We’re navigating through a world where everything is new. I’ve heard the words “everything has already happened” once or twice, but I don’t think that’s true. I have also heard that history likes to repeat itself. I’m starting to think that it’s something created by old politicians and company presidents telling us that we have to listen to them, because they’ve seen it all and they know what to do. And that’s bullshit.
There are so many things we’re all doing for the first time, as individuals, as communities, as a society, as humanity. Our parents didn’t know about smartphones, telephones were new to our grandparents, we learned about large language models a few years ago! If anyone says they know what to do with all these new things, they are lying. No one knows yet. No one knows how to navigate the modern world because no one has done it in the past.
There have never been so many people in the world. The world has never been so interconnected. It has never been so easy to talk to friends on other continents in real time, it has never been so easy to make a live stream from the war torn city. We have never experienced the pain and suffering of victims in real time. We have never seen war crimes in real time. We have never done that. No one has. We weren’t ready for it. But we’re getting used to it, and it’s horrifying. But that’s also something we didn’t know when it was happening, we didn’t know that we could get used to anything. That we could be so indifferent.
We have no idea how it’s going to end, our brains aren’t prepared to process so much information, mostly traumatic information in real time. Our brains aren’t wired to maintain so many connection, and our minds aren’t ready for so much exposure that social media gives us. Or at least we don’t know that yet.
Everything is happening for the first time, if not at all, it is happening for the first time on such a scale. Everyone who claims they know what to do, they are lying. History likes to repeat itself, but every time it repeats it’s a different history. Armies have different weapons, with a thousand times the impact. People have mobile cameras and connection to the internet all the time. They can stream everything.
And I deliberately combine such extreme opposites as war and social media because… we have not yet experienced how much they are connected. And that phenomenon I’m writing about, the novelty that surrounds us concerns such a wide range of our reality, from a smartphone to the tools of war.
I am far from saying that someone somewhere has designed a great experiment on humanity, I leave that to the conspiracy theorists. I think the answer is much simpler than that. No one thought about the consequences. Or if they did, the profits were too great to care. So here we are, with so much technology, so modern and so powerful, and we don’t know what it’s going to do to us, and whether it’s safe or not. And it looks like we don’t even care.
Progress is used as an argument every time when someone asks if maybe, just maybe, we should hold on for a moment and try to check what are the consequences of the new technology. They often heard that we had something similar in the past, and based on that we can predict what’s going to happen. But we can’t. If we had something similar, it was, well, exactly “similar”. Simpler, smaller, available to less people.
There are so many things we experience for the first time in the history of humankind. And we are those, who have to navigate through all those novelty, without any roadmap, without and guide, without knowing the purpose. And there’s more and more novelty every day, and it’s never going to stop, our brains will never have time to adapt, our minds will never have chance to rest.
No one knows if it’s a good thing or a bad thing until we reach a point where we know the consequences. Humanity has always wanted to break another barrier, we wanted to fly like birds, later we wanted to fly cheaper and longer, and now the journey from Europe to North America takes hours, not weeks or months, but we have also polluted the atmosphere. If we had known earlier, would we have stopped? I doubt it. Because progress. We have always wanted more and we have always wanted better. We went to the Moon and we are going to Mars. And all this while we haven’t come to terms with the novelty of what we already have. I’m actually surprised that nobody has claimed to know what we’re going to find on Mars.
Every day I’m surprised that nobody talks about all the things that are new to us. I’m surprised that nobody has discovered that we are surrounded by things and phenomena that were not even in our ancestors’ dreams, and that we have to deal with them, we have to deal with these wonders using our ancestors’ brains.
We are trying to navigate the world of novelty with the brains of the ancients. What could possibly go wrong?