An Ever Shrinking Planet

The world was once a vast place to live, taking weeks and longer to travel from one continent to another. When the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery left London to establish Jamestown, they took a circuitous route to guarantee favorable wind conditions and the trip took 144 days. 144 days to travel from London to Virginia! Today you manage a journey between the two in just over 8 hours. By the 1700s, journeys across the Atlantic took between 8 and 12 weeks. Since mail was transferred on the same ships that carried people, a letter sent from America to Europe would take at least 8 weeks to arrive. Today I can send an email or text message my friend in Europe and she’d receive it within moments.

Technology has made the world smaller. It is a miniature version of what it once was, figuratively speaking. Because of this, it is far more vital than ever to ensure that we are understanding and knowledgeable about the planet and its inhabitants.

Michio Kaku talks about types of Civilizations: Type I, Type II, and Type III. According to his classifications, Earth is a Type 0 Civilization. According to Kaku, a Type I Civilization is a planetary one which has complete control over its planet. Type II Civilizations have control over stars and Type III over galaxies.

To become a global planet, a Type I planet, we would need to learn to live as a global people. In the above video Kaku claims that “around the year 2100 we will become a Type I civilization.”

In order for this to occur, we need to overcome a great deal as human beings: cultural differences, religious differences, language barriers, etc. Translation technology has been advancing, which can help resolve language barriers. Do we need to adapt a single global language or is translation equipment enough? Can we overcome our cultural differences? Can we eliminate wars based on religion and politics? Are we capable of establishing a global economy?

In many science fiction stories, humans have achieved the advancement into a Type I Civilization. Although, in several, it was only with the help of extraterrestrials that we were capable of such a feat. In Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, it was the monolith which affected human evolution and pushed humanity into a new technological era. In Dawn by Octavia E. Butler, it was the Oankali, an extraterrestrial species that saved the inhabitants of Earth from global extinction, that attempt to push humanity into a new era via genetic merging and modification.

We do not have a monolith on the moon. There is no spacecraft containing a species of symbiotic extraterrestrials orbiting our planet. I’ve yet to see a TARDIS with the Doctor to perfect language translations. Without them, can we learn to coexist on this miniature planet? Will we destroy ourselves before we can advance into a planetary civilization? Can we learn to adapt to the changes that are necessary to evolve into the next version of ourselves?

A Lifelong Endeavor

There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born till the moment you die is a process of learning. Learning has no end and that is the timeless quality of learning. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Many of my husband’s students often hear him say, “always keep your brain on.” This is a lesson we’d begun to share with our own children as they started growing, reading, and learning. Throughout my life people tended to tease me playfully because of my learning style in school. While other students crammed the night before a test or did their essay research whilst simultaneously writing their essays, that was never my style. I never wanted to memorize what was on a test. Passing wasn’t my ultimate goal throughout my life. A high GPA was only ever a bonus to the ultimate goal: learning.

My father once told me that the one thing I could give myself that no one could take away from me was an education. Knowledge. I took those words to heart. Life became a focus of soaking up as much information as possible. This was much more difficult in the days before the world-wide web. I once had to spend time in libraries to learn as much as I wished. Books became an obsession of mine as a result of this. The day my parents bought the entire A to Z 1997 Collier’s Encyclopedia was a joyous occasion for me!

Learning has become easier in today’s society. Knowledge is at everyone’s fingertips. Smartphones have made research a commonplace activity. Unfortunately, so many fail to utilize the power within their grasps. If we all focused on learning and education the way we should, as a species we would grow to understand each other more. Understanding historical and societal practices helps to develop tolerance and acceptance.

As a culture of individuals, one of the hardest concepts to overcome is that our way isn’t the only way. When the Europeans moved into the New World, European Christian ideals were pushed onto the native population. We are, historically, a command and conquer species, always convinced that our way of living is the best way of living. Here in the United States, we still enact such a way of life. The constant push between the Christian fundamentalists and the LGBT community, religious intolerance against Muslims, racial tensions… all of this stems down to the idea that there is only one way to live. What we need to do is learn from each other. Learn about each culture. Learn about each person. Perhaps if we spent more time learning, we’d have less time to judge and hate. If we bothered to research more fully into the ideas of others and, more importantly, into our own ideas we may find a much more common ground. We may even find that our own ideas are the problem! We need to approach life, society, politics, religion, and culture scientifically. We need to approach our own biases and preconceived notions even more scientifically.

I once watched  a documentary on particle physics. A physicist had spent his life researching and arguing on a specific scientific theory he’d developed. At a conference, his theory had been ripped to shreds and disproved. The physicist thanked those who disproved him. Thanked! He showed appreciation upon being informed that his life’s work was incorrect. If only we were able to approach politics, religion, and societal beliefs with the same objectivity, perhaps we’d be capable of learning to coexist happily.