t’s rare to find someone with an optimistic view of humanity’s future. The prevailing mood globally is dark, and yet David Deutsch, a far-seeing British physicist, argues that humans are responsible for everything new—we are the ultimate creators in the cosmos.
I was excited to view his April 2019 TED talk headlined “After billions of years of monotony, the universe is waking up” By monotony Deutsch means the mechanistic processes that have been in place ever since stars and galaxies began to form, and by waking up, he means us. We are a unique source of creative novelty in the universe, so far as we know.
To support this very original idea, Deutsch points out that humans have told themselves a story for centuries that is mistaken. We have seen ourselves caught in the middle of struggle between cosmic good and evil, which was expressed in religious terms for a long time but has been updated by science into the struggle between order (the good side of the war) and chaos (the destructive side of the war, and therefore bad).
What we fail to realize, he says, is that human beings are not subject to the laws of nature; we use them in creative ways and therefore have broken the monotonous chain of pre-determined cosmic forces. This became possible thanks to DNA. When life first appeared, it began to change planet Earth.
In itself this was unparalleled in the universe, where tiny things are as a rule dominated by bigger things. When a comet hits the sun, for example, the comet is destroyed while the sun, being much bigger, is unaffected. Earth has been hugely affected by DNA, however. Photosynthesis from one-celled plants provided the necessary oxygen in the atmosphere to sustain higher life forms. The planet has chalk deposits, oil, gas, and coal thanks to dead life forms.