curiosity on demand

On the most recent episode of the Hardcore History podcast, host Dan Carlin details the gruesome punishments Persian king Darius I allegedly dealt to a captured city:

Darius I: “I cut off [the rebel king's] nose, ears, and tongue, and I put out one of his eyes...after that I impaled him...I hanged the men who were his foremost followers. I executed his nobles, a total of forty-seven. I hung their heads...inside the battlements of the fortress.”

In his Carlin-esque way, he adds a final musing to the anecdote: the people who committed what we'd describe as atrocities are no different than you or I. Were we to take a baby born this morning, put them in a time machine, send them to 550 BC, and check back on them in 530 BC, that young adult would give a full-throated defense of mass killing of defeated cities.

Of course, you don't need to travel back in time to find modern defenders of barbarism. However, the practice is less common than it was 2500 years ago. Less common than even 500 years ago.

When people declare they want to live for 1000 years, or perhaps spend eternity ageless, many philosophers frame this as a fear of death, an irrational and selfish thrash against the natural order.

But perhaps a more humane reason to wish for another 1000 years is to live to see humanity, in fits and starts, crawl towards its better self.