From the top of a mountain, everything seems clear. It’s easy to see the paths that the rivers take as they wind through the surrounding valleys, the same rivers that we now know carved the very mountain you’re standing on. But what did our view of the world look like before we climbed the mountain and learned how everything worked, when the only world we knew was the valley?
Humans have five senses, two of which necessitate physical contact for perception. Of the remaining three, hearing and smell have weakened so immensely over time as to provide us with only the faintest information about our environment. Vision, our strongest sense, only perceives electromagnetic radiation in the visible light spectrum, about 0.0035% of the total electromagnetic spectrum. We are severely restricted by our ability to only be in one place at a time.
What allows us to change this vantage point? What is it that allows us to climb this towering metaphorical mountain?
Our drive to explore has given us access to incredible technology which allows us to scale the metaphorical ridge.
The creation of spoken language allowed us to communicate our experiences with one another, where before we were limited to vague physical signals. The advent of writing allowed us to hear someone’s story without needing them to be physically present at all. The wide availability of the written word enabled by the invention of the printing press allowed the general public to be educated on an enormous scale. The Internet has revolutionized the amount of information each person is exposed to to a previously unfathomable degree.
The world we inhabit now is vastly different from the one in which we evolved. And it’s all because of the tools we have invented to expand our perception. It is no longer our senses, but our technology that determines the extent of our awareness. It’s incredible to think that our own ingenuity, curiosity, and creativity have driven us to push our limits and explore unheard-of possibilities.
Over millennia, the analytical curiosity which forms the basis for the scientific method has enabled the understanding of the world which has led to the creation of new technologies, the closest thing we have to magic. Between self-driving cars, food-delivery services, and phones that can provide us with images of people across the world at the tap of a finger, it’s easy to forget that the world we live in isn’t the one we’ve always had, nor the world that all humans currently inhabit. Our current understanding of the universe is the equivalent of the summit of the highest mountain ever known on Earth, when a thousand years ago we stood in the valley. And the best part is that there’s so much more to discover!!