How The Ancients Had Better Technology Than Us
In the Three Body Problem, scientists at the end of the world rack their brains for the most long-lasting storage technology and sheepishly come back with this answer:
“According to the most advanced theories and techniques in every field, based on extensive theoretical research and experimentation, through analysis and comparison of multiple proposals, they did find a way to preserve information for about one hundred million years. And they emphasized that this was the only method known to be practicable. Which is — ” Luo Ji lifted the cane over his head, and as his white hair and beard danced in the air, he resembled Moses parting the Red Sea. Solemnly, he intoned, “ — carving words into stone.”
Carving words into stone. What the ancients did thousands of years ago. We are children standing on the shoulders of giants. We are like the Monkey King, thinking he can leap out of the hand of the Buddha.
In that story the Monkey King, Sun Wukong (my childhood hero) makes a bet with the Buddha to rule Heaven. All he has to do in jump out of the Buddha’s hand. Wukong laughs. He is much more powerful than that. He can ride clouds. He can leap 1,000 leagues with a single bound. He girds up his tiger-skin sarong and bounds. He flies to the end of the world, where there’s nothing but five pillars suspended in the clouds. He writes his name on one and pisses on another, to mark his territory. Then he re-bounds. Smirking up at the giant Buddha, he demands his kingdom.
The Buddha smiles, Buddha-like. “But my child, you never left my hand”. And the Monkey King looks down in shock. There on the Buddha’s forefinger is written Sun Wukong, Great Sage Equal To Heaven. Next to a puddle of monkey piss. The bet is lost. The Buddha turns his hand over and traps the Monkey King under the Five Fingers Mountain for a few thousand years, to learn his lesson. Which he does, eventually. I feel like this is where Homo Sapiens is. Less wise than ever, thinking that we’re better than our ancestors and the gods. We’re about to get slapped down hard and take a few thousand years to near actual enlightenment.