In Praise (and Defence) of The People

by Olitness21 min read27th Jul 20214 comments

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IntrospectionPhilosophyEpistemologyRationality
Personal Blog

The People are most significant phenomena in the universe. But lately I noticed some people saying how people are bad, evil, insignificant, unimportant and how we cause harm to everything around us. I have been a sucker for this idea, too. Probably most embarrassing belief from my past. I even remember saying things like “I hate people”. I’m introvert but, like seriously, WTF? I am one of them! Did I hate myself? I don’t think so, I think I just wasn’t thinking (just like all other people thinking this, but I don’t want to insult you in case you are still one of them).

Closer inspection reveals how stupid and wrong this idea is. In fact, it is not only wrong and stupid, it is evil. People turn out to be the most awesome and significant phenomena in the universe, not just for us, but for the whole of the universe!

 

Saying That Anything Would be Better Without People is Evil:


Some say that planet would be better off without humans. Ehm, so my dear human saying this, why you haven’t killed yourself yet?
Saying that universe would be better off without people or that they are bad or insignificant is evil. It encourages negativity, pessimism, stagnation and promotes and even justifies further evils.

People aren’t good nor bad, we are just very powerful and significant. We can cause lots of good and lots of evil, precisely because of that. We have abilities never seen before in whole history of evolution, and we are learning how to use them (which involves occasional errors). Our potential is much greater than we can imagine, and as I will explain, our rate of progress seems to be evidence of that.

By promoting idea that we are bad or not special we are just hindering and discouraging progress and improvements. The progress that would save your grandma from dying from cancer. Yes, people who broadcast such discouraging messages like “people are bad” or “people cause harm” indirectly killed your grandma (and mine, too, unfortunately).

Who wants to work on improving our wellbeing and the world, or anything for that matter, if we are so bad? Do we deserve any improvement if we are so bad? Such messages imply that: no. And so talented Jenny in high school resides to drugs and nihilism instead of working on cure for cancer, because what difference can one person make if everyone else is so bad and why should one good person care about rest that are so bad?

It seems to me that it is some new age virtue signalling to claim that people are bad. Does it make these people feel they are something above other people? Or is it just more comfortable to claim there is no future and everything is lost and throw hands in the air?

Want people stop doing evil things? Stop telling them they are evil!

 

Do You Value More Other Species or Your Children?


In some popular books there is mention of how wherever humans migrated there was wide extinction of other species. Yes, but there was also cultivation of another species (cows and chickens wouldn’t exist without us).
Those books also forget to mention that migration of any specie will cause extinction of some other species. Such migration will also cause alteration of and exploitation of that new environment by all species. All species try to survive and thrive on the expense of others and their environment.

Sure, humans do this on larger scale (which makes us so special BTW), but if we didn’t alter our environment at such large scale then other species would do so! Think about it, does it matter whether alteration is caused by one specie or many other species? Net change is going to be roughly same, although different.

By exploiting our environment and its resources we are merely preventing other life forms from doing so, we just do it better and more sustainably because despite what many would say, we take long term view, at least compared to other life forms on earth.
And that difference is crucial. Changes we make to environment are always net positive in the long run. Which cannot be said about changes other species do.

We might cause harm to some tropical bird species, but we will in turn improve lives of millions of people and prevent your newborn child from dying. If we can choose between building hospital vs. preserving natural environment of some bird, then go for the hospital (if you want to argue against this wait until you have stroke and nearest hospital suddenly morphs into natural bird park). I would say that is good trade off for the start (we are still very young species and certainly at the start of our technological progress), wouldn’t you?

Oh yeah, and don’t forget that no other specie is known to care about going extinct, except us. In fact, we are only ones who care about going extinct and other species going extinct! Causing extinction of something that doesn’t care going extinct can’t be bad (note that this is not same as causing suffering!) So whether you try to preserve or make other life forms go extinct, it is still just about you and your preferences, not theirs.

 

Only by Interfering with Nature We Can Save It. Only Humans Can Do This, Our Interference is Crucial for Life and The Earth:


If we don’t interfere with nature, all species will eventually go extinct! If we don’t interfere with nature, world will eventually go extinct and all oceans get evaporated by sun and eventually whole earth will.
Our technological progress might seem like it is causing harm, but it is only altering our environment in order to make enough progress to possibly save the whole earth.

Sacrifices we make are worth it, because without people interfering whole earth and  its life are doomed. We are only specie who has power to make cosmic level changes, who can save our planet and all its life. But for that we need to keep doing what we do, even if it takes some short term sacrifices and errors in its process.

All life is exploiting nature’s resources best to their ability, our abilities are just superior to theirs. Moreover, we have ability not only to exploit resources and environment around us but also to regenerate it! And we are already doing that, at least better than any other specie!

Sure, if you have better solution how to create utopia without any sacrifice or downside, great! But if you don’t, second best option is to do best we can given our current state of knowledge.

So remember that we are part of the nature and do our best to survive and thrive just as any other part of nature. We are just exponentially more powerful part of nature than any other and in addition to that, we help other parts of nature survive and thrive instead of thinking only about ourselves. We are not perfect at this, but as far as we know, we are the best.

 

People Can’t be Bad:


And when you say that humans are bad, always remember to ask: compared to whom or what? Lions kill too, are they bad? Oh, but you say “Lions don’t kill as much as humans do!”, they sure would if they could, they just can’t kill more. On other hand, we could kill much more if we wanted to, but we don’t!

Remember, if you can’t do something bad that doesn’t make you good! For you to be considered good you need ability to do evil or more evil that you are currently doing. Doing good or little evil if that is your only option makes you just weak, not good. Same goes for all other species that you don’t see committing any crimes. It is not because they are good, it is because they are weak and incompetent! Give any species our power and technology and they would cause much more evil and damage than humans.

In fact, it is not us who is doing harm to nature, but nature that is trying to harm us! Look around yourself, nature is very hostile place. More than 99% of the species that ever lived are extinct and if it wouldn’t be for our ideas, technology and inventions and interference with nature, we would be extinct long ago! Most places we inhabit would be deadly to us without our miraculous technology. And despite nature trying to kill us, we try to preserve it in return. Not that nature gives a damn, but someone like anti-humanist human Rufus would say “we are making nature worse off”, while nature couldn’t care less what we do with it while it is blindly killing us and all its life. 

“But people still do bad things!” I hear, someone who still didn’t get it, screaming. Yes, and food sometimes still gives us stomachache, but that doesn’t mean it is bad for us, or that there is better alternative.Could we do better? Could we cause less harm? Certainly! In fact, we are working on it. And attitude of “people are bad” is only harming it and slowing down progress! We are not perfect, but we are the best thing for life overall (notice that only ones who would object to this point are humans, no rare-specie bird or planet or anything else ever complained about people).

Without people, life is certainly doomed on the earth. That doesn’t guarantee that with people life will survive and thrive, for that we need to look forward and dismiss whole attitude of “people are bad” because that is only slowing us down and causing unproductive pessimism.

Okay, so far this looked more like “In Defence of The People” rather than “In Praise of The People”. So let’s now venture towards hallmarks of our awesomeness and see why we are so special and significant in this universe, instead of just exploring why we are not so bad. I hope these hallmarks will convince remaining skeptics.

 

Some hallmarks of why people are so unique and special include:

  • Humans are only species that care of welfare of other species (you can send pictures of dog mom feeding little cat puppies to my email as I enjoy those but I am worried that won’t suffice as good counter-argument).
  • Humans are only species that care about environment they live in and try to preserve it, not only for themselves, but also for future generations and other species!
  • Only humans can override their selfishness and innate primal instincts. And don’t tell me that there are other animals that sacrifice themselves in order to save their kin, I know that and that is only encoded in their genes as blind instinct, it is nothing conjectured and deliberately chosen like it is within us.
  • Only people can create ideas (or discover them?). You may say “yea, but ideas don’t do anything on their own and there are many bad ideas!”. Listen here, every creative act starts with an idea and is deliberately acted on only by people.
  • Only we can be in awe and appreciation of our creations. We don’t just create and transform the world, we also reflect back on it and appreciate beauty and ingenuity of those creations!
  • Only people can have cosmic effect on the universe and change its fate. For example, Sun is inevitably getting larger and will eventually swallow whole earth, that is unless people do something to prevent it. And it is only people who can have power in principle to do so.
  • Only we have memes. That is ideas that propagate non-biologically and aren’t encoded in our genes. That is remarkable when you think about it, because we are creating and passing on something that we didn’t have to start with! Where did it came from then?
  • Rate of progress is made exponential only by humans. Just imagine how much progress we made in our wellbeing, technology, morality, science, and everything you can think of since the first homo-sapiens emerged. No other species made such a startling progress, not even close! Life of human 150,000 years ago was vastly different from that of you today. Heck, kings living just 500 years ago had it much worse than you today! Think about difference between crocodiles living 10 million years ago and today, no difference at all!
  • We are more than our bodies and genes. Think about how inferior we are physically to other animals. We are slow, weak, have no special vision or senses. We are pretty much powerless on the first look, that is, until you venture inside of our brain. We are not defined by our hardware, we are defined by our software which overpowers all other hardwares on this planet, which is why we rule this planet despite our apparent inferiority compared to rest of the animal kingdom. Our specialness is not apparent, but it is most powerful despite (or maybe because?) it being hidden.
  • And obviously, art, music, written language, technology, science, philosophy, sports, math, books, internet, economy and many more phenomena that exist in the universe only because of the people.
  • Love and kindness are not only our instincts, they are our choices. Other animals can act alturistically, too. But their behaviour is set by their genes and it is only instinctive, hence predictive and can hardly be changed. With people, it’s different. We are unpredictable and we can choose love and kindness, just as we can choose to commit suicide, despite it not having any evolutionary or genetic benefits.
  • There doesn’t seem to be limit on how much we can learn and progress. With other animals we have so far always found limit to what they can do and learn, but with us we are seeing exponential progress in all domains. We can learn anything given enough time and opportunity. This means that unless your “hardware” is damaged, anything that anyone can learn, you can also learn, which basically means that unless we are handicapped, we are all equal in our potential which seems to be infinite. This is idea of us being “universal computers/explainers” which I got from David Deutsch, for more on this see additional resources section on the bottom.
  • Everything you love and enjoy exists only because of people. And you might say that you enjoy licking a rock and rock is not made by people! To that I can just say that 1. you are weird and 2. you enjoy human experience of human licking rock which was given rise by other humans producing you and your sense of enjoyment and ability to lick. Everything you love and enjoy comes through you and is allowed by prior existence of other humans. And at most, you can say that you love human perception of a rock, not rock itself. There is no love or joy in a rock, love and joy are created only by and within us, those aren’t properties of other objects.
  • If you are able to perceive and contemplate your own “insignificance” then you are anything but!  That is because it’s one of most rare and significant phenomena in the universe: to perceive and contemplate and then subsequently cause changes in the universe that have never be seen before in history of universe (e.g. atomic bombs, spaceships, iPhones or mere ideas and abstractions such as concepts of “significance” or good and bad etc.).
  • We are only creatures who implicitly (and of course also explicitly) ask “why?” and seeks and creates explanations.

Some would say that I am bringing up only good things and omitting the bad. To that, I would say that you are bringing up the bad and omitting the good. And it is that which we focus on that will grow. So which one will you focus on?

Moreover, aren’t we only specie that can, and do morally and pragmatically, question their own acts and thoughts and reflect back on them? Aren’t we only ones deciding and improving on what’s good and bad and can distinguish between them? So even by such disagreement you are proving your awesomeness, good job fellow human!
 

 

Fallibility of People:


Of course, some of our efforts will be bad ideas and cause harm to us, our environment and other life forms. But that is a price we have to pay to avoid stagnation, and stagnation has to be avoided at any cost because stagnation does guarantee doom, eventually!

And remember that it is often bad ideas and mistakes that pave the way to the great ideas and solutions. I can attest that from my own life, not just looking at our human history.
We will keep making mistakes and we will keep learning from them. It is OK to criticise those mistakes, but it is not OK to try to stop them and with it our progress. We have to keep moving forward and improving our ability to solve new problems that arise from our new solutions.
Carbon emissions are just better problem that emerged from solutions we created, nobody would want to go back to times when we didn’t cause any pollution because back then problems were much worse! If we never progressed so far as to cause carbon emissions we probably wouldn’t survive up until now.

Our mistakes are not something to condemn us for, but praise for. Only mistake to be avoided it to try to avoid all mistakes, which promotes stagnation, which is ultimately fatal mistake.

And this is not to say that mistakes we make are OK, they are just OK to make, but of course they are wrong, that’s why they are mistakes! We shouldn’t praise our mistakes, merely just courage to make them and then quickly correct them. We haven’t yet figure out way to improve without making mistakes. To get rid of mistakes, we have to go through them, and do it fast by promoting progress, innovation and creativity.

 

Importance of People:


I am certainly specie-biased, but I think people are most important specie ever evolved on earth. So we are worth much more than any other specie (not only to ourselves or from our point of view, but for other species, life and objective point of view, too). Think about it, we are only specie that has potential to save the whole earth and all its life. We are only specie who can affect all other life forms on earth and the earth itself and rest of the cosmos. We need to be taken care of and nurtured well. We are important. We hold fate of the universe in our hands and minds. We are unpredictable but with infinite potential. Let’s make best out of it.

Some ultra-sceptic human-hating human Rufus might still say that it is only people who place such importance on people. Well maybe, but who else is to judge importance of us? As far as we know, there is no one or nothing else even capable of such judgment! Of course, if there are intelligent aliens they would place such importance on themselves, but then wouldn’t they be in principle People, too? They would be different in their biology, but if they would be capable of such judgment, they would be same in their minds – and it is our minds that defines us, not our mere biology.

We are universe not only experiencing itself, but also affecting itself! We don’t just look and predict what happens to the universe, we can shape it.

This doesn’t mean that other things and species in the universe aren’t important, it just means that we are the most important and significant phenomena in the universe. And even if you would disagree, we can probably agree that we are only known “thing” that can appreciate significance of anything, or even invoke such concept in a first place! And if anything is to be most significant thing in the universe, who else is to decide it other than inventors of that concept?

In many ways we are still same as other known life forms, we still share same genetic history. But we are different in ways that are most significant and impactful on the objective and cosmic scale. That is what makes us most important species phenomena in the entire universe. We are same in things that don’t matter, but different in things that do.

We need to praise people for that of which we want them to do more of. If we shame ourselves for our fallacies, that will lead only to despair. But giving praise for that which we want even more of and do better will encourage further efforts of progress. Want better climate? Praise ourselves for progress we already made in climate! Want better morality? Praise ourselves for moral progress we made! Want better science and technology? Praise ourselves for progress we made from stones to device you are reading this text on written by someone on the opposite side of the planet!

 

International Day of The People:


I propose there should be international day of the people. There are celebrations of many different things, except that which is most important and gave rise to all other things being celebrated and all celebrations themselves: The People.

How is it that it never occurred to us to celebrate us? We are fundamental element of everything that we celebrate! The Day of The People should be most important day of the year, not Christmas, not New Year’s Eve or anything else because there wouldn’t be Christmas or New Year’s Eve without People in a first place!

On such day we would gather around the table and give credit where credit is due. Give ourselves little pat on the back, and instead of telling Jenny how everything is bad, or we are bad and insignificant, we would tell her about all our progress and potential we and she has. So that she decides that drugs aren’t that fun after all and goes on to save our grandmas by developing cure for cancer. And of course, we would have lot of laughs and eat huge tasty dinner like a pigs, because some things are still better done like animals.

 

Additional Resources:



Couple resources that inspired me and changed my view on how awesome and important people are in grand scheme of things.
If words don’t persuade you, you might appreciate this awesome youtube channel full of human awesomeness: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIJ0lLcABPdYGp7pRMGccAQ Stunts and performance of people is just astonishing. It never ceases to amaze me what we can learn and how far we can push, we can literally make art out of how we move our bodies.

Most influential book and ideas in last couple years for me was from David Deutsch, British Physicist who is much more than that, I think he is one of most important philosophers of our time. At first, his ideas are hard to grasp and seem like they are wrong. But they don’t let you sleep and more you think about them, more you realise they are correct and profound.
See his book “The Beginning of Infinity” if you want your world completely changed: https://www.amazon.com/Beginning-Infinity-Explanations-Transform-World/dp/0143121359Or start with talk David gave at TED about how “chemical scum” can see and explain distant quasars: https://www.ted.com/talks/david_deutsch_chemical_scum_that_dream_of_distant_quasars?language=en

If you tend to be skeptical about our future and think that things are getting worse or that people are making things worse, see book “The Factfulness” by Hans Rosling: https://www.amazon.com/Factfulness-Reasons-World-Things-Better/dp/1250107814 where he shows how nearly everyone is wrong about how good we are doing and how promising future seems to be. You can test yourself and your knowledge about how world is improving in short quiz: https://factfulnessquiz.com

And if you like anecdote of how awesome people are, I can tell you that whenever I am nice to other people they hit me even with more niceness. Whenever I show trust in people’s competence or morality, they manage to surprise me with their ability and consciences. This happens everywhere I go in the world, with strangers, friends or family. Be awesome, give awesomeness, trust in awesomeness of people and it will grow.

P.S. I am aware that some of the arguments in this rambling might be flawed, incomplete, inaccurate or not well supported in their details. But let’s not disregard strong idea because of weak arguments. Despite possibly flawed details, my confidence in the idea of this post is pretty high and I believe humanity would be better off if we gave ourselves more praise and admiration (while staying humble) and stop shaming ourselves.
 

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4 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 1:37 AM
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I don't quite know who this post is arguing with, and it feels vaguely oriented some political fight that I'm not entirely familiar with.

I think you have point here because this post might not be the best fit for this forum, as I assume most people here are aware of those arguments and aren't against people and denying our importance. As for political fight, I hope not! I am notoriously unaware of any politics as I don't follow any (except funny memes of course). But it is possible that it can echo some political discussion.

On other hand, we could kill much more if we wanted to, but we don’t!

Is there a list of species wiped out?


From skimming:

In defense of people seems focused around 'people are good' rather than asking 'what are our ~flaws and how can we fix them?'. I would say 'we are good and evil, and we have a lot of power to change things, so why not make things better?'


It's not like 'we' or 'the world' is just...static. Change is possible.


If we don’t interfere with nature, all species will eventually go extinct!

This section needs work. (Save the planet from...the sun exploding? I think having an evacuation plan, and starting on it well in advance is a better idea. Massive natural nuclear reactors bigger than the earth don't exactly go gentle into 'that good night'.)


People Can’t be Bad:

People can be bad.


stop shaming

Yes. (But focus on improvement is good.)

Thanks for pointing out some of flaws in my post, I haven't fully thought about these points. I have indeed under-emphasised importance of focusing on improvement. Point I was trying to make is more along lines "We are doing great compared to yesterday, but how can we ensure that is still true tomorrow?" and I should put more emphasis on latter part.

As for people can't be bad, what I meant is that we aren't born bad and there isn't anything inherently bad in us even if "bad" is objective. We can do bad things, but we are neutral and can stir in either way, good or bad.