It has never been taken for granted that human beings will survive on the earth. According to genetic analysis, we may face extinction many times in the course of evolution. The novel coronavirus raging on the earth easily reminds us that there is no guarantee. However, we are a species that cannot be ignored. We have made great achievements in a relatively short history-extending our lifespan, discovering a wealth of knowledge about our world and ourselves, using resources to improve the quality of life, and developing a rich history of art and culture. For better or worse, the human heritage on earth is unparalleled.
How did we get here? It turns out that our evolutionary story is not a linear progression from ape ancestors to humans.Every fossil discovery is a knot in the chaotic evolutionary process, leading to Homo sapiens. Our big brain helps solve the complex test of primitive survival. Interpersonal relationships and altruism may give us a powerful advantage over other humans. And this development is far from over: modern humans continue to adapt to our changing world, even if we often feel that we have overcome natural selection in some way.
What a wonderful world we have created. We have established a huge financial system, global communication and trade network, and information technology. The benefits of these systems are unevenly distributed, causing many people to lack basic resources and medical care. Now some economists are beginning to wonder whether we are using appropriate tools to measure the value of a society. To be sure, in our 2 million-year story, our life expectancy has more than tripled. At the same time, a rapidly warming world, increasing land use and increasing inequality will undoubtedly bring new threats to health and longevity.
Human progress has had a measurable impact on the planet, even including the concrete, plastic, and nuclear waste layers we left behind-these impacts may be enough to mark a new geological era. The rapidly changing climate requires bold action and adaptation, including addressing the disproportionate impact of environmental degradation on the world’s poor and oppressed people.
The ingenuity that pushes us to the top of the evolutionary food chain can also quickly track major improvements in life on Earth. Cities with more than half of the world’s population may become hotbeds of sustainable solutions to reduce resource consumption and pollution. Localities and rural communities that manage their own food production and wealth may eventually become more self-sufficient and live in harmony with the natural world.
Of course, this story is far from over. If we make the right decision now, the next era on earth may be named Sapizoic, or “intelligent life”. The characteristic of such an era is to provide sustainable prosperity and peace for all, and is driven by the undeniable unique and tenacious creativity of mankind.