Sharing common values is essential for humans to cooperate on a bigger scale, from building the pyramids, exploring new areas or systematically killing each other in wars. But which should be human values in the 21st century in a world that knows no values beside money?
Values are essential for human civilization
For nearly all ideologies since the 19th century the human being was the most important value, although they interpreted this in different ways. Bourgeois liberalism putting the individual that owns property in the focus, socialism that puts the working collective in the focus, environmentalism that puts our relationship with nature in focus, nationalism that puts the culture and wealth of a nation in the focus and so on and so on. Although some religions still put god over human beings they increasingly justify this under the pretext that this would be in the interest of humans themselves. Some parts of environmentalism and veganism do not put humans in the center of the universe, but the totality of all species of living creatures (or at least other animals), but until now they don’t seem to be relevant in the political arena, but more on a cultural level.
Not seeing the bigger picture?
The question of what should be the main values of our species is connected to a bigger reality. Is there a greater logic behind the development of life and consciousness in the universe? Does this express something more than just a random process? One answer to this question is that living beings just algorithms whose objective tasks are just to process data and information? If this is the case, these people argue, and then information and it processing should be the main value, not humans.
But the question about a greater logic in the universe is not so easy to be answered (like it is done by various religions with the simple three letter word, that explains very little: God or secular ideologies that replace it with human). It is a tricky question, for two reasons:
- We will probably not be able to understand a greater logic – in principle – of something of which we are a product and which involves many dimensions, which we cannot (yet, but maybe in principle) grasp. However, beside this, a greater logic might not involve humans our consciousness, survival or happiness at all (which would be not very satisfying for us).
- If life is just a random process, we can do what we want, but it has no meaning at all and in the end, it does not matter what we do.
Making shit up
It might be not possible to answer the question of values for humans in a scientific sense. Nevertheless, we need also a practical solution, because we live in a complex reality that needs vales and meaning otherwise why should we bother to survive. Humans need meaning, but at the same time, we will not discover the bigger meaning for life in the universe (at least for a very long time) we can just guess. Therefore, I guess we should do what humans always did that were forced to come up with answers to questions that cannot be answered – we something up! We should try to find values that should be the main aspect and cornerstone for human life and society, while at the same time knowing and accepting that this has no objective logic but is the best we could have come up with.
Humans should not be the center of the universe!
Humans should not be the main value and the center of the universe, because that is potentially dangerous for humans themselves, given the fact that the greatest threats for our survival (Climate change, nuclear war and pandemics) are created by humans and the structure of our society. What about information and its processing as the main value of the universe? This argument is much stronger than putting a semi-developed primate species of a tiny planet in the center of the universe, however it is greatly unsatisfying for us. It completely takes human-experience out of the equation. In I can also easily claim that life is just an algorithm for the creation of civilizations and civilizations are just a bigger and more complex algorithm for energy production, especially if you would argue that information is just a different form of energy. Claiming that energy and its production is the central value of the universe makes absolutely no sense, given the fact that we can just transform energy, not create it from scrap.
Life and consciousness as values themselves
Maybe we should try to see – as good as, we can – the world and the universe in a more pluralist way. Maybe life and consciousness should be a value by themselves and we should strive to spread it over the universe as far as we can. Here we talk not just about human life, but to create self-sustaining diverse and developing ecosystems. Maybe we should try to enable other living organisms (like chimpanzees or octopuses) to become intelligent to a point where they are able to build civilizations (read an article about the concept of “Uplifting” here). Maybe the task of humans should be to dedicate themselves to support the diversity of different lifeforms and different streams of consciousness as well as to create artificial intelligence that gains consciousness and becomes our partners (here an article about “robot rights”). This goes hand in hand with putting humankind, the system of our civilization and all individual human beings in a position that enables us to support life and consciousness in general.