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what even is history?


Since 50,000 years ago, more than 108 billion members of our species have ever been born.

Assume each human lived an average of 30 years, and that's over 3 trillion years of lived humanity.

How do we boil down that immense expanse of human experiences into a history of the human race? For Christmas, Tod bought me such a book -- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

416 pages representing over 3 trillion years of lived humanity. That's one page per 7 billion person-years. The vast majority of humans don't get even one word.

So what even is history? Some of the people who climb to the top of their regional hierarchies get some words about them. But how does a biography even represent all the moments of a person's life? President Lincoln lived for 1.7 billion seconds, yet historians somehow condense that into a 25,000 word summary. OK, that's about one word per day, that doesn't sound so bad ;-) "This week I went to school, OK?" Seven words. "This week I married my beautiful wife." Seven words. "This week my young secondborn son died." Seven words.

But most of us never get one word. The vast majority of humans get nothing at all from their future's historians.

So what even is history? It's just a tiny tiny sampling, not even a statistical sampling, of world events through time. At the mercy of whomever recorded something contemporaneously, and whichever records were never destroyed.

Without records, we have absolutely nothing. I learned this when I was tracking down my family tree. For some branches of that tree, I had records going back 1000 years. For my paternal grandmother, I couldn't even find a record of her death. And, she was adopted, so, no information about her real parents. An absolute dead end.

History is over 99% dead ends. Stuff you'll never read about, can't read about. Absolutely lost. But we act as though history can teach us lessons about how to live our lives, how to choose our politics, and more. How our present-day culture evolved. Yeah, right.

History is like trying to figure out the plot of a novel when over 99% of the words were deleted, some randomly, some arbitrarily, some purposefully, some accidentally. But with your <1% of the words, you try to figure out what the story was. Yeah. I believe you.

You may have heard about dark energy, a form of energy in the universe that we cannot directly observe or detect; it represents most of the energy in the universe. Even more of the matter in the universe is dark matter.

An even larger proportion of the history of the universe is dark history.

Maybe there's a system of dark relationships between dark matter, dark energy, and dark history. Heh. We'll never know.

Most everything is dark stuff. What you think you know is a tiny spark in the massive and dark history of the universe.


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