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Thread: How Long Can The Human Race Survive?

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    How Long Can The Human Race Survive?

    Assuming there are no natural or human made disasters, how long can we survive before evolution "takes us out?" Will we be around to witness the Sun expand off the Main Sequence and cook us? Will we evolve into something quite different or just die out?
    I've read about sperm counts dropping around the world, mostly in industrialized countries. Seems natural, I've never believed humans were meant to be crowded together in cities. Maybe that's nature's way of marking us for extinction or taking us back to where we should be. Barring an asteroid with our name on it or nuking ourselves, I believe we are here for the long haul.
    What do the more learned folks here think?

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    Humans adapt. We are survivors. We learn. We invent new strategies and methods. And I see our present self destructive tendencies as a historical anomaly based largely on the ignorance of many and the greed of a few. Untenable, self-correcting by necessity, and it'll be/is extremely ugly as it happens but it won't last. If we survive that period, we will have a better future in the long run. We already see signs of overall human social organization slowly changing for the better educationally, interactively, and materially, despite the current screaming headlines trumpeting the worst of our world.

    Barring a total Extinction Event, we're not likely to go quietly into that good night. Our distant descendants will be here (and spread elsewhere) for a long, long time.

    They won't be what we think of now as human, but they'll be around. Probably speciated by technology and self determined evolution.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    I've made the suggestion before, but it is not impossible that actual humans (as opposed to our distant descendants) might be around when the Sun expands off the Main Sequence. The genetic composition of the modern human species could be stored as data for an indeterminate time, in several separate databases so that errors could be eliminated. On special occasions this material could be instantiated (perhaps as witnesses, or as honoured guests).

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    Quote Originally Posted by eburacum45 View Post
    I've made the suggestion before, but it is not impossible that actual humans (as opposed to our distant descendants) might be around when the Sun expands off the Main Sequence. The genetic composition of the modern human species could be stored as data for an indeterminate time, in several separate databases so that errors could be eliminated. On special occasions this material could be instantiated (perhaps as witnesses, or as honoured guests).
    Or returning voyagers on relativistic exploration starships.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  5. 2019-Oct-08, 06:37 PM

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    A trip at relativistic speeds could take these hypothetical travellers more than 2 billion light years away- all the way to the Dra-UMa supercluster and back.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eburacum45 View Post
    I've made the suggestion before, but it is not impossible that actual humans (as opposed to our distant descendants) might be around when the Sun expands off the Main Sequence. The genetic composition of the modern human species could be stored as data for an indeterminate time, in several separate databases so that errors could be eliminated. On special occasions this material could be instantiated (perhaps as witnesses, or as honoured guests).
    Storing detailed data in a readable form for billions of years sounds like a major challenge in itself.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    This is a pet theory of mine, but I think the greatest danger to mankind will be miniaturization.

    In one famous novel, an entire alien species is wiped out after a few fighters break through planetary defences and launch a weapon of mass destruction on the planet that wipes it off clean.

    I believe that with sufficient technological advances, mankind will reach a point where it can be very, very easy to create weapons of gigantic mass destruction with very little effort. Thus, only a tiny, tiny group of people that have the capability of creating these weapons can then go berserk and wipe out millions of billions of people.

    It's pretty Sci-Fi and out there, but a constant of technology has been miniaturization, so at some point weapons of mass destruction will likely become easy enough to produce that anybody can make them.

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    We will survive on the condition that we do not destroy ourselves. Very likely to die at your own hands. This may be military operations, and rash actions of politicians, and the destruction of the environment, and the development of robots. Itís very good to see the dynamics of a personís existence in observing history. It can be concluded that human existence has a ripple effect.
    Empires are created, are experiencing their triumph and are gradually declining.
    So everything is cyclical. And the existence of all mankind, too. May be we are on our way to decline.

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    Until the end of the human race.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gomar View Post
    Until the end of the human race.
    What do you believe will bring about the end of the human race?

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    Well honestly. The only end for us is just that we kill each other. I mean, sometimes I am surprised of how people have such few problems that could easily cause the argument or even worse.
    So there is even no need in the end of world for our end.

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    So if we avoid killing off our own kind, what future(s) do you foresee?
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    The sun's increasing output will force us off this planet within the next several dozens of millions of years. Whatever other stars we end up around after that (whether on planets or in space ships/stations) will also end in various ways, forcing us to move on again. Eventually, on the order of trillions of years, the only usable stars left will be red dwarves. When the red dwarves start dying off, there will be nowhere else left to go. We and any & all other species with the technology to have gotten that far will begin freezing to death together in the dark, huddled around the last few stars like hikers around the last campfires in an empty landscape. Whatever fate waits for the rest of the universe in the following quadrillions & quintillions of years after that, it will happen with nobody around anymore to observe it.

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    I’m often a tad bemused by discussions about really long term civilizations, whether nominally human or hypothetical ET civilizations. It seems to me there are a long list of questions about what it would mean to have a long term civilization that we can’t yet know. We can only guess at some of the issues and even ones that seem obvious to me are usually ignored in discussions anyway. I’ve toyed with the idea of trying to write something professionally about some of the questions since I don’t remember seeing anything that seems to try to even seriously ask the questions.

    Most of the science and technology we base discussions on have been discovered or developed within the last century. Even with a loose definition of “civilization” our experience with it only goes back a modest few thousand years. Even our species only goes back a few hundred thousand years, and yet we speculate about civilizations lasting millions, billions, or even more years.

    Our current civilization is obviously long term resource unsustainable. Among other things, long term civilization would need to develop virtually 100% recycling. What does a technological civilization capable of sustaining itself for thousands of years or more look like? And there would seem to be different resource limitation issues for different scales and types of civilizations. Civilizations that spread into space may well find that avoiding loss of volatiles to vacuum would become very important.

    We don’t know where science and technology end. Do we hit a point a few centuries or millennia down the road when all learnable physics has been discovered, all useful technology has been developed? What implications would that have?

    How long before we develop a stable civilization, that doesn’t rapidly change as it does now? Is it possible for humans to develop a stable civilization? Do we need a stable civilization for long term survival? My guess is that rapidly changing civilization is more likely to find a failure mode than a stable one.

    How many times would we hit a precipice where new technology introduces another existential threat?

    Are humans as they exist now capable of long term survival or would we need to make some genetic alterations to, for instance, tone down our tendency to fight?

    Evolution starts to become important in the thousands to hundreds of thousands year range. How do you even have human civilization over a longer term? Do you deliberately define what is genetically human and maintain a standard human genetic profile? Perhaps you can vary within certain genetic parameters but no more?

    I have little idea of what it would mean to have civilization that lasts millions or billions of years. About the only example I can think of in science fiction that makes some sense to me is Arthur C. Clarke’s Diaspar from Against the Fall of Night or the update The City and the Stars. At that, it is debatable if it could really be called a civilization. Essentially nothing changes on the order of a billion years, with humans regularly recreated by something like a Star Trek replicator and the city maintained by advanced AIs and robots. In the story, the main character changes things massively, but it is left unsaid what the future of that would be. It’s quite possible the changes could lead to Diaspar’s destruction in fairly short order. The near stasis may have been necessary for long term survival.

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    My 2 cents is, if we do move out into the Solar System to live there at some point, we will cease to be one civilization. We'll consist of Earth plus many other little worlds, scattered through large volumes and different levels of travel time and Delta V; some of us may choose to move so far out from the warm nest that they'll essentially be unreachable. At that point no single disaster save a Gamma Ray Burst could kill every human alive. And eventually, you know someone's going to strap a propulsion unit to their habitat, grab a comet for fuel, and head out into interstellar space. Given a long enough future, we'd be spread across many light-years by one means or another, unkillable by any single source. Of course by then we not be, or at least may not all be, human anymore. There would be endless room for variation and experimentation.

    Of course, we may not make it as a continuous culture, and there will be many individual habitat failures of physical or social disaster, either of which is fatal in space; especially at first as we're finding our feet. Space is an inherently dangerous and demanding environment that allows for no exceptions. But being human we'll no doubt keep trying, and we'll get better with each iteration. We know there have been stable island cultures lasting thousands of years, so maybe someone will figure out how to do something similar in space habitats. But either way, once we have a matured space infrastructure and multiple habitats at any given time, there doesn't have to be a continuity of any one society or "world". There's plenty of other fish in the sea of space.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    "Our current civilization is obviously long term resource unsustainable. "

    Balderdash. Even into the hundreds of years, the resources available are immense and mostly untapped. And way before we could drain Earth we'll be in space. Quite likely an ever growing and consuming population is our future. And that's not bad.

    We could indeed continue and grow in our profligate ways for long. But our economy is already internalizing environmental and other impacts. Arguably slowly but changes are occurring. And it's not perfect.

    Cheers

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    Quote Originally Posted by 7cscb View Post
    "Our current civilization is obviously long term resource unsustainable. "

    Balderdash. Even into the hundreds of years, the resources available are immense and mostly untapped. And way before we could drain Earth we'll be in space. Quite likely an ever growing and consuming population is our future. And that's not bad.

    We could indeed continue and grow in our profligate ways for long.
    Evidence by environmental and climate science says otherwise. The problem is not lack of resources, it is cumulative and currently increasing damage done as an effect of extracting those resources.

    But our economy is already internalizing environmental and other impacts. Arguably slowly but changes are occurring.
    We need to change in a timely manner to minimize the ongoing damage. We are already passing tipping points. Slow is bad, in this context, as the problems we face took generations to become obvious and will take generations to repair. And there are still a great many powerful vested interests in fossil fuels especially, but in corporate culture in general, that resist all such changes kicking, screaming, and worse, propagandizing and influencing leaders and the general public.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Hello Noclevername,

    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Evidence by environmental and climate science says otherwise. The problem is not lack of resources, it is cumulative and currently increasing damage done as an effect of extracting those resources.
    My understanding is that environmental and climate science inform us of Climate Change and unforeseen and dangerous consequences. I do not deny this. What I am saying is that the extraction of resources can continue to grow. And it likely will.

    We need to change in a timely manner to minimize the ongoing damage. We are already passing tipping points. Slow is bad, in this context, as the problems we face took generations to become obvious and will take generations to repair. And there are still a great many powerful vested interests in fossil fuels especially, but in corporate culture in general, that resist all such changes kicking, screaming, and worse, propagandizing and influencing leaders and the general public.
    I get your points. I believe humanity faces many existential risks. But I also believe it is mistaken to blame Big Business, or Gubbermint for that matter. Surely there are notable exceptions but all in all we are in the situation we are in because of human nature.

    Cheers,

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    Quote Originally Posted by 7cscb View Post
    Hello Noclevername,



    My understanding is that environmental and climate science inform us of Climate Change and unforeseen and dangerous consequences. I do not deny this. What I am saying is that the extraction of resources can continue to grow. And it likely will.
    It can, with even more disastrous consequences that we're already suffering from now and foresee worsening in the near future. I'm saying it's a bad idea to do so, because it's causing ongoing massive damage to our life support systems. We know there are alternatives that can support a perfectly comfortable and healthy lifestyle.

    I get your points. I believe humanity faces many existential risks. But I also believe it is mistaken to blame Big Business, or Gubbermint for that matter. Surely there are notable exceptions but all in all we are in the situation we are in because of human nature.
    Cheers,[/QUOTE]

    I don't think "human nature" is responsible, because there were and are both individuals and societies who do not live a dangerously and pointlessly consumptive lifestyle. Big business-as-usual as it is currently carried out is doing much more harm than good.

    It is cultural and habitual behavior. It has changed in the past and it will change again.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by 7cscb View Post
    "Our current civilization is obviously long term resource unsustainable. "

    Balderdash. Even into the hundreds of years, the resources available are immense and mostly untapped. And way before we could drain Earth we'll be in space. Quite likely an ever growing and consuming population is our future. And that's not bad.
    First, I really wasnít focusing on the short term in my post. The post before mine had a discussion about the aging sun and went on to discussing issues only important over trillions of years and longer. I started out in my post with bemusement over discussions of long term civilization that, in my view, usually donít consider many issues we already can identify that would be vital to continuing long term civilization.

    But even over the short term, there are many resource limits, and recycling issues. For instance, our agriculture system essentially throws away nutrients. That can only continue for so long. We mine many relatively rare elements, put it in products, and donít recycle much of it. For a long term civilization, recycling will have to reach very close to 100%. Even deciding how many resources to dedicate to maintaining historical records would eventually be a vital concern, not just in terms of expense, but due to the diversion of physical resources. It would be at least a very different civilization from what we have today.

    As for population, it canít grow much more on Earth without major resource issues. Most of the population will never make it into space and resources are finite in space as well. Perhaps population can grow exponentially in space for a bit but again limits will be reached, population will need to largely stabilize, closing resource leaks will become vital for long term survival. Actual long term civilization would need a more or less fixed population - if it shrinks or grows too much it would be subject to collapse.

    As I mentioned in my earlier post, volatiles could be one of the long term concerns for space based habitats. If there is exponential growth with eventually millions of habitats being built in a system, replacement of lost volatiles could be a major concern over the long term, eventually leading to civilization collapse when economic replacement is no longer possible.

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." ó Abraham Lincoln

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    Quote Originally Posted by 7cscb View Post
    And that's not bad.
    What do we call growth without restraint? Cancer.

    Space colonization, though it has many benefits, is no antidote to population pressure. There's no way to get billions to launch into space at faster than replacement rates. So there's that.

    And populations in space habitats face the same issue. Only their ecosystems will be smaller, less diverse, and thus less resilient. So they'll need fully circular material lifestyles even more than the Earthbound.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Space colonization, though it has many benefits, is no antidote to population pressure. There's no way to get billions to launch into space at faster than replacement rates. So there's that.

    And populations in space habitats face the same issue. Only their ecosystems will be smaller, less diverse, and thus less resilient. So they'll need fully circular material lifestyles even more than the Earthbound.
    I agree with both those points. In particular regarding the second, I always find it peculiar that some people seem to think that space habitats will be utopias, and as you say, it is likely that they will not be very resilient at all.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I agree with both those points. In particular regarding the second, I always find it peculiar that some people seem to think that space habitats will be utopias, and as you say, it is likely that they will not be very resilient at all.
    Yes. So we'll need depth of redundancy to make up for it.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Superluminal View Post
    Assuming there are no natural or human made disasters, how long can we survive before evolution "takes us out?" Will we be around to witness the Sun expand off the Main Sequence and cook us? Will we evolve into something quite different or just die out?
    I've read about sperm counts dropping around the world, mostly in industrialized countries. Seems natural, I've never believed humans were meant to be crowded together in cities. Maybe that's nature's way of marking us for extinction or taking us back to where we should be. Barring an asteroid with our name on it or nuking ourselves, I believe we are here for the long haul.
    What do the more learned folks here think?
    Hello Superluminal,

    Good questions. A new species species might take us out. It seems so unlikely. But then covid19 comes along and the fragility of our existence becomes evident. So I add that to the asteroids.

    Otherwise, I believe we are here for the long hall though, through genetic modifications, we will sort of usurp evolution's hand.

    Also, humanity is now culturally vs environmentally determined. That is, our behaviour is determined by our rapidly changing cultural environment. And this has a huge impact in determining sexual desirability, reproduction rates etc, which are at the heart of evolution I suppose.

    cheers,

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    Good post. When I started this thread I was thinking along the lines of evolution. Could, one day, there be a species not human, but able to trace it's roots back to humans? Much the same as apes to human or dinosaurs to birds. I've often thought, we can't be the top of the evolutionary ladder.

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    We'll no doubt speciate both artificially and naturally. We'll make modifications to our own genome, some of which may survive and breed. And as we move out into space, we'll exist as many small gene pools which will each evolve to their own conditions, physical and social.

    The combination of these factors will give us a very interesting evolutionary future.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Since we currently (unlike most of our existence) stand as the only branch of humanity on Earth, we'll have to get used to sharing life with multiple varieties of hominins again at some point. Given how "well" we deal with superficial variations among our own kind, this does not bode well for future co-existence. It'll be a tumultuous transition.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    We'll no doubt speciate both artificially and naturally. We'll make modifications to our own genome, some of which may survive and breed. And as we move out into space, we'll exist as many small gene pools which will each evolve to their own conditions, physical and social.

    The combination of these factors will give us a very interesting evolutionary future.
    Our evolution is already facing and has faced unprecedented changes from what we faced for most of our existence. Human population has now ballooned into the billions covering all continents, and mass travel and transportation is mixing groups and gene pools as never before, adapting to conditions that didn't exist a few generations ago. We have just gotten started on cities and agriculture, evolutionarily speaking. We have seen how rapid human adaptation can be; widespread lactose tolerance is only as old as animal husbandry, and within recorded history (a few thousand years' time), the Tibetan people have successfully become suited to high altitude living and birthing. Not as dramatic as genetic engineering but an eyeblink for Mama Nature.

    What awaits us even on one planet, even naturally?
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    "Not as dramatic as genetic engineering but an eyeblink for Mama Nature."
    And when we DO get genetic engineering, what then?
    SHARKS (crossed out) MONGEESE (sic) WITH FRICKIN' LASER BEAMS ATTACHED TO THEIR HEADS

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    "Not as dramatic as genetic engineering but an eyeblink for Mama Nature."
    And when we DO get genetic engineering, what then?
    Well. That's the open question, isn't it? What will we become, and how many?

    Also, how many irreparable mistakes will we make before we get it right; that is, before we come up with results that consistently help the descendants live better lives?
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2020-Sep-23 at 04:35 PM.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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