Post No.: 0081
Humans, as a species overall, pat themselves on the backs too much. Many humans are too myopic. According to the most up-to-date evidence – the first Homo sapiens appeared maybe only about 300,000-350,000 years ago, the first humans came about 2.5mya (million years ago), birds about 150mya, crocodiles about 250mya, spiders about 430mya, worms about 540mya, bacteria at least 3,800mya. Agriculture only came about 10,000 years ago, money was only invented about 7,000 years ago at the best estimate, the Industrial Revolution was only about 200 years ago. It’s only been about 80 years since nuclear weapons were invented. Please take a moment to really absorb these numbers before carrying on…
Many humans look around today admiring their ‘mastery and control’ of this planet, shaping it to their desires – but we’re already concerned about the effects of human-accelerated global warming, the huge loss of biodiversity due to human activities (many experts in this field claim that we’re in the midst of the planet’s ‘6th mass extinction event’ – please read Post No.: 0071), nuclear war is always potentially only under 30 minutes away, space junk and communications satellites may collide and cascade into a Kessler syndrome (which will severely impact our heavily technology-reliant civilisation), antibiotic resistance is creating ‘super bugs’, intensive farming and the wildlife trade could lead to viral pandemics, economic booms and busts don’t look like they’re ever going to go away, global cyber attacks are easy to commit anonymously and from anywhere in the world, and so on. A ‘few bad apples’ can now do so much damage to so many in a very short space of time!
So there are lots of potential ways that advanced technology and illogically expecting infinite economic growth in a finite resource world can bring down civilisation. We’re creating so many potential ways to lose, and we only need to lose once. We must get our heads around timescales of mere hundreds versus hundreds of millions of years. Consumerism hasn’t proved itself yet by a long way according to the timescales of things historically surviving so far as presented above (it’s just a relatively recent experiment), especially when so many scientists and economists understand that the current economic model is ultimately unsustainable for the planet (not just because of the resources we want and take but the pollution/damage we leave in return). Well one doesn’t need to be a scientist or economist – it’s just logical reasoning when we use more things than we replenish. Meow.
Humans tend to think they’re so great that they put themselves on the top of the tree of evolution, or even separate from it altogether. But according to the ‘all-time scorecard’, humans have got to last for tens or hundreds of millions of years longer to get anywhere near the top of this league table!
On one side of the argument, it’s very difficult to diss the benefits that agriculture, money, the Industrial Revolution and consumerism has brought many humans (maybe not to many other species of life but humans), but on the other side, it’s barely been several millennia since their inceptions and we’ve already identified many realistic threats stemming from myopic selfishness, greed, war and environmental abuse that could decimate human civilisation in a relative heartbeat. It’s a tenuous existence.
Maybe Homo sapiens will therefore be just a ‘flash in the pan’ – here for a short moment in geological terms then gone? It all looks great for humans right now but is that just right now? It’s like a family feasting on rich foods every day, seemingly living the best life possible, but oblivious to the fact they’re likely shortening their own life expectancies due to this rich diet. And maybe that’s why we’re finding it difficult to find any extra-terrestrials just as intelligent as humans, or even any remnants of their history – maybe they had made themselves extinct before they had managed to get interstellar from their own home planets?
Well over 99% of this universe seems barren, and according to some estimates, even over 99% of all species that have ever existed on this little but precious planet Earth have gone extinct – nature has no way sussed out a formula for keeping any particular species alive forever based on them acting on their own bare instincts, desires and self-regulation, and this will probabilistically and rationally include humans too. Nature has quite a poor statistical record for keeping things alive. Nature will always self-correct, and one of the main ways it does this is by making a species or more extinct (whether via a mass extinction event or something less dramatic). Barrenness is also a state of equilibrium – the predominant state of balance in the universe in fact. Life needs to constantly fight against this state since life is a low entropy state and everything eventually tends towards higher entropy in either a closed or isolated system (and the universe as a whole is an isolated system, as far as we know).
Life is fragile in this universe. Ecosystems are highly sensitive to even the slightest changes. Life will most likely persist in some form or another for many billions of years to come but will humans still be around for much of this journey? (Maybe self-replicating robots and artificial intelligences will one day inherit the galaxy? Or, depending on their ability or power to usurp other lives that may be found in the galaxy, which will determine what strategies they find successful – possibly do even worse to it like some kind of super virus or parasite?)
So these arguments about human-accelerated or human-created risks to life on this planet, which include towards humans themselves, are backed by science and logic, but what we all ought and choose to collectively do about it is another thing; inevitably a social and political thing (e.g. libertarians nonetheless objecting to external regulations, or greens typically seeking more). Well the generations alive circa today will likely be largely fine – it’s the next generations or so who’ll bear our passed-on costs (negative externalities) and who’ll likely suffer significantly, and that’s not morally right or fair.
Meow. I really don’t want to be a doomsayer but I’m the fluffy messenger to those who still don’t seem to understand the situation and the need to prioritise environmental concerns over merely myopic economic ones. All our economic activities must be intimately tied to environmental and ecological sustainability. If we can do this then I believe humans will be fine. That is the real message I want to share here.