how the little green men might defeat us humans 1

The Arctic is burning. Greenland is melting. The Amazon rain forest is drying out and shrinking. These are three stories I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks. And I’m sure there are more, many more, I just haven’t seen.

These are are all stories about what we are doing, what we have already done, to our planet. But the environment is not what I want to write about today. This is not to say that I don’t take the global environment seriously. I do, but what we are doing is on us and is not the result of some an alien conspiracy, though there are stories there to be written.

Rather, I want to talk about time. Because I think that we humans have a bad sense of time, and it is this bad sense of time that gets in our way.

This gets back to the seven generations principle, that we should think of the consequences of our actions seven generations hence.

On the one hand, seven generations is a lot. Given current child bearing ages in the west, seven generations is getting close to 200 years. Two centuries. Two centuries ago, we did not yet have electricity and steam power was only slowly becoming widespread. Journeys that in the present day take only hours, then took weeks or months.

On the other hand, two hundred years is not much time at all. We are producing plastics and other compounds that will last far beyond two hundred years. We are acting in ways whose consequences will last far beyond two hundred years.

But we don’t have a good sense of time. We don’t have a good sense of time in the large, where by ‘in the large’ I mean time as compared to a human lifespan. And this is something that we as humans are going to have to find a way to address.

I think that one of the most important questions we have to answer is, how should we act today so that in a century or in a millennium, life is better then than it is today. This is remarkably complicated, because our ability to predict the future is very, very limited. We don’t see the future well. Perhaps this is why fortune tellers remain in business.

I don’t know how we can develop this better sense of the scale and scope of time. We are to some significant extent bound by our biology. And so this has become the challenge, our challenge, the way we defeat the little green men that might wish to use our poor sense of time, and our poor sense of the scale of time, against us.

~ by Jim Anderson on 6 August 2019.

One Response to “how the little green men might defeat us humans 1”

  1. […] Last time, I talked about time and how we humans perceive time, and the difficulties we seem to have in dealing with periods of time longer than a single human lifespan. […]

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