The Future of Humanity

What does the future hold for humanity? That question is oft posed, and is the subject of much debate and fantasy.

There are many sections of predictions on this site looking at technology and so on, so here we will restrict the debate to the existence of the species per se.

It is interesting to note that in this day and age there are a great many pessimists, who say that we won't have much of a future. The fact of powerful nuclear weapons is a sobering thought for us all, with many nations in possession of weapons so powerful that they could destroy humanity or at the very least change the nature of our planet forever.

So one prediction is that we won't be around for long. Eminent scientists often give us only a 50/50 chance of coming through the 21st century without some major catastrophic human-led event. Then there are problems from within - giant volcanoes spewing ash into the sky and blocking the sun, or from outside - giant meteorites that our technology cannot keep out crashing into the Earth with devastating consequences. Our existence is a perilous one, seeming more secure to us than it really is.

It is an interesting question as to whether it is a 'good' idea for nature to allow a species to evolve to the intelligent state we have reached (please note: there is no intended inference that being intelligent somehow means we are 'more evolved' than other creatures in a special way or on some special line of evolution that all other creatures aspire to). The large brain itself requires a lot of energy to keep it going, and also means that there are greater chances to develop powerful weapons and potentially destroy all life.

Surely, therefore, the purely selfish gene and natural selection would be wary of allowing creatures such as ourselves to evolve, because of the potent threat we pose to all life - all DNA and genes. Is this an argument against the theories posed by those such as Richard Dawkins? You decide.

Let's be optimistic, and say that somehow a nuclear crisis or other catastropic event is not realised. What for the future? In all likelihood, there would be no major change to our species for millions of years. It is interesting that in orthodox Darwinian theory, it is actually the separation of a species by a divide that leads to its changing nature. For all creatures to date, this has meant on Earth, perhaps divided by a great expanse of water. Otherwise the gene pools continue to intermingle.

With humanity there is the fascinating possibility that the greatest chance of different species emerging is through inter-stellar separation: perhaps colonies established on Mars are less likely to achieve this status, but in true Star Trek fashion populations of humans travelling through space to distant worlds and setting up home could evolve, in the vast and unimaginable fulness of time, into separate species. What do you think?