I had the same feeling when I encountered a beautiful statue of a woman that was created in ancient Egypt. It was in a museum and I lingered at the display case, essentially just gazing into her eyes. Her personality shone through in some undefinable way: it felt like encountering another human being across an incredible expanse of time.
These moments, I find, are very poignant in the way they remind us of our own mortality — but also our deep connection to our ancestors and to the past.
There's a very good chance we're living the most comfortable lives that any creature on this planet will ever experience, past and future. It's truly mindblowing how lucky we are.
Your ancestors all felt the same way. So will your children.
I don't disagree that my descendents will be justified in feeling the same way, as long as the exponential curve keeps on going and civilization doesn't end.
Maybe if you transported someone from 1950s China to present-day China, they would be more shocked, but a present day suburban home in 2021 is not all that markedly different than a 1950s home -- and neither is the workplace, the commute, the cars. Mostly replaced paper with screens and tvs with bigger, flatter tvs.
The most conceptually difficult thing would be understanding that wireless telegraphs with cameras are pocket-sized and everywhere.
Well you set the bar artificially high with that phrasing. Is there ever anything people of the last couple thousand years would be literally unable to conceptually fathom? No. We know that from ancient texts, they would be able to grasp anything we have today (even if it might take more elaborate explanation). 1950s Americans, or any citizens around the world at the time, would be more than astounded by 3-4 billion people being essentially always connected on a gigantic, seemingly instantaneous global communications and commerce network. The modern smartphone would similarly astound, what they can do all-in-one and the quality of it (the audio, the video, the music, movies, news, communication, click-button services & purchasing, digitization of money, the quality of digital photographs and how many you can take with no regard for space, it would all astound). Someone from the 1980s would be just as astounded by a recent iPhone, they'd feel like a time traveler.
People in 2007 were truly astounded by the iPhone. It almost felt like a product delivered from the future. It put all industry jaws on the floor and reset the grid for everyone in the tech industry, without exception. Maybe people have now widely forgotten the shock effect it had, I haven't forgotten.
That said, the parent's claim was an exaggeration. We're not inventing/harnessing such extraordinary stuff every year. Maybe a few things of note per decade globally.
CRISPR, cracking the human genome, modern antibiotics, Internet, Web, transistor and microprocessor, software, computers including personal, space flight, powered flight, various engines, electricity and electric light, fossil fuels, nuclear power and weapons, various green revolution outcomes (food production), solar and a few key renewable energy technologies, the commercial/industrial laser, and so on.
There are several dozen things that can be added to that list from the last 100-150 years. A few per decade globally might be a reasonable peg.
This is a large exaggeration. I was there as an adult. It was another cool piece of tech, sure, but come on.
Most people were blissfully unaware of the existence of PDAs, much less how they worked or what they could do, and for them the iPhone might as well have emerged perfectly formed from an unspecified bodily orifice of Steve Jobs. The statement "It almost _felt like_ a product delivered from the future" is entirely justified.
Not in the American middle-class, upper middle-class, and wealthy.
The same with mp3 players before iPod.
Apples hardware and design is OK, but their marketing is in their own league, like for example a company selling flavored water bottles while there's good quality water taps available almost everywhere. They can take something that is already readily available and sell it for 2x the price, and at the same time make people think it's revolutionary.
For some reasons I was not truly astounded at all. I had several smartphones before but I preferred smaller "cool" phones until iPhone 4.
The iphone became for phones what the ipod was for music players. Great device but not really from the future. I bought it for the web browser.
Even today I use my iphone perhaps at 10% of its power mostly for things that I do on my laptop anyway(mail, chat, web browsing) so
I'm actually astounded that I can't hook it to a monitor and use it as a computer/macbook so to me it seems we got stuck in the past.
~1905-1985 was a pretty good run.
Cell phones, the internet, mrna vaccines. There's probably tons of amazing stuff I'm overlooking. I don't think I would trade with Katherine. Although, I wish she was around for a few years longer so I could talk to her when I was closer to being an adult.
I don't think you could find a modern technology that would throw her for a loop. Maybe, but she's a cherry picked example.
Blatantly obvious? Not to me. I'm a technologist (e.g. wrote a bunch of code the results of which you use every day) with a degree in history and in many ways ancient Greece seems more vital than today.
TBF there’s a survivorship bias in older work: the stuff people found useful has been more likely to survive. Also a more modern (i.e. anyone in the subsequent couple of millennia) has to say something new, not just repeat the old. Which is harder to do.
I’m not arguing that the current world isn’t amazing (went to the moon! Reduction in poverty and higher living standard! I’m typing this comment on an iPad!). Simply making the point that it’s hardly uniquely so (and arguably the 2021st century has so far not been the peak of technical or social development).
What is unusual of the current age is the widespread belief that the current times are somehow unusual.
We have been saying this forever, and will continue to do so.
Also consider that technology, even in it's most beautiful form, is rarely seen by people. They live in a blur of tamed down ease of use. It's not necessarily an existential enlightenment for them (it also backfires a lot, people are leaving devices to go back to more time outside and sport, look at parkour and people living in the wild for instance)
Where do you live? The last sorta revolutionary tech I saw in my life was the cellphone, and I strain to see that as actually revolutionary in any meaningful way, to be honest.
Historical estimates for GDP per capita put it around $2 per day in 2011 prices. And that stayed fairly constant - it doubled in maybe a thousand years, if at all. Compare that to today: US GDP per capita has nearly tripled in my lifetime.
Politically things might've been just as turbulent back then though. New overlords and all that would be more impactful back then than now.
The (lack of) inter-connectedness of the world would effect the way our ancestors felt about their moment in time.
However people are not uniformly distributed and such belief does not seem to have been the case in, say, the contemporaneous Arab world.
All that being said: I agree with you that claims that our era is somehow amazingly unique are way overblown.
We’ve been on a long upward curve of progress for awhile now, but this isn’t guaranteed to continue forever. The future could be a mad max / book of eli hellscape that may set us back two thousand years.
presently, we've the opposite problem: technology advances so quickly it's difficult / near impossible to accurately predict life in five hundred years. (making time travel VERY COMPELLING!)
The catch is that it’s true no matter when you say it from, so long as change is accelerating. Exponential growth is my favorite example. Plot y=k^t for any k from t=long time ago to t=T. It will look like y is at an ‘insane inflection point,’ regardless of the T you choose.
Let's make a variable for `years from now:` dt = t-T. If we look at the last 60 years, this is just plotting b^dt from dt=-60 to dt=0. It doesn't matter when you look at it from. The last sixty years of exponential growth always looks the same. It's just b^dt from dt=-60 to dt=0, which (being the exact same function) looks equally dramatic from any point.
tl;dr let's make it concrete and plot 1.1^t from 1960 to 2020, and then plot 1.1^t 1060 to 1120. They look exactly the same, even though each just spans a human life time:
A prehistoric hunter-gather saw basically zero technological change within their lifetime.
This is what we disagree on. From the human perspective, it's the relative delta that matters, because we look at yesterday's change relative to life today.
We reside in a "level" of order of magnitude in time and space. Things that happen outside of that level, too big or too small, and we simply can't comprehend them. When something crosses from an order of magnitude below our level, to an order of magnitude above our level, that's when we can perceive it.
A block accelerating exponentially from 1e-10 m/s to the speed of light will look completely stationary until it reaches a level of order of magnitude that we can perceive, probably about 1e-5 m/s.
If I tell you I will give you an exponentially increasing amount of money by 1% every day, it matters a lot to you if I start you at 1e-200 dollars because you'll be dead before you earn a single cent. If you lived to 150, you’d be the richest person on the planet. The absolute amount matters because we are physical beings anchored to a particular order of magnitude that we care about.
One could argue that people were seeing major technological/scientific/philosophical/cultural changes within their lives at least as far back as the Enlightenment (and I'd argue much further back than that), and what has actually changed is just that the number of people affected by those changes has grown (perhaps exponentially). Likewise in the future the rate of change we're so impressed by now may look laughable, and that's even ignoring the possibility of significant lifespan extension in the future!
There have been points in our history where technology/knowledge has advanced quicker than the baseline but the last two-three centuries (and particularly the last one) have been exceptional.
Whether that rate of change is sustainable for another century I don't know, I'd like to hope so since it'd mean humans are doing pretty well.
But if you took someone born in 1880 (a century before me) and they lived 90 years they'd have seen the invention of flight, the invention of the motorcar, the electrification of the world, the invention of wireless, the invention of TV, the invention of the internet, the invention of antibiotics, the invention of synthetic materials, the invention of the telephone, the first heart transplant, the invention of the nuclear bomb, the discovery of the structure of DNA and literally thousands of other technologies and discoveries in one human lifespan).
At no other point in human history has a single life span seen so much*.
And I'm not sure what the Y axis is even measuring.
Compare the start of the 20th century to the start of the 21st (a mere hundred year period)—the differences are amazing. Air travel, radio and television, computers, cars being universal (in developed countries at least)—the list just goes on, both big and small.
In any case, I think that the original commenter really referred to how there’s nothing so drastically different about the experience of being human in the present and in the past.
You completely missed his point. This moment is special to you because you are living it. Not because of the latest i9 chip or flying cars.
>There's a very good chance we're living the most comfortable lives that any creature on this planet will ever experience, past and future. It's truly mindblowing how lucky we are.
The disparity between the haves and the have-nots in this moment in time would truly bewilder anyone in ancient history if they could see whats happening today. There are likely more people living in poverty today than there were 200 years ago, in absolute numbers - not percentage.
I wonder — what civilisation can we attribute all this progress to?
Romans? British? Or Americans ?
> Kakudmi's daughter Revati was so beautiful and so accomplished that when she reached a marriageable age, Kakudmi, thinking no one upon earth was worthy of her, went to the Creator himself, Lord Brahma, to seek his advice about a suitable husband for his daughter. When they arrived, Brahma was listening to a musical performance by the Gandharvas, so they waited patiently until the performance was finished. Then, Kakudmi bowed humbly, made his request and presented his shortlist of candidates. Brahma laughed loudly and explained that time runs differently on different planes of existence, and that during the short time they had waited in Brahma-loka to see him, 27 chatur-yugas (a cycle of four yugas, totalling 108 yugas) had passed on earth. Brahma said to Kakudmi, "O King, all those whom you may have decided within the core of your heart to accept as your son-in-law has died in the course of time. Twenty-seven chatur-yugas have already passed. Those upon whom you may have already decided are now gone, and so are their sons, grandsons and other descendants. You cannot even hear about their names. You must therefore bestow this virgin gem (i.e. Revati) upon some other husband, for you are now alone, and your friends, your ministers, servants, wives, kinsmen, armies, and treasures, have long since been swept away by the hand of time."King Kakudmi was overcome with astonishment and alarm at hearing this news. However, Brahma comforted him and added that Vishnu, the preserver, was currently incarnate on earth in the forms of Krishna and Balarama, and he recommended Balarama as a worthy husband for Revati.Kakudmi and Revati then returned to earth which they regarded as having left only just a short while ago. They were shocked by the changes that had taken place. Not only had the landscape and environment changed, but over the intervening 27 chatur-yugas, in the cycles of human spiritual and cultural evolution, mankind was at a lower level of development than in their own time (see Ages of Man). The Bhagavata Purana describes that they found the race of men had become "dwindled in stature, reduced in vigour, and enfeebled in intellect."The daughter and father found Balarama and proposed the marriage which was accepted. The marriage was then duly celebrated.
I can't remember where I originally read this but once someone suggested that you could also invert this idea for a fresh perspective on the modern world.
If there was a time machine that I could step into to meet these ancient people and ask them about the hand prints they left I would take that trip in a snap! (assuming there is enough fuel in the Delorean to get back of course) In fact I would take that chance to time travel to any period and see what that time was like up close.
While we can't go back and see that, we can time travel to exactly one place. You can look around and see how humans were living in September 2021. Maybe this is the moment stranded time travelers 200k years from now would really like to visit. It was a weird time in human history. Lots of interesting things to observe, questions to ask, and people to meet.
Each of us feels we are the ones living in a modern age, the past so distant and the future so uncertain.
One possible argument is that such people would transit high altitudes going between hunting grounds (for example) but is this really enough pressure to produce a genetic advantage like this?
Now nature does tend to want to find niches because having food only you can eat tends to be of more value than having abundant food other people can also eat (eg pandas and bamboo).
But it's not easy for humans to live at 14,000 feet elevation. Animals are scarce. Vegetation is limited (eg trees likely to be conifers).
This is different to just, say, living in Arctic regions as those do have much more available food options (eg fish, migrating game, plants that can grow in the summer) than high altitudes.
Has anyone put much thought into this?
Live high/train low is a training method in which athletes live at high altitude and train at low altitude, usually with the goal of improving performance at sea level. The main idea is to reap the benefits of high altitude acclimatization while maintaining the intensity of low altitude training.
Having exclusive use of an ecological niche is pretty advantageous.
> There really weren't that many people around so finding land with available food and water doesn't seem like it would be that much of an issue.
While density was (likely) quite low, so was "productivity", and people were no less territorial, just because you didn't need all that space didn't mean you'd allow other groups to exploit it.
Edit: another comment mentions the mountains were formed 40-50 million years ago. So I would presume roughly the same height.
So 200kya means the site could have moved 2+km up (assuming a roughly constant growth rate), which is nothing to sneeze at or ignore. There's one hell of a difference living at 4000m versus 2000.
I am going to investigate..
It's very common to find handprints in the Himalayas in rocks, they are everywhere.
Regardless of which - it's a massive over exaggeration. We're not gonna be experiencing fluctuations of 500C+ on the surface of our planet or an atmospheric pressure of 90x+ ours.
200k is quite a massive time period and the only thing is certain that modern humans would be long dead and most of them would share fate of Denisovans, where most of modern people would not be direct ancestors to people of that distant future. That is a very long time for humanity to exterminate itself to near extinction and achieve the same technological level 3-4 times over again.
If this is "art" art... is up to everyone to interpret for themselves.
But then again, today you can give yourself a paint enema, squirt it from your asshole all over a canvas and some people will call it art.
> The fossil impressions, which date to between 169,000 and 226,000 years ago and seem to have been created intentionally, could represent the earliest known art of its kind.
> According to Matthew Bennett, a geologist at Bournemouth University who specializes in ancient footprints and trackways, it’s likely that these ancient imprints were intentional.
Jesus, what artist is this a reference to?
I like to imagine I've been given the device used by the overlords to monitor earth for X years, and I can stand affixed in a position to experience the timelapse as I push "rewind". It would be so cool to watch history unfold this way.
** It's really light on dialogue (and characters for that matter). Way more emphasis on the Graphic part than the Novel part.
If we were capable of appreciating art 200,000 years ago, we also must have been incredibly lazy. How could well over another 150,000 years pass before we left signs that we were improving our technology? It doesn't make any sense.
I struggle to imagine what I could do today that someone 200k years from now would find. Any ideas?
Never mind, new estimates go as far back as 300,000ya.
The estimate on when "we" left Africa often means modern humans, Homo Sapiens.
So at most ~5.6% of DNA could have survived. It would be interesting if researchers would be able to detect a fraction of that amount, but it seems implausible.
 https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/how-long-does-dn... | https://archive.is/S39fv