Fourteen billion years ago the universe came into existence through the Big Bang. Four billion years ago life developed on Earth. One billion years ago life evolved from single-celled organisms into multi-celled organisms. Five hundred million years ago fish evolved. Three hundred and sixty million years ago some fish evolved into amphibians. Three hundred million years ago some amphibians evolved into reptiles. One hundred and eighty million years ago some reptiles evolved into mammals. Forty million years ago primates evolved.
Five million years ago human and chimpanzee ancestries diverged. Two million years ago Homo habilis, one of humanity’s cousin species, developed primitive stone tools. Five hundred thousand years ago Homo erectus, another of humanity’s cousins, learned to control fire. Around one hundred thousand year ago humans (Homo sapiens) evolved in Africa. Ten thousand years ago humans developed agriculture and pottery. Three thousand year ago humans learned how to use iron.
From a total population of only five million individuals ten thousand years ago humanity increased our numbers to 150 million individuals by the year 1 AD. By 1835 there were one billion people. Now, in 2007, the human population has surpassed 6.5 billion people. Scientific and technological advancements are taking place more rapidly and in greater numbers than ever before. Genetic engineering, nanotechnology, robotics, and artificial intelligence all stand ready to revolutionize human civilization. The process of globalization is also proceeding more quickly than most people realize, weaving everyone everywhere together into an unprecedented web of economic interdependence.
Clearly, this is an extraordinary time during which to be alive. Humanity balances precariously on a razor’s edge: we stand able to achieve our most wonderful desires, but also in danger of falling victim to our most terrible nightmares. Our fate depends upon whether we can evolve a new set of ideas powerful enough to allow us to navigate successfully through the myriad promises and perils of the 21st Century.
We have two choices: evolve or die. Let’s evolve.