Origin Story: A Big History of Everything

David Christian

Origin Story: A Big History of Everything
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Origin Story: A Big History of Everything

David Christian

How did we get from the Big Bang to today’s staggering complexity, in which seven billion humans are connected into networks powerful enough to transform the planet? And why, in comparison, are our closest primate relatives reduced to near-extinction?

Big History creator David Christian gives the answers in a mind-expanding cosmological detective story told on the grandest possible scale. He traces how, during eight key thresholds, the right conditions have allowed new forms of complexity to arise, from stars to galaxies, Earth to homo sapiens, agriculture to fossil fuels. This last mega-innovation gave us an energy bonanza that brought huge benefits to mankind, yet also threatens to shake apart everything we have created.

This global origin story is one that we could only begin to tell recently, thanks to the underlying unity of modern knowledge. Panoramic in scope and thrillingly told, Origin Story reveals what we learn about human existence when we consider it from a universal scale.

Review

David Christian coined the phrase ‘Big History’ in reference to a project that aims to tell the story of everything that’s happened from the beginning of the universe until now. It’s an idea that caught Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ eye and together they established the Big History Project. Origin Story expands on those ideas.

Christian argues that now we have enough knowledge about our universe, about the evolution of the world, and how we came into being that we can tell the whole story. There are eight threshold events – such as the creation of chemical elements, the creation of life, and the explosion of technology and communication in the modern era – where the universe steps up to a new level of complexity.

The final of his thresholds is Anthropocene; our influence is now so profound that we affect the entire planet – we can do that in a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ way. We can create a healthier, more equal, and happier world, or we can create world in which inequality and climate change destroy our complex civilisations.


Mark Rubbo is the managing director of Readings.

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