Solar eclipse through a brain scan.
I read something interesting: “What people haven’t seemed to notice is that on earth, of all the billions of species that have evolved, only one has developed intelligence to the level of producing technology. Which means that kind of intelligence is really not very useful. It’s not actually, in the general case, of much evolutionary value” (Tim Maudlin).
Evolution As Dance
The idea of evolution as progress is pernicious, and probably wrong. Darwin (according to Stephen Jay Gould) avoided the term evolution, opting for natural selection. It has to be seen as a two way process, species adapt to a changing environment, thus adaptations which once seemed awesome (dinosaurs) can become liabilities with environmental change. It’s not a steady progression towards anything, it’s more of a never ending dance.
Humans As Bit Players
Humans, however, tend to think we are the pinnacle of evolution and that all things trend towards us. Including alien life. However, we are by no means the most successful species possible. According to Gould, we actually live in the age of bacteria, which has been going on for 4 billion years.
In that sense, I think we’ve confused the act of being conscious of what we’re doing with actually being good at what we’re doing.
The Other World
The promise of humanity, however, is that we have some other capacity in us, something which is more adaptive to this universe. We’re like the kid in class that gets in fights and sleeps through class, but who just might be a genius. On one level, we could be creating artificial intelligence with God-like powers, and we could venture out into space, likely some combination of the two. The past may look back and see us as the biological substrate of highly sophisticated light beings that travel around the universe and do awesome things. Or they may look at us as a soggy blip. Or they may not look back at all.