In the United States, the minutiae of local and national politics dominate newspaper headlines. Yet as linguist Noam Chomsky somberly explains in a discussion with journalist Tilo Jung, these trivial preoccupations pale in the face of humanity’s existential crises, which the mainstream media and political establishment largely ignore. Filmed prior to the 2016 US presidential election, this interview doesn’t examine Chomsky’s views on the Trump administration, but anyone who wants a broader “alien perspective” of humanity’s history and trajectory will appreciate its insights.
An extraterrestrial alien visiting Earth would be puzzled to find that humans are knowingly heading toward self-destruction without acting to prevent annihilation.
Modern humans first emerged as a species some 200,000 years ago. For many thousands of years, they lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers. But about 10,000 years ago, they began to alter significantly the make-up of the Earth’s natural environment when they invented agriculture, developed sophisticated cultures and traveled to the farthest corners of the planet. They also began engaging in wars, which, by the 20th century, had become enormously destructive.
A watershed moment came in 1945 when the development of nuclear weapons gave humans the ability to destroy all life on Earth with the push of a button. Geologists talk about the era following the end of World War II as the start of a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, a period where humans have become the drivers of geological and environmental change. An extraterrestrial alien observing the humanity’s path would be puzzled to...
Noam Chomsky, a theoretical linguist, is a professor emeritus of linguistics at MIT. Journalist Tilo Jung is the chief editor of the political webshow Jung & Naiv.