Brett: Stephen Hawking famously said, “The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies. We are so insignificant that I can’t believe the whole universe exists for our benefit.” This vision of what people are, and of what the planet Earth is, is true in a trivial sense, but it misses the point that people are a kind of hub. We are, so far as we know, the sole place in the universe that is creating knowledge, an open-ended stream of knowledge that could transform the rest of reality.
In the same way that gravity is able to pull a galaxy into a particular shape, knowledge in the future will be able to shape the course of the planet, the solar system and, eventually, the galaxy. We will have a profound impact on everything that we can see around us. There’s nothing the laws of physics, the laws of chemistry, or even the laws of biology can do to predict what is going to happen in the future.
It’s impossible to predict the future growth of knowledge. That’s the nature of knowledge, because knowledge creation is genuinely an act of creation. It is bringing something into existence that wasn’t there prior.
Naval: If you could predict it, you would have invented it already. A lot of our deeply pessimistic world views come from a straight-line linear extrapolation of negative trends while ignoring positive trends. Positive trends mostly come through creativity and knowledge creation, and it’s inherently unpredictable.
Every generation has its doomsayers, Cassandras, and modern Malthusians who say, “On this trajectory, we’re all going to die.” They’re very popular for the same reason that zombie movies and vampire movies are popular. But the reality is that they cannot predict what we’re going to do in the future that is going to improve our quality of life and save us from inevitable ruin.