Should mankind survive?

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Zute
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Should mankind survive?

Post by Zute » Thu Jul 21, 2011 3:09 pm

I ran across this Stephen Hawking bit:
Stephen Hawking: I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let's hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load.

I see great dangers for the human race. There have been a number of times in the past when its survival has been a question of touch and go. The Cuban missile crisis in 1963 was one of these. The frequency of such occasions is likely to increase in the future. We shall need great care and judgment to negotiate them all successfully. But I'm an optimist. If we can avoid disaster for the next two centuries, our species should be safe, as we spread into space.

If we are the only intelligent beings in the galaxy, we should make sure we survive and continue. But we are entering an increasingly dangerous period of our history. Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth, are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill. But our genetic code still carries the selfish and aggressive instincts that were of survival advantage in the past. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million. Our only chance of long term survival, is not to remain inward looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space. We have made remarkable progress in the last hundred years. But if we want to continue beyond the next hundred years, our future is in space. That is why I'm in favor of manned, or should I say "personed," space flight.
It made me think... are we so fabulous that we deserve to survive despite however we poo up our current circumstances? Watching what is going on in Washington right now makes me think we're a pretty awful species.
Formerly known as Panamah

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Tudamorf
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Re: Should mankind survive?

Post by Tudamorf » Sat Jul 23, 2011 1:13 pm

Zute wrote:Stephen Hawking: I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let's hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load.
What a foolish notion. The long-term future of the human "race" is extinction, like that of any other species. That extinction is going to be caused by something internal (other humans, microorganisms, environmental contamination), not rocks from space or other events that can be physically avoided by moving. Most likely, it will be some direct or indirect consequence of overpopulation. And whatever causes extinction in the human's native habitat is going to happen far faster in the hostile habitat of space or another planet.

Humans don't need more than one basket, they just need fewer eggs. It amazes me how many otherwise intelligent people are so brainwashed that they can't see an obvious truth that's staring them in the face, and has been discussed in well-known literature for centuries.
Zute wrote:It made me think... are we so fabulous that we deserve to survive despite however we poo up our current circumstances? Watching what is going on in Washington right now makes me think we're a pretty awful species.
An odd statement from an atheist. Usually Christians are the ones obsessing about who "deserves" to live. The rest of us know that life exists because it can, not because it deserves to.

And I can think of far greater indictments of humans on the whole than some petty grandstanding by politicians squabbling over money.

erianaiel
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Re: Should mankind survive?

Post by erianaiel » Sat Jul 23, 2011 3:45 pm

Zute wrote:I ran across this Stephen Hawking bit:
Stephen Hawking: I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let's hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load.

I see great dangers for the human race. There have been a number of times in the past when its survival has been a question of touch and go. The Cuban missile crisis in 1963 was one of these. The frequency of such occasions is likely to increase in the future. We shall need great care and judgment to negotiate them all successfully. But I'm an optimist. If we can avoid disaster for the next two centuries, our species should be safe, as we spread into space.

If we are the only intelligent beings in the galaxy, we should make sure we survive and continue. But we are entering an increasingly dangerous period of our history. Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth, are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill. But our genetic code still carries the selfish and aggressive instincts that were of survival advantage in the past. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million. Our only chance of long term survival, is not to remain inward looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space. We have made remarkable progress in the last hundred years. But if we want to continue beyond the next hundred years, our future is in space. That is why I'm in favor of manned, or should I say "personed," space flight.
It made me think... are we so fabulous that we deserve to survive despite however we poo up our current circumstances? Watching what is going on in Washington right now makes me think we're a pretty awful species.
The USA is not the whole world
And Washington is not the USA

Also, Stephen Hawkins is assuming it is actually possible for humanity to exterminate itself in the short run. Personally I have my doubts about that. Even at the height of the cold war madness a nuclear war would have obliterate only part of the northern hemisphere and not more of a small fraction of that (admittedly the most heavily populated fractions). All that radioactivity would not have been good for the rest of the world but it would not have rendered the entire earth uninhabitable.
The biggest crises we are facing now will lead to massive death and misery (through famine, war over food and water and war over scarce resources), but not to humanity disappearing entirely.
Even a big meteorite striking earth would not kill all humans. As a species we are a lot more adaptable than the dinosaurs were.

I do agree though that it would be good if we start looking for ways to extend ourselves beyond our planet. One of the more worrying trends that can be seen is the emergence of a global feudal system, not based on strength of arms (and men at arms) but on accumulation of wealth. It is an extremely worrying trend that generally in the USA the top 10pct of each strata controls more wealth than the other 90pct combined.(10pct of the population owns more than the other 90pct, but within that 10pct the top 1pct owns more than the other 9pct, and the top 0.1pct owns more than the other 0.9pct). The top 0.1 or so pct is largely immune from economic up or downturns. They effectively own the government because they control the candidates (who need lots of money for the perpetual elections), they buy immunity from legal considerations (not that they are above the law but they ensure that economic laws favour them) and they are largely isolated from the rest of society. They are a very small group with the wealth and influence (through their banking and financial institution force of arms) that affect all but the largest economies in the world (for all its flaws Italy is a major economy but it was almost brought through its knees by what is called the 'financial markets' but what should be more accurately be called the new nobility), and that have no ties anymore with any one country, only with financial safe havens.
This can easily lead to the darker (cyberpunk) dystopias where corporations vie with and in many cases surpass democratic governments, creating an upper echelon that is as powerful and unaccountable as the kings of old, and 95pct of the world population that is virtually enslaved and does not even realise so.
The more distance we can put between various places were humans live the harder it is for such a system to maintain itself. And bloody revolutions in one place will not automatically lead to mass murders in other places.


Eri
(hmm. I think that was a bit more rambling than usual even for me)

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Tudamorf
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Re: Should mankind survive?

Post by Tudamorf » Wed Aug 03, 2011 12:29 am

erianaiel wrote:The biggest crises we are facing now will lead to massive death and misery (through famine, war over food and water and war over scarce resources), but not to humanity disappearing entirely.
Even a big meteorite striking earth would not kill all humans. As a species we are a lot more adaptable than the dinosaurs were.
Actually the dinosaurs were/are far more adaptable, which is why they have survived for hundreds of millions of years.

But it is certainly possible for humans to eventually go extinct after they exhaust the planet's resources and start the inevitable bloodbath to get the last of its resources. Especially when you consider

Look at the population of Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Had Europeans not intervened in the 19th century, how long do you think they would have held out?

Fyyr
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Re: Should mankind survive?

Post by Fyyr » Wed Aug 03, 2011 3:28 am

Well, in all fairness, all of the resources are still here on Earth. Aside from decaying radioactive material, I suppose.

Just in different places than previously. A lot of the carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms that made up the bulk of the dinosaurs, are now walking around you in your friends, relatives, and coworkers. Even in you. It's now stored in the trees of San Francisco, which did not have notable trees in the first place(well for any historical amount of time).

Think about it, what do you think is easier, mining huge earth mountains to get to aluminum or iron atoms? Or mining consolidated waste heaps which have huge amounts of the chemicals and atoms that humans want? There is more concentrated iron under the Shoreline Amphitheater than ever was under 40 Pennsylvania mountains.

Rapa Nui is a poor model for the Earth(just as bad as Venus is). Those resources moved to someplace that the locals could not get to. There are no iron atoms leaving the Earth, nor carbon atoms for that matter. They are just being moved around. Jared Diamond even mentions this in his books, that one of the qualifiers for successful Pacific Islander culture and life, is explicitly the proximity to Asia, where resources are carried by winds from Asia to those Pacific Islands. One's gain, is another's loss; he just says it the other way around so you don't recognize it as such.

You may not like the fact that dinosaur petrochemicals are being used to produce fertilizers, to produce food, which gets turned into living human tissue. I may not entirely like it either. But the resources are not going anywhere, they are still here. That bum that just panhandled you while you walked through the Tenderloin or on Market, he had about 100Kg of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms(with a bunch of calcium, sodium and chloride atoms too) that he is just walking around with, serving no real purpose, just kinda going to waste.

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Re: Should mankind survive?

Post by Fyyr » Wed Aug 03, 2011 3:52 am

One other thing.

Our youngest common ancestor with other primates is about 4 million years(maybe 2 million). While H sapiens is only about 200K years old, all of our common cousins are extinct.

This can be interpreted a couple different ways.

1) We've had a 4 million year run, its not hundreds of millions I grant you, but a pretty long time.
2) We were much more adaptable than our cousins
3) We killed and ate our cousins
4) We will kill and eat ourselves

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Tudamorf
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Re: Should mankind survive?

Post by Tudamorf » Wed Aug 03, 2011 12:53 pm

Fyyr wrote:Well, in all fairness, all of the resources are still here on Earth.
Not exactly; for example, hydrogen can still be lost to space. And even if the elements are here, it takes more energy to put them back together in a useful form than they produced in the first place. So for all practical purposes, yes the resource is gone once it's used up.
Fyyr wrote:Rapa Nui is a poor model for the Earth(just as bad as Venus is). Those resources moved to someplace that the locals could not get to.
The same thing happens to us globally.

For example, when we burn gasoline, we move it from a useful form underneath the ground to a dangerous form up in the atmosphere where can't get to it. The atoms might be there, but that fact is of little use to us, and in fact it harms us.

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Re: Should mankind survive?

Post by Tudamorf » Wed Aug 03, 2011 3:56 pm

Fyyr wrote:Our youngest common ancestor with other primates is about 4 million years(maybe 2 million). While H sapiens is only about 200K years old, all of our common cousins are extinct.
Exactly. All of our close relatives quickly became evolutionary dead ends, and modern humans have only really been successful for 50,000 years. In evolutionary terms, that's a pathetic run.
Fyyr wrote:This can be interpreted a couple different ways.

1) We've had a 4 million year run, its not hundreds of millions I grant you, but a pretty long time.
2) We were much more adaptable than our cousins
3) We killed and ate our cousins
4) We will kill and eat ourselves
Interesting that you don't mention that we killed and ate ourselves -- so often that we evolved genetic protection from prion disease.

There were two to four (and possibly even more) human species living 30,000-50,000 years ago. Suppose only one evolved the ability to eat their own species or related species in relative safety, while the others had the choice of starving or dying to prion disease. It only takes a slight evolutionary advantage for one species to dominate.

Fyyr
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Re: Should mankind survive?

Post by Fyyr » Wed Aug 03, 2011 4:05 pm

Really.

Carbon dioxide and water is not useful?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photosynthesis

And energy? There is a virtually unlimited source of energy right above me. It's not going anywhere soon.
How is gasoline under the ground useful?

If hydrogen molecules are just leaving the Earth, and flying off out into space, that just defies the Law of Gravity. What other elements are leaving the Earth?

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Re: Should mankind survive?

Post by Fyyr » Wed Aug 03, 2011 4:18 pm

Tudamorf wrote: Exactly. All of our close relatives quickly became evolutionary dead ends, and modern humans have only really been successful for 50,000 years. In evolutionary terms, that's a pathetic run.
Compared to what? I would say any existing primate species is successful. We've probably outnumbered bonobos and their ancestors for a couple million years, if population size is the measure of success.
Interesting that you don't mention that we killed and ate ourselves -- so often that we evolved genetic protection from prion disease.
I did not mention it because we are still here. I think it's intuitive that humans did and do eat humans. Eating ourselves to extinction is still a future possibility, and mentioned that.
There were two to four (and possibly even more) human species living 30,000-50,000 years ago. Suppose only one evolved the ability to eat their own species or related species in relative safety, while the others had the choice of starving or dying to prion disease. It only takes a slight evolutionary advantage for one species to dominate.
I dont understand your point here. If it's that we will evolve into Moorlocks and Eloi, that's a possibility I suppose. If your saying we already are(or were) the Moorlocks with immunity from prion disease, that's doubtful.
Last edited by Fyyr on Wed Aug 03, 2011 4:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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