EDITORIAL: The Survival of Humanity
By admin on Jun 5, 2008 | In Human Survival
A lofty subject to discuss, the possible demise of humanity, but one that science fiction writers entertainingly take on often. Two recent examples from Hollywood would be the movie Cloverfield, in which something alien attacks New York City. Or "I Am Legend", the remake of "Omega Man", based on a 1954 novel by Richard Matheson.
A third would be Sunshine, an implausible story about the sun going out, and a brave crew sent in a really cool spaceship to start it up again. The spaceship is like 2001's Discovery, but with a big solar shield and a built-in green house; must use some form of centrifugal force for artificial gravity. You think?
Disappointing though, Sunshine soon degrades into a horror flick in the end, much like I Am Legend, which was written that way. A notable recent attempt would be A&E's remake of The Andromeda Strain based on a book by Michael Crichton. I recommend Children of Men.
The point I'm trying to make is that Doomsday or Apocalyptic Science Fiction, in which the human race is destroyed, is more about entertainment, than as an actual warning about any possible dangers we might face. I'll try to make some effort here to straighten that out... so what follows is "maybe not" science fiction.
However, before I begin, I must tell you I'm an optimist, I believe humanity will survive in some form or another (I have too), it's in our evolutionary legacy, our survival instinct.
I believe Humans will be able to create general Artificial Intelligence and technologies for Human Intelligence Amplification, using human-brain-to-machine integration in the near enough future. This will lead to a successful AI-Human Singularity, accelerating technological progression even faster.
We will then development into planet spanning ?human-computer-mind-groups? as interface delays approach zero. Colonization of the solar system will accelerate, followed by subsequent travel to nearby stars.
I am assuming some basic assumptions here:
* That the approaching technological singularity is real and its effects upon society and the definition of being human will be significantly felt within three to four decades.
* That a recognizable human species will survive. It is entirely possible that one or more combinations of potential perils to humanity leads to our extinction, or setback so severe that a ?technological dark age? follows and the possibility of a near term singularity is delayed or nullified.
* That there is no public or private contact with advance Alien Species; leading to profound change in our knowledge and behavior, which either derails the singularity or leapfrogs it.
* That economic, applied science and technological trends will continue at increasing rates.
WARNING: a major downer follows... (read no further if you wish to remain in blissful denial) I'm not joking here, read no further. Ok, you asked for it! My guesses at probability are only that, guesses...
List of Perils to Humanity
Global Warming: Population displacement and death due to erratic weather conditions and rising sea levels with great numbers of specie extinctions leading to ecosystem damage; probability very high.
Plague(s): Viral, Bacterial, natural or engineered, Drug resistance organisms; probability very high.
Nuclear Terrorism, Nuclear War: Radioactivity with destruction of cities and infrastructure, death by blast and subsequent radiation sickness spread through-out biosphere; probability high.
Overpopulation: Exhaustion of Earth?s resources and renewal capacity, Starvation, Disease, War; probability high.
Over Pollution: Decreased Fertility, Birth Defects and Cancer with Multi-specie Extinction leading to sever ecosystem damage; probability high.
Runaway Nano Technology, Nano Pollution, Nanowar: Out of control nano self-replication, environmental destruction and extinction, possible ecosystem damage; probability medium-high.
Genetically Modified Humans, New Species, Synthetic Artificial Life: Human species genetically re-engineered superior to natural born humans, in intelligence, strength, disease resistance, longevity, and adaptability, leading to inevitable inequalities and increasing conflicts. Transpecies organisms leading to ecosystem damage; probability medium-high
Space Derived Extinction Event: Comet or Meteor Planetary Impact, Gama-ray Sterilization from celestial based event; probability medium (short term).
Alien Invasion: Advanced aggressive Alien technology leading to subjugation or extinction of humanity; probability low-to-improbable.
Unknown Peril: always possible as new technology emerges; probability unknown.
WOW! That's a lot of negatives to deal with...
Now let's talk about the positives. Well, we're still alive after 4 million years of evolution, we didn't go the way of the dinosaurs. That's one. The second one is our ability to change ourselves, an ability we have recently acquired.
We have always changed the environment around us to survive. Now that we are pushing that to the extremes, in unrenewable ways, we are suffering the consequences, and we must seriously consider changing our ways and ourselves.
Its really not a question of if we should anymore, its an imperative that we must, or potentially face our own extinction. We already are beginning to do this with a growing understanding of our own genetics. Will we have the wisdom to make the right choices? And what will those choices be?
We are a resilient species, and I have to believe that one of our destinies is out in space. So let's start writing thought provoking and exciting science fiction with real science in it, that really informs the public about the perils, and the wonders that lay ahead, instead of dreaming up silly, sensationalistic, and ultimately meaningless entertainment.
Now Science Fiction Writers and Readers/Watchers, I challenge you to show some vision and backbone, the very survival of humanity may depend upon it!
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