Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Deep future

The March 3rd edition of NewScientist includes a special report on “The Deep Future” that celebrates the human species’ bright and enduring prospects. Despite the doomsayers, humans are in no risk of becoming extinct any time soon. A pessimistic view of our situation is just a “passing fad.”     

The mere fact that there are 7 billion of us, for example, means that it will be hard for a pandemic virus or asteroid collision or mega-volcano or ozone-ripping solar flare or hydrocarbon-induced climate catastrophe or massive nuclear meltdown to get us all. Also, the fossil record shows that most species have endured for millions of years, so why not us? Besides, we are the cleverest of all mammals, as evidenced by our astounding technological savvy. Potential future threats—however unlikely—stand very little chance when pitted against our human ingenuity.

Just a couple paragraphs into the editorial introduction and it becomes obvious that there is little or no distinction being made between humans as a biological species and humans as purveyors of techno-industrial civilization. And the thought that humans might continue to exist in the absence of global empire has no traction whatsoever.

The timeline graphic that accompanies the lead article in the report says it all.  The timeline is constructed of 80-year human lifespan ticks, and takes as its starting point a point in time a dozen generations prior to an arrow that reads “10,000 years ago/first agriculture.”

The prior 5 million years were apparently just prolog.

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