I want to know what the point of everything I’m doing is. Assume I have all the material wealth I could possibly want. This isn’t hard to imagine, considering our true satiation point is probably more easily met than we think.
The main goal I’m driving at is: where is all of our effort going? And how does our individual effort factor into it?
First, consider that meaning is found in service to others. This is reasonable and provides a ‘selfish’ incentive for what we should be doing. Even if we don’t believe in other people, it’s possible that the meaning such a pursuit provides is enough to carry us through. It is like that Dostoevsky quote: I can hate the one human in front of me, but at the same time feel great compassion for humanity.
Second, we are definitely engaged in a society wide endeavour. Everything we do is situated within our society, and we in turn engage and influence what society thinks. The market only exists in the context of the state’s laws and regulations. Creativity and art exists in the context of the artist’s experience. And so on.
So if we are in service of society, as well as inextricably linked to it, then where is society going?
Enter species wide survival. One answer to the fermi paradox is that we are truly one of the first, or at least earliest, existence of consciousness in the galaxy. And if so, maybe survival is critical – who knows what is out there. Take a realist view where power is paramount, combine it with the unknown out there, and the (not that unreasonable) view that we are worth existing for: it leads to the answer that we need to secure our future. And that will be attained through the power of our species as a whole.
That may or may not require a unified species wide government. But at least as a species, it seems that survival is paramount.
What is a relatively powerful society? Probably a society that is just better at everything. Obviously, a better military, but then that means also good recruitment, good engineering, good tactics, and good strategy. But then also perhaps that means a good culture, a good framework for new ideas to compete without tearing society apart, and a good sense of art to keep morale or a sense of meaning up. Then also you can imagine a good philosophy, a good sense of ethics, and something that drives our species forward instead of giving up.
In that sense, just like how the market is a distributed mechanism for complex calculations about resource distribution, there is probably also a mechanism out there for competing ideas and the development of culture. In which case, just as the scientist contributes to a body of knowledge that is ever dynamic; so then could art contribute to a body of canon.
In which case, you don’t even need to bring religion into things to find meaning (maybe you could, or it is necessary but I make no claims). The stakes of meaning are so large that everything is important enough in your pursuit of life. Take service for others, apply it to our species (where I assume that we are worth saving), and extrapolate to the problems of our future. Then, you can begin to see how everything is for our society, and that the race is on.
So make good art and enjoy it. And if you doubt yourself, know that it helps because it makes us a better people. And maybe in the future it would help us find a sense of self and common ground. Do good science and further our understanding so that the material world is understood – but also so that our society can actualise that which is good. And so on with business, philosophy, and everything else.
What is our role? What is the point of it?
I submit: to make society better in every possible metric. Almost anything you choose to engage is a contribution to society when done well enough. Such contributions hopefully help humanity entire to develop. When the time comes, I hope we are not found lacking.