The University of Tokyo
My name is Matsui and I am a professor at the University of Tokyo. It just so happens that I was attending the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference that was held two weeks ago in Houston for one week. This conference started at the time of lunar exploration by the Apollo Project and celebrated its 33rd anniversary this year. It is a scientific meeting for discussing how the structure of the solar system to which our Earth is a part of was born and how it is evolving. I attended this conference in Houston and then participated in the conference in Monterey, Mexico. This conference was held under the theme of " Education for Development and had been jointly held by 10 or so local universities in connection with the conference sponsored by the U.N. for supporting the developing countries. I was invited to that conference and participated in the discussion about the meaning of education and research in the future development process of the developing counties.
This week, I am delivering a keynote speech at this forum on population issues. As you can see from what I have told you so far, I am not an expert on population issues. I am studying how a planet such as Earth that supports life is born into the universe and how it evolves. It is a study in the field of the so-called natural science. I have been working hard particularly in the past five years to launch a completely new field of science and learning in the 21st Century called " astrobiology".
This discipline of astrobiology is very relevant to the theme of this conference today. A major theme that has been defined as the goal of study in astrobiology is "where intelligent life like us and other life forms on this planet came from and where they are going". That's why today's theme of "Conditions for Human Survival and Future of Human Society" has become our major research target. So we are working towards launching this new field of natural science.
Astrobiology is a completely new field of science in the 21st Century that started after being coined by NASA about three years ago. As I mentioned earlier, its objective lies in finding out where we came from and where we are going. Other themes we are working on include whether we are an omnipresent existence in the universe or do we exist only on Earth, and whether intelligent life exist all over this universe.
The so-called natural science that existed until the 20th Century was basically comprised of two ideas. One of them was duality, a view that divided human and nature. It was a view that looked at various aspects of nature based on the premise that people are completely detached from nature. Duality takes the position that human beings are the subject that recognises nature which is the object.
The other was a view that tried to look at the target of thought with more detailed framework after detaching humans from nature. Using a more detailed framework for the object of thought will clarify the nature of the problem. The basic approach used in natural science until the 20th Century was to clarify the problem within the detailed framework in order to solve it. Modern science was developed based on such mode of thinking.
I myself have been conducting my research on the themes I have mentioned earlier based on such view. However, areas in which these ideas do not hold true started to emerge. For example, when we think about the population issues that are discussed at this open forum and issues like the future of human society − we live on this Earth, and when we ask ourselves whether we are totally detached from nature, the answer is "not necessarily so". That is the essence of the global environmental problem, the resource and energy problem, the food problem and the population problem.
Therefore, a big question arises when traditional dualistic approach would hold true as the basis of understanding on the macro level, not to mention the micro level. This kind of question was already recognised on the micro level at the beginning of the 20th Century. The discipline of quantum mechanics that deals with a very micro realm had shown that dualism no longer holds true because of the "observer issue" in which our very act of observation had influence on the natural state.
In the latter half of the 20th Century, another question came up as to whether an elementalistic approach of trying to clarify things by dividing the subject into small elements could lead to full understanding of the entirety. For instance, chaos and complex systems emerged as new areas of science. We started to realise that when we divide the subject into smaller and smaller elements and identified the properties of those elements, we could not express the entirety, which was the combination of these elements, by merely adding up the elements. It is becoming clear that the 20th Century-oriented approach is not sufficient in understanding nature and that it has reached its limit in many ways.
So it became necessary to think about various problems such as "who we are" and "where we are going"− and about "the future of human society" and "population problem" on this Earth − from a holistic point of view. The discipline of astrobiology is an attempt to learn through trial and error about how to deal with these problems, including the new methodology for doing so.
What I am thinking about talking to you today is how we should approach this forum's theme when one looks at it from such standpoint. I used the term "astrobiology" that NASA gave, but I myself have been referring to the comprehensive discipline based on similar ideas as "geocosmology" for the past 10 years. I have been making such attempt, thinking that there is a need to establish a new discipline or intellectual system called "geocosmology" in order to deal with the issues that are related to humanity and civilisation from the standpoint of natural scientist.
The term "geocosmology" − pronounced "chikyugaku" in Japanese − is used to include "Earth", the subject of study including us and nature, and also to suggest "chikyu", which, in Japanese, connotes "search of intellect". I have been using the Japanese term lately. In English, I have been referring to it as "geo-cosmology" with the intent of thinking about how to look at the entirety including us included in that entirety − what to make of our existence in that entirety.
Although no such concept has been proposed to date, I am using for the time being the system-oriented approach and the historical perspective. System is one of the ways for grasping the big picture and history is meaningless if broken up into elements to begin with.
I would like to talk about what kind of existence we currently are on this Earth from such viewpoint so that we can understand the present state of affairs. I think the greatest characteristic of our present existence is the fact that we have become a "visible existence" from space. For example, if you see Earth at night from space, you will see an ocean of light shining brightly. In other words, we have now become an existence that could be seen from space and we need to think what to make of this fact.
I think there were two schools of traditional humanics. One concerns human beings from a biological point of view, humanics in the sense of being one of biological species − I'm sure you will be hearing many relevant talks on this subject later on in the day. The other is the traditional philosophical humanics of "cogito ergo sum" − "I think, therefore I am". There was a discussion about human beings from this standpoint what kind of existence we are as a recognising entity.
However, as I mentioned just now, it is difficult to discuss about us who are an existence that could be seen from space though biological or philosophical humanics. My idea is that a completely new fabric of argument is needed.
The fact that we are an existence that could be seen from space does not simply mean we could be seen in terms of visible light. Our existence could also be recognised electromagnetically if some entity on a planet in our Galactic System looks for such electromagnetic wave in the direction of the Solar System. In other words, it is possible to recognise the existence of intellectual life on Earth from those planets. Taking these matters into consideration, I would like to first think about what to make of our existence which can be seen from outer space. From space, Earth can be seen as a single system. By "system", I mean it is comprised of various components and the system can be defined as a whole as an aggregate of such components.
The fact that we are an existence that could be seen from space means that we are a component of a system called Earth. What are the elements comprising the Earth's system? Earth is made up of many material spheres; atmosphere, ocean, continental crusts, mantles and cores − these can be regarded as components. Living organisms are also creating one of the components called biosphere. For instance, soil contains complex organic matter and constitutes a material sphere called pedosphere. A component named biosphere can be defined by putting together the material sphere comprised of organic matter such as this soil, forests and grassland. You can say that, like atmosphere, ocean, continental crust and biosphere, we human beings are living today by creating a material sphere, that is, a component. And we can be seen from space as a result. Such existence of ours is named "ningen-ken" after "seibutu-ken (biosphere)" and "taiki-ken (atmosphere)" in Japanese. It is a coined word with no English equivalent but I call it "homo-sphere" or "human sphere".
Actually, humanity went through a major transition 10,000 years ago and became an "existence that lived by forming a homo-sphere". For this reason, I, in my words, refer to the future of human society as the future of homo-sphere.
You may wonder about the difference between the terms you have been normally using such as "human society" and "world" and the term "homo-sphere". Actually, this is very simple. You are using the expression "human society" and "world" by living on Earth and looking at homo-sphere from inside that homo-sphere. I look at it from outside and call the world you live in as homo-sphere.
Where would this difference in standpoint manifest? By looking at Earth in the context of homo-sphere, we become aware human species are one of the components of a planet named Earth. From this point of view, you will see that, like other components, there will have to be a boundary condition for formation of homo-sphere in Earth's system in order for homo-sphere to exist. In other words, you will realise that we exist within this boundary condition. You refer to this as "world" or "human society", and you think that countries and regions exist in it. From my point of view, it is the internal structure inside the homo-sphere. Nation state, for example, is a unit that make up the internal structure of this homo-sphere. So the homo-sphere is a system comprised of such units.
You may see this as a mere rephrasing, but difference in viewpoint gives rise to totally different perception. From a historical viewpoint, for example, humanity has been existing on this Earth for almost 5 million years, as has been confirmed through fossil records. We are related to this 5 million year-old human species in a biological sense but the meaning of existence is quite different.
This difference in viewpoint has a decisive impact when dealing with an issue such as this. From my viewpoint, a component such as homo-sphere actually did not exist in the period that started 5 million years ago and lasted until 10,000 years ago when people lived on hunting and gathering. According to this viewpoint, we existed as one of the species of biosphere. Existing as one of the biosphere species means that we were no different from other from the viewpoint of Earth. Such existence and the existence that went out of biosphere to live in homo-sphere are completely different. This kind of awareness is an outcome of having the viewpoint that I have.