Who are we and what do we know? These questions have troubled us ever since mankind began intellectual speculation.

The results are not encouraging.

Hubble view of deep space

  • Once we thought we stood at the centre of the universe: the sky and God above; the earth below. Then we learnt that our earth travelled around the sun. Today we realise (via the Hubble telescope) that even our universe is insignificant. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies – we are not even a spec of dust.
  • Once we thought we were rational beings. Then came Freud and Jung and our ability to control our our intellect and our emotions was questioned.
  • Once we believed we controlled our history. Then came Marx and his observation that we do so, but not in circumstances of our own choosing. Who would question this, given our inability to predict the fall of the Berlin wall or the near collapse of the global economy?
  • Once we thought of ourselves as the highest form of intellect. But as Stephen Hawking warns us, artificial intellegence could soon outperform us and then threaten our existance.

These points have been made before, but at the start of a new year they are perhaps worth making again.

Not a reason for despair, just a reason for humility and – perhaps – kindness.