01 May 2011

Deep Future ~ Towards Transhumanity & Beyond!

Graeme Wood asks in the Boston Globe, What will happen to us? Forecasters tackle the extremely deep future...
"Humans have been interested in the future for millennia, mostly as a subject for theologians. But theologians were, along with everyone else, thinking small. Most humans who have ever lived have died in conditions almost exactly like the ones into which they were born, and without written history had no way to grasp that the future might be different at all. Only now have we gained the scientific knowledge necessary to appreciate how exactly how deep a rabbit-hole the future really is: not just long enough to see empires rise and crumble, but long enough to make all human history so far seem like a sneeze of the gods. [...] Scientists now have firmly grounded hypotheses about how Earth and the solar system will be different in 50 million years, for example, as distinct from 500 million or 50 billion, and can rule out some possibilities for what will happen at each point. Armed with data from history, they can use rough computer models to simulate how human populations might rise and fall, how their technology might accelerate, and how thousands or millions of years of human activity might or might not change the planet. Most important, they’re systematically analyzing for the first time the worryingly numerous ways in which humanity might fail to survive to see that long future. [...] The community of thinkers on distant-future questions stretches across disciplinary bounds, with the primary uniting trait a willingness to think about the future as a topic for objective study, rather than a space for idle speculation or science fictional reverie. [...] So if we really understood the future, how would we behave? “It turns out that the reduction of existential risk turns out to be one of the most important things we can do,” [...] There is, of course, a long history of prognosticators whom history has outwitted. “It’s tough to make predictions,” as Yogi Berra said, “especially about the future.” The futurists are undeterred..."
Excellent and worthy topic for intense discussion and research! And also, note lovely "evolution of man" graphic by Timothy Goodman!

No comments: