It’s not an unknown fact that humans have their craniums filled with a grey gooey substance that allows them to take independent decisions. If you’re unaware of this fact, you shouldn’t be reading this. If someone else is making you understand this, tell them to find a better way to spend their time, they will appreciate it. Elaborating on independent decisions: humans take information in, process it and take some action, like thinking more on the topic, or eating, or going out. That’s barring some specimens that do nothing with the information, like vegetate in front of their boob-tubes. The actions they take are independent of anything or anyone else. Obviously, some humans are of the persuaded variety, or some are physically incapable of acting on their decisions. Even then, the decisions they take are by themselves. The decisions occur in their own brains, not in someone else’s.
We humans like to think we’re the only ones with this capability. Future discoveries aside, there’s no evidence to suggest otherwise. I haven’t seen a whale, which is believed to be a highly intelligent animal, carry on a conversation with a human, or another whale for that matter. Cute little whistling sounds don’t count. Our 1 year old babies do that a lot. Believe me we’ve tried. We’ve even sung to the whales, and they still keep beaching themselves. Maybe they’re an order of magnitude more intelligent than us and we keep missing the point. That’s a subject for another discussion.
Because of our ability to dwell on, manipulate and act according to abstract ideas, we have managed to change how we live, where we live, who we live with, what we eat etc.
We can visualize concepts in our heads. Some concepts are horrifically out of this world, and can’t be manifested into physical actions. Some of us try really hard to produce reproducible results out of the concepts though. Take artists. Take Dali. A melting clock that still keeps clicking? Take musicians. Beethoven, who became deaf later in life and still composed music. Some of us barely act on it, never bothering to even jot it down, for preservation, distribution, whatever. Some of us just live through it, produce ten children, and die. Whatever we do with it, we have proof of this particular ability of humans. It’s everywhere – our societies, our cities and villages, our homes, our cultures, our wars, our peace times, our history, our education, our families. You can’t run away from the fact that we’re doomed to be concept modelers, thinkers and environment-changers.
This brings me to the central point of my discussion, our families. We don’t know our origins. We have theories of evolution, galactic seeding, creation etc. Some of them are almost proven; some of them are acts of faith. I’d like to think we’re nowhere near finding out, it gives us yet another reason for being. Maybe we never will find out. Apart from that, evolution is the generally agreed upon theory on how we have become what we’ve become and the route nature has given us to do that is via offspring. We pass on genetically coded information to the next generation, which pass it on to the next, to the next, ad infinitum. The information mutates, adjusts according to circumstance, and gets refined as it’s passed along. We, as humanity, become conduits for the information, knowingly or unknowingly.
This type of information has been called “memes�? among many other things. We as humanity, as animals, as part of the ecosystem, become conduits for meme propagation. There are other major memes that have been named, like religion, politics, male/female domination etc. That’s again a subject for another discussion. The point is we don’t know where the evolution meme is taking us. We can only guess. We do guess that’s what all the science-fiction writers excel at, guessing our futures. If we do know that we are carriers of this meme, and we don’t know where it’s taking us, it’s fairly easy to extrapolate that we’re being manipulated by this meme, by something or someone or some higher process we don’t know about. I’m not alluding to God, just an abstract thingy that’s somewhere beyond our field of perception. By that token, it can be extrapolated, probably barely, that we don’t have too much control over our destinies. All you fate-believers out there, you’re probably rejoicing. But hold on a sec, we have something that can change the playing field a little – our capacity for independent thought and action.
I’m not saying we stop children just to stop propagation of the meme. Hell, I wouldn’t want to stop having sex. What we can do is make sure whatever abstract concepts we come up with, we try and manifest them into physical objects as much as possible. Books, buildings, CDs, music, artificial food, space stations, space ships – anything that’s not part of evolution; anything that can withstand our dying out. You know we’ve come pretty close to blasting our egoistic asses to hell a lot of times in the past. Build things, create poems, and record them. Create rockets, even if to blast that loud neighbor that you really hate right out of his instrument filled garage. I’m not condoning that by the way. Create robots that are as intelligent as us. Create a whole new ecosystem somewhere out there in the backyard of our galaxy. Create whole new worlds. If you can’t create them, write them down, record the ideas. Maybe our hated-meme carrying children will one day find a way to act on them.
That’s the significance of human action. Our actions will survive us, not our children. So go out and do something. Try and paint that picture that you’ve always imagined, even if it’s your nightmare. Join the X-prize space race and build that space plane you’ve been dreaming about. Build a sculpture. Heck, go build that floating island-nation with its own laws and regulations. Leave something behind other than tire-marks, when you’ve fulfilled your role of being a throwaway tire for the big old meme tractor.