Man as His Own Ultimate Resource
Even the most highly developed and intelligent animals are mainly drawn to the resources that support their life and welfare by instinct and a very limited ability to learn. Man's situation is totally different - practically all resources that maintain and improve human life must be created by man, i.e. he must employ his intelligence to discover, invent, and engineer the way in which a something can be linked to human needs so as to serve as a so-called resource, a means of satisfying human needs. Oil is not by itself a resource (for a human being), man must first recognise its suitability for a certain human purpose and consciously develop strategies to instrumentalise the potential. This is a cumbersome condition, but it has its upside - contrary to what most people think, man will never run out of resources. He certainly never has. What is more, mankind has grown its resource base incessantly to mind-boggling degrees of availability and effectiveness.
Man and World 3
Leaving aside, whether the below vision may not cover all dimensions, such as the religious sphere, or whether it can be made compatible with them, I find Popper's threefold distinction between world 1, world 2, and world 3 exceedingly insightful as it is.
Immersed into, exposed to its effects, and productive of world 3, in exercising our intellect, we keep creating unforeseen and unintended consequences, which are powerful and consequential enough to force us to permanently challenge the way we look at the world.
In this way, man is uniquely the intellectually alert animal, a kind of being that is destined to constantly discover new events and structures. Owing to this propensity, we are the only animal that adjusts to the environment by constantly creating and trying to satisfy new demands and desires. We have to, owing to our deep involvement in world 3.
The history of man is a journey towards our becoming the ultimate resource (Julian Simon) for ourselves. That is to say, ever more comprehensively and effectively, we become the creator of the resources that we need for our survival and well-being.
Freedom is a state of affairs that greatly supports and improves this fundamental human drive toward becoming our own ultimate resource. In fact, I venture to surmise that the history of freedom, the unfolding of advanced forms of liberty is a direct consequence of man's relentless drive toward becoming his own ultimate resource.
This reading of mine of the human condition involves no hubris: man is clearly recognised as being highly limited, vulnerable, and fallible; becoming his own ultimate resource is simply the natural and apparently best way for him to cope with his tremendous insufficiency. Man has not resolved to take this path, he is pushed on it.
“To sum up, we arrive at the following picture of the universe.
There is the physical universe, world 1, with its most important sub-universe, that of the living organisms.
World 2, the world of conscious experience, emerges as an evolutionary product from the world of organisms.
World 3, the world of the products of the human mind, emerges as an evolutionary product from world 2.
In each of these cases, the emerging product has a tremendous feedback effect upon the world from which it emerged. For example, the physico-chemical composition of our atmosphere which contains so much oxygen is a product of life – a feedback effect of the life of plants. And, especially, the emergence of world 3 has a tremendous feedback effect upon world 2 and, through its intervention, upon world 1.
The feedback effect between world 3 and world 2 is of particular importance. Our minds are the creators of world 3; but world 3 in its turn not only informs our minds, but largely creates them. The very idea of a self depends on world 3 theories, especially upon a theory of time which underlies the identity of the self, the self of yesterday, of today, and of tomorrow. The learning of a language, which is a world 3 object, is itself partly a creative act and partly a feedback effect; and the full consciousness of self is anchored in our human language.
Our relationship to our work is a feedback relationship: our work grows through us, and we grow through our work.
This growth, this self-transcendence, has a rational side and a non-rational side. The creation of new ideas, of new theories, is partly non-rational. It is a matter of what is called ‘intuition’ or ‘imagination’. But intuition is fallible, as is everything human. Intuition must be controlled through rational criticism, which is the most important product of human language. This control through criticism is the rational aspect of the growth of knowledge and of our personal growth. It is one of the three most important things that make us human. The other two are compassion, and the consciousness of our fallibility.”
The source: (Popper 1978: 166–167).