04 August 2018

deep time optimism

«They will know that before them lie, not the millions of years in which we measure the eras of geology, nor the billions of years which span the past lives of the stars, but years to be counted literally in trillions...But for all that, they may envy us, basking in the bright afterglow of Creation; for we knew the universe when it was young.»

---Arthur C. Clarke

I haven't been able to find the origin of this quote. But it expresses a kind of deep time optimism about conscious beings; the kind that wants to call the coming epoch the Sapiezoic Eon, rather than the dingy aftermath of the Sixth Extinction. Thing is, it's increasingly clear, as Peter Brannen writes in the epilog of his brilliant book «The Ends of the World,» that the key to a bright future for humanity and its remote descendants may hinge on events of the next few decades. If there is to be an "age of wisdom," we had damn well better start employing some of that wisdom in our stewardship of this planet right now, because if we manage to destroy our ability to survive to a long future where our birthplace on earth is just one of many worlds, well, there will be no second chance.

Quoting Anthony Aguirre (UC Santa Cruz cosmologist): 
"I think we're at the point where essentially--depending on what happens in the next 100 years--I think it's likely that either civilization and potentially all life on Earth is going to self-destruct, or if it doesn't, I think the likelihood is we will manage to get to nearby planets, then faraway planets and ... spread throughout the galaxy. And so, if you compare those futures, one of them basically zero interesting conscious stuff going on in it--depending on where you count animals and things--and one of them that has an exponentially growing supply of interesting conscious experience. That's a big deal. If we were just one species among many throughout the galaxy, it would be kind of like, 'well, if we do ourselves in, we had it coming. We got what we deserve.' But if we're ... the only one in the galaxy--or one of very few--that's a huge future that we've extinguished. And it's just because we're being stupid now."

So let's don't be stupid, whaddaya say?

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