Read this description of how modern computing chips are made and I beg of you to even attempt to look me in the eye and tell me with a straight face that there is a single problem humanity can’t solve:
An extreme ultraviolet lithography machine is a technological marvel. A generator ejects 50,000 tiny droplets of molten tin per second. A high-powered laser blasts each droplet twice. The first shapes the tiny tin, so the second can vaporize it into plasma. The plasma emits extreme ultraviolet (EUV) radiation that is focused into a beam and bounced through a series of mirrors. The mirrors are so smooth that if expanded to the size of Germany they would not have a bump higher than a millimeter. Finally, the EUV beam hits a silicon wafer—itself a marvel of materials science—with a precision equivalent to shooting an arrow from Earth to hit an apple placed on the moon. This allows the EUV machine to draw transistors into the wafer with features measuring only five nanometers—approximately the length your fingernail grows in five seconds. This wafer with billions or trillions of transistors is eventually made into computer chips.
Reading this brings me an awe and wonder of my fellow man that is almost crushing. It begs me to look deep inside myself and dare to imagine the power I have, which is absolutely unlimited. It’s unlimited in each and everyone of us. It’s absolutely hope and optimism inducing to reflect on the sheer power we have. I say “crushing” because knowing what the best among us can achieve calls deep within our soul to do the same. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Do not shy away from the reality before us. Do not shy away from the reality that humanity is in total and utter control of our destiny. Do not toss your hands up in fear or defiance that true greatness is possible. “Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.” Do not quiver, hide, or run from the future like Nietzsche’s Last Man hiding from the light. Do not give in to doomerism and negativity and pessimism and “well that’s just the way it is.” The way it is is whatever the brave among us want it to be. The way the future is is whatever we dare to achieve. “Man used to build cathedrals, what do we build now.” We build rockets, our cathedrals fly. Silicon- one of earth's most common elements has been engineered by man to become the foundation of modern computing- we literally have made sand think. We dance with atoms and split them to generate massive amounts of energy. We edit genes at will. Climate change, pandemics, earthquakes, wildfires, flooding, disease, poverty, war, death- all problems that can be solved. Fewer people die today from war, famine, disease, and natural disasters than ever. 137,000 people escaped extreme poverty every day between 1990 and 2015. We are on the right path.
It is easy to become complacent in the West and forget what got us here to our insane standard of living our ancestors would and did kill for. “We’re the middle children of history. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives.” We feel we have reached the end of the road because our basic needs are more than met. In the developed world there is no real struggle to survive. Everything is a click away. All this convenience and we are left empty. Why? Not because modernity and technology are not amazing. But because we don’t know what to struggle for. Because the leaders of our institutions are failing us and giving us no hope. They turn their nose up at capitalism and technological progress. Because it’s the only thing that upsets the status quo for the better. Those who preach degrowth, lower population, those who attempt to prevent progress by instilling fear- they are the ones that benefit the most from a static world. Do not give into the calls to be fearful. It has never been easier to avoid struggle and live a hamster life, but it’s also never been easier to make a massive impact on the world. We need you. We need each and every one of us.
Many among us are skeptical of technology or think we are going in the wrong direction as a society. We are not. Try living for a week 100 years ago. This is the best time in human history to be alive. More opportunity, more wealth, more art, more ideas, lowest child mortality, most energy, most humans. We must crest the hill and keep going to the stars. “Humans are divinely discontent” and that’s beautiful. Our ancient ancestors look at modernity and see nothing but wonder, we must whisper back- “more.” There is no alternative but more. A world without more is humanity fighting over a fixed supply. And that is a world of destruction, jealousy and death. An abundant world is a growing world, a world where the most powerful can’t just hold onto their bag while we duke it out for what’s left. More is the only way. And the only way to get more is technology. “We have limited resources, we can't sustain it” the fearful yell. The universe is a vast place, there is plenty. The only thing that is lacking is human ingenuity. We are at “the beginning of infinity.” Keep going.