There is grandeur in this view of life, … [that] from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.
— Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species
Cities are no more artificial than Bee-hives. The internet is as natural as a spider’s web. We ourselves are technological devices, invented by ancient bacterial communities as means of genetic survival — we are part of an intricate network that comes from the original takeover of the Earth. Our power and intelligence do not belong specifically to us, but to all life.
— John Gray, Straw Dogs
Both Darwin and Gray evoke the image of an unnamed, creative force that generates increasingly complex forms of order from chaos. Human intelligence was created by this force, and we are now a means for accelerating this play of creation.
This creative force has no concern for me, but I am its child. I am a finite being, but the endowment of consciousness has made me aware of my place within this infinite network of evolving forms.
I am aware of my eventual death, but I am consoled by the thought that I will have played a role, an infinitesimally small one, in the evolution of things I cannot imagine. I will not see all that comes after me, but I will have been a means for its arrival.
Humanity’s potential is worth preserving, he argues, not because we are so great now but because of the possibility, however small, that we are a bridge to something far greater.
— Toby Ord, quoted in The New Yorker
Recognizing my self as temporary, conditioned by events beyond my control, animated by forces beyond my awareness, I am but one strange aspect of a universe of endless invention.
Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream;
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.
— Diamond Sutra