Richard Feynman quote

Posted on Thursday, May 17th, 02007 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
link Categories: Futures, Long Term Thinking, Long-term Quotes   chat 0 Comments

Feynman the

I came across this very Long Now quote recently. It is pretty amazing to see this level of optimism from someone who worked on the Manhatten Project.

“We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.”

Richard Feynman (1918 – 1988) [source]

  • BenGreen

    Since my fiance and I engaged each other, we started studying the history of marriage and weddings so when we had ours and carried on, we could do it with a consciousness of the historical context of the social institution we were participating in. While reading Stephanie Koontz’s fantastic book “Marriage: A History” we came to a new Long Now conception of our relationship and really of our whole existence.

    We tend to think of the present as the head of a comet with the long tail of history spreading out behind us, but we aren’t at the end of history, we are living in its midst. Even the most fundamental things about us are largely products of the time and place in which we live. Reading Koontz’s book made us realize that even our how people define love and marriage has been constantly changing throughout recorded history. What fascinates me though is the distinct, recognizable pattern that the historical record presents to us. Across all aspects of life, despite all obstacles liberation and equality have spread inexorably. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr. “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Koontz describes that arc as it’s evident in the context of love and marriage, and by doing so we can follow the as yet untraced phantom arc into the future and have an idea of where it’s all going. One last thing that occurred to us is that no matter how egalitarian or forward thinking our relationship is, our children and grandchildren will likely see it as the conservative and parochial thing it is.

    If I may commit the weirdness of quoting myself, I wrote this last night in another blog:

    I don’t think it belittles how bad things are now to say that they are better than they were. Of course there are many, many places in the world where women’s lives haven’t gotten much better in the last hundred years, but even the most abrupt social changes spread in waves. Places like this are on the leading edge, and it’s easy to look around and see how far behind most of the world is, but I think it’s important to remember how much larger and farther out the leading edge is now then it ever has been before and we’re not losing momentum, we’re gaining it. What thrills me is the thought that though the revolution cannot be completed in my lifetime (because the death of everyone raised in a patriarchal society is a necessary last step I think), I may live to see the shore on which this ancient, slow building wave will break after I’m gone. Like the color of the horizon when land lies just beyond, this blog is a glimpse of it, maybe more.

  • The Worm

    We can have no serious conception of our position relative to the future, nor should mankind delude itself that our beauty and potential make us any more likely to survive for another hundred millennia. In the broadest possible perspectives, over the longest possible timescales, life and intelligence are almost certainly ubiquitous in the universe, and their extinction must therefore also be common. Feynman may simply have been speaking to the “natural” lifespan of our species as he saw it, but a living thing can be extinguished at any time in its development. The idea that humanity is in its infancy, rather than being exclusively an optimistic viewpoint, should be cause for concern as well as inspiration. We are vulnerable, and there is no way of knowing whether our long-term progress will increase at a more rapid pace than the new dangers it creates or exposes. Extinction could occur literally tomorrow, a decade from this instant, a century, or a millennium, or we could expand and branch outward into the cosmos in fractal evolution forever, but there is no way of determining which will be the case. We can only raise our awareness to a broader perspective, and try to guide the species along the path of maximum potential.

  • Bill Branyon

    There is no compulsion to do anything constructive or not while living. There is a compulsion to decided whether you live or die, to be or not to be, but even that can be put off given sufficient food and shelter.
    If one does continue to live however, you must decide what to do when you wake up. Perhaps the first decision is “to pee or not to pee.” Then you progress on and on in ways that promote your happiness or not. I have concluded that my happiness consists of meaningful behavior, and the meaning I chose doing things that I think help save civilization and community. But that is me. If you choose otherwise, if you feel your greatest happiness is in destroying civilization that’s fine. We’ll be enemies, but I’ll respect your choice.


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