In One Billion Years

Humans came along for the ride at the halfway point between life beginning on earth, about 4 billion years ago, and life ending in another 4 billion years, with the melting of the planet’s surface under an intensifying sun. Science fiction and other human projections are typically set in the myopic near future of at most a few thousand years – well how about an amount that is actually noticeable in the life of earth, say in one billion years?

Journal 2021-09-05

I would gladly undertake all computer activities on my phone wherever I happen to be, if functionality were comparable. Wearing special sunglasses that project personal holographic images of keyboards and screen displays would be fine, but I would not fancy wearing anything that plonks on my head and prevents my vision beyond its pixels.

Speed Barriers

Galaxies are micro specks in the universe, yet the nearest galaxy to Earth is tens of thousands of light years away. This should make the ego feel silly, and the heart in awe at the unimaginable immensity of it all.

There are five stages in the human expansion story:

Intercontinental;

Interplanetary;

Interstellar;

Intergalactic;

Interuniversal?

To physically visit a planet at the intergalactic stage might be entirely irrelevant to any intelligent species that evolves to such a level to circumvent the speed of light – they may discover something fundamental to the nature of the universe that is completely incomprehensible to us, in our rudimentary stage of development.

Causality

Science fiction presents some baffling themes around causality; for example, the future is the past because events are synchronous in all places at the same time. The current everyday understanding of causality is equally bizarre, however, since a causal chain of events cannot lead back forever, without having a prime initiating point that is outside of these rules.

Human Cyborg 2.0?

Given how technology is moving, all the functions of your phone will be migrated directly into your brain. The “screen” will be projected into your vision and options chosen by thoughts.

All vision, sound, thoughts and feelings could be recorded. You could download and replay any recording from your experiences, or indeed from any experience of anyone else. Communication by mindscapes could replace the spoken and written word.

Your mind could operate any physical body.

Your perception of reality could be changed. Undesired emotions or detrimental thought patterns could be switched-off.

You could instantly download data and skills; and have immensely augmented cognitive processing speeds.

Your thoughts could interact with an artificial intelligence that could calculate the most efficient algorithm for any process you wish to undertake.

This isn’t fanciful thinking; it’s the implied current direction for the future. The awkward question is to what extent is this really desirable?

Of course any totalitarian regime could easily control their population by these means. An empowered sadist could run amok in all the enslaved minds.

Philosophically it makes me wonder what it is to be a human being; but in the realm of practicalities, it makes me certain: humans have to become worthy of the knowledge we are gaining.

Timeline

200,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans in the world.

5,500 years ago, the written word begins.

475 years ago, the Scientific Revolution.

250 years ago, the Industrial Revolution.

150 years ago, the Technological Revolution.

70 years ago, digital electronic computers.

29 years ago, the Internet.

13 years ago, Smartphones & Social Media.

Another big changer due (or has already happened).

What will be the timeline in 1 billion years? The future could be completely incomprehensible from where we are now.

Replication

A pollyanna vision of the arc of technology is that if robots can do all the work at higher levels of productivity than people, then in theory everyone could be wealthy, enjoying the fruits of automated labour. People are then liberated from economic and social necessity to fully explore life; to hopefully find true beauty, love and self-actualization – instead of struggling, worrying and fighting over limited resources to survive.

Looking through the attic I came across something I wrote a while back, that was a little less pollyanna:

“School is typically a training in becoming a drone, with extra badges and gold stars for conformity to the set standards of assimilation into the machinery. The next life stage is to be oiled-up with the particular drugs of choice, to desensitize and negotiate the drone bot through the system, for the waiting skip at the end (unless not already fallen off into insanity).”

Made me laugh. Maybe I had watched too much Star Trek.

Alternatives

What would have happened if the US was not the first country to develop the nuclear bomb? What would have happened if the Nazis, Stalin, Mao or the Imperial Japanese Empire had the bomb first? No doubt after numerous live demonstrations on target cities, the world would have been subjugated to the particular brand of sadistic totalitarian control.

As technology progresses, additional existential threats to humanity will happen more regularly – the most frequently noted in biological engineering, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology. Technology is also making it ever easier to centrally track and control people’s behaviour, enabling the ideal conditions for any strain of despotic regime to thrive.

The pressure to evolve to survive is growing for humanity; given the stakes and the alternatives, we have to get better.