Wedding speech for Miranda and Ruby, Berkeley Planetarium, March 2014
The universe is complex and beautiful.
When we listen to stories of humanity, life and death, we can’t fathom the complexity of the narratives of all those who have lived before us, of all those who will live after us, the vast unimportance of ourselves in the sequence of the eternal everything. The universe doesn’t and won’t ever really know who we are, merely dots in this vast space-time spectrum. A vast space-time spectrum that we should protect. But protect for what purpose? How many of us actually daydream about the goal of humanity in the universe? What does it look like?
Sometimes I think about humanity in the same way I regard a painting by Georges Seurat. His use of pointillism, which is the artistic technique of painting thousands of microdots on a canvas, that contrast and compliment each other in a multitude of colors. From up close these dots seem nonsensical, even plain wrong- a blue dot next to a yellow dot, that from further away appears white. From a distant viewpoint these individual dots combine to make an intricate scene. An analogy of all the things in the universe. Each life, idea, love simply a tiny colorful dot, complimenting and contrasting with those neighboring, but from further away these blend to contribute towards a bigger picture, a bigger goal.
How big is this overall picture? Well, it’s huge. The distance of the known universe is 900 billion light years in diameter, where each light year is 5.87 trillion miles. The full scale is unfathomable to us. And it’s old too- 13.75 billion years old. Our human-like ancestors have only inhabited this universe, this planet on which we stand, for around 6 million years, a ridiculously short time-slice compared to the true scale of the context. How lucky we are, right here, right now, to have such an opportunity, to have the agency to shape the planet to a manifestation that represents the human race.
We’ve come a long way, and we can go a long way too. We could quite literally inherit the universe, to make it ours, not for the sake of possession, but for the sake of protection. For the sake of universal flourishing. Every human so far has died a martyr for evolution. What is the end goal for all this creation and loss? We must fight that humanity’s purpose was not just about sustenance and survival.
Imagine a future world. Imagine a future world where we are free from our current limitations. Free from biological time. Free from aging and death. Free from disease. Free from biological fragility. Free from spatial limits. From being constrained to one, albeit beautiful, planet. We spread through the universe, inhabiting and stabilizing planets in the way that our ancestors did with Earth’s countries. But instead of applying borders like we did previously, we will have transcended our insecurities. Imagine a time where each individual intelligence is respected. Imagine a time where universal flourishing combines with a universal interconnectedness. Imagine a deep consideration and compassion for all life, all matter, engrained in every individual, every action. Imagine respecting every representation of intelligence as a representation of the entire universe, much like those pointilist dots. For every love, every idea, every instance, every romantic union and every child, perhaps we can fathom that we are already contributing to universal flourishing.
Imagine the full scale of all of history, all 13.75 billion years of the universe. Imagine these truths accessible to anyone at any moment. Imagine a time when we could understand everything- all the cells, all the DNA, all the stars, all their frameworks. Imagine being able to manipulate them. All the systems that define us, all the contexts in which we reside– our bodies, our minds, our planet, our universe. Imagine everything networked, everything connected. All 10^82 estimated atoms of the universe switched on, transcended into programmable matter. Not for the sake of domination, but to ensure that they are the best possible form of themselves, for whatever their purpose may be within this bigger picture. Maybe that is the end goal of love.
Imagine a time when time is no longer imaginable. When the dances never need to end, when the lovers never need to die, when entropy no longer dominates. Imagine a world where we could explore with full scope, for as long as we wanted, every idea, every concept, every location. To dance with the stars, to dance with each other, to dance simply for the sake of dancing with no time limits. Imagine a world of radical life expansion, accompanying radical life extension. Imagine all the things possible. All the potential art, all the potential beauty, all the potential creation and ideation. What will life look free from the shackles of time? I doubt we could even imagine it with the right justice.
We live in a world that rests on an assumption that we can fathom what is possible and what is not. Yet history has shown us that the impossible often becomes possible, and that the dreams that seem out of our reach become very real. Everything on this earth, every one of humanity’s achievements is simply a manifestation of how high we have previously aimed. What’s the grandest vision that humanity can aspire to? Well, it starts with how big you are willing to dream.