Does Quantity Give Significance?

In Philosophy, Short Thoughts, Stoicism, Travel

On my recent trip to Egypt, I saw an abundance of ancient ruins, some that were close to 5,000 years old.

Of course, the initial reaction so seeing such monumental constructions is awe, and quite rightly so, because it is all impressive.

However, several thoughts came to my mind, and I want to explore two of them.

  1. Were all these huge constructions in ancient Egypt a complete waste of time?
  2. Does quantity give significance?

I’ll explore point one in another essay, as it is not so relevant to the point at hand, and so let’s focus on the second point.

What I am essentially asking is: does a quantitive change of enough magnitude give rise to a qualitative change?

If I go to the desert and use my hands to create a small pile of rocks, nobody gives a shit. If I somehow manage to get enough resources together to place two and a half million blocks of stone, each weighing around two and a half tonnes into a shape and size that resembles a mountain, it becomes a world wonder.

If I have a small business with a handful of employees, nobody takes me seriously. If I have a cutting edge technology company with tens or hundreds of thousand of employees, my word may sometimes be mistaken as gospel.

Why is that?

My gut feeling is that because we are seeing the end result of a long and difficult struggle, and it is not within the scope of human imagination to understand fully how something so large (the Pyramids, Google) can be built, especially as they require tens of thousands of people working in a coordinated manner.

Interestingly enough, most of us do not tend to give the same significance to natural phenomena. After all, nature has created mountains which make the Pyramids looks insignificant by comparison, and with regards to corporation, the entire planet is an ecosystem which works harmoniously together, which makes the complexity of a modern large conglomerate seem like mere child’s play.

So it is about how much human effort was involved in creating the thing in question, that is why we give significance to larger things. Or, perhaps this leads us to the conclusion that it is not the size that matters, but the overall skill required?

Not everyone can build a Pyramid, create Google, or paint the Mona Lisa, so perhaps we value these things because they require incredible amount of vision, skill, and so are naturally rare and valuable.

Strange beasts we are!

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