Page 10 - The.Ascent.of.Humanity
P. 10


More than any other species, human beings are gifted with the power 

to manipulate their environment and the ability to accumulate and 

transmit knowledge across generations. The first of these gifts we call 

technology; the other we call culture. They are central to our humanity.

Accumulating over thousands of years, culture and technology have 

brought us into a separate human realm. We live, more than any animal, 

surrounded by our own artifacts. Among these are works of surpassing 

beauty, complexity, and power, human creations that could not have ex- 

isted—could not even have been conceived—in the times of our fore- 

bears. Seldom do we pause to appreciate the audacity of our 

achievements: objects as mundane as a compact disc, a video cellphone, 

an airplane would have seemed fantastical only a few centuries ago. We 

have created a realm of magic and miracles.

At the same time, it is quite easy to see technology and culture not as 

a gift but as a curse. After millennia of development, the power to ma- 

nipulate the environment has become the power to destroy it, while the 

ability to transmit knowledge transmits as well a legacy of hatred, injus- 

tice, and violence. Today, as both the destruction and the violence reach 

a feverish crescendo, few can deny that the world is in a state of crisis. 

Opinions vary as to its exact nature: some people say it is primarily eco- 

logical; others say it is a moral crisis, a social, economic, or political crisis, 

a health crisis, even a spiritual crisis. There is, however, little disagree- 

ment that the crisis is of human origin. Hence, despair: Is the present 

ruination of the world built into our humanity?

Is genocide and ecocide the inevitable price of civilization’s magnifi- 

cence? Need the most sublime achievements of art, music, literature, sci- 

ence, and technology be built upon the wreckage of the natural world 

and the misery of its inhabitants? Can the microchip come without the

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