The suspicion came to me today during Sociology, shortly after having been asked what was the biggest cause in environmental destruction. The burning of non-renewable fossil fuels, my group and I first thought; more than just the pollution that emits from them are the dangers of ozone depletion, which theoretically fuels Global Warming, and wars over obtaining every last drop of oil. Apathy, another group thought, because we don’t care to stop the destruction of the environment. Government and corporations, said the third group, because they are the only people with significant power to the end environmental destruction they cause (which would ultimately be a suicide).

I’m not sure that any of these get to the heart of the problem, though. The genealogy digs much deeper into the ground. We burn fuel for energy. We use energy to build and to mend, weave, harvest, transport, illuminate, communicate, i.e. produce. We progress in our production to make our lives all the more convenient. Because in the beginning our lives were not convenient. In the beginning there were no computers, light bulbs, markets, houses, cars or clothes. It’s a miracle we humans even exist, because evolution seems to have dealt us a bad hand. But we had two trumps. One was the opposable thumb. The other, with immeasurable potency, was language.

Language is what makes us uniquely human, and it gives the illusion that we are the only animals to use reason. But language is no more than the expression of thoughts. What makes human communication so powerful is that it can share, with a fine articulation, abstract thoughts. A human could describe an elephant to another human who has never seen an elephant, and that human would conceptualize an elephant even if the schema is not entirely accurate. Every utterance is an education of a thought.

Language is naturally educational, and it is education that saved the human species from extinction. With language, we could teach ourselves to build shelters, prepare food, or cooperate. Each successful generation would bequeath its archive of knowledge, so that generation would build upon generation and the efficiency of humans would boost exponentially. This correlates with the exponential growth of human population. As humans create new and better means of survival, we increase longevity and the opportunity for birth.

Hence overpopulation. A greater mass of people demands more resources. It seems to be in the over-efficient nature of humans to suck the marrow of one area and migrate to the next. To quote The Matrix,

Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus.

Humans have become over-efficient, and this over-efficiency scourges the Earth as well as ourselves. Unbalanced, we overglut our resources and end up fighting for the final tidbits—in vain, of course, because the spoils of the victor would be consumed just the same.

Let’s take a moment to recap. Language involved education, education fostered overpopulation, overpopulation gluts the Earth’s resources, and the lack of resources will lead either to death for all or to war and death for some. With this trend, though, the population simply must collapse at some point.

Was this all inevitable? That depends if language was inevitable. Perhaps language was the effect of an even more ancient cause, but tracing that genealogy any further becomes difficult. Certainly the desire for survival couples with language, but to blame survival as the Big Bang of our species’ demise would be inaccurate. We see all other species struggle for survival while maintaining a balance in the ecosystem, which humans have not and probably cannot do.

But here comes the ironic twist. We use language and education to try to fix the problems that were originally caused by language and education. Is this possible? Do language and education function like the brain that can reach into itself to solve problems? Or will we ultimately worsen our greater situation by fixing one of its smaller building blocks?

Let’s consider some things. If language is an expression of thought, and if language is congruent to education, then education naturally involves thought. If the brain uses thought to solve its own problems, then, like the brain, language and education could indeed be used to solve its own problems. The only difference is that, unlike the brain which solves problems internally, language and education solves problems socially.

It’s hard to come to a conclusion after all this. It’s possible that the computer will either be the most important or the most destructive medium for solving the world’s problems. An instrument of cultural diffusion, it can bequeath knowledge unlike any other tool humankind has ever experienced. The computer is the culmination of past technology, the zenith of progression. But is that good?

No sacrilege here. Just questioning.