Imagine you woke up naked in a field, in the middle of nowhere. You have no idea where you are, or how you got there. What do you do? First, you’d probably go into survival mode; you’d look for the basic necessities to sustain life: water, food, and shelter from the elements.
Once you had everything you needed to stay alive, and you knew that, if nothing else, you could at least remain in your current location indefinitely, you might start to wonder what in the hell happened: one minute you’re bouncing around Reddit, the next you’re bare-ass in the middle of nowhere.
After you come to grips with the reality of the situation, you’d probably want to try and figure out where in the hell you are. You might try and look for clues from your environment or maybe a constellation you recognize, or perhaps you decide to do a little exploring around the immediate area, to see if there’s anything around that could give you some clue as to where in the hell you are.
Let’s say that your efforts reveal that you’re in the middle of Africa. Once you’ve figured out where you are, you only have two choices left: stay there and simply exist as long as you can, or attempt to get back to civilization; either option has it’s own risks.
If you chose to stay where you are, then that’s essentially it for you, you now know how your future will play out: you’ll remain at your current location until you either die of old age, or your area becomes unable to sustain life. Either way, the game is over for you; your entire existence becomes about survival, and you’re just running out the clock until, at some point in the future, you cease to exist.
Maybe you decide to try and leave a message for someone to find in the future, maybe you’re content to simply fade off into oblivion, either way, your fate is sealed.
Now let’s say you decided to try and get back to civilization. Since you know where you are, your logical next step is going to be to try and figure out someplace to go, and then of course, how to get there. Now you have a goal, something you’re striving towards. Life ceases to be about mere survival and becomes an epic journey to get you where you want to go.
This is the timeline of humanity. We woke up with nothing, on a little rock, in the middle of nowhere. We figured out how to survive, and we struggled to come to grips with our own reality. Then we started exploring, trying to find out just exactly where we were in the Universe. Now we’re faced with the same choice: exist, or move on.
You ask if it’s something that a “regular guy REALLY needs to know”, to me it’s the most important thing he/she needs to know: that humanity chooses more than an existence of mere survival. That humanity chooses to move forward and keep exploring and expanding. To know that, even though we might never make it, at least we’re making the effort. That we have hope.
The alternative is to simply run out the clock and wait to fade off into oblivion. Gekko_the_Great beautifully explains why recent discoveries about the universe should matter to a “regular guy”