What keeps me awake at night
We are pretty rubbish as a species. We are not very good at passing on our genes or our bits (digital information). The longest-living legacy of ours is likely to be our crap, in the form of radioactive waste.
We scatter a few mebioctets of information here and there in the universe beyond our planet, but that is not a very good archival system when our species produces about zebioctets per year nowadays. It would be good if a few pieces of paper in the desert and some stone carving survive our waste, but that looks unlikely, and if at all, it would be a boring atomic-‘heritage’ manuals (which is not the worst case scenario actually … but not as ‘interesting’ as, say, Dante Alighieri). It looks like we are about to destroy the planet, with either carbon dioxide (or methane?) or uranium-235 (or plutonium-239 or hydrogen?), or we are simply going to run out of energy and have a large fraction of us too stupid to cope (I am trying to get out of this category).
It appears that the most likely people (of the Homo sapiens species — what else?) to survive are of three categories: One, the transhumanist extropians: people who are either trying to preserve themselves — or rather, their (near-)dead bodies — in cryogenic suites (but who are going to keep them plugged in when our energy runs out?); or those who are planning to colonize the Moon and Mars. (Bob Marley: ‘You see men sailing on their ego trips / Blast off on their space ship / Million miles from reality / No care for you, no care for me.’ So much trouble in the world) Two, Christian Identity nutters (this noun probably applies to the first category as well) in Montana or elsewhere. Both of the first two categories conjure up mental images of white males. Come on, as you read the last two sentences, did you think of any woman actually thinking of doing these things? We are the first species we know of to produce Richard Dawkins and Jared Diamond, pedlars of ‘sin’ in the sense of the impossibility of human transcendence and the propensity of human beings to violence and/as imperfection, respectively. (I have to say that I have nearly infinitely more respect for the latter thinker.)
But the third category I have few mental images for, other than those of (what we now call) ‘the poor’ and of the hippies. These are resourceful people who are self-sufficient and resilient, who have not been absorbed into the globalized monetary economy. They are of all sorts, and more likely to emerge (!) from (what we now call) the global South. By the way, our species also produced Vandana Shiva and Arundhati Roy. And isn’t ‘all sorts’ the key word!
Clive Lord, in his book Citizen’s Income (ISBN 1-897766-87-4), had an interesting twist at the end: He said (in effect) that space exploration becomes a legitimate exercise once we learn how to live sustainably, within the bounds of a planet. (Did you expect that from a book on citizen’s income?) I agree. Rather than engineering ourselves to get out of this planet post-haste, we should first try to engineer ourselves to be able to stay in comfortably. Perhaps I should get my hands on a copy of Cottage Economy (1822; ISBN 0-9538325-0-3) by William Cobbett, and its current successor, Self-sufficiency (1973, 2002; ISBN 0751364428) by John and Sally Seymour; thanks to Paul Mobbs for these references in his book Energy Beyond Oil (ISBN 1905237006).
Kaihsu Tai, 2005-12-28 07:30
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