02 October 2015

Three Thoughts on a Million Year Old Civilization

I grapple with the thought experiment (grandiose term), what would a million year old civilization be like? Here are some basic parameters I've thought of. 

1.  Technology will flatten out. Eventually technological innovation will be so gradual that it will not be thought of as something that is occurring in perceptible time. 

2.  Biological manipulation will become internalized and routine. Denizens of the civilization will not be immortal, because, well, entropy. But they will be tremendously long lived, reproduce extremely infrequently, and will probably have divided into separate civilizations, those that embrace cybernetics, meaning the actual physical melding of living organism with technology, and those that prefer to remain wholly biological. There might even be purists who want to retain the essential form that they had when they emerged from animal nature into sophontism. But these distinctions may be somewhat academic, because it seems to me that the ability to control living systems will be near total. Not only the intelligent creatures (who will come to have many different forms), but other life, will be planned, not left to random events or natural selection. Much of what we use technology for, they will use living organisms to do, including maintaining the environment in optimal status. But perhaps there will also be an interest in preserving wildness too, so that will be a countervailing force. 

3. Even without magic (such as FTL), a million year old civilization will necessarily be space faring. It will occupy its home star system, and will most likely have seeded its form of life to other star systems. The gradual spread of purposeful intelligent life in and throughout the civilization's home galaxy will, if they survive a million years, be virtually inevitable (which is prima facie evidence that this hasn't happened yet, at least not in this Galaxy. Maybe we'll be the first). Eventually, the entire universe will be permeated with intelligent life. At 13.7 by old, the universe is still in its infancy; this hasn't occurred yet. But that doesn't mean it won't.

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