We don't know one tenth of one percent of anything. Who first said that? I think it was Thomas Edison who, at least in that remark, knew one hundred percent of what he was talking about.
It's easy to think that our best science already basically understands the world and those of us in it, until you talk to real scientists, or at least the ones who are the pioneers at the cutting edge of their specialities. Human history is a series of misguided certainties. People have always thought that they basically knew what was going on in the world around them. And people have been so very wrong so many times that it should give us pause and instill in us a little humility, along with the measure of confidence that we also rightly need.
Modern medicine is at the brink of discoveries and changes that will so deeply revolutionize everything that it's hard for us now to imagine what health and healthcare will be like in a hundred years. And it may come much sooner than that.
Robotics will drastically alter manufacturing. Bigger, better, and much faster computers - even different sorts of computing - will reinvent business in many ways, only a few of which are already evident.
I suspect that psychology will even make discoveries that will transform our self understanding. And philosophy may make inroads that have been hitherto unanticipated. We're moving into the unknown at a faster pace than we can even guess on our wildest days. The cosmic and epistemic wind is strong at our backs, but we don't always feel it.
There are times on board a plane when it can seem like you're just sitting still in a nice leather armchair. But you're moving at hundreds of miles an hour. I see this as a nice metaphor for the human condition. It can sometimes feel like we're sitting still, when we're all moving forward much faster than we can sense.
When I was in middle school, and even high school, I'd ride for an hour in the family car to visit my grandparents, my father's parents, on their farm. They didn't have indoor plumbing or an electric stove. To wash my hands for lunch, I'd first go out behind the house to a dark metal pump. I'd put a basin beneath the spigot and grab the old rusty handle and pump a couple of times, before the cold, clear water began to flow. With the basin full, I'd take it back into the house and wash up in it, using soap someone had made, and then I'd go eat whatever had been cooked on the wood stove. Later in the day, we'd find leftovers stored in the unrefrigerated white wooden "pie safe" and have a snack. The "bathroom" had no walls, roof, or floor, and was out back behind some bushes. Things have changed, to put it mildly, at least for most of us. But the changes we've seen are nothing compared to what's around the corner.
So, when you're tempted to think you've got it all figured out, remember our kinetically kaleidoscopic context. We all could use a little Socratic self-realization about how little we truly know concerning the most fundamental mysteries of existence, and even the mundanities of everyday life. We need to open our minds a little more than ever before, with genuine curiosity to learn. The pace of change won't slow or stop, apart from a technology ending global catastrophe. The only way to dance with change well is with a humble spirit, an open mind, and insatiable curiosity.
I'm a philosopher who believes that we know many deep truths about life already. But I also think we have much more to learn yet ahead. And this sense impels me to explore, and seek more avidly than ever before. I hope you feel the same.