation. If we are truly the most “intelligent” species, then how could we let this happen?
Natural Selection uses instincts for the survival of a species’ genes into the next generation. What are we doing to propagate our genes through the future with this disconnect partitioning what we know and what we do? In our current state as civilization, we are not only affecting our own future but the paths for virtually all organisms. It is almost as if we are using our intelligence as a nefarious apparatus for instilling imbalance and destruction within the ecosystem since our awareness does not affect the immediate outcome of our actions. How could we respect the inconceivable trials each organism has endured to evolve into the specialized forms they are today when we intervene with plastic in the ocean, deforestation, and smoking a pack of cigarettes a day without putting a single butt in an ashtray?
The interconnectedness of single-celled organisms performing in unison as they orchestrate the symphony that is our life … Just as a multicellular entity is alive only because of its single-celled units, the Earth is a super organism whose physiology is generated by ecosystems and powered by a heart made of gyrating liquid iron. The Earth is alive and respires at a very slow rate. As the trees of Spring in the Northern hemisphere inhale CO2 to grow, the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere significantly diminish. The trees on the Southern hemisphere are entering Autumn and release their leaves that decay and release CO2 back into the atmosphere. Since the majority of the Southern hemisphere is covered by ocean, these planetary breaths are largely dependent on the Northern trees. The resulting phenomenon is one breath for every solar orbit. Our collective tends to neglect this fundamental notion and disrespects the planetary organism that has given our species a platform to evolve. Natural Selection is inherently a selfish system that ensures genes will integrate into subsequent generations. However, the selfish behavior is generally inclusive of an entire species. Our civilization has declined to a point of selfishness where we hold regards for only our current life and not the prospective of our entire species, but why?
Our collective views the sapient homo as temporary and limited. With any basis in logic, it reasonable to conclude that since 99% of species that have ever lived on the planet are extinct, then we are no different and that is also our fate. Society believes that we will only be a memory in the fossils of a prehistoric Earth where our creations will become martyrs to terrestrial phagocytosis. Our conception of this limit spawns from a realm much deeper than statistics on species survival; this ideology has its roots in the way we view our life and what happens after our death. This affair is most certainly the topic of another conversation, but in brevity, one’s perception of life’s clandestine successor dictates the way one behaves in the present. Many people believe that our life and energy cease to exist when our physical form vanishes. Another large-group-of-people believe that we will go to a place of eternal bliss or eternal torment. Therefore, most views of death and afterlife are either bound to an end or invest in an illogical mode of post-existence based on extremes of corporeal sensations. On the contrary, some view their life as energy oscillating between states of existence. How does a global awareness of self and existence influence our primary question: “what is the purpose of humanity”?
Imagine that life is a form of energy with units that are undetectable with our current science. According to the first law of thermodynamics, energy cannot be created nor destroyed within a system but is transient in that it takes on different forms. With this notion of life energy being eternal, you would be connecting yourself to the past, present, and future triad. It would be evident that you are L I M I T L E S S; unbound by the limitations of the space-time continuum. With this junction to all points in time, you would realize that the aftermath of your actions would ultimately affect you.
Our perspectives of existence and afterlife irrefutably influence the way we act in the present. For those who believe we are limited in our existence, the current life and short-term gain is their primary concern. This view of a limit to our life has been the catalyst in the evolution of our Natural Selection-derived selfishness towards an individual selfish existence. With a disconnect from future generations, an increasingly large proportion of our civilization focuses only on the present and becomes indoctrinated by petty forms of entertainment that have no relevance towards creating a more progressive and cultured human civilization. As a result of this fixation on ourselves, we view our species with a time limit resulting in a paucity of reverence for the environment and its living components. What if we put an end to this notion that our species is ephemeral? Why should we be different than the other 99% of species that have become extinct before us? The reason why we are different is because P R O M E T H E U S gave us fire from the gods. We have the ability to direct the path of our evolution and recognize how our actions will determine our fate. Just as hunters evolved the trait of stealth; just as prey have evolved camouflage; we have evolved the trait of higher intelligence. Shall we choose to join the 99% of species who are lost to time or shall we evolve into a superior form of existence?
So then … what IS the purpose of humanity? We have been entrusted with the gift of intelligence by the promiscuous path of evolution. It has taken 3.5 billion years for this trait to appear amongst life and could potentially never exist again if we kamikaze our planet causing life to start over from single-celled organisms. Our species is the only intelligent form of life that is certain in our universe, therefore, it is our purpose to protect this trait and ensure its survival through the future. Higher intelligence may have originated and abused within homo sapiens but we will find a more progressive and wiser function in successive species. P R O M E T H E U S has given us the knowledge of the gods, and we cannot let the fire die with our species. If we believe in this greater purpose, then the way we interact with ourselves, the way we interact with each other, and the way we interact with the environment will undergo a paradigm shift. The future is rooted within ourselves and the way in which we perceive our own existence. If we believe life is a form of energy that takes on different states of existence, then we can observe ourselves and our species as eternal. If we think of our species as eternal and unbound to the constraints of time and space then we are forced to take responsibility for how our actions affect future generations. The elixir for the problems that confront humanity is to understand our potential as intelligent beings. This paradigm shift in the macrocosm of our species can only be executed via a shift in the microcosm of our own lives and the purpose we give ourselves as intelligent entities. P R O M E T H E U S has given us an igneous fruit from the tree of knowledge. Now, we possess the ability to exist as a genetic ark, immune to the limits of time, for future forms of intelligence life to evolve.
References :: [ ‘Gibson, D.G. et al. Science 2010’, ‘Malyshev, D.A. et al. Nature 2014’, ‘W. Pfaff et al. Science 2014’, ’Cosmos. S01E11’ ]
Written by Josh L. Espinoza