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You are astonishingly unique
A meditation on our shared uniqueness
Homo sapiens emerged around 300,000 years ago. It then took roughly 10,000 generations to arrive at the present moment. For you to exist today, each of these generations had to survive and reproduce.
That this actually happened is an astronomical coincidence. Suppose that the probability of each of those generations surviving and reproducing was 99%. (That’s wildly optimistic but stay with me for a moment.) Even then, the probability of all 10,000 generations being successful is only around 1 in 10^40. That’s one in ten thousand trillion trillion trillion.
Yet here you are.
It gets more improbable still:
There may be 10,000 generations but hundreds of thousands or millions of ancestors. Each of these ancestors had to survive and reproduce for you to have been born;
Your parents had to meet and choose each other out of hundreds or thousands of potential partners;
That one specific sperm from your father had to meet that one particular egg from your mother.
Yet here you are.
Consider this analogy. Suppose you flip a fair coin a hundred times and observe the following sequence of heads and tails:
What’s the probability of observing this exact sequence? It’s practically zero—around 1 in 10^30. However, the probability that you will observe some sequence is 1. (I’m assuming you don’t get bored and stop flipping coins halfway through.) After you’ve flipped the coin a hundred times, you’ll have a specific sequence that, before you started, seemed almost impossible.
Yet it happened.
Just as each sequence of a hundred coin flips is astonishingly unique, so are you. The fact that you exist, with your own sequence of “heads” and “tails”—your genetic makeup, your ancestors, the love story of your parents, the life you’ve lived, the troubles you’ve faced—is the result of an extraordinary set of circumstances. You are the outcome of countless generations, astronomical probabilities, and a life story unlike any other in the universe.
This incredible narrative is not just yours; it’s shared among billions. Each individual you encounter is a singular product of this intricate dance of probabilities. As the Universe performs this dance, let’s dance, too, for we’re all just lumps of stardust, astronomically unlikely, astonishingly unique.
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