Jason Silva, host of National Geographic’s Brain Games, recently posted a new episode of his YouTube sensation Shots of Awe. This one is titled Mirroring Gods and explores the rather provocative notion that we are the Gods now.
Prior to our technological advances, we created the Gods as a way “to safely idealise ourselves,” explains Silva. Indeed, the Greek Gods were more human-like than any of their later incarnations. They had feelings and acted on whims, they quarreled and did directly step down to interfere with petty human affairs. Later, God took on a more celestial role, but since the dawn of civilization the idea of a perfect being has always been derived from what we view as human shortcomings.
Silva then goes on to say that technology is bringing us closer and closer to becoming the Gods or, in his words, it is helping us achieve the “literalization of our dreams.” Certainly Google offers the closest we can get to omniscience. Modern-day medicine marches on, pushing our mortality further and further back. We can fly, we can alter the weather and we can explore the Universe. In fact, this year is the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing that completely altered the way we view our place in the universe and human capabilities.
But, on the flip side, this year is also the centenary of the start of the First World War – one of the worst human tragedies to date. The scale of the destruction was enabled by our advances in arms at that time. Today those advanced weapons seem antiquated in the face of the even more destructive nuclear arms that could obliterate the world in the blink of an eye. How far have we really come?
Technology is a double-edged sword that has confronted and concerned all of world’s greatest leaders in the past. In 1963 – just a few years before the moon landing – U.S. President John F. Kennedy spoke at the National Academy of Sciences, enunciating both the promise and the threat of technological advances. He said: “If scientific discovery has not been an unalloyed blessing, if it has conferred on mankind the power not only to create, but also to annihilate, it has at the same time provided humanity with a supreme challenge and a supreme testing.”
If technology and science make us the Gods now, then moral discipline is even more necessary today.
We may have made giant leaps across space, but looking back down here on our humble Earth and seeing the debris of broken civilizations or the embers from years of conflict or the lives cut short due to poverty and hunger should negate any feeling of accomplishment.
With every scientific discovery, comes moral responsibility to fix and prevent a loss of humanity. What does our future hold? What kind of Gods will we be?
This post was originally published on Thinking in Practice.