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Humans are important


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In both real life and Internet dealings, I often hear people say things like "We humans are so insignificant in the grander scheme of things," or "How important could humanity possibly be? We're sooo arrogant, and yet the universe is soooo big!" It's almost become a cliché at this point, really -- and while it sounds good, or at least gives people philosophy points in social circles, it really isn't anything more complicated than a self-deprecating platitude.

Here's a thought: What if our worth, our significance, depends upon something far less trivial than physical mass?

I guess I don't get it; what does being relatively small have to do with the significance of the human species? Furthermore, given that we don't know how far down and up the scale reality extends, we could ultimately be relatively voluminous; after all, quarks are incomprehensibly tiny compared to a single human individual. And let's not forget that human bodies are not set physical objects, but continuously changing subroutines utilizing all of the universe in their procedures; abstracting a chunk of the suffering entity that we call the universe is tempting, given our evolved sense organs and their scale of operation, but it's not a very legitimate way of seeing things.

However, for the sake of argument, let's temporarily assume that this isn't the case, and that humans really are on the smaller end of the scale. Let's assume that, if you were to take all of our sensory abstractions of the matter, energy, time, and space in the universe and order it all in a straight line according to mass, humans would be in, maybe, the bottom one percent. Why would it matter?

The Grand Canyon is far larger than I, but if there's an avalanche nearby, is anyone obligated out of practical responsibility to rush the entire Grand Canyon to the hospital? No, but when a human being -- a vulnerable, sensitive creature subject to the intense chemical administrations of its own irrational cognitive processor -- gets trapped under the rocks, then anyone nearby is obligated to at least do something to help.

We're not insignificant; in fact, until we have proof that super-intelligent extraterrestrials exist, we're the most significant thing in the universe. Not only do we suffer as a consequence of chemical syntheses irrationally acting to stop their corresponding systems from breaking down, we also can deliberate upon our suffering for hours, days, years both before and after it occurs, creating even more suffering and compounding the void that is sentience. Oh, and on top of that, we're the only living organisms capable of doing something about it.

That makes us pretty significant to me.

So why not worship ourselves, then? Well, that's simple: In addition to being the most significant thing that we're aware of, each of us is also imbued with an incredible potential for algorithmic decision-making and model-building. The problem is that almost none of us is taking advantage of this, leading to the most tragic waste of energy in the history of reality as we've come to know it thus far.

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37 minutes ago, BushMaster said:

In both real life and Internet dealings, I often hear people say things like "We humans are so insignificant in the grander scheme of things," or "How important could humanity possibly be? We're sooo arrogant, and yet the universe is soooo big!"
We're not insignificant; in fact, until we have proof that super-intelligent extraterrestrials exist, we're the most significant thing in the universe.
That makes us pretty significant to me.

So why not worship ourselves, then?

We are insignificant in the grander scheme of things...you know, like the universe. At the same time we are the most significant species on Earth, so much so, that our technological advancement, and lust for power, is affecting Earth itself.

Far better than worshiping ourselves, is to help all the other species, that evolved with us, though not to the extent that we have, and help reverse/reduce the detrimental effect/s we are having on Earth.

I can do no better then offer the following by a great educator......

"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known".

— Carl Sagan

 

 

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1 hour ago, BushMaster said:

So why not worship ourselves, then? Well, that's simple: In addition to being the most significant thing that we're aware of, each of us is also imbued with an incredible potential for algorithmic decision-making and model-building. The problem is that almost none of us is taking advantage of this, leading to the most tragic waste of energy in the history of reality as we've come to know it thus far.

I also think humans are important, but for completely different reasons, and from a multitude of perspectives.

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What do you mean, Humans are important:

  1. All humans are important all the time
  2. All humans are important at some time
  3. Some humans are important all the time
  4. Some humans are important at some time

?

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Important is an adjective that takes on meaning when it references the particular perspective of the speaker and their values.  There is no objective benchmark of importance.  Important is a word best followed by "to."  If, for example, someone believes that consciousness and abstract reasoning is the finest product of the universe so far, then sentient species like ours would be seen as important.   If, otoh, someone believes that the beauty of walnuts is the pinnacle of creation and of highest value, then humans might be seen as of lesser importance.  Indeed, for them, a sentient creature who does not contemplate the beauty of the walnut, or serve the walnut, is of little value.   And I see it's time for a snack.

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3 hours ago, BushMaster said:

In both real life and Internet dealings, I often hear people say things like "We humans are so insignificant in the grander scheme of things,"

I have not heard it in those terms, except as regards an individual human in the divine scheme.

I have heard : Given the vastness of the universe, why do humans think it was all created just for us?  Given how little we know about who and what else is conscious in the universe, or even about the capabilities of other life-forms on this planet, let alone the potential capabilities of artificial intelligence, where do get off thinking that human intelligence is the epitome of cognitive power?  

3 hours ago, BushMaster said:

"How important could humanity possibly be?

Again, I have not heard it phrased in this way. Rather: Why do we think were are the only important thing in the universe?

3 hours ago, BushMaster said:

What if our worth, our significance, depends upon something far less trivial than physical mass?

Worth, significance and importance are different, although related concepts, but they are all comparative. Comparison has to be in relation to  some category, and according to some standard, which both need to be specified before the words can mean anything.

It's nothing to to do with mass. As the species on this planet go (and we don't know about the other planets), we are among the large animals, and we have appropriated the privilege of destroying whales and giant sequoias, as well as mosquitoes and mice, because whatever we want is so much more important than they are. 

3 hours ago, BushMaster said:

So why not worship ourselves, then?

You mean, like "The God who created the entire universe looks exactly like me and wants exactly what I want."?

Because, since we've been doing that, we have devastated the only planet we know we can survive on.

Quote

Humankind is revealed as simultaneously insignificant and utterly dominant in the grand scheme of life on Earth by a groundbreaking new assessment of all life on the planet. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/21/human-race-just-001-of-all-life-but-has-destroyed-over-80-of-wild-mammals-study

It has not proved a sustainable policy for us.

 

3 hours ago, BushMaster said:

The problem is that almost none of us is taking advantage of this, leading to the most tragic waste of energy in the history of reality as we've come to know it thus far

Is that really what " the problem" is?

44 minutes ago, TheVat said:

Important is an adjective that takes on meaning when it references the particular perspective of the speaker and their values. 

Exactly! The greatest philosopher couldn't exist without the meanest plankton, but all the rest of the world's life-forms including most humans, would be just fine without great philosophers. So, which is more important?

Edited by Peterkin
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When it comes to the insignificance of humans, it's obviously a comparative thing, not absolute. In absolute terms, humans are truly insignificant in both size and lifespan. Most of us are only significant to close friends and family. A few are significant historically, but most of that is in a bad way. The bad make more history than the good.

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