What If You Experienced Every Human Life In History
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Introduction: The Journey of Life
Imagine that your life began roughly 300,000 years ago as one of the planet’s first humans. At this time, you lived in Africa near modern-day Morocco, and your life wasn’t too different from that of your hominid parents. You made crude tools, hunted, and gathered food and materials, until, eventually, you perished. But this was only the beginning. After dying, you traveled back in time to be reincarnated as the second human ever to live. While you didn’t remember your former life, your previous actions affected you nonetheless.
The Cycle of Reincarnation
After dying once more, you returned as the third person, then the fourth, the fifth, and so on—living the lives of every single human that’s ever walked the Earth. Strung end to end, these lives lasted almost 4 trillion years. Since you only recalled the life you’re currently living, your psyche didn’t carry the entire weight of human history. However, each of your lifetimes still had a profound impact on your future selves.
The Impact of Ordinary Lives
Sometimes your influence on the world was obvious, but these major historical figures only accounted for a tiny fraction of your experience. Instead, your existence consisted mostly of ordinary lives, filled with everyday tasks like eating, laughing, working, and worrying. For approximately one-tenth of your 4 trillion years, you were a hunter-gatherer. For 60%, you were an agriculturalist, developing tools and techniques that you employed over roughly 800 billion years of working on farms.
Experiencing Human Activities
Across your lifetimes, you spent 1.5 billion years having sex and another 250 million years giving birth. In total, 20% of your existence was spent raising children, to whom you imparted a variety of cultural values that influenced the trajectory of generations. In some lives, you shattered those cultures through invasion and imperialism. In others, you suffered as your lands and loved ones were taken away. In over 1% of lives, you were afflicted with malaria or smallpox, while, in others, you treated these conditions—saving countless versions of yourself.
The Evolution of Human Life
In humanity’s early days, the average lifespan was fairly short. There were fewer lives to live, and your influence was usually limited to people physically near you. But as humans survived longer on average and Earth’s population grew, you started to spend more time reliving the same action-packed years. A full third of your existence came after 1200 CE and a quarter of it took place after 1750. At this point, technology and society started changing faster than ever.
The Acceleration of Existence
You invented steam engines, configured factories, and generated electricity, which powered the daily machinery of all of your later lives. You lived through revolutions in science, the deadliest wars in history, and dramatic environmental destruction. On average, each new life lasted longer, but the pace of your existence kept accelerating. Conversations that previously took months to unfold now happened in minutes. Business ventures that you built over generations transformed overnight. You enjoyed luxuries you never could have sampled before, even in your past lives as kings and queens.
The Impact of Modern Life
After living over 100 billion lives, you were finally reborn as the youngest person alive today. But despite living through 300,000 years of human history, your actions have more impact today than 99% of your past lives. High-speed air travel allows you to carry contagions and cures across an ocean in hours. The internet makes your personal sphere of influence global, allowing you to collaborate with anyone, anywhere, without even leaving your home.
The Power and Danger of Technology
In recent lives, you’ve invented tools to rewrite the genes of living organisms, permanently altering their future generations. And in this life, you might create even more technologies that make the world safer, kinder, and more equitable for countless future lives. However, one careless invention could just as easily be catastrophic. Between nuclear weapons, lab leaks, climate change, and other existential threats, humanity’s risk of inducing our own extinction has never been higher.
The Future of Humanity
In this fast-paced, interconnected world, it’s frighteningly easy to undo all of humanity’s progress, or potentially, cut short all your possible futures. There’s no way to know what will happen next. But what’s clear is that your potential is limitless. So, how will you spend this life? And what can you do to work towards a better future for all your lives to come?
- How does the concept of reincarnation and living multiple lives impact your perspective on the significance of an individual life?
- Reflecting on the ordinary tasks and activities mentioned in the article, how do you think they shape the overall trajectory of human history?
- Considering the acceleration of existence and the rapid pace of change in modern times, how do you think this affects our ability to make meaningful contributions to society?
- Do you believe that advancements in technology have made our lives more impactful or have they created more risks and dangers for humanity?
- Given the power and influence that technology affords us, what responsibilities do we have in ensuring a better future for all of humanity?
- How do you personally define progress and success in the context of living multiple lives and contributing to the future of humanity?
- What role do you think individual actions play in shaping the collective future of humanity?
- How does the interconnectedness of the world, particularly through the internet, change our understanding of personal responsibility and global impact?
history – the study of past events, particularly in human affairs – The history of ancient civilizations is fascinating to learn about.
sociology – the study of human society, social relationships, and institutions – In sociology class, we learn about various social structures and their impact on individuals.
philosophy – the study of fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, and more – Philosophers have pondered the meaning of life for centuries.
journey of life – the metaphorical path or course of one’s life – The journey of life is filled with ups and downs, twists and turns.
reincarnation – the belief in the rebirth of a soul in a new body after death – Some religions and spiritual traditions believe in the concept of reincarnation.
human history – the history of humanity, encompassing the development and events of human societies – The study of human history helps us understand our origins and how we have evolved as a species.
ordinary lives – the everyday lives of regular people, without any extraordinary or exceptional events – The novel explores the struggles and triumphs of ordinary lives in a small town.
human activities – actions, behaviors, or tasks performed by human beings – Human activities have a significant impact on the environment and ecosystems.
evolution of human life – the gradual development and changes in human existence over time – The evolution of human life can be traced back millions of years.
acceleration of existence – the perception that time is passing by quickly due to the fast-paced nature of modern life – In today’s society, many people feel the acceleration of existence due to busy schedules and constant technological advancements.
modern life – the lifestyle and conditions of contemporary society, characterized by technological advancements and rapid changes – Modern life is heavily influenced by technology, with smartphones and social media being an integral part of daily routines.
power and danger of technology – the capability and potential risks associated with advancements in scientific and technological innovations – The power of technology has revolutionized various industries, but it also poses potential dangers such as privacy breaches and job displacement.
future of humanity – the potential outcomes and prospects for the long-term existence and development of the human species – Scientists and thinkers speculate about the future of humanity, considering factors such as climate change, technological advancements, and societal changes.