Back to the basics, please.
By Elliot Owen
Pokemon Go. DNA sequencing. Genetically-engineered mosquitoes. Instagram Stories. Artificial Intelligence. Virtual reality. 3D printing. Facebook Live. Democratization of space. Bioengineered human tissue. PlayStation 4. Autonomous cars. Alternative fuels. Water on Mars. Amazon Prime. HIV vaccine. Venture capitalism. Digital globalization. Drones.
It’s all happening really fast. Advancements in science, technology, and business are hard to keep up with, presumably even if you’re the editor of WIRED.
With each passing day, scientists, creatives, entrepreneurs, and developers chug forward on their respective projects, setting in motion trends and discoveries, and laying down the foundation for progress to come.
The tech era is exciting. And it’s also confusing.
If we’ve developed a vaccine for HIV, why are 240 people around the world still contracting the virus each hour? If there are hundreds of computer programming languages in use today, why is 15% of the world’s adult population still illiterate in their native languages? If smartphones, livestreaming, and body cameras exist as tools for accountability, why are people of color still being gunned down without cause by cops?
Is technology really helping us — all of us? Is it bringing us closer together or exacerbating existing inequalities? How is it shifting all of mankind’s trajectory? Where are we, human beings, headed?
These are difficult questions, ones that would take a team of experts — historians, scientists, sociologists, theologians, and economists — to answer. And as the era of tech is still revealing itself, its implications on our existence are far beyond the horizon’s view. We’ll have to wait and see.
Here’s what we do know.
Humans have been walking the Earth for 200,000 years, the beginnings of ‘civilization’ as we know it emerging about 6,000 years ago. For as long as we can trace back there have been things, basic concepts we’ve shared regardless of race, tribe, religion, class, geographical location, gender, or any other identity. They are the timeless seeds of truth sown between us, the universal ties that bind us together as humans.
When things feels uncertain — as they always have — the basics need revisiting. When it comes to participating in the ever-advancing tech area, it’s paramount to our well-being to also honor our common ‘humanness’ in the face of such swift and sometimes overwhelming change, change that, according to some people, robs us of our human experience.
In any case, here are a few of those gold nuggets that have held us through our evolution.
“God is inside you and everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. … Yeah, It. God ain’t a he or a she, but an It.” — Alice Walker
Whether you’re a believer in God, Allah, Jehovah, Creator, or even if your north star is Science, one commonality remains — as humans, we are guided by the belief in something larger than ourselves. There’s no shame in this faith either. The shame would be in relegating our meaning to nothing more than an insignificant blip on the radar. Regardless of what covenant we’re bound by, we know to give a collective head nod to whatever’s pulling the strings.
“Nobody, but nobody / Can make it out here alone.” — Maya Angelou
As a social species, we require interaction, even the most introverted of us. Under the umbrella of community, culture takes shape, ideas are exchanged, resources and protection are shared, and parameters around human capability are expanded. Over time, different manifestations of community throughout the world have played a part in the global community in which we find ourselves today. Because at the end of the day, two is greater than one, four is greater than two, and so on.
“I will tell you something about stories, … They aren’t just entertainment. Don’t be fooled. They are all we have, you see, all we have to fight off illness and death. You don’t have anything if you don’t have the stories.” — Leslie Marmon Silko
Stories are our guides, our blueprints for meaning. They relay messages and explain questions. Stories, whether exchanged via spoken word or written word, give us important reference points for where we come from, what we are, and who we want to be. They set fire to the human imagination, igniting possibility and progression. The power of narrative has withstood the test of time, and is unrivaled in its ability to translate the human experience.
“You have been told that, even like a chain, you are as weak as your weakest link. This is but half the truth. You are also as strong as your strongest link. To measure you by your smallest deed is to reckon the power of ocean by the frailty of its foam. To judge you by your failures is to cast blame upon the seasons for their inconstancy.” — Kahlil Gibran
There is something about the human spirit, an instinct so primal in nature it surpases the need to survive, and pushes us to thrive. Despite loss, trauma, and failure — things we experience as individuals and respective groups — resilience endures. We are still figuring out how to rise as an entire species, often stepping on each other (to put it lightly) in pursuit of our own dreams, but one thing’s for sure, we’ve always been hardwired to persevere.
“Love is the only thing—I don’t want to say ‘that makes it bearable’—but I feel like without the possibility of love, this place would just devour us. Honestly, connecting once at the deepest level with someone, you know, once you’ve done that, even if your life goes to hell, man, it was really worth living.” — Junot Diaz
It’s cliché, but it’s real. Human beings do crazy things in the name of love. It’s the one thing that keeps us coming back to each other despite what we do to each other. Falling in love, watching others express it, and dreaming about its possibility brings us joy, a sense of hope. No story is complete without some manifestation of love. Love requires us to surrender, to take a risky jump into the unknown and inevitably painful, but we do it anyway. We can’t help it; we can’t live without it.
What’s held you in the face of uncertainty?