The Edge.org 2018 question, addressed to its eclectic group of over 200 scientists, artists, writers, technologists, and others, was: “Ask ‘The Last Question,’ your last question,the question for which you will be remembered.”
The Korean artist Koo Jeong’s submission, her Last Question, was:
i = we ?
Koo Jeong’s, question, a work of art in itself, pushes us to what is probably the most primordial of investigations — Who am I? — a question, as Carlo Rovelli writes (in “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics”), about “one of the things which we understand least….”
After centuries of the quest to answer this question, Nature, Carlo writes, persists in
behaving with us like that elderly rabbi to whom two men went in order to settle a dispute. Having listened to the first, the rabbi says: “You are in the right.” The second insists on being heard. The rabbi listens to him and says: “You’re also right.” Having overheard from the next room, the rabbi’s wife then calls out, “But they can’t both be in the right!” The rabbi reflects and nods before concluding: “And you’re right too.”
The theoretical physicist then writes that “what we have learnt from our ever-increasing knowledge of the things of this world” tells us that “We are an integral part of nature; we are nature, in one of its innumerable and infinitely variable expressions” — “we are made of the same stardust of which all things are made….”
In the Mundaka Upanishad (probably composed in 2 BC), we find an incredible response to the Edge.org question.
Saunaka, a seeker of wisdom, asks Angirasa (The Upanishads, translated by Juan Mascaro): “Master, what is that which, when known, all is known?”
The answer to this question, it turns out, is also the answer to who am I?
Some time before the Mundaka Upanishad came into being, a deeply perplexed person, sat under a Bo Tree vowing not to get up till comprehension dawned. He too grappled with this question. And, like the sages of the Upanishads he appears to have had a sublime realization — i am my neighbour. We are the world. We are the cosmos — the cosmos is us.
Some of us may not agree.
But, what is indisputable, as Carlo writes in “Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity” is that
Today … we have the instruments to bring light to the homes of the ten billion human beings who will soon inhabit the planet, to travel in space toward other stars, or to destroy one another and devastate the planet. It depends on our choices…
We are surely better off living with the conviction that “i=we”, healing the world, and making this planet a heaven.