The Long Now: How the Far Future Affects Our Present Time

Technology wants to grow and expand like any organic system. We’ve watched enough Sci-Fi movies to imagine a far future civilization for mankind that is so far advanced we could barely recognize it. And at the rate technology is developing, we may build machines capable of communicating with remote intergalactic civilizations before we’re able to visit them. It’s possible that our descendants will one day be awestruck at how similar and dissimilar future alien civilizations are to our own. If we survive and populate other planets, we’ll still be human beings, but we’ll also evolve into something else.

Even with the evolutionary progress we’ve made over the past 10,000 years; our basic needs have remained pretty much the same. To survive we require food, clothing, and shelter. To be fully functioning at our highest potential, we want to connect with others and form strong bonds which include affection and understanding, and eventually reach a point of self-actualization. Chances are the version of humanity living in the far future will require these same needs to be met.

Which brings up a question that few have been able to answer with intelligence and scientific elegance. What’s the endgame of the human race, especially when we create technology we can barely control. While being able to create a black hole, or recreate the Big Bang with the Hadron Collider sounds like super fun experiments, what if we’re really able to create a black hole in an underground laboratory in Switzerland? Probably not such a terrific idea. Civilization has been driven by our collective interest in self preservation, but it seems some brains have been rewired enough to bypass this primal genetic wiring.

As a species, human beings seem to have been engineered to collectively work together to create civilizations and culture. Currently, our lives are undergoing a major cultural shift, around our digital world and the data we produce and consume in our lives. The Internet is spoken of as if it’s a living, breathing entity, a new mind we all depend upon so we don’t have to remember the combined knowledge and substance of what it mean to be a human being. The Internet can now be considered as a tool that helps people create and destroy, whichever way the user is inclined.

The question of where we are heading has been on humanity’s collective mind from the beginning. From Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner to James Cameron’s Terminator, file directors have presented variations on the post-apocalyptic scenario. In Stanley Kubrick’s
2001: A Space Odyssey he began by looking back so as to better understood the distance we traversed, and presented one vision that went to the end of our solar system and beyond. Now, perhaps we need to have people give more thought to the future on every level of our society, to make sure the challenges we face as a global community are directed toward a positive outcome, and not an end game scenario that includes nuclear war, constant war on every continent, or finding ourselves unprepared for global catastrophes brought about by the massive climate shifts already underway.

The wondrous photographs taken by the Hubble Space Telescope are awe-inspiring and only hint at what is out there in the vastness of the universe. Considering that only 4 percent of the universe is visible to our current technology, this leaves a stupendously huge amount of scientific data we are simply unaware of, and curiosity drives us onward. We are biologically wired to desire more knowledge.

Understanding the endgame scenarios of what expanding technology means to us is what will partly determine the success of our future civilization. More than anything, what we need is a working foundation for navigating through the next 50 years, a foundation which will begin to answer such questions as the ethics involved in cloning humans and animals, biologically altering food (which has already been done to the detriment of our worldwide food supply), purifying and stabilizing the Earth’s water supply, life extension procedures and practices, and creating buildings in towns and cities to be greener, more ecologically sound. Naturally, this is a short list of some challenges and possibilities we face. Before technology transforms our lives even more, now is when people should be thinking, imagining and creating the future societies and cultures we want to inhabit. In an enormous universe, our civilization is living on a small blue globe amidst the stars, but we’ve always managed to reinvent ourselves as we’ve gone along.

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