The things that will be accomplished in our lifetime and the decisions made will be the most important in the history of humanity. We have the very real possibility of being alive during the creation/development of two things that are going to change what it means to be human in some very fundamental ways. Those two things are the biological revolution that may bring about an end to aging and the birth of artificial general intelligence which in its essence is the creation of a species far superior to our own. There is also the distinct possibility that these two things will merge endowing our consciousness with bodies that will never die and giving us access to intelligence that will allow us to comprehend all that there is to know.
Now all of that in it of itself is a lot to unpack and I could go on and on and on about all the reasons why they are possible in our lifetime. But I’m just going to assume for the sake of this piece that they are possible and that they will happen. What does that mean?
It means that of all the generations of people that have ever lived (83,000 generations to be exact) our generation is the generation that will experience the most important things to have ever happened. I know every generation might believe that their time is or was the most important, but comparing all the generations objectively, the things that will be accomplished in our generation are by far the biggest things.
Why is it that our generation is the one experiencing all of this? How is it that of all the people that have ever lived it is up to us to figure out how to deal with all this craziness?
Well, there are only two options, it’s a complete coincidence, or its not. The first few times I thought about it I just believed, okay, the chances of all this happening during my life is very very very small but it just kind of is what it is. It must just be a coincidence that its happening during my life, that seemed to be the only logical answer.
But I’m not so sure anymore.
Now, how could it not be a coincidence and what in the fuck does that mean?
I gotta admit here that I don’t feel qualified to answer this question myself so I’ll be deferring to a collection of ideas from people who have thought about this problem a lot longer than I have. To begin with it is important to understand that our DNA, which is responsible for making us everything that we are and endowing us with everything that we know, is really just information, a collection of chemicals dubbed A, C, G, and T that arranged themselves in just the right way to give birth to life and everything we know. As far as we can tell, their original arrangement was a complete coincidence and it has survived ever since because of a property of the universe called evolution by natural selection. (If you want to learn more about this stuff I highly recommend reading The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee, I’ve read it three times already)
But what about the universe itself? Life needed a universe to live in otherwise of course it too would never be. So what is the universe? Well this is where our knowledge begins to fail us and our best guesses are just guesses, but they are very interesting guesses. Our best theory that brings it all together is string theory, and a growing number of leading string theorists, when they dissect the equations that govern its function find that it too at its core is comprised of bits of information, some, though certainly not all, have gone as far as to say that it looks exactly like computer programming code. (Look up Dr. James Gates Jr. for more)
Then there is simulation theory, which essentially states that civilization eventually gets to a point that it becomes so technologically advanced that it is able to make computational models of reality that mimic reality in every conceivable way (think of it like a super advanced version of the game Sims) and that the characters in that model would have no way of knowing that they live in a program. Those characters would then evolve over time until they themselves are able to make programs that make programs that make programs down and down into an infinite recursive loop. The most prominent proponent of this being Elon Musk who said something like “there is a 1 in a billion chance that we are living in base reality”.
What I add to that idea, and which I haven’t seen anywhere else but I’m sure I’m not the first to think about is this. Where would ‘they’, whoever or whatever they are, start the program? At the big bang? At the beginning of life? At the beginning of consciousness? At the beginning of your life? It’s even possible to think that the program is just running in your head and everything that you see and experience is just happening in your brain.
It would certainly explain why all of the craziest shit that has ever happened is happening in your lifetime. I also have yet to add to this all what neuroscience is now telling us about how our brains work, that when you delve deep into it it seems to just be a quantum computer.
So it all comes down to this, either there is a 1 in 83000 chance that this all happening to us and it is just a coincidence that we are the ones living through the most rapid evolution in the 3.7 billion year history of life on earth(I didn’t even add to that fraction the millions of generations of human’s ancestors or the chance of humans existing at all) or none of this is reality.
But at the end of the day it probably doesn’t make much sense to spend too much time thinking about all of this because ultimately whether or not reality is real or it just feels like it is real it is still the world that we live in and for now at least it is all that we can know, I think.