Life from an outsider's perspective…

The future of humanity?

The future of humanity? Exponential population growth. Post saturation point. CartoonOur current civilisation is growing at an exponential rate. But anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that exponential growth in a finite space is a physical impossibility. So I sometimes wonder how many people this planet can support.

Think far into the future of humanity. Think as far ahead as you are able. Taken to the extreme, there are two distinct but daunting possibilities: survival or extinction of the human race. We will either live or die. I’m absolutely certain that some people think human ingenuity is enough to overcome any obstacles we will eventually face, and that ultimately we will survive. But then I come to wonder: “but at what price? What will we have become by this stage?”. Note that the following discussion mainly refers to the advanced, educated societies.

We transform every space of earth into buildings, streets and cars. We relentlessly urbanise the land. What happens when there is no new land left to move into? When we’ve colonised everywhere? I suppose we’ll have to move up. What happens if or when the atmosphere becomes unbreathable? What then? How would we go about producing our own artificial atmosphere? Are we too small for a project that big? Or will we have to be contained in some kind of human terrarium? How can we preserve the remaining natural environment? I can certainly envisage a time when ever-diminishing national parks are going to resemble outdoor biological museums more than anything else.

Some people today dream about living on another planet – that notion is so grandiose, it could form the basis of an entire blog network in itself. Yet we are not even remotely self sufficient at survival in outer space. At the very minimum, we’d need to generate a constant supply of energy, heat, food and breathable air. Witness how many supply capsules are needed to support the international space station, and how weak cosmonauts are upon their return. I dread to think of the monstrosity that would be created with the growth of a zygote in a zero-gravity environment. I also have a hunch that these space colonies would suffer a great deal from homesickness (no matter what condition the Earth is enduring) not to mention all the possible mental illnesses and unforseen social problems. I’ve simply thrown those last few random thoughts into this paragraph and I apologise for the digression.

The state of Earth would have to be ‘utterly hopeless’ for us to even contemplate abandoning it. One thing is living there, but another thing is getting there. A mass exodus into outer space would simply not be possible with today’s technology due to the tremendous energy requirements. If we can’t even curb global poverty, what makes us think that we have the resources for millions of people to live off-world? For the foreseeable future at least, the majority of us are stuck here (and I can’t think of a better place to live).

Now although that’s not such a terrible sentence, we have to realise that our lifestyle directly affects this planet. We have to take responsibility for it. I almost can’t even bring myself to write about this subject. The trouble, as far as our long-term survival is concerned, are the following inter-connected factors:

  1. As a species, the human race exhibit a certain “social inertia”. We are capable if forced to change but we are afraid to do so voluntarily.
  2. We have a strong biological urge to propagate like there’s no tomorrow.
  3. Our average life expectancy continues to increase, therefore our population continues to grow exponentially
  4. The available land area (which is finite) diminishes.
  5. The ‘way of life’ we have all grown accustomed to directly and indirectly affects the environment.
  6. Although the climate is effected, we can’t yet control it, since the weather is a chaotic system.
  7. Abnormal and extreme weather patterns already affect our agriculture (in fact they could potentially threaten our whole environment).
  8. Many rich, people are quite happy with their current situation. The most powerful people therefore have no desire for change.
  9. Modern goverment enterprises are not truly democratic, and also protect the aforementioned class.
  10. We’ve based our entire global economy on the single assumption that fossil fuels are infinite.
  11. The majority of countries do not operate on an ecological basis. 
  12. To a large degree, the Earth’s finite resources are wasted.
  13. Among other things, many Western countries are experiencing a health crisis (mental and physical).

My point is that our whole way of life is just not sustainable in its current form. Something has to give, or we’re in big trouble.

So I ask you to contemplate the moments whenever there is doubt about the future of humanity (past or future). Think about times when we’re forced to change for the sake of survival. They say that history repeats itself, so if you’re not convinced this can happen again, you’ve possibly become too complacent. It seems the appropriate place to remind readers that some people on this world already fight for their lives to stay alive. They fight for land, they fight against famine and disease, among other things. Individuals cease to exist. People die before their time, so we can’t be as smart as we think we are. We need air to breathe, food to eat, and shelter not at all different from any other creature.

In future, I think human history will be defined by what I term “pre-saturation” and “post-saturation” periods. Just imagine one giant conglomerate human megalopolis covering the whole planet, like the cartoon above illustrates, and you’ll have some idea of what I’m ranting about. That’s apparantly where we’re headed. But it gets worse.

One of the few science fiction books I have read, Star Trek “Objective Bajor” describes an alien race; instead of living on a planet, the entire population lives on this IMMENSE starship, bigger than your average planet. They go about vapourising other worlds for resources to sustain their own civilisation as it hurtles through deep space.

They simply couldn’t understand other species which were confined to living on planets, thinking that they were extremely weak & vulnerable. I.e., they actually looked down on the ‘uncertainty’ of living on a planet, hence they also believed they were superior beings. Here’s a brief excerpt:

The Hive came from another galaxy: billions of alien beings living inside a vast, biological starship. They’ve already destroyed one planet, using it as raw material and fuel for their endless voyage through the cosmos, and now the Hive is heading for Bajor. To the Bajorans they’ve sent a warning, to evacuate the planet or die along with it. Determined to fight, the Bajorans assemble a battle fleet, but it’s hopeless against the overwhelming power of the Hive, and only by penetrating the Hive’s defenses to learn its guarded secret does Captain Sisko stand a chance of saving Bajor.

Personally, I can see us turing into a race like that, assuming we can make the leap into space. Rightly or wrongly, we already justify our actions in the name of ‘survival’. We rape this planet, which is our very own home. What’s stopping us from plundering another one, populated or not? Nothing. When we continually progress in this manner (some call it development… come to think of it, it’s not exactly ‘progress’ either), after not too long, we’ll turn around and we’ll realise suddenly that we’ve completely lost our philosophy, our morality and our innocence and we can never turn back.

If ever I had a conspiracy theory, this would be it: that we are ‘training’ the next generation to live without the presence of the natural world. We encourage this behaviour, either consciously or subconsciously, because we expect that the natural world as we know it won’t last very much longer. I find this thought horrendously depressing. People today entertain themselves indoors with computer programs and plasma screens. It’s not real entertainment, it’s virtual entertainment. We even eat packaged, artificial food (okay although a part of it might actually be real, it certainly looks 100% synthesised). We’ve augmented our communications with technology so much, that we are fast losing the ability to communicate naturally. We’re becoming completely dysfunctional. I don’t even need to go into it. Pretty soon, we won’t even be able to survive without anything artifical. Imagine, a species so ‘advanced’, that it can’t survive without its own creations. I find that incredibly ironic. Well, I suppose that’s why I call this section “Vida Enigmática” (Strange Life).

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