I have spent the better part of this past month pondering the future, trying to form some unique thought or come to some new insight that would illuminate our collective fates and provide guidance in the days and years to come. I was missing the point. The question is not, “what does the future hold in store for humanity?” but rather, “does humanity have a future?” Do we even deserve one?
With all of the social media fervor around the Mayan long form calendar ending (or rather not ending) in a Y2Kesque anti-climax, everybody must be pretty burnt out on end-of-the-world prophecies and doomsday scenarios. Nevertheless, the end may still be nigh.
We live in an age of exponential change and technological development, the makings of an unstable system that may spin out of control at any moment. The end of the world, or more specifically the end of human civilization as we know it, is no longer a subject reserved solely for the tin-foil hat wearing crowd, but is now a serious topic under the scrutiny of well-respected researchers such as those at the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford.
The old guard catalysts for cataclysm; fire and brimstone, pestilence, and the oft-feared giant meteorite, are not our greatest threats. According to the good folks who get paid to study our demise, we have more to fear from (surprise, surprise) our own ingenuity. Technological ‘advancements’ such as artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, and nanotechnology top the list of plausible checkmates, and let’s not forget the ever-present risk of a nuclear winter.
The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that I had a duty to the human race to preserve our species. I envisioned a beautiful valley, nestled between mountain peaks in some remote area of South America, inaccessible by civilization. In that valley rests a town, a collective of great minds who have agreed to shun society, move off the grid, and preserve the accumulated knowledge of the human race (as well as its genetic diversity) just in case the rest of the world went to hell in a handbasket.
Our oasis would be totally self-sufficient, a model in sustainability. We would power ourselves with the wind and sun, relying only on technology that requires no external input beyond that which is unlimited and free. Using time-tested organic farming techniques, we would free ourselves from reliance on commercial agriculture, and isolate our utopia from the global economy. In so doing, we would remain hidden – an unknown island in the clouds, housing the future of humanity. We would recruit only the best to our village, inviting them to be among the chosen few that would be responsible for rebuilding civilization, should the need arise. The killer robots would not find us, the super-viruses would not reach us, and the nano-zombies would never survive the laser-turrets protecting our borders (did I forget to mention the laser-turrets?).
With all of the peril humanity faces on a daily basis, I have to wonder, why is nobody doing this already, and if they are, where is my invitation?