Light graffiti made with Little Sun at Tate Modern, London, 2012 Photograph: Olafur Eliasson
Light graffiti made with Little Sun at Tate Modern, London, 2012

It is no accident that we live in a world that operates in a transparent atmosphere. Life could not thrive in opacity. It needs transparency, because light is the way that all things in the world are connected to each other. Beings and organs separated by distance can synchronize using vision. Light vision allows a system to look into the future. An eye can see danger approaching in the distance, and so in effect, light allows the eye to see the future. Science tells us that light is made of photons, but paradoxically these photons are both tiny bullets and big waves at the same time. Light is simultaneously continuous (a wave) and discontinuous (particles). This seemingly contradictory makeup means that light is a paradox; its fundamental nature defies common sense. We don’t have a good intuitive theory of how something like light can be both local (particles) and global (waves) at the same time. Either as waves or particles light definitely vibrates, and we think that tiny vibrations are the basis of all reality in matter and energy. We can’t see these vibrations, but we can see light. So light is the part of the mystery of existence that we can see. When we look, when we watch, when we see, we are connected to the foundation of our being. Light is the connection between entities in different spaces and different times. Light binds space and time.

After 4 billion years of evolution, life has optimized itself to live in a world of light. Our eyes are optimized to be most sensitive to the flavor of light (yellow) most emitted by the sun. The sun’s astronomical machinery generates energy which it sends to us via light using the frequency (yellow) which will maximize transmission. Plants have evolved tiny molecular machinery to capture and move that energy into matter (carbohydrates) which animals can steal. When we eat lunch we are eating light.

And over time, much of that light is buried as decayed organic material under the surface of the earth. Coal is buried light, which humans unearth and release again. About 5% of that buried light is used to run the global internet and world wide web. And a portion of that percentage is used to power our screens and cameras, generating its own synthetic light, allowing modern civilization to connect all manufactured items with each other. Light binds space and time and all objects. Light is the medium of life.

Kevin Kelly
Senior Maverick, WIRED Magazine, Pacifica, CA, USA