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Memories of the 28th Century

Sustainability

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After somewhat unproductive and unpleasant day, my mood was lifted a bit by an exchange the owner of a convenience store and his son, who usually runs it. It started when the older man asked me how I was, and in my normal fashion, I replied, "I donít know, either."

"Oh, I have that problem, too. Sometimes I can't remember my name, who I am, anything."

"Oh no, I can remember just fine, I just don't know." (Actually, I hate those absurd questions and answers. I don't want to tell people how I ma health-wise, and it's none of their business.)

"Oh, I just can't remember. I'm not as young as I used to be."

And the son added, "He's 66."

I replied. "Don't use that as an excuse, I'm older than that."

Both of them expressed doubt of that, and the son said, "Nah, you're only 40."

"Times what?" I said.

"One and a half."

"More than that," I replied.

Then we went on about mortality, and I mentioned the date I have reserved for shuffling off this mortal coil, including that year, which will be 3220.

He made a dubious sounding reply. To which I replied, "Can you think of a better year?"

He couldn't.

I wished them a good evening and left.

When I thought about that year later I realized that it was a relatively good choice. While I might want to live forever, I can't feel confident about the existence of a world in which I would feel comfortable living further into the future. I don't think that the rate of change in the world will continue forever, and I strongly believe that there will be a population collapse in the near future, so there will be less population pressure (see my novel Harry's Time Tours), but the world will continue to change. Looking into the past I can imagine living at almost any time in the past that is known reasonably well, but I think I would prefer living after the development of agriculture; Before the last ice age living conditions were a bit more primitive than I would have liked, but I would be a very useful innovator even 100,000 years ago. When I look into the future in a similar way, I can't see myself living more than a couple thousand years in the future, unless the collapse of civilization will be thoroughgoing, leaving people to live in primitive conditions (I consider that a very low probability).

It is my opinion that the highest probability future will be one in which the population will plummet, either as a result of disease or a cataclysmic event (asteroid strike or similar) or a combination of cataclysm and disease, and the population will not be capable of running civilization at the the present level of technology, and unnecessary things will be altered greatly or eliminated. If the Earth lost ninety percent of the humans, then the situation might be truly sustainable, as long as the population didn't take off.

In a world like that, with a population of about three quarters of a billion and a level of technology similar to present technology, I could comfortably live for another thousand years, and I could continue being a productive part of that society.

I can imagine a world like that being sustainable for me for another thousand, twelve hundred or even fifteen hundred years, but things would slowly change, and I probably wouldn't keep up as well as some people would, even if I ended up living on a small island, where I could control to some extent the rate of change. Even with slow change a lot over a thousand years. Picture yourself living in the year 1018 CE, and then take the amount of difference and add that to today's conditions to give a hint of what life would be like in 3018 CE. People will still be people, but the things and attitudes around them will be a bit different, and the attitudes would be the difficult part (I have already written about the Enlightenment and the changes that brought).

How far into the future do you think you could live? How does that compare with how far into the past you could live?

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