Insight, foresight, moresight…

Paul Raven @ 11-03-2011

… the clock on the wall reads a quarter past midnight.

The world won’t wait for us to sort our civilisational shit out; even if you don’t believe that we’ve made the planet a less safe place for ourselves through our own actions, today’s events are a reminder that we have always lived on the sufferance of circumstance, and that bad things aren’t reserved for bad people, or even simply people we don’t care about.

The Earth is a sphere, folks. There’s only so far you can run, or so far you push everyone else away. One tiny lifeboat in an infinite ocean. Meanwhile, there’s a million and one ways we could be wiped out of existence with little or no warning, by nothing more than the blind unknowing caprice of a random universe. In the face of that risk, what are we doing? We’re working out ways of making ever greater profits out of those less fortunate than ourselves, arguing over who spilled the petrol rather than mopping it up, fiddling while the kids run around in the haylofts of Rome playing with matches.

Some days I really feel like we deserve to go extinct. Evolution should select pretty strongly against civilisational myopia, if I understand it correctly.

But look again and see all the amazing things we’ve achieved, in a span of time so tiny by comparison to the lifespan of our own solar system (let alone the universe) that it’s almost unmeasurable. Look at all the risks we’ve already invented our way past, all the demons we’ve already conquered. There’s very few threats facing us that we couldn’t defeat easily with a bit of collective will and determination, and the few that aren’t amenable to that sort of fixing can be significantly reduced by getting our act together sufficiently that we’re no longer dependent on the fragile life-support cradle that nurtured us this far.

Make no mistake: the greatest solvable extant threat to a human future is humanity itself. Divided we stand, united we fall.

It doesn’t have to be like this, it really doesn’t. Perhaps that makes me a foolish optimist, an idealistic dreamer, a naive child scared of the “grown up” world. Well, so be it. It’s either that or give up entirely… and as tempting as that is on an almost daily basis, I’m not ready to quit just yet.

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10 Responses to “Insight, foresight, moresight…”

  1. m1k3y says:

    Damn straight! We *can* save ourselves from ourselves.

  2. Butcher says:

    It makes me sad that people fought tooth and nail and shed lots of blood for worker rights, and now the US collective Right is pissing all over it. Now the average Joe(and Jane) gets to take the brunt of foolish financial hackery.

    Well, I am glad that someone has that optimism. I tend to favor the “technology implies belligerence – we will destroy ourselves” answer to the Fermi Paradox, so I can’t say that I share that optimism.

  3. Sterling Camden says:

    When we finally do extinguish ourselves, and our little light of intelligence on the edge of the Milky Way goes out for good — nobody will be left to care.

    Unless, that is, we can escape this little corner, and spread this disease called humanity to other parts of the galaxy.

  4. ConfidentlyDubious says:

    When looking down from a mountain, I can’t help thinking that we are very small creatures that live on the dirt that gathers in the creases of the planet’s surface, in a thin layer of air. And yet…

  5. Khannea Suntzu says:

    Thank you. We need encouragement every so often.

  6. Nancy Jane Moore says:

    Although I’m a great believer in the ability of human beings to “muddle through” and manage to survive great crises, I do think the potent mix of overpopulation and climate change are going to be an incredible challenge, particularly coupled with the vast inequities of resources and wealth. I’m holding out hope that we can hang on to enough of the art, the ideas, the discoveries, the inventions, the knowledge we’ve gained to avoid going back to the stone age (or further) and starting over from scratch. It could be argued that Earth would be better off without human beings, but I’m sure we’re going to survive. The question is can the good we’ve done survive, too.

  7. Athena Andreadis says:

    I agree: survival is not tantamount to thriving. Also, if we lose technology now, we will not recover it easily — if at all — because we have exhausted the easily accessible sources for metals, coal, oil…

  8. Julieht says:

    Another gold star for optimism dude! 🙂

  9. Paul Raven says:

    Thanks, folks; that was mostly me trying to avoid going over the edge into the pit of despond. Sometimes I can write my way out of the blues, or at least scrape a little extra altitude. 🙂

    Nancy, Athena: I’m in agreement with you both, actually, though my choice of words probably doesn’t make it clear. When I talk about ‘us’ as a species, I mean the cyborg human, a synthesis of our biological existence plus out cultural and technological augmentations; so when I talk about ‘us surviving’, I mean the species retaining the bulk of the technological advancements we have thus far (albeit hopefully a little more evenly distributed), and I’m resolute that it’s totally possible from a technological standpoint; what we lack is political will and the ability to get past the false divisions of race and nation and gender. The prospects of purely biological humanity surviving long-term is pretty certain, but that’s not ‘us’. 🙂

  10. Michael Toreador says:

    Unfortunately, the hurdle price of building a ship and sailing across the ocean is far less than the hurdle rpcie of building a spcaeship. And with a boat, you could certainly hope to have food and water and air when you landed ashore, with a spaceship you’re lucky if you get ice.

    What that means is that (at least for now), individual explorers cannot afford to explore offplanet. Only governments can do it, and without sufficient impetus (like a space race), it’s almost impossible to justify the expense of money and lives for a goal that has little to no short-term return besides publicity.