We need to better define what we are. Soon, we will cease to exist in our presently recognizable form. As innovate and speculate and progress we are not just changing nature; we are changing our very own nature. Soon cultivating our minds won’t . If we believe we have any agency at all we must decide who are we are, immutably, so that we can know what we must preserve.
We are simpler beasts than would like to think. Our most animalistic instincts dominate us, though we tell ourselves that our conscious minds are in charge. We shouldn’t think too highly of ourselves.
At the same time, our abilities to create and manipulate are unparalleled in the kingdom we perceive. We live by the stories that the lesser beasts cannot conceive. We have loves and regrets and glory. We have dreams not of what was but can be. Nothing else that we know of can do we can do and that alone makes us extraordinary.
In the same breath I can say that we are one with all that lives. They are at most our distant relatives and at least our purer selves. We draw the distinction between nature and us but we are only natural ourselves. Nature fated us and we are its ultimate prize, for now. But what we create will eclipse us.
From a biological perspective, our ability to organize and coordinate sets us apart. No one of our bodies is impressive alone, but our minds together have reshaped this world in a way that only we can understand is modest. That’s right.
Our ultimate success and failing is understand just how insignificant and trivial we are. Yet we go out our ways to weave a narrative of glory and eternity. On one hand we understand the entropic cliff that dooms us sooner if not later, yet on another we dream of making ourselves into the infinite. Immortality and utopia are not pathologies of modernity but rather our deepest instincts. So what are we, then?
We are storytellers and we believe that we can write our own stories. That is at the core of what is human. Some of us are optimizers, unaware that no one knows what we should be optimizing for. That’s where the subjectivity comes in and I roll in my opinions in spades. I have some thoughts on what makes for our hummanness.
For one, we creatures of leisure. We can have no conception of leisure without hardship. That means that we must preserve some hardship. This feels counterintuitive, as we aim through technology and its resulting “progress” to minimize hardship, but we are too close to minimizing it all. Our greatest hazard may be solving all of our problems.
We must feel pain; suffering. Infinite pleasure maybe blissful but it can’t be human. I have no problems with creating beings that exist only to enjoy but I can never consider those human. The totality of our experience is predicated upon a range of experiences. We may be able to provide all that we want and then some, but we dare not ever give it all.
That would be the ultimate tragedy.