Sunday, October 30, 2005

Introspection, Extrospection

I couldn't sleep. It was a clear night. A little after midnight, I sat on the back steps and watched the stars for a couple of hours. I haven't done this in the last decade or two, and am not going into the reasons for last night here.

I remember as a teenager thinking that maybe I was born a generation or two too early and that maybe my children, or theirs, would think of space travel, at least within our solar system, as normal. Seems absurd now, after the stagnation of the space program, and the disaster that the shuttle turned out to be.

Now there are lot of scientists talking about resource depletion. Oil, steel, silver. But particularly oil - the end of cheap energy. Hell it's even in the news. I'm not going into the pros and cons here, mostly because I am entirely unqualified to do so. Let's just assume for the moment that peak oil is real, and that it is here approximately now.

What this may mean is that where we stand now is the technological high point of human civilization. I feel honored to be able to witness it, and maybe a little nervous at the possibility that I may witness the beginning of its decline. We were the tool makers. We made it to the edge of space, though history will probably show that only our tools ventured beyond Earth's orbit. The numerous advances that give me this device - this computer - that connects me to so many others. These are tremendous achievements.

Our greatest achievement is not ours at all, but belongs to the random forces of evolution. It is the combination of traits that allows all this to be. Imagination, primarily. But also our barbarism, our ruthless willingness to destroy all in our path, including each other, for the sake of our own comfort. Oh, and the thumbs.

For whatever reason we are here now, and we should be proud of what we have achieved in our short time on this planet, just as we wait for the fruits of our extreme success to bring about our decline. It is possible for an organism to be too successful.

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