It's HIGH time we talk about a widespread problem we've been witnessing lately.
Let's call it a problem of imagination.
In the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, biologist and historian Yuval Noah Harari credits the unique ability of homo sapiens to communicate about shared imagined realities --
(i.e. the ability to craft fictions, to tell stories...)
... as THE reason that homo sapiens was able to leapfrog ALL other species on the planet (including our close but extinct cousins, homo neanderthalensis)...
... And skyrocket to the top of the food chain.
Dig deeper and you'll learn that humans seem to have a natural threshold for maintaining social order in groups, that starts to break down somewhere around 150 people.
Below this magic number, you don't have to impose much hierarchy to get a group of sapiens to self-regulate, because we use language to tell each other stories about members of the community -- who is a liar and who is a cheat, who is sleeping with whom, etc -- and this form of storytelling helps us figure out who deserves our trust and how to keep our relationships organized.
Above this magic number (perhaps because we can't keep track of more than 150 people's stories at one time; though I do know people who seem to defy that threshold), this natural social order starts to break down.
Thus, regular old concrete-world-storytelling has a natural limit for facilitating human organization and cooperation.
However, when you start to communicate in fictions -- things that do not materially exist, but which succeed in evoking the imagination...
... You become suddenly able to build trust and coordinate activity among much larger numbers of our species, than would otherwise be possible.
And ONLY homo sapiens are able to communicate in fictions.
Google and Tesla and Virgin and literally ANY company you can think of are examples of collective fictions -- non-material entities that do not have faces or bodies or a physical location in space, and yet which wield huge power over the material world and the people within it...
... To the extent that an imagined entity (a "limited liability corporation") has "legal rights" according to which it can sue a real human being for millions of dollars -- and win.
Or take the military, or world religions, or higher education, or MONEY.
All of these systems were made up by the human imagination -- and then agreed to, over and over and over again.
It is actually mind-blowing to consider just how much of our world exists purely in the collective imagination of humans. A real feather in our cap -- good job, us!
The thing is, this "cognitive revolution" (and our resulting ascent to world dominance as a species) happened SO fast, evolutionarily speaking...
That it has left us deeply and fundamentally insecure about our position at the top.
Imagine the grace and self-possession of a lion, which has evolved to the top of the food chain over many millennia, and which has had as much time to adapt and come to terms with its position of dominance.
You watch it stride lazily across the savannah, flop down under an acacia tree, and yawn -- revealing its huge, bone-crushing incisors -- and it just seems to belong at the top.
The lion does not need to prove anything.
Humans, by contrast, are the most destructive (and self-destructive) species ever to find itself at the top of the food chain.
Because story gave us a shortcut to the top, we feel we must PROVE our intelligence and dominance at every opportunity.
Driven by fearful egos (that still biologically expect to be wiped off the map by a predator at any moment), we go on destroying not only countless other species, but also ourselves AND our own habitat in the process.
One might argue (based on prominent examples of world leadership that we've seen and continue to see), that humans exercise their power with approximately NONE of the grace or self-possession of the lion ruling over its savannah.
And the world continues to suffer mightily for our insecurities.
All of which begs the question: What would it look like, if we were capable of using our imaginations for reasons BEYOND proving and providing for ourselves?
Of course, there are plenty of people and organizations out there who have great mission statements and who APPEAR to do exactly this.
But I would argue that even the most noble and well-intentioned attempts at "impact" are more often attempts to prove that we exist; that our existence matters.
After all, the unstated first goal of ANY organization... is to keep existing.
It just makes you wonder...
What kind of world we might be able to construct -- if we weren't all so damn insecure about our place in the universe.