Author Bill Bryson once claimed “that we may be the living universe’s supreme achievement and its worst nightmare simultaneously”. This belief is valid to an extent, as humans are capable of doing both good and evil. But, a perfect balance between the two does not exist and it’s more likely that we tip toward the “supreme achievement” spectrum.
As Bryson has said, human can be the worst nightmare of the universe. And pollution is one of the most prominent support for this claim.
A few specifics of this are the Pacific Garbage Patch, where a giant “blanket” is formed on the Pacific with millions worth of garbage. This “web” increases the risk of choking and catching illness for many marine lives. Not only that, we’re also the specie responsible for acceleration of global warming, thus dooming many species and land to be submerged by the ocean. However, the thing is that we actively try to fix these problems.
From the development of renewable energy sources like wind, hydro, solar and geothermal to invention of new technologies that aims to covert carbon dioxide in the atmosphere back into carbon. Humans are actually trying out many now strategies on combating against pollution. Though it’s true that we’re the one responsible for the whole mess, however it is important to realize that we’re creating vastly more ways to fix the situation compared to worsening it.
Of course, not all technological development goes against the idea of us being the worst nightmare.
Weapons of mass destruction like nukes and chemical bombs does actually support the claim. These inventions prove the savageries of mankind, as there’s no other purpose than to claim the lives of millions. But not only the technology meant for war, people also abuses everyday technology such as social media. The creation of social media allows a sense of anonymity for many users, which in turns encourages some do things they normally won’t do. The most prominent problemed behavior is cyber-bullying, which supports the idea we’re the “worst nightmare” since it shows that we actively attack each other even when there’s not a proper reason. However, again, the good we’ve produced with technology vastly outweighs the bad. We’ve created prosthetic to help disabled people to take back control of their body. We’ve created communications system that can help family members separated by several million miles to talk to each other as normal. Furthermore, despite some major problems of social media, it also serves as a rallying call that can bring out the best in humanity. For instance, recently in the summer of 2019 an arsonist burned down the Japanese animation studio of Kyoto Animation. Killing up to a fourth of the employees and heavily injured many of the rest. What would’ve been a simple local support or even state support before the creation of social media, became an international effort to support the victims and their families. Hundreds of thousands of people from all across the world donating because they simply want to help with no other outside motives. The resounding results was nearly several millions worth of US dollars raised for the victims. This rings true with many other donation and fundraising service. Despite the fact that we do cause many deaths with technologies, it equally true that we’ve saved and improved even more lives with it.
Again, it can be argued that this is balanced out by the fact that humanity caused many travesties as a community. A popular history that correlates to this idea are the Salem Witch Trials, where a paranoid religious community sentenced many innocent people to death. Then there’s individuals form history like Adolf Hitler, who led a campaign of death that killed millions of civilians known as the Holocaust. Paranoia, fear and distrust are a few key factors that leads to many heinous crimes that we’ve carved throughout history. However, again, this does not actually balance it out. Though these serves as an example of humanity being the worst nightmare, it is important to note that we actively learn from these tragic events in order too not repeat the same mistakes. This is compounded by the fact that there’s also individuals in history that demonstrates the good in humanity. From Gandhi leading peaceful civil disobediences for independence to Martin Luther King Jr. dream of equality, history has no shortage of figures that displays the good in humanity. Not only social developments, Einstein, Newton, and countless other scientists showed the potential of mankind to understand and manipulate the laws of the universe. We learn from both the good and bad to try to emerge better at the end. We’re a specie that capable of infinite growth toward the good due to the fact we can continuously learn new information’s.
What Bryson claim is true. We are both the universe supreme achievement and its worst nightmare simultaneously. However, the good simply outweighs the bad by several miles. It’s true that humans are like the wildfire and volcano that devastates the civilizations. However, like after all disaster, things will be rebuilt to be even better than before to prevent or minimize the damage from said disaster. We are capable of adapting and learning to counter such disasters. We’ve built storm alarm against tornadoes, seismographs against earthquakes, national emergency systems against hurricanes, satellites in space to warn any potential meteors impact and more. The simple fact that we have the ability to continuously grow and learn is what makes us more of the “supreme achievement” rather than the “worst nightmare”.