Remember when you were a kid and your imagination lasted forever? Kids somehow assume that things will keep being the way they are forever. Daddy will never die, mummy will be here through eternity. Even when we fell in love as children, we wanted to “live happily ever after” Then we come in contact with death for the first time (maybe that of a grandparent or someone close to us) and we are shocked out of our cocoons. We realize that life does not last forever.
After this initial death shock from childhood. We somehow slip back into that feeling of permanence. Here is how. Let’s have a little thought experiment: What do you think life on earth would look like by the year 2789? I’ve gotten some really imaginative answers to this question. These answers range from the highly optimistic such as: “We will have Wireless electricity”, “Intergalactic travel (travelling from our galaxy to another) would be as easy as inter-city transport. We will even be able to travel beyond our solar system”, “We would have made contact with aliens and conduct business with them”, “We would have developed the technology for time travel”, “Humans would have bio-hacked their DNA and we will be able to live for hundreds and thousands of years if not forever”.
There are also those who are terribly and hopelessly pessimistic with answers like: “We would have been enslaved by the aliens”. “The humans of that time would be struggling to rebuild civilization after the nuclear annihilation of world war 3”. “Humans would have evolved further to some sort of super beings and those left among the previous humans would become the animals of that time”.
Don’t forget where we started from. We’re supposed to discuss how we slipped back into a false feeling of permanence after childhood. Okay let’s connect the dots. Now if you look at all those replies- both the pessimistic and the optimistic ones. You’ll realize a subtle assumption- Nobody thinks humans will go extinct- Even those who have believed that the worst case scenario would occur are also stuck in the belief that humanity would somehow be around forever.
The data disagrees. If we objectively consider the facts, it doesn’t seem likely that humanity will last as long as we think. Let’s start with the most obvious: You’ve probably heard that a group of respected scientists have put the world’s clock at 2 minutes to midnight. They are not joking. Our planet is degrading and may not hold out for too long. Guys like Elon Musk are making plans to ship some specimens among us out to Mars. The question is will we get away from here early enough?
Apart from earth expiring. There’s also us- humans. We came close to nuclear annihilation during the Cuban missile crisis. Well there’s North Korea now, and bad news- the president is not John F. Kennedy. The man presently in the oval office is more likely to punch in launch codes than to dial Kim Jong Un’s private phone.
So when next you’re thinking about the year 2789, imagine the universe devoid of humans. That’s more like it.