05. Earth: Why Does it Matter?

We recommend VideoNeat’s “Nature” documentaries library to learn more about the complexity of the world we live in, and the one that lives within us.

When it comes to The Venus Project, why does it matter whether we understand how water changes states between ice, liquid and vapor, how events on planet Earth unfold, or other knowledge of this nature?

The illusion of being knowledgeable:

When I was little, I thought that just because they were the “grown-ups”, they knew everything about the world that I was trying to learn.  I asked my parents about everything, expecting that they had all the knowledge.  The funny thing is that they thought this as well.  The culture that most of us live in is structured in a ladder-like-style, where people are made to feel like they are climbing it with every ‘step’ they graduate: school gradings (1st, 2nd, 8th, 12th, etc.), diplomas, jobs, marriage, children, etc..  This gives people the illusion of associating age (progress in life and career) with being knowledgeable, even ‘wise’ (whatever that means).

It’s not surprising that it leads to a world where people stop learning when they finish school, and stop listening when they become grown-ups.  People might think that because one is a doctor (a career associated with ‘intelligence’), that person is knowledgeable in all fields.  People often show off their diplomas to showcase how knowledgeable they are, and this is a sign of the illusion that’s created in a money-based world where people have ‘careers’ and hold on ‘job-positions’.

But there’s more to this.  Some years ago, when I posted a documentary about atoms on a personal blog that I had and I was so thrilled by these things called ‘atoms’ that I projected that excitement in the post’s description, a guy commented saying that my excitement was nonsensical, because the information presented in the documentary is known to any 5th grade student.  He didn’t understand why I was so excited about that documentary.  However, if I have since learned that familiarity is different from understanding – completely so.

My old chemistry teacher was very religious and never seemed to question the information she taught.  She introduced us to atoms (and obviously knew a lot about them), but I am pretty sure that she never understood that these atoms she was describing were real.  More to the point, because she knew enough to teach about atoms but didn’t really understand them (or take them more seriously than as a job-requirement), she was not equipped to ask more about atoms than she was required to teach about them.  She never seemed to question her faith, even though she studied something that directly contradicted the existence of her God.  If you remember information and are only able to repeat it to others, it means you are mostly a recording device.

It never works to tell people: “Hey, be more curious!  Learn more about the world!  Use your brain!”, because that is like trying to encouraging a baby giraffe to eat without showing it how and from where.

In order for a brain to come up with new ideas, it needs to ‘digest’ information from many sources.  The more ingredients it’s provided, the more chances there becomes for new flavors to emerge.

As another example, I never understood what a molecule was when I was in school, but I understood it quite well after watching hundreds of scientific documentaries about many different subjects like medicine and how drugs are basically structures consisting of different types of atoms that we call molecules – nothing more than that.  I had no clue that this was the case.  That sparked my ‘curiosity’ about molecules and I found myself wanting to read more about them.  Later, after watching some documentaries about the weather that included how molecules relate to that, I asked myself whether everything in this world is based on these tiny ‘molecule’ structures.  I researched on that and realized that this is pretty much true.  Then, knowing from other sources about what atoms are, I could understand molecules even better because they are formed by atoms.  All of that information merged together for me, and my knowledge about molecules and how they work improved, along with my ‘curiosity’ about them and how the world works.  

More interestingly, when you realize that drugs are made of molecules, weather/heat is a property of molecules and atoms vibrating, and thus, all matter/materials (steel, rocks, whatever) are formed by molecules, then you suddenly become able to exercise your imagination as to, for instance, how we could create everything we might ever need from atoms with the proper technology, and you end up inventing nanotechnology (although it has already been invented 🙂 ).

You see, the more you know, the more connections you can make.  And the more you know about different domains of knowledge, the more you can come up with new, viable ideas.

Humans have invented many different categories for describing this world: biology, chemistry, dogs, furniture, planets, pain, etc..  While these categories help to define ‘things’, with many similarities between them and are generally useful most of the time, do not forget that they are only ‘human-made’ categories, and knowing that may help you to not let them limit your ability to think and learn.  Example: Two hundred or so years ago, the concept of biology was invented.  Later on, some people realized that biology and technology could become one field and they called it biotechnology.  Now we also have biochemistry, biophysics, nanobiotechnology, and so on, because more and more people have realized that the world is more connected than separated.  

So, if you wonder whether or not it’s important to learn about Earth’s events, creatures, or how molecules work, and how they apply to The Venus Project, then you might not have been aware of the ‘generalist’ effect of knowledge from many different domains that Jacque talks about.

Here are just some of the many examples where I connected this type of knowledge directly with TVP:
I know there are trillions and trillions of planets and moons out there, and when it comes to the possibility of life existing on any of them, the difference between a planet and moon is almost non-existent.  It may turn out that there are more ‘creatures’ on moons than on planets, as moons are also planets; the difference being that they orbit around another big rock.  Recognizing how many possibilities are out there for life to exist, and combining that with the knowledge that I have about ‘life’ and the fact that we can’t even definitively clarify what is alive and what not, I began to think of how many different ‘things’ may be ‘alive’ out there, and if we could even be able to understand that as ‘life’.  For instance, a fly cannot understand humans, as humans may never be able to fully understand other ‘creatures’ that are more complex than ourselves.  Then, with all that in my mind, I started to question human behavior and what is ‘normal’ to us, and how accustomed we are with the world we live in.  When you realize that the fine tuning of gravity, atmosphere, water, distance from our Sun, and so on, are suited for the creatures we know as humans to ‘evolve’, then you can begin to exercise your imagination on thinking about how these same creatures (humans) might have evolved and behaved on a world with a bit less gravity, or a lower average temperature, or without our symbiotic breathing relationship with plant life, etc..

Would they travel more because it’s easier with less gravity?  If so, would cultures be more alike due to that ease of traveling?  What if humans ‘evolved’ with their genitalia on their face?  Would they still wear ‘underwear’? 🙂  How would obscenity evolve in that world?  Knowing that our language and technology ‘evolved’ out of conditions here on Earth (inspiration from nature to human’s senses were the basis for our language and technology), I wonder how ‘language’ would be affected if humans had 3 arms, or no sight, or could sense Earth’s magnetic field.  All of these questions and associations, and far, far more than that, occur to my mind specifically because I watch and read about so many different, fascinating subjects: from other cultures to quasars, from how digestion works to how words came into existence.

Galileo Galilei was born into a family of musicians.  As a student of medicine, he observed how a chandelier, swinging in larger and smaller arcs due to air currents shifting about, acted similar in ‘rhythm’ to heartbeats.  He then devised some of the first pendulums for keeping track of time.  That sparked his curiosity about the movement of objects which, combined with his growing knowledge of mathematics (he had attended a lecture on geometry that convinced him to adopt mathematics as a study), led him to contribute a significant amount of new understandings on moving bodies, astronomy, and even in material science.

One thing led to another:

Inspired by some well-known astronomers who developed a model of the universe with the Sun at the center and planets orbiting around it (contrary to what most believed at that time), and his knowledge of materials and mechanics, he was able and motivated enough to improve a new invention called a telescope (it was originally designed for ‘ground’ observations), point it at the night sky and discover that what was thought to be a ‘star’ was actually a planet.  This series of events provided the first evidence that Earth is not that unique after all.

If Galileo did not understand complex mathematics, had not studied astronomy or been influenced by controversial theories to spark his curiosity about the heavens, and if he hadn’t already become skilled enough to improve a ‘machine’ (the telescope) that someone else had invented, he could not have made this very important discovery.

This is why it’s so important to learn many bits of information from the real world, across many domains.  Learn all you can about the weather, polar bears, types of genitalia in the animal kingdom, lightwaves, automation, quarks, how the internet works, words & linguistics, varied cultures, the history of science, and so on.  As you learn ‘real’ information about the real world, and recognize that the natural world is not categorised (broken up into ‘topics’) as we once thought it is, big ideas will become obvious to your mind, as you will see.  Even though your ideas (and mine) might not prove to be as perception-shattering as Galileo’s, we will surely have a much more realistic view of the world we live in and, perhaps, be able to ’hack’ some long-outdated categories and notions that have been holding us back, with our thoughts and actions becoming more and more inline with reality.

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