After watching David Christian‘s The History of the world in 18 min from TED 2011, I am sitting here thinking how small I am. In school we learned about the most recent wars America was involved in, and not so much about the big historical events that David speaks of in his “Big History” lesson. David explains the important of understanding how the universe was made, the direction the universe is going in, and why humans are the universe’s most complex creation yet.
In less than 18 minutes, David explains that our universe creates complexity. It began from darkness, and nothingness, to energy, adams, molecules, so on and so forth to humans. He also explained, however, that with complexity comes fragility. He referenced growing up during the Cold War and how nuclear bombs made him think that the world was close to coming to an end. In other words, the most complex creatures in the universe could have caused our own ending.
David explains that the reason humans are the most complex creations of the entire universe are because we have something no other living species has been able to accomplish: collective learning. Unlike other species, which lose their learnings when they die, we have developed languages and communication. Language has allowed us to pass on our histories, and to learn from our ancestors. This gathering and accumulation of knowledge is what David refers to as collective learning. This is what has set humans apart from every other species that has ever existed.
He does say, though, that it is not clear if humans are in charge of collective learning. He cautions us to understand that we could ruin our own environment and accomplishments if we use all of the fossil fuels on this Earth. He warns us of the dangers ahead, if we do not learn our “Big History.” He even included pictures of his grandson in order to demonstrate his points.
I greatly enjoyed watching this video clip, as space has always interested me. It is the only part of science class that I ever paid attention to in school. I was thoroughly impressed with David’s speaking abilities as well. He is a great presenter and public speaker. He paces himself well, enunciates, and is easy to understand. He was able to summarize so well that the average person could understand his complex concepts. I would like to watch more of his presentations in the future.