Tag Archives: future of humanity

William Poundstone

A long human future is not an impossible goal. It may, however, be something that has to be earned by being smarter, wiser, kinder, more careful—and luckier—than we’ve ever had to be before. The first rule of defying the odds is to never deny the odds.

Early though we may be in the future running through our heads, we are always and already running out of time. Like our remote ancestors, and like all who come after, we see in the distance a singularity, a boundary of the reference class, a monolith marking the end of the world as we know it. We are about to discover the truth of how special we are.

William Poundstone, The Doomsday Calculation: How an Equation That Predicts the Future Is Transforming Everything We Know about Life and the Universe, New York, 2019, p. 262

Nick Bostrom

With machine intelligence and other technologies such as advanced nanotechnology, space colonization should become economical. Such technology would enable us to construct “von Neumann probes” – machines with the capability of traveling to a planet, building a manufacturing base there, and launching multiple new probes to colonize other stars and planets. A space colonization race could ensue. Over time, the resources of the entire accessible universe might be turned into some kind of infrastructure, perhaps an optimal computing substrate (“computronium”). Viewed from the outside, this process might take a very simple and predictable form – a sphere of technological structure, centered on its Earthly origin, expanding uniformly in all directions at some significant fraction of the speed of light. What happens on the “inside” of this structure – what kinds of lives and experiences (if any) it would sustain – would depend on initial conditions and the dynamics shaping its temporal evolution. It is conceivable, therefore, that the choices we make in this century could have extensive consequences.

Nick Bostrom, ‘The future of humanity’, in J. K. B Olsen, S. A. Pedersen & V. F. Hendricks (eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology, Oxford, 2009, pp. 555-556

Martin Rees

The first aquatic creatures crawled onto dry land in the Silurian era, more than three hundred million years ago. They may have been unprepossessing brutes, but had they been clobbered, the evolution of land-based fauna would have been jeopardised. Likewise, the post-human potential is so immense that not even the most misanthropic amongst us would countenance its being foreclosed by human actions.

Martin Rees, Our Final Hour: A Scientist’s Warning: How Terror, Error and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind’s Future in this Century—On Earth and Beyond, New York, 2003, p. 183

John Barrow and Frank Tipler

[O]nce space travel begins, there are, in principle, no further physical barriers to prevent Homo sapiens (or our descendants) from eventually expanding to colonize a substantial portion, if not all, of the visible Cosmos. Once this has occurred, it becomes quite reasonable to speculate that the operations of all these intelligent beings could begin to affect the large scale evolution of the Universe. If this is true, it would be in this era—in the far future near the Final State of the Universe—that the true significance of life and intelligence would manifest itself. Present-day life would then have cosmic significance because of what future life may someday accomplish.

John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Oxford, 1986, p. 614

Thomas Henry Huxley

I see no limit to the extent to which intelligence and will, guided by sound principles of investigation, and organized in common effort, may modify the conditions of existence, for a period longer than that now covered by history. And much may be done to change the nature of man himself. The intelligence which has converted the brother of the wolf into the faithful guardian of the flock ought to be able to do something towards curbing the instincts of savagery in civilized men.

Thomas Henry Huxley, ‘Evolution and Ethics’, in Evolution and Ethics and Other Essays, London, 1884, p. 85

Brian Charlesworth & Deborah Charlesworth

The relentless application of the scientific method of inference from experiment and observation, without reference to religious or governmental authority, has completely transformed our view of our origins and relation to the universe, in less than 500 years. In addition to the intrinsic fascination of the view of the world opened up by science, this has had an enormous impact on philosophy and religion. The findings of science imply that human beings are the product of impersonal forces, and that the habitable world forms a minute part of a universe of immense size and duration. Whatever the religious or philosophical beliefs of individual scientists, the whole programme of scientific research is founded on the assumption that the universe can be understood on such a basis.

Few would dispute that this programme has been spectacularly successful, particularly in the 20th century, which saw such terrible events in human affairs. The influence of science may have indirectly contributed to these events, partly through the social changes triggered by the rise of industrial mass societies, and partly through the undermining of traditional belief systems. Nonetheless, it can be argued that much misery throughout human history could have been avoided by the application of reason, and that the disasters of the 20th century resulted from a failure to be rational rather than a failure of rationality. The wise application of scientific understanding of the world in which we live is the only hope for the future of mankind.

Brian Charlesworth & Deborah Charlesworth, Evolution: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford, 2003, pp. 2-3