Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind: serialised in quotes XXVIII: science has given humans the power to change the course of history–and to end it

Around AD1500, history made its most momentous choice, changing not only the fate of humankind, but arguable the fate of all life on earth. We call it the Scientific Revolution.

The last 500 years have witnessed a phenomenal and unprecedented growth in human power.

The total value of goods and services produced by humankind in the year 1500 is estimated at $250 billion, in today’s dollars. Nowadays the value of a year of human production is close to $60 trillion.

In 1500 humans were confined to the earth’s surface. They could build towers and climb mountains, but the sky was reserved for birds, angels and deities. On 20 July 1969 humans landed on the moon. This was not merely a historical achievement, but an evolutionary and even cosmic feat.

But the single most remarkable and defining moment of the past 500 years came at 05.29.45 on 16 July 1945. At that precise second, American scientists detonated the first atomic bomb at Alamogordo, New Mexico. From that point onward, humankind had the capability not only to change the course of history, but to end it.

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