Lately, I have been spending a good deal of time thinking about the future. The most intuitive way to imagine the future might be to look at what happened in the past and from there try to draw some patterns or trend-lines towards possible future scenarios. Of course the caveat is that history is full of “singular” breakthrough events that change everything, but even those singular events seem to have common themes that can be useful in predicting future ones.
Since I was a child I’ve always been interested in history. But it was only a few years ago, well past my years of formal education, that I started realizing how short-sighted the teachings of history have been. The oldest history that I was taught in school was the Ancient Greeks, i.e. about 3,000 years ago. In the “real world” people seem to be even more short-sighted. The conversations and debates in governments, businesses and the public in general seem to only consider a couple of decades of history at best. No wonder that we are also so short-sighted when it comes to thinking about the future and making long-term plans and decisions.
In a time of exponentially accelerating technologies, existential risks, and both grand challenges and great opportunities, I think it’s more important than ever to take a good look at the past. With the help of today’s scientific advances we know much more about the past than previous generations. It’s essential to take the longest and most unbiased view possible, the Cosmic View, to our history in order to understand where are we standing today.
I’ve seen great efforts taken in this direction recently, including the Big History Project on YouTube supported by Bill Gates and the new COSMOSTV show by Neil DeGrasse, both of which are highly recommended programs. I thought of making my small contribution by just sharing a summary I did for myself of the most important milestones in the history of the known Universe in a simple list, based on my opinion and that of some authors I’ve been reading such as Ted Chu and Al Gore. I hope you find it useful, and please let me know if you think I’m missing something or I got something wrong (I’m not a science or history expert whatsoever).
- Big Bang [~13,700,000,000 years ago]
- Universe cools down, first Atoms form [~13,600,600,000 years ago]
- First Stars and Galaxies form [~13,300,000,000 years ago]
- The Sun and the Earth form [~4,600,000,000 years ago]
- Life on Earth emerges [~3,800,000,000 years ago]
- First Multi-cellular organisms emerge [~2,800,000,000 years ago]
- First Plants establish on land [~475,000,000 years ago]
- Eukaryotes diversify spectacularly [~700,000,000]
- First Animals emerge [~600,000,000 years ago]
- Cambrian Explosion, first Vertebrates emerge [~542,000,000 years ago]
- First Primates emerge [~65,000,000 years ago]
- First Hominids emerge [~2,000,000 years ago]
- First Homo Sapiens emerge [~200,000 years ago]
- Language emerges in Humans [~80,000 years ago]
- Humans discover Agriculture, Civilizations emerge [~10,000 years ago]
- Higher-order Consciousness and Cosmology emerge [~5,000 years ago]
- First Writing Systems emerge [~4,6oo years ago]
- Modern Science develops [~600 years ago]
- Industrial Revolution emerges [~300 years ago]
- First Modern Computers created, Moore’s Law kicks in [~80 years ago]
- First Spaceflights launched [~70 years ago]
- The Internet emerges, Information Age starts [~20 years ago]
- Human Genome Sequencing is completed [~10 years ago]
- First Space Probe leaves Solar System, enters Interstellar Medium [~1 year ago]
Comments? Additions? Thoughts? https://twitter.com/dsaezgil