My fifth post for the humanist blog Applied Sentience is now live:
Here, I talk about one of my favorite subjects — the seemingly miraculous way that a bunch of individual human beings built the world we live in over the course of a few thousand years.
The secret of our success: Even if people don’t always understand one another, our intentions are similar enough that we manage to create laptops and buildings and pencils.
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I used to be somewhat afraid of large cities. Not in a physical-danger sort of way, but in a vague existentialist way:
Buildings take a long time to make, and many resources. So where did all these buildings come from? How did we possibly create most of New York City in less than a hundred years?
Most of all, how does this happen when I myself have no knowledge of how to build anything useful? How will I ever make up for the fact that I’ve been consuming precious natural resources for the last 18 years without giving anything back to the world?
Like many vague existentialist fear-clouds, it wasn’t very helpful.
I still feel the same sense of awe when I walk through New York, but nowadays, it isn’t fearful. It’s ecstatic. When you define “the human spirit” as “all the actions and desires of humanity, expressed across time and space”, NYC becomes a triumph of the human spirit.