“With a capacity for creation comes an equal capacity for destruction. Should we continue to exist as intelligent, sentient beings, then we have a moral responsibility to understand and to cherish our existence.” (A Cosmic Purpose)
When I started writing in college, my thoughts were mostly about my engineering homework, and my ideas arose from an interest in the physics of life. I wanted to understand how nature, seemingly chaotic, could produce such seeming harmony. Having just left my childhood faith, I often wondered about my existence, but I had little expectation of figuring anything out, and certainly no intention of finding profound truths or compelling worldviews. But due to many factors, what began as a scientific curiosity has expanded into a perspective that I find wholly satisfying, and a philosophy with powerful and far-reaching implications for humanity. As ridiculous as this sounds, I’ve discovered a way to save the world.
This may seem wonderful, but the idea of having such influence scared me more than anything else. For one, I didn’t want to feel responsible for humanity, as if my words and actions could change the fate of my species. I also don’t like attention, and I hate to bother people, let alone tell them what to believe or how to behave. And besides, I’ve always been wary of influence. It seemed to highlight the corruptibility of human nature and the shortsighted ego of the politicians and financiers that manipulate our world. Power seems to be selfish, and those who rise with good intentions often fall to greed or pride. Nearly every instance of human-caused suffering has, at its source, a desire to control. From harassment and discrimination at home to war and genocide abroad, we see the misuse of power all around us.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
But there is certainly evidence of the contrary: Lincoln ended slavery in America; Gandhi led a peaceful revolution against British rule; Bill Gates has donated $35 billion to global initiatives like agricultural development, emergency relief, urban poverty, global health, and education. Clearly, power itself is neither good nor bad—it’s how and why we use our influence that determines its moral utility. And I realized that my ideas, in revealing perhaps the only logical purpose of human existence, could define an ideological framework that guides the use of power. Imagine a society led not by fallible men, but by infallible truths. This may be a universal reality, an objective morality that renders true authority incorruptible.
In September of 2016, two months before the U.S. Presidential election, I had just finished the first draft of my philosophy. I had also just started my second year of medical school, and writing was becoming a difficult activity to maintain. At that time, I saw this blog as a work of art more than anything else. Sometimes it seemed like a masterpiece that would captivate the world. And other times, shadowed by self-doubt, my writing seemed pretty cheesy. But I was generally proud of my work and had begun to embrace it, so I decided to share it on Facebook. And of course I was terrified. As I said, I’m not the type of person to tell others what to believe or how to behave. Yet here I was telling everyone right from wrong, and preaching a standard of moral perfection that seemed beyond my reach. As much as I try to be a good person, I’m no Jesus or Gandhi.
When my Facebook post received more attention than I liked, I distanced myself from my writing. I’ve always tried to fit in, and I didn’t want to be perceived as strange or judged for thinking differently. I wanted to seem normal, so I dismissed my ideas as impossible and my blog as just a hobby. Though my perspective gave me a sense of purpose and hope that I wanted to share with everyone, I pretended it was nothing. What if I fell in love with my philosophy when really I’d lost my own sanity? Besides, while my ideas were very satisfying to think about, they probably weren’t all that necessary. Like many, I assumed that Hillary Clinton would win the election, and the world would go on as usual. I knew I had a good idea, but I wasn’t convinced that it was real enough, nor that the situation was desperate enough. It might one day shake the world, but it had yet to shake my ambivalence.
“If Trump wins,” a friend asked, “does this change your philosophy?” “Not at all,” I replied. “In fact, that would probably strengthen it.” The worse our state of affairs, I reasoned, the stronger our dissatisfaction, and the better my ideas would seem. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition that our society is fundamentally broken, and the fix must involve a fundamental change. Adaptation is necessary for survival—this is a scientific fact. As Darwin recognized, “it is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” The question is no longer about whether or not we need to change, but what we are going to change, and how we will motivate such a shift from a culture so grounded by tradition. While I knew my philosophy could answer these questions and show us a way forward, I didn’t seriously consider its utility until I had lost all hope in the current state of our world—until I saw just how desperate our situation had become.
“Immensely powerful though we are today, it’s equally clear that we’re going to be even more powerful tomorrow. And what’s more, there will be greater compulsion upon us to use our power as the number of human beings on Earth increases still further. Clearly we could devastate the world… As far as we know, the Earth is the only place in the universe where there is life. Its continued survival now rests in our hands.” − Sir David Attenborough
Human power can take many forms, from skill and beauty at the individual level to monopolies and nuclear arsenals at the group level. But besides weapons of destruction, the forms of power that produce large-scale changes in society fall into three general categories: (1) political—legislation and jurisdiction; (2) economic—investment and management; and (3) cultural—information and emotion. The first is obvious; the second controls the use of land, labor, and capital; and the third involves everything from media and education to sports and religion. There is clear overlap between these spheres of power, and some people, like Donald Trump, have all three. In fact, anyone who votes, spends money, and uses social media also has all three, though to a much lesser degree. But in any case, the reality I present may one day influence the President’s decisions, as well as yours and mine.
“[The truth] must be bigger than any political platform, economic incentive, or religious belief. It must define a purpose towards which all emotions can be aligned, inspiring a moral cooperation that is unparalleled in human history.” (The Sentient Mind)
Regardless of political or economic status, the most effective force for driving change at any level of society is an influence of culture—these “bubbles” of information and emotion that divide America into red or blue, black or white, Christian or atheist. The beginning of any movement requires a disturbance of these micro-realities, a shift in culture that changes the way we think and feel about ourselves and our world. But what sustains a culture and drives a movement forward is a sense of relevance, because relevance gives us a reason to care. Why should I protest harassment, or decry the rise of bigotry and corruption? Why should I build this bomb, or drive this truck through a crowd? Why should I believe that Trump will make my life better and my country greater? Take a look at the movements around you. Some of them are morally intuitive, and others seem obviously backwards. But regardless of their benefit to society, these movements all have one thing in common. They make us feel relevant. They attempt to satisfy “three very fundamental human needs: identity, community, and a sense of purpose” (Christian Picciolini, a reformed Neo-Nazi).
“The human rights movement, like the world it monitors, is in crisis: After decades of gains, nearly every country seems to be backsliding.” – from The New York Times Op-Ed (4/23/18) by Samuel Moyn, Professor of law and history at Yale University.
While most sources of power have been found and accessed, the greatest potential for change remains untapped: the culture of intellectual thought. From senators to entrepreneurs to professors, the academic community spans all three areas of power. This network of thinkers and innovators connects every institution and industry in the free world. And though the intelligent crowd remains broken by despair, and divided by ideologies and interests, there is no question that the mobilization of such a group would be absolutely transformative. There is no precedent for the impact of an idea that might unite, with one ideology and one interest, every rational mind. Such an idea could stir a movement of political, economic, and cultural influence. Such a reality could bring an enlightenment that empowers the whole of humanity. It might burst every bubble of reality, and introduce an existence more beautiful than anything thought possible.
“Imagine a sentient species aligned by one vision. Imagine an intelligent system driven by a cosmic aim. The embrace of such a reality will exalt the intellectual community and expand its innovative capacity. It will advance our pursuit of knowledge and discovery, and create a culture of awareness that forces on every human mind a whole perspective and a higher purpose. It will incentivize the sustainable development of every economic market, and direct the flow of capital towards the creation of a society that is cherished by all humanity… There is no idea more powerful than one that inspires a happiness and pride that is global, a love that extends beyond ourselves and our species to the entirety of our existence… We, the created, have become the Creator… We are the human species, the mind of planet Earth, and we are God becoming self-aware.” (The Human System)
“I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension.” – Freeman Dyson, theoretical physicist and mathematician
The human species now has the power to decide its own fate. We are now capable of creating our future, and our survival requires that we use our intellectual capacity for the good of all humanity. This may seem obvious, but acknowledging such a fact is surely not enough to free our innovation from self-serving motivation. For a world that is cultured in capitalism, such a change must involve an incentive unlike any other. And my philosophy offers an incentive that is very difficult to disregard: it defines the only sensible reason for our existence, and lends relevance to every human experience. But even more, it motivates the use of our moral intuition and the goodwill of every peaceful religion. It paints “a larger picture of how everything might connect to everything else, [showing that one’s] welfare belongs to the welfare of everyone else—that true happiness comes from the happiness of all humanity… In the cosmic perspective, greatness arises from humility and kindness—these enable the adaptation and cooperation that are necessary for our continuation. The loss of this foundation is what brings power to corruption and society to ruin” (Reason & Religion). Indeed, the honorable way of living is the only practical way of surviving; the moral choice is also the smartest choice. With such a paradigm, we can create a culture of truth and accountability. With such a foundation, we can understand the mind and body, and build a world that benefits the whole of humanity. In this reality, we’re all at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy.
“The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation.” – Jeremy Bentham, jurist and philosopher
When I left my faith, all I wanted was a normal life. I’d become a doctor or engineer and make a quiet, comfortable living. Despite my odd interests, I didn’t have much ambition to be good at anything, and I’ve always been rather laidback. So when I started writing, I wasn’t expecting very much. But as I wondered about the origin of life, my curiosity led me down a different path, and I stumbled upon this idea that could maybe change the world—this reality that might be true. Even so, I refused to believe that I was somehow different or that my ideas were somehow special. I assumed that any literate mind with internet access could have made the same connections and drawn the same conclusions. In hindsight, my ideas seemed like common sense, and it took me some time to realize that my brain doesn’t work like everyone else’s. And because of my odd imagination, I might have brought myself to the world’s attention, and gained an influence I didn’t want. Because of my strange intuition, my life would now be anything but normal.
My friends have suggested that I write with a pseudonym. I could see how being anonymous would work for other forms of creativity like paintings or novels or music, where it’s easier to separate the art from the artist, to judge the quality of the piece apart from the character that made it. But it’s certainly more difficult to separate a philosophy from its philosopher, especially with one that seeks to inspire a global cooperation. If my idea was going to change the world, then it had to change me first. If my vision was going to start a movement, then I had to be willing to lead it. And sure enough, as much as I’ve tried to remove myself from my writing, the reality I found has begun to change the way I think and feel. My worldview has given me a sense of purpose and perspective that has diminished all my feelings of depression and angst. It has brought me a hope more powerful than that of my childhood faith, and a resolve that I didn’t think was possible. And above all, it has given me a reason to love my world and my species, a reason that makes more sense to me than any religion or atheistic assumption. I may never be as good as Jesus or Gandhi, but I have found for myself, and everyone else, a reason to try.
“The great moral teachers of humanity were, in a way, artistic geniuses in the art of living.” – Albert Einstein
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
What is the meaning of life? I’ve given you my answer, and it demands a response. I have presented you with a choice that may change our world forever. And now it’s up to you to decide whether some medical student has indeed glimpsed the truth and found the meaning of life. It’s up to you whether you should recognize and serve a purpose that is bigger than yourself or any of your dreams. It’s up to you to expand the bubble of your reality, and to make your community the whole of humanity. I have made my choice and embraced its implications for my life. As far as I know, I have found the truth, and I will pursue it with my whole heart.
“Should our species persist as a living system, then it must behave as a living system… And [such a fundamental change] begins when we assume—as any biological system must assume—that survival is our purpose. We exist to exist, and we live to continue life. We are one system, the human system, and every one of us is a necessary component of our unified existence.” (The Human System)
From the foundation of my philosophy, and from principles that govern the functioning of all living organisms, I’ve begun to develop a socioeconomic theory that aims to maximize the welfare of everyone on Earth—not for decades or centuries, but for the remainder of our existence on this planet. Such an end may seem unattainable, but this theory can be tested and improved within the societal framework that is already in place. With the influence of the intelligent, we can turn our communities into paragons of progress. With solidarity and civility, we will show the world what it means to be alive.
“Science is international but its success is based on institutions, which are owned by nations. If we wish to promote culture, we have to combine and organize institutions with our own power and means.” – Albert Einstein