How long is it? How long will it be?
I mean honestly, how long do you think Humanity will survive? Can you see our species last another thousand years? Does that feel too optimistic?
There are those who think it’s not optimistic enough. And I’m proudly one of them. I think, like the other members of the Long Now Foundation, that we need to reshape how we envisage our own future. But it runs deeper than that. It’s a question of attitude.
Regardless of your cosmology, we all pretty-much agree that the Earth has the potential to continue orbiting our sun for at least another several million years.
There are many many things we can do from now until then – just some here off the top of my head:
- Galactic Diaspora
- We could leave Earth and begin to populate other planetary systems in our galaxy.
- There are already programs under way to re-introduce certain extinct species – right now they’re starting small (the passenger pigeon), but we might be able to do more, in moderation and with caution
- Putting on the brakes
- We’ve advanced so much with technology, but our lifestyles have not improved. We’ve become so disconnected from nature (most of us) that we could do with a slowing-down or even reversal of modes of habitat. A ‘return to the wild’ so-to-speak, where we could ‘regress’ to a more nomadic/tribal structure but exploiting all the present-day knowledge of hygiene and medicine that would ensure a healthier and yet natural mode of living. Maybe automation and robotics will enable us to ‘regress’ without actually declining?
We need to look toward a long future where whatever we begin today doesn’t have to be completed tomorrow or even in five years’ time – we need to be courageous enough to begin projects the completion of which we won’t live to see.
But for projects with long life-spans, they need to span lives, plural. That is to say we cannot be divided and individualistic with egotistical motivations of personal glory or recognition. Indeed such projects cannot be ‘about me’. A project like that is bigger than me. Projects and undertakings of such magnitude require unity of vision and we need each other to stay motivated (especially at the beginning of this change as mankind grows out of its impatient and petulant childhood and into maturity). Dedication means dedication to each other and to the undertaking. And that’s why I said we need courage – the courage of our convictions, the courage to maintain our personal integrity.
Finally, to have a long vision of our future is to invest personal faith in ourselves and our capacity to perdure. Today we have lost faith in ourselves (the world news would provide a litany of reasons) but it is only by changing our attitude and vision that that faith can be restored.
We used to be like that. Look at the monuments built by our ancestors – those which took sometimes two hundred years or more to complete. Look at the durability of technologies past – steam turbines built in the Victorian era that still run today, like new. The Laxey Wheel on the Isle of Man is a glorious beast of craftsmanship which celebrated its 150th anniversary thirteen years ago already. Every tool, or article of clothing or item of manufacture was created with durability in mind. We attach sentiment to these items today – appreciative to receive the old typewriter our grandpa had used during World War I or that watch Granny wore every day for forty years and still runs perfectly.
Let us be inspired by that vision. It’s not for nothing that we say those were ‘bold’ times – courageous times. They were. Let us be bold again!