If you’ve been reading this blog in the last few months, you know I’ve been focusing many of my cult-movie reviews on dystopian science fiction films (Z.P.G., THX-1138, Zardoz, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, and Gattaca, so far).
The reason? Well, the mysteries of the future endlessly fascinate, don’t they? Two roads diverge before us, and we cannot travel both, to paraphrase the poet Robert Frost.
In that spirit of curiosity about the shape of things to come, I read two very intriguing news stories this morning about humanity’s possible future.
One article portrays a rather grim future, where income disparity grows worse and food supplies run scarce (Soylent Green?).
The other gazes at the next (mostly-positive) step in human evolution, perhaps: “Singularity” (which is also a term from the 1990s series, Dark Skies, by the way.).
Here’s the link
to the grimmer of the two future stories, titled: “Planet could be ‘unrecognizable’ by 2050, experts say.”
And here’s a snippet:
“…a growing, more affluent population competing for ever scarcer resources could make for an “unrecognizable” world by 2050, researchers warned at a major US science conference Sunday.
The United Nations has predicted the global population will reach seven billion this year, and climb to nine billion by 2050, “with almost all of the growth occurring in poor countries, particularly Africa and South Asia,” said John Bongaarts of the non-profit Population Council.
To feed all those mouths, “we will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the last 8,000,” said Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Fund at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
“By 2050 we will not have a planet left that is recognizable” if current trends continue, Clay said.
And here’s the link to a Time Magazine story I read via Andrew Sullivan’s blog. It is titled “2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal” and it lays out an amazing, optimistic vision involving man’s ability to purposefully re-shape his world; and even his mortality:
“It’s impossible to predict the behavior of these smarter-than-human intelligences with which (with whom?) we might one day share the planet, because if you could, you’d be as smart as they would be. But there are a lot of theories about it. Maybe we’ll merge with them to become super-intelligent cyborgs, using computers to extend our intellectual abilities the same way that cars and planes extend our physical abilities. Maybe the artificial intelligences will help us treat the effects of old age and prolong our life spans indefinitely. Maybe we’ll scan our consciousnesses into computers and live inside them as software, forever, virtually. Maybe the computers will turn on humanity and annihilate us. The one thing all these theories have in common is the transformation of our species into something that is no longer recognizable as such to humanity circa 2011. This transformation has a name: the Singularity.”
So will the wonders of Singularity transform us all into immortal beings in 2045? Or will we be crowding public squares for scraps of leftover food in 2050?
Being that we have but one planet here, we cannot travel both routes. Is it in our hands, I wonder, to choose? Or has our trajectory already been fixed?
Today I’ll hope for the Singularity scenario, and ponder Robert Frost again, who notes in “Our Hold on the Planet” that if you take nature altogether since time begain — including human nature, in peace and war — that it “must be a little more in favor of man (say one percent or so…).”
Let’s hope so.