Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Understanding Our Big History

David Christian and Bill Gates have started the "Big History Project". Its goal is to foster a greater love and capacity for learning among high school students. Why? Because "Everything has a history: each person, plant, animal and object, our planet, and the entire universe."

In the talk I've posted below, David Christian discussed the idea that while the universe on a whole trends towards simplicity, it can become more complex if the conditions are right. After a brief overview of the history of the universe, he connects this to ourselves.

Humans have the gift of collective learning, he says. We are the only species to have this skill, and the conditions are right for it to exist. It is why our human "universe" has become increasingly more complex at a faster rate as time moves forward. In short, we learn from those before us.

The concept is very simple - yet profound. It is not within ourselves that we will find knowledge, but through the experiences and knowledge of others. Breakthroughs are rarely, if ever, made by one person using solely their own knowledge. That concept can be inspirational in numerous different venues. It is fundamental for each of us to understand our history. We need to understand where we came from, what those before us had to do to get here, and as we do that, we will be better prepared to improve the conditions we live in.

I'm grateful for the vast treasures of knowledge that surround me. I try to learn something new every day. I want to slowly increase my capacity to understand our shared human history. As I do this, I believe I will put myself in a position to make a difference that will benefit those who succeed me.

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