So you think the human race is going to survive the next billion years?

We have been on the last few moments of the doomsday clock since the invention of nuclear weapons. The fact that a small group of bad actors has the bomb keeps that clock at nearly midnight perpetually.

We’ve been pumping industrial poisons into the atmosphere for only around 150 years, and the effects have been catching up and wreaking havoc with climate.

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The overuse and misuse of antibiotics has created several species of “superbugs” which can’t be eradicated by normal methods, while our arsenal of effective antibiotics is rapidly dwindling.

Over the last 600 million years (much less than the billion proposed here), not only has every single mulitcellular species made their debut on the face of the planet, but that 99.9 percent of all of them have become extinct.

Cosmically speaking, we are probably living on borrowed time. Between the possibility of gamma ray bursts, asteroids and comets, it’s really amazing we’re still here.

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A billion years is a long time. A million years is also a long time, enough for humans to have evolved from homo erectus to the current home sapiens. 65 million years ago, the age of the dinosaur ended, with only a few species surviving to the present (birds).

And it has been speculated that life on Earth probably only has about a million years with a friendly Sun, which is getting hotter as it ages. The Earth and Sun may be only middle aged, but considering life on Earth (with the exception of Bacteria) has only been around for less than a third of that time, it’s very probably we were only a phase (not just us, but life in general).

Could technology progress enough to save us and the rest of life as we know it, at all? Possibly. But a few things need to happen.

  1. We need another method of reaching the stars than our current, less than the speed of light restricted means we have now. The nearest star may be only 4 light years away, but in real time, that means more like 70 thousand years travel. Creating large biodomes in space is fraught with problems too, such as radiation, meteorites and micrometeorites, unseen black holes and dark objects, and on and on. Don’t comment about wormholes, either. They’re only theorized mathematically, and even then, only very small ones.
  2. We need to be able to terraform in a relatively short time. We might be able to colonize another planet in our own Solar System, but terraforming is time consuming, and may not happen before the extinction of the human race, currently the only species advanced enough technologically to worry about the end of days. I recently saw an article that discussed Elon Musk’s proposal to nuke the Martian poles. The dissent was that it would create a radioactive wasteland of the planet. The counter proposal was to drive asteroids or comets into the poles for the same effect. Problem is, we aren’t capable of either method yet.
  3. We need to take care of ourselves, now. It’s imperative we survive to the point we might be able to prevent a global extinction. But with the “now now now” mentality that leads to ignoring climate change for maximized profits, or needlessly overusing and misusing antibiotics on our foods, or simply just squandering our resources in throwaway society, we’re not going to last long enough.

I give the possibility that technology will save our asses a snowball’s chance in hell, maybe a little less.


About the author: Jeff Kay, U.S. Navy, Retired, Modern Renaissance Man

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Will technology progress enough over the next billion years to save life on earth from the dying sun? originally appeared on Quora.

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