Zooming out: the world as an anthill

2015-03-06

I have a mind trick I sometimes use: I “zoom out” until I see the entire planet in front of me. People become ants, cities turn into anthills.

I do this to protect myself when I hear about human tragedies, such as catastrophes that have claimed many lives, or when I hear about children starving or being hurt.

I find these things too painful to deal with on an individual, personal level, so instead I zoom out to see the entire planet. In the grand scheme of things – with a history of 4.5 billion years, 9 million species and and 7 billion people – terrible events become more manageable to comprehend.

I use this trick for other reasons, too. When I need to prioritize my time and select which larger project to work on, it helps to zoom out to see the idea at a planetary perspective. Could this project push us, as a species, to a higher level? Will it affect the lives on many people in a positive way?

If the project doesn’t score highly in this perspective, it probably is not worth pursuing. This method filters out 99% of the ideas I consider. The remaining 1% is a much stronger set.

I want to feel that my footprint on this planet, my contribution, is a positive one rather than the opposite. This applies to the small stuff like how I commute and recycle my trash, as well as what projects I pursue. In all, it’s about the legacy I want leave behind.