What will happen to us?

May 10, 2011

Humans have been interested in the future for millennia, mostly as a subject for theologians. But theologians were, along with everyone else, thinking small. Most humans who have ever lived have died in conditions almost exactly like the ones into which they were born, and without written history had no way to grasp that the future might be different at all. Only now have we gained the scientific knowledge necessary to appreciate how exactly how deep a rabbit-hole the future really is: not just long enough to see empires rise and crumble, but long enough to make all human history so far seem like a sneeze of the gods.

While an essential part of the toolkit of a futurologist is knowledge of the past, science is now crossing a line where the past may be less helpful as a guide: It has moved beyond replicating the work of nature, and begun introducing eventualities never before seen on earth.

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