Friday, 22 July 2011

Welcome to My Macrohistory!

Hello everyone!

I'd like to kick this off by giving you, over the next week or two, in several parts a series of my reflections on David Christian's article "World History in Context".

David Christian is the erstwhile father of this discipline of World History, and while I could start by telling you how I found it, why I love it, and what I want to do with it, that doesn't seem the right context at this time.

Righto, let's go!

Humankind has always sought to define itself. The desire to draw a line between us and everything else – to be special – has shaped every level of human thought throughout the centuries. The premise that we are the centre of the universe in temporal and spatial contexts was enough, until the recent inexorable tide of knowledge we have attained chiefly through astronomy and cosmology all but washed this false conclusion away. Yet the drive to mean something did not go away. A powerful example of this drive is found in Christian's article from 2003. It presents a revolutionary new way to measure human worth.

He unwraps so eloquently a model of the significance of humanity, which I like to call 'the beauty of complexity', and its three core elements, namely complexity, energy, and collective learning, and especially the relationship between them.This setup of his is remarkable and I hope to be able to do it justice in my explanation.

Christian plainly states at the very beginning of his article 'world history is all about context'. He acknowledges that world history has no context of its own, and that the broadness of its scope makes giving it one difficult. He perceives that the efforts of cosmology, (evolutionary) biology, and astronomy that have undermined the traditional 'specialness' and led to decentralisation and devaluation of humanity leaves a question that he and I both feel is our calling, as world historians and fellow sojourners, to answer. Using data and theorems drawn from many fields (one of the strengths of the broad scope and collaborative nature of world history) we illuminate the relationship between complexity, energy, and collective learning, and with them draw a map of human worth. These are traits humankind displays in a unique way, and when viewed as a symbiotic trinity, viola! We have found what sets us apart from the rest of (what we know of) the vast and ancient universe.

Until next time, fellow travellers!

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