“Don’t be a dick.” I first heard that exact phrase from Wil Wheaton, but the sentiment is as old as history. You can derive pretty much every moral rule of import from the simple advice “Don’t be a dick.” And it’s a sentiment that may be more important than ever, but also closer than we might think.
We live in an astonishing age. There have been lots of “historic moments” that we all learn about in history class, like wars and the fall of civilizations, but there are also more important moments that change the very nature of who we are as a species. The discovery of fire. The invention of the wheel. The formulation of mathematics and language. In those moments, we transcended what we were, and became more.
We are living in one of those moments right now. For all of human history, and prehistory, we have been “of the earth.” More than simply locked to it’s surface, for much of our history it was the only “real world” we knew. To our ancestors from 100,000 years ago, the earth must have seemed like an almost infinite expanse of forests and deserts and seas and plains.
But in recent centuries and years, it’s become a much smaller place. We butt into each other as our population grows and it’s clear the resources never were infinite. But something even more profound than that has happened in just the last half-century … humans reached beyond our planet.
The technical feats of the space program were, and are, important, and vital, but we gained so much more than technology, or even knowledge, from the moon landing, the space stations, and our exploration of the solar system … we gained perspective. The Pale Blue Dot. Earthrise. In the latter part of the 20th century, for the first time, humans saw our planet as it truly is … a tiny rock, sheltered by the thinnest film of gas, hurtling through the brutal blackness.
It’s still early days, and like the first human who figured out how to start a fire likely had no idea of the implications of his discovery beyond his immediate needs, we still don’t fully realize the significance of this new perspective. It changes everything, and the generations born since 1960 are the first humans ever to live with that perspective as “normal.” It will be decades, or even centuries, before the implications of that new perspective truly manifest themselves.
One inescapable conclusion of this new perspective is we are all in this together, and I mean that literally. We all share this tiny rock, and it's smaller than it's ever been. But the good news is that there’s an easy way to get along on a tiny rock hurtling through space … Don’t be a dick.
A small rocky world in a nondescript spiral galaxy (or SE Alberta, Canada)