Tea Uglow, Google's Creative Lab, Sydney. Au. She writes, talks, arts, geeks, preens, parents and humans.
Humans have been talking via computers for nearly 50 years now. The profile of movable type and mass printing is nearly 1000 years old (and Chinese). The written word as we understand it dates back five thousand years to Mesopotamia (Iraq). The earliest forms of civilisation project us even further, to about 8000 BC and nomadic, neolithic tribes congregating on flood plains to begin work at consistent farming - the agrarian revolution - which, in turn, led to the Bronze age and, eventually, Ru Paul’s Drag Race.
We have been communicating with pictures for at least 40,000 years. (The caves at Chauvet, not the oldest, but the finest, hold art that is 30,000 years old. Wikipedia reliably informs me that music and theatre are older still). Humans like you - ‘anatomically modern’ ones - have existed for 100k+ years; our species ‘sapiens’ has been bickering about washing up and stuff for over 600 thousand years; and our genus - the human ‘homo' - is 2.5 million years old.
That is OLD. It would be a shame if we managed to wipe ourselves out. But if we did… and really, would you bet money on us celebrating #NYE #3000AD? If we did we still wouldn’t be putting much of a dent in the timeline of life itself (3.5 - 4.1bn yrs), or The Earth which has an upcoming 4600-millionth birthday to look forward to. Humans appear to constitute roughly 0.005% or 1/2000th of the temporal existence of the earth. Which you probably knew. And, y’know, for perspective: across a ninety minute hollywood movie covering the existence of the solar system - the humans would get an epic 1.8 second cameo. Provided we stick to scale and don't inflate our own significance. Applied to one of my 20 minute talks humanity would appear on stage for 600 milliseconds. In a YT creator video there is literally no humanity at all. Sad. In the average bounce time for this page (which, bizarrely, is not long enough to read all the words) human life would span less than one full stop.
So far. Even if we do last another ten thoooooooousand years, i.e. #USElection #12016AD, the earth is expected to exist for another 5 to 8 billion years. Which means, in terms of our existence, we are a flash, lasting almost exactly 1 second, somewhere around half way through our movie. Civilisation as we know it would be so short a flash that the eye wouldn’t be able to perceive it because the mechanics of the eye-brain response are that shonky. And we don’t tend to believe in things we can’t see. Unless you work at the Science Museum. Or NASA.
If you were on a planet in the Andromeda galaxy today, and you happened to be observing the Earth, the speed of light would mean that for you, the 'homo' Genus still wouldn't have evolved.
But we digress. The point is that evolution is an article of faith and human evolution looks like such a spectacular false start. So is intelligent life actually a bad idea, an evolutionary dead end, or are we somehow special?
Intelligence is clearly self-destructive, and evolution itself has no controlling 'purpose', it's just process, like time or conscioussness. It lacks a moral framework. We have multiplied and obliterated our own environment at quite astonishing speed. Literally the blink of an eye at a cosmic scale. Perhaps we are an example of evolution at it’s finest, but we flamed out pretty fast. If anyone's giving prizes they're going to sharks, or roaches. Having said that, the act of consciousness is a bit special, and the absence of any observable significance to the universe adds weight to your perception of yourself as divine. So the answer is both. The answer is also existential. Time is just the pixels in your mind re-drawing very quickly (and imperfectly) so that time looks like it is contiguous. It’s just an electrical pattern. These symbols, the ‘words', only have meaning because you believe they do and I’m only writing them because some friends said I needed to redesign my website and I didn’t know what to do about that. But I hereby decline to present a beguiling bunch of thumbnails. Then this silly screed went long-form and that seemed funny
<emoji>. Because because, because I find it hard to take it all terribly seriously (sorry team). Because, secretly, between us, .. I’m not a real designer. (If you believe I exist at all.)
So, let’s conclude with this: Humanity is (probably) a (potentially disastrous) prototype. A split second of an evolutionary malfunction (if you believe time is sequential.)
And, personally, thinking that makes me feel better. It's not helpful, nor particularly cheery - but shucks I hope you find it reassuring as well.
So if you read this far you are a) amazing b) special c) responsible for significantly increasing the average site duration, which is reward enough, thank you. Read more.
kisses TeA x