“May you live in interesting times” – an old Chinese curse
A group of hairy primates creep warily through a lush valley.
As they steal furtive glances at the growing darkness, they imagine predators and snakes in every nook and cranny of the surrounding vegetation.
The eerie dusk tightens its chokehold on the ever-darkening valley, squeezing out any lingering remnants of daylight.
The pack leader peers at his ragged group in the graying light and decides it’s time to settle down for the night.
It’s 100,000 years ago and our nomadic ancestors are still walking a daily tightrope between life and death.
Gangly-armed twisted shadows of modern humans, they’re surprisingly intelligent and communicate with crude syllables and body language.
As females gather palm fronds and leaves to make a form of bedding, the males assemble around some wood and dry leaves and look to their leader expectantly.
He takes out a flint and strikes it with a sharp rock. Fire. It brings warmth, light and most importantly a source to cook their food with.
Fire was arguably the best invention of man.
Besides allowing us to survive the cold, it broke down protein (meat) that made it easier to digest: we could feed our large brains better. That meant we could hunt less and survive on smaller rations even when times were bad.
It allowed us to make tools when we discovered metals and gave our evolution a sharp boost.
Fast forward 100,000 years and we accelerated from survivors to masters of the universe (or so we like to believe).
Man (homosapien) outlasted every other primate to become the undisputed king of the beasts by using his opportunism and adaptability.
It seems grey matter was more important than brawn; and fire gave us the edge.
Now we fly, drive and scour the oceans effortlessly, carrying devices connected globally in our pockets that tell us everything.
Yes, our phones tell us where we are (GPS), what we’re doing or feeling (social media) and can answer any question we can imagine (Google).
Gone are the days of having a wise village elder who was a doctor, priest and philosopher wrapped into one.
Gone are the days of searching through a library for answers that may or may not be accurate.
We have information at our fingertips and have a tool our ancestors could only dream of.
Information is probably the next best invention after fire. So, what have we done with this tool?
Besides using it for entertainment, posting pictures of our lunch and connecting with friends, our phones give us answers to mind-boggling questions.
Ted Talks explain and demystify the secrets of the universe.
Encyclopedias of infinite knowledge, videos and studies allow us to cut out the middleman (the village elder).
This is the next step in our evolution. We absorb a lifetime of our ancestors’ content in a few days, possibly hours.
At no time in our history have we been cramming our brains so full of information.
Everywhere I go I see children glued to screens; visually absorbing data.
I’m so curious to see where this is all going. How big will our brains get?
If fire allowed them to grow and now we have unlimited protein AND the Internet, what happens next?
As we quietly chug along and evolve at the speed of light, what else will we discover?
How much knowledge will the next generation have? How intelligent will computers be? Will we discover the secrets of the universe?
Will we learn to be peaceful before it’s too late? Will we save the planet before we destroy it and ourselves?
All that remains to be seen, but in the meantime one thing is for sure; we’re living in interesting times.