Two dreamy men’s dreamy quests.
Liu Cixin is a famous science fiction writer from China. Alice, a character in one of Liu’s latest stories, “Fields of Gold”, shared a tale her father told her when she was young.
“Once upon a time, there was a devastating famine. An old man, before his death, shared a secret with his sons. The old man had hidden gold for the sons in the barren farmland. The kids then went to dig for the gold but found nothing. However, all the digging allowed the land to grow again. As a result, the kids survived the famine.”
“Fight for the light of consciousness”
During a discussion with Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, Elon Musk was visibly annoyed by Ma’s various viewpoints. Ma also appeared to be dismissive of some of Musk’s endeavours and grandeur. In particular, Ma felt there were more than enough existential issues to deal with on Earth, and hence Musk’s SpaceX was an unnecessary mission.
Towards the very end, after Ma rambled on his thoughts on happiness, in the middle of what appeared to be the final applause, Musk, like that weird anti-social awkward kid back in middle school, uttered, “Fight for the light of consciousness.” He then stared at the camera blankly for a few painfully long seconds before he put the mic down. Ma and the MC then realized Musk was actually finished with his sentence.
During the unveiling event of the brand new SpaceX Starship this week, Musk went on a rant on the purpose of SpaceX. I believe this updated vision was refined based on the experience he had with Ma.
He argued that we were the only form of consciousness, as for as we knew, in the universe. He also believed that for us the human species to evolve to have consciousness was an extremely rare and precious event. Hence we should take whatever steps we needed to preserve the light of consciousness. The window has been opened, only now, after 4.5 billion years of Earth’s existence. The window might not be open for long. In fact, he claimed that it will only take several hundred million years before the sun expands and incinerates Earth. Even though this might seem really far in the future, he argued if we took just 10% longer to evolve to where we were today, which meant another 400 million years, we would not have evolved to become conscious, because we would be cooked by the sun. Therefore time is short, the time is now, and we should take the steps to make humans a multi-planet species and to extend consciousness beyond Earth. His pivot to anchor his mission on consciousness, was a very dreamy one.
“Elevate the world’s consciousness”
In early 2019, Adam Neumann wrote a reflection on wework’s first nine years. He talked about the early days and the evolution to set up for the dramatic unveiling of the vision of the next chapter. First, he announced The We Company, which would house all the various “we” efforts, including WeGrow, WeLive, WeEat, WeSail, etc, under one roof. He then shared the guiding vision of the group: “… to elevate the world’s consciousness. Living a conscious life means choosing to live proactively and with purpose.”
Now, wework’s board and the rest of the world did, in fact, elevated our collective consciousness around the business of the We Company. This awakening was so violent and elevated that wework had to drop its IPO and kick Neumann out eventually. Neumann, with his dreamy hair and all, now can continue to explore his own consciousness, with $700 million of spare change.
Pacifiers for 40-year-old
Consciousness will soon be the newest fad. It is going to be the new keto diet sprinkled with the stardust of mindfulness. It is the plant-based pork knuckles cooked by AI. It is a word that commands the most awe and confusion. It is becoming inspirational and pretentious at the same time. I can already see new wellness 3.0 centres that promise contemplation chambers (NOT mindfulness, mind you) to hone consciousness. I bet soon there will be leadership hacks that will unleash the cosmic power of collective consciousness. Heck, H&M already has a “Conscious Collection”. Soon there will be consciousness inspired cheap decals for your Yoga Book, gibberish Asian calligraphy tattoo characters for your forehead, and conscious tasting menus from your most instagrammed Michelin-starred restaurants.
This is rather unfortunate.
The significance of consciousness does not need further elaboration. Philosophers, scientists, and writers have been exploring this baffling mystery since the beginning of time. Books have been written to grapple with it, and meditation teachers have been trying to get us to experience it. To many, it is so mysterious that investigation into it is a must. To most, it is so mysterious that delving into it is a waste of time.
To me, it is the best pacifier for mid-life crisis. It gives me the permission to wonder a bit more than I probably should at this age. Consciousness is the new option for me to replace the God that I can no longer line up my rational mind with. Exploring consciousness is the 45-year-old version of the question “who am I”. Consciousness is the grown-ups version of Batman or Skywalker that we could aspire to and mimic. (And the new tattoo I get to have).
Elon Musk might be dreamy, but he got rockets into space. He also managed to get those same rockets to land back on Earth in such utter beauty and unexplainable grace:
He proposed to fight for a multi-planet future where human beings would be glad to wake up to in the morning and be fired up about. He is my new He-Man. He is everything I want to become. Therefore if he asks me (oh I mean us) to fight for the light of consciousness, I am in. Wait, that wasn’t my consciousness talking, I think?
Gold bars, Tesla, AI
Elon Musk has been promising gold bars all the time: battery-powered cars, autonomous cars, spaceships, mind-reading helmets, etc. Maybe that’s all just bullshit and wet dreams. However, Porsche and VW recently unveiled their own EV cars; Jeff Bezos and Richard Brandson are building spaceships. Perhaps all these silly grandiosities and pipedreams might just bring us a slightly brighter future.
Wait, that wasn’t my consciousness talking, I think?