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@THiNK 2012-Big History: A great way to see our place in the Cosmos and build a more secure future for our civilization

There are moments in your life when you are simply filled with awe at the power of the human brain to understand the world around us. As children, these moments came often. As adults, unfortunately, we get aught up with the tiny, nearly insignificant details of our lives, and we lost that curiosity, that wonder, the awe. Here, on Day 2 of the THiNK Fest in Goa, David Christian take us back to that state of wonder. In a very interesting context.

Many times in my life I have wondered how the many many thoughts we have come together. How do we make sense of the world we live in? How will future generations cope with the challenges of the 21st century?

David Christian, like many of us, felt the urgent need for a liberal education for young people. Schoolchildren actually. He evolved a new subject to do this and called it Big History.

Big history is a global story, one that links many disciplines together seamlessly, a map of knowledge, a framework to understand our place in Cosmos.

David took us back through time, from the Big Bang to the present day, outlining some specific turning points. Some things struck me particularly.

Agriculture, an important point, was essentially an energy grab by one species and the ability to exploit fossil energy, another grab. An unprecedented one by any species. Paleolithic man consumed just as much energy he needed plus a bit for insurance. Today we consume 100 times the energy we need! As energy grew, so did populations, towns, cities, and I though this was an interesting way to view urbanism in this Big History perspective. Quite an eye opener in terms of viewing us as a greedy species and teaches us a lot about the need to be particularly careful as we move ahead.

We need to open our eyes and see things in a larger perspective; there is a need for a wider perspective than tribe, nation, continent, encompassing the entire Earth and then coming back with deeper understanding to work meaningfully within our communities. But we can be a part of this!

David has been teaching Big History for some 22 years. Now, the Big history project has Bill Gates joining hands with him to drive a vision to create a free online courses on Big History for high school kids and college student. The project is in pilot and trial stages in US, Australia, Scotland, Netherlands, Korea and other places and they hope to release a road tested version sometime soon. Teachers testing it observe that it seems to get average and below average kids interested and excited about learning.

To me, nothing is more relevant for India as Big History at a time when we need more analysis, more questioning, to challenge our notion of intelligence, more liberal views, more empathy, more tolerance, more humanity. I will go up to David and demand Big History is promoted in India. I am excited to imagine how much it would benefit our children.

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