The Human Imperative

By | May 28, 2008

We walk in shadows towards the light.

From before the beginning, we have faced a world that has filled us with fear, a world fraught with danger, deprivation, disease, destruction, and death.

From before the beginning, we have faced a world that has inspired us to hope, a world that freely offers us pleasure, abundance, meaning, accomplishment, and joy.

Alone among the creatures of the earth, we have conceived in the present day an image of the coming day. We have imagined a world in which the shadows recede and the light shines ever brighter. We have imagined ourselves in the coming day to be freer, more intelligent, more capable, more creative, and more filled with joy than we are in the present day. Alone among the creatures of the earth, we change ourselves, our circumstances, and the world itself in order to realize that vision.

We walk in shadows towards the light, but we do so falteringly — tripping and stumbling as we go. The path that leads from the shadows to the light is not an obvious one; it is a winding and deceptive and sometimes treacherous route from which we stray quite easily. We have not followed the path perfectly, and many times we have stepped off it willfully — declaring the journey to be finished or even moving deliberately back towards shadows, claiming them as our true home. But we have never strayed so far from that path that we could not, upon remembering ourselves, find our way back to it. And so we have proceeded, slowly and painstakingly, from darkness into brighter and brighter light.

The journey is one that spans many generations.

Throughout human and pre-human history, we have directed ourselves towards an increasingly beneficial future. Beginning with primitive circumstances and limited choices, we envisioned outcomes that would increase our intelligence and capability, and therefore the number of choices we would have when driving toward subsequent outcomes.

The Human Imperative is working. We have consistently achieved outcomes in which our intelligence and capability are expanded, and have continuously broadened the possibility space from which we can select and work towards subsequent improved circumstances.

With new circumstances come new problems and challenges, many of these unanticipated at the time we envisioned the change. However, the improvements to the human condition are additive, and we can combine them in creative ways to provide unexpected benefits. Improvements have tended to outpace new problems.

Throughout human history, we have carried out the Human Imperative using two basic strategies:

1. Solving problems / mitigating risks

2. Pursuing happiness

The first strategy has always taken priority, as the primary ongoing problem we have had to solve is how to achieve our survival (or prevent our extinction.) But we now stand on the threshold of a new era in human history. Improvements and potential improvements are increasing exponentially; we are moving rapidly towards a critical mass of human intelligence and capability.

Our achievable future is one that transcends the expectations, hopes, or even dreams of most of humanity.

We can achieve that future only by recognizing that we are at a transitional point in carrying out the Human Imperative. We must transform our thinking about the future and, for the first time, change the order of our priorities. We must recognize that focusing on problems and risks is no longer our optimal strategy for achieving our survival. Our survival lies within the realization of our achievable good.

The Human Imperative is now to recognize that transcendent good as possible, to communicate and share a vision of it, and to work towards its fulfillment.