A lot of people ask me questions, whenever I’m interviewed, on evolution and progress, one of the subjects that is close to my heart. My personal inquisitiveness on the“beginning of life” helps me to connect dots as logically and rationally as my ‘inquiring’ mind allows me. For my own good and for my future generation, I would like to put down something that I think is a fair account of human history and its progress. People don’t really have the time to read hundreds of books on the subject, therefore in all modesty, this article reflects the structure of my understanding from my gurus.
What consumes my mind is the void and slow pace of human history and phase of discovery from 500 BC to 1600/1800 AD and the huge exponential growth from 1600 to 2011. I am obsessed with discoveries that led to the causes and origins of that massive exponential increase in rate of growth of our knowledge spectrum. If you want to discover those nations who failed, and those who progressed, just see the names from where the prophets of knowledge appeared in between ‘1600-2000.’ In between 1000-2000 AD, “Medieval theologians” have been singlehandedly responsible for the arrest of growth of knowledge in some geographical regions of the world.
Ideas should be rewarded, not persecuted. The idea-man should be loved, not condemned. When Galileo was condemned and arrested, the emphasis of science moved from Italy to Northern Europe. When in 1200 AD Ghazali arrested free will over philosophical dialogue of Averroes and introduced the concept of predestination as the favourite strain of Allah’s ideology, Middle East descended into a chaos which it has not recovered so far. History takes time but grinds very fine and destroys those who deny the flow of knowledge.
A short journey from beginning to 2011; the ever increasing pace of our ‘information band’ is astonishing:
In 13.6 billion years of our existence ‘From the Big Bang to the End of the Universe and The Mysteries of Deep Space Timeline’, I consider the most important events as:
1- The Big Bang 10-35 seconds;
2- The Birth of Stars and Galaxies 300 million years;
3- The Birth of the Sun, 5 Billion Years before the Present;
4- The Homo sapiens Evolve; 600,000 Years BP;
5- The ‘First Telescope’ Galileo Builds the First Telescope;
6- The era of 1609 -1665 A.D. Isaac Newton Describes Gravity 1665 A.D.
7- The era of Relativity; Albert Einstein Publishes Theory of Relativity;
8- The era of deep space probe; 1905 A.D.
9- The culmination of phase 1 of deep space probe Hubble Space Telescope Launched;
10-The verification of ‘The Big Bang 1990 A.D.’
From the throes of Big Bang our constituent ‘star dust evolution’ takes thousand of millions of years (9 billion years) to formation of earth’s crust – subsequent evolution of life is speeded up, it accelerates tohundreds of millions of years in the Triassic/Jurassic age, paces further up tens of millions of years in the Cretaceous Tertiary when mass extinction of dinosaurs, rise of modern animals, shrubs, grasses; 5 million years ago Australopithecines appear, Gracile australopiths shared several traits with modern apes and humans, and were widespread throughout Eastern and Northern Africa around 3.5 million years ago. It is widely held by archaeologists and palaeontologists that the australopiths played a significant part in human evolution, and it was one of the australopith species that eventually evolved into the Homo genus in Africa around 2 million years ago, which contained within it species like Homo habilis, H. ergaster and eventually the modern human species, H. sapiens sapiens.
In the following words of Richard Feynman: “The age in which we live is the age in which we are discovering the fundamental laws of nature, and that day will never come again.” Our present conscious history on the earth is like a few nano seconds in comparison to our long journey, if we take that Tallest building analogy: “If you can imagine a 10¢ piece balanced on top of the Rialto building (or the Grollo supertower for that matter), the thickness of the coin is equivalent to the time that homo sapiens has walked the earth. The rest of the height of the building is equivalent to the total period of time that life has existed on the earth.”
In these last 2500 years of our existence we see the takeoff from thousands of years’ pace to just hundreds of years until 1600-2011. Yet, the growth velocity of human knowledge in these few nano-seconds has outpaced all development; we now understand our fiery origins and have an idea of our journey forward; for all of us who are ‘on the stage for very little’ to comprehend what took billion of years to form is the true miracle, if anything, and this understanding came from science and our curiosity and not from holy sources. God kept playing dice with us.
The growth of knowledge has been incredible, in the last few centuries, built on a string of super philosophers. Francis Bacon and his followers discovered that “knowledge is power.” The rationalist Descartes insisted that “knowledge is duty”. Now, due to transhumanism, we can reconcile the two and recognize a new basic truth: “power is knowledge.” I see from Aristotle to Einstein and, today in the world of Hawking, a continuous eventful chain that propels the tree of knowledge in an upward trajectory. This knowledge is the key to our empowerment; there is no empowerment of mind if knowledge is relegated.
The brains of most species of Australopithecus were roughly 35% of the size of that of a modern human brain. In our 3.5 m years of bipedal existence we progressed very slowly; from 3.5 million years to pre-civilisation 250,000 years the Neanderthal man created some art and showed our skill as primates far ahead of any other ape; if we need to be powerful the only way is that we continue to discover. That elusive search for knowledge defines our character and our makeup. It took only ‘10,000 years of culture of knowledge’ to evolve into a very unique species of the Universe. Within these 10,000 years of our cultural history the last 500 years have seen phenomenal scientific growth; we are on the verge of becoming a linked race, the dream of a global village coming true, though as opposing cultures mate the clash looks to be more obvious than features of our coalescence.
The reason I am so interested in coherent interpretation of our origins of constituent atoms from singularity to exponential growth of our consciousness in the last 10,000 years as a ‘primitive civil society’ starts in Jericho; we will not be able to understand our human culture unless we realize how agriculture, technology, and violence are interconnected. The settling of human beings in Jericho is the starting point of our cultural leap forward. It was only possible when new hybrid wheat appeared that changed the nomads to settlers. That rare wild wheat was known as “Emmer” and that crossed with another natural growth grass and produced a still larger hybrid with 42 chromosomes to become what we eat as bread wheat (It is a strange coincidence of nature that had there been no genetic mutation of one chromosome, the wheat would remain wild). With agriculture comes technology because tools are required to harvest wheat and sickle was one of the first tools we find in Jericho. Sickles the reapers used were all 10,000 years old.
There is a strange story between man and wheat: Man’s life depends on wheat, and bread wheat can only multiply with the help of man; man must harvest the ears and scatter the seed. Here you see genetic mutations combine to turn nomads and foragers into settlers. Agriculture provided the basis of men becoming settlers. We used the sickle, and the first form of lever which was ever used to harvest was the plough, the most ingenious form of implement to break the ground. Here I come back to my old theory of ‘riparian societies’ that are peaceful, and nomads that are ravagers and looters. If you see, Jericho was also the gateway to fertile lands of Euphrates, Tigris, Nile and the Mediterranean, so was Indus, the bastion of civilisation. Jericho 10,000 years ago shows us the advent of violence amongst human beings too, and that violence came from the excess we humans produced as a result of use of technology – the sickle, plough, the wheel of rotation used as an axle for irrigation. Wheat and axle became the basis of our inventions.
Man conquered the forces of nature with the help of technology: First the animal, and then the elements, wind and water. The scarcities of settlers were always overcome by use of technology, no matter how basic it sounds. The whole struggle of man has been to create surplus from nature. Nature does not give freebies, you have to work to create the surplus. And that in turn became the root of conflict. Nomads became warriors and started attacking settlers. Wherever there were surpluses, desert and mountain nomads assailed and looted them. War is not a basic human instinct, it is organized theft. Once the nomads needed to get to the excess of the settlers, they used “sophisticated” means – it was Scythian riders who shocked Greeks when they attacked on horses (thus the legend of Centaurs was born, the Greeks initially believed the riders and horses as one being). Even the horse became part of the technological breakthrough and became “the tanks” of the day 2,500 years ago.
The ravagers and looters were basically nomads who found an easy way to what they themselves could not provide: But human progress has defeated all organized theft and crime, because the same ravagers and looters over the next thousand years finally settled as rulers of nations – the Ottomans in Anatolia, Mughals in India and the Arab nomads in Damascus and Baghdad. Sophistication and knowledge instinctively teaches even the hardest of criminals. Crime is not a natural instinct of man. Human harmony has all the elements of sickle, plough, the wheel, horse, which are all interrelated phenomena. We need to understand how fast our progress has been, and the fact that peace is the innate nature of man, not killing. The self condemnatory belief that man is destructive is alien to our whole history as cultural beings in the last 10,000 years.
As a student of history I define the most momentous moments of our last 2500 years i.e. from 400 BC – 2011 of our existence as the key era. We see here the lift-off from thousands of years’ pace to hundreds of years until 1600-2011, and from 1600 years onwards the pace has expedited to decades and now we live in days of new instantaneous bursts of knowledge that we don’t even recognise as important news. Nothing surprises us anymore.
In the last 2500 years the most important events or the mega breaks were in:
484 BC – Oral tradition was the mode in which historical facts were at firsttransmitted from one generation to another. The Old Testament is the earliest historical work in existence. Herodotus, born BC 484, and called the “father of history,” is the earliest classical historian. transmitted from one generation to another. The is the earliest historical work in existence. Herodotus, born BC 484, and called the “father of history,” is the earliest classical historian
383 BC – Aristotle was born in Stageira in 383 BC. He wrote Nicomachean Ethics and Physics. He had occupations including mathematician and physicist. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics was written around 340 BC. It is probably named after either his father or son, who were both named Nicomachus. Nicomachean Ethics is Aristotle’s most mature work on ethics.
1605 – Sir Francis Bacon, an English philosopher, is not famous for conducting breakthrough experiments of his own, but rather for popularizing what would come to be called the scientific method. “If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties,” he wrote in 1605.
1633 – In the end, Galileo developed Laws of Physics which endure today, and which proved Aristotle wrong. His life’s work, revered today, was not judged kindly by the authorities of the time. In 1633 the Pope found Galileo guilty of heresy for holding a belief that countered the Holy Scripture, and was condemned to house arrest, under guard, for his remaining life.
1642 – Galileo died in 1642, and in the same year Newton was born. When 24 years old he “began to think of gravity extending to the orb of the moon,” and before the end of the century he had discovered and established the great law of universal gravitation.
1686 – The laws of classical mechanics were summarized in 1686 by Isaac Newton (1642- 1727) in his famous book Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. During the following 200 years, they were universally used for the theoretical interpretation of all known …The laws of classical mechanics were summarized in 1686 by Isaac Newton (1642- 1727) in his famous book Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica.
During the following 200 years, they were universally used for the theoretical interpretation of all known phenomena in physics and astronomy.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, new discoveries related to the electronic structure of atoms and molecules and to the nature of light could no longer be interpreted by means of the classical Newtonian laws of mechanics. It therefore became necessary to develop a new and different type of mechanics in order to explain these newly discovered phenomena. This new branch of theoretical physics became known as quantum mechanics or wave mechanics.
On 7 October 1900, the German physicist Max Planck conjured up a mathematical formula which transformed the scientific landscape as dramatically as a Richter 10 earthquake. All that came before was relegated to “classical” physics and recognised as little more than a special case of modern, or “quantum”, physics. According to theory, light was a vibration. The mathematical analysis of Planck’s quanta of light was laid out by Einstein in 1905.
As the 19th century ended, many scientists were proclaiming the “end of physics, ” insisting that all major theories were in place and that there was nothing left for physicists to do but to fill in the details.
On June 30, 1905, with Einstein’s submission of his paper “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies,” a decisive challenge had been offered to the Newtonian universe, and new worlds of inquiry would soon open.
Quantum Mechanics arose from the rubble of a world view held by physicists for over 200 years. Since Isaac Newton’s triumphant summation of the physical world in 1687, the universe was “known” to run like clockwork, obeying definite rules of cause and effect, the product of a limited set of forces acting on matter. By the turn of the 20th Century, physicists were complacently predicting the “end of physics” because the composition and laws of the universe were so well understood that precious little remained to be discovered or analyzed.
In 1903, Albert Michelson, the first American Nobel Prize winner, confidently asserted, “The most important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplemented in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote.” Hawking predicted on April 29, 1980, that physics might soon achieve a complete, unified theory of nature. This prophecy was offered up by him when he presented a paper entitled “Is the End of Theoretical Physics in Sight?” This was in the speech delivered on the occasion of his appointment as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, an important chair held by Newton 300 years earlier. According to Horgan (1997, 94) only a few observers noticed that Hawking, at the end of his speech, indicated post humans and not humans as the protagonists of this conquest: “Hawking suggested that computers, given their accelerated evolution, might soon surpass their human creators in intelligence and achieve the final theory on their own.”
Though Erwin Schrödinger suggested that the human mind is incapable of conceiving a model of the workings of quantum mechanics, he spent most of his career toiling on adding machines that you cranked with a big handle to add two numbers. ”He had never clicked a mouse, nor seen The Matrix or The Thirteenth Floor or even Star Trek. Today we are ready to think of the inconceivable; the reality of Star Trek characters will only shock us for a few hours at the most, mentally we have made the transformation to a level where we consider speed of light travel a possibility; a couple of centuries back our ancestors could not even imagine anything faster than locomotive.”
Our capability of conceiving a model that Erwin Schrödinger could never dream of is a sign of our fast track evolution of knowledge.
Today researchers have been experimenting with two-way neural-computer communication by growing neurons on and around computer chips, or by placing electrodes in brains that are connected to computers, leading to computing prostheses for the brain.
The American theoretical physicist John wheeler has the faith that humans will one day find ‘The Answer’ to describe not only the final theory of physics but also the secret of life and the solution to the riddle of the universe. However, his mentor Niels Bohr had the opposing thought. Wheeler learned of Bohr’s view not directly from the great man but from his son only after Bohr’s death.
In “Is Science a Victim of its own Success?” Horgan describes about various situations that make funding for basic research difficult and about different limits brought about by the advancement of science itself. He insists that in spite of these the greatest threat to science’s future is its past success. Then he anticipates that in science at its purest and grandest, i.e., in the primordial human quest to understand the universe and our place in it, further research may yield no more great revelations or revolutions but only incremental, diminishing returns. The vast majority of scientists would be content to fill in details of the great paradigms laid down by their predecessors.
There is no final word in our world: Newton proved Aristotle wrong but the greatness of Aristotle stays in the mind of man and is part of cultural folklore. I will enigmatically point out to a strange dichotomy that I have written about a lot, i.e. the Prophets. The next prophet never discarded the principles of the old rather rehashed them and redefined the geography and incidences with his own juxtaposition. Incoherence of the Holy Scriptures in events and personalities is at sharp contrast to rejection of ideas with reason and logic. Sciences progress with the death of an idea and a funeral takes off a new. The holy scriptures in succession tend to wean authority from the previous and tend to support the incoherence of the myths, though supportive of fables, but defining them for their own geography. The stories of Torah, Bible and Quran are not supportive of each other rather contradict each other, Newton negation of Aristotle made Aristotle even the greatest of beings.
We expect to tame solar power comprehensively and hope to control fusion in next few decades. If energy resources become free like ‘air,’ humans will forget the concept of scarcity. Energy cost creates ‘scarcity of resources.’ Scarcity of water, food and resources stem from scarcity of energy and once the ‘demons of energy’ are seized, revolution of addressing energy scarcity will become the next big human endeavour like the Worldwide Web that broke the walls of previous prejudices. Solar energy and fusion will counter the acute shortages that create inequalities. Our next tryst is with the energy revolution and like the revolution of ‘death of distance, information and connectivity’ which was the harder bit, this is the light at the end of the tunnel.
Jericho civilization 10,000 years ago had its roots in embryonic technology, we averted Malthusian disasters because of our innate skill to produce in excess of our abilities, here we stand at the cross roads with all our pessimism of wars, violence and scarcity, once again we will defy the doomsayers and move on back of a huge technological leap forward, we have conquered ‘distance’ and conquered ‘detachment’ amongst ourselves; our next step is to conquer scarcity of ‘energy’ through our benefactor and our biggest free fusion reactor Sun that runs our earth.
I use 500 million years of useful life as a reference giving credence to the remaining life of Sun of 4 billion years where temperatures on earth may change our habitat in the next few hundred million years. One needs to be aware that this is just beginning of our journey and we are in the chapter of a primary evolutionary struggle for a new phase of knowledge for a minimum of 500 million years of our existence. The pace of progress of knowledge has increased at a pace of lightning speed, and from this pedestal to take off for next 500 million years is something that is inconceivable. The unfathomable heights that the human is set to achieve is again in contrast to prophets of doom who predict our self immolation from manmade disasters. Disasters and wars will happen, but nothing can eradicate our innate nature of construction and optimism.
500 million years of progress lies ahead of us post 1600 to 2011 burst of knowledge: With so much achieved in just 10,000 years of change of status from nomads to settlers we cant even imagine the prospects for our future generations. The speed at which knowledge barriers are going down is so fast that even what used to be achieved in million years of evolution we are achieving in a single year with this fast speed of power knowledge. We just need to understand that we are the pioneers of a advanced human society that has just entered the embryonic stage of understanding. Like a Jericho man could not appreciate worldwide web and connectivity we possibly cannot comprehend the future that awaits us. Amen