Written by Brennan Reichmann
On April 12th, 1961, a human being broke through the atmosphere of planet Earth. That same year a few months prior, following an aviation accident, two nuclear bombs fell on North Carolina, only two loose wires spared the accidental target from utter destruction.
If one takes the time to fully examine and weigh human history, one may notice a correlating trend between human scientific progress, and the exponential growth of potential human devastation. The progress and evolution in medicine, engineering, and the natural sciences has gone hand-in-hand with advancements in weapons technology. We live in a constant state of development. Yet, this also entails the exponential research and expansion of nuclear power as means of harnessed and weaponized energy. Albert Einstein realized the dangers of these developments, “As long as there are sovereign nations possessing great power, war is inevitable. That is not an attempt to say when it will come, but only that it is sure to come. That was true before the atomic bomb was made. What has changed is the destructiveness of war.”
Humans have been capable of devastation long before we were capable of much else. This was once instinctual and reactive, until we saw the development of the human frontal lobe, from whereupon language and society began to mold. From here, we witnessed violence evolve into a new state, a state of intent. Harm was now more than survival. When we created hammers, we simultaneously and inadvertently created a weapon more ergonomic and capable of damage than simply having a large rock in your hand. We stimulated progress in either direction at once, and this has remained the case for most human advancement up to now. Not necessarily always so acutely or directly, but that factor of coinciding progress remains.
At our core, we are all individually striving for forward progression. That definition is, of course, subjective, but it can be agreed that no human acts with regressive intent, even if the action is consciously calculated to be, say, two steps back. Humanity has never produced results of any kind, without there being a forward driving intention. Progress is hardwired into our fundamental human instincts. Our survival instinct fuels our need to creatively progress. This need for progression is responsible for our evolved state of violence, but also for our evolved state of learning. Human minds are evolving every day, striving to adapt to new and ever-present circumstances. Hence, derived from the very same source, our capabilities grow in both directions – towards progression and destruction.
Humanity is racing against itself. As we push ourselves deeper into the space frontier, the technological transcendence of the human body and mind is within our near future, out of the sheer necessity to continue our progression in the solar system. We integrate ourselves into technology more and more every day, propelling human evolution down a twisted, capitalistic, classist, and yet scientifically progressive path of technological advancement. As we dive deeper into virtual reality and artificial intelligence, we get closer to humanity’s full emancipation from biological restraints. A research and development team from Japan recently formulated the algorithm necessary to eventually transfer human consciousness onto a hard drive. This should allow for our consciousness to be ‘turned on and off’ as easily as a computer. The only component they are still lacking is the means of implementing the algorithm. Once completed though, humans would no longer require a biological body. Worries about diseases, famine, and death would become irrelevant, while things like deep space exploration would come within reach. This example illustrates human progress towards not only the preservation of our species, but its advancement and direct evolution.
Simultaneous to this rapid technological development is the development of treacherous weaponry designed for mass destruction. Within the past century, we have gone from harnessing automatic fire via gunpowder, to mass-destruction through radioactive and cyber warfare. There is enough active and armed weaponry on this planet lying in wait to entirely obliterate all human matter in the solar system. Our ability and knowledge on nuclear fission teeter on the same balance as our ability to further our knowledge on how to install consciousness onto a hard drive. Therefore, it is impossible to further expand our knowledge of one, while restraining progress for the other. Our future lies in the hands of progress, both in terms of creation and destruction.
Humanity will see its next stage of life in the near future. Every day, we strive towards certain aspirations and certain dreadful possibilities, and this self-prescribed balance will exact our salvation or downfall. As humanity sees itself progress deeper into a state of earthly chaos, marked by disease, resource shortage, and overpopulation, we will see a coinciding trend of rapid scientific development. Alongside, we will experience growing tensions due to increased possibilities and means for complete destruction. Where and how we progress is entirely up to us. Living in a universe of unlimited potentials and uncertainties, this applied balance seems almost instinctual for humans – to create order and structure, to carve a beaten road through the universe of unknowns.
This attempt to control, to consciously decide on human evolution, is what has placed us in this teetering balance between progress and destruction. This attempt, though, is a primitive and redundant effort, stemming from our natural instincts to preserve and survive. Outdated and useless, a call to direct action implies, that there is need for decision in order for natural progress to occur. If humanity were to remove the restrictions on progress, we might see our progress freed what we deem necessary for the survival of our species. This is mere speculation, but it can be recognized that our greatest feats of innovation and progress have occurred by ‘accident’. Flight, telecommunication, propulsion – all of these achieved by humans, pursuing goals outside the boundaries of what was deemed necessary for our survival. It is a fallacy to assume that we can decide on that which we don’t know, simply because we have the ability to decide. Rather, it is left to our ability to pursue uncertainty that in turn fuels our progress. In layman’s terms: you cannot know what you don’t know, but you can know that you don’t know. Acknowledging this is the first step towards progress.
To take a decisive position on the path of the unfolding universe would be to limit yourself. There is no way to solidify a response to the unknown natural process that will determine our future, in which we will either evolve or vanish. Any attempt to do so would suggest that one thinks themself wise enough to direct this process. We are not here to make it happen. We are here to see what happens. That alone will guide us down a path of creative and destructive progress.