When I say the word fossil most people think "dusty old museum and fossil."  But fossils are incredibly important because they tell the story of this planet in a way that no other object does. 

No matter how good the breakthroughs are in modern science, there’s still a story to be told by the bodies of extinct plants and animals that lived for the last three-and-a-half billion years on this planet.  It’s the history book of our planet and it frames for us the knowledge of how our planet works. 

Now we live on a planet with seven billion people, up from 1.7 billion people three generations ago, four generations ago.  And we are facing a century - the twenty-first century - that’s incredibly interesting and challenging: more people, more need for resources, incredibly rapidly changing technology.  What fossils give us is the playbook of this planet that’s happened before.  And it frames the opportunities we have for choosing our future. 

We are at a point in time now where we actually have the opportunity to choose our future.  The awareness that we can choose our future is new to us as a species. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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