Global Affairs asked twenty-one professors of politics or researchers in political economics the big question “what will be the main challenge to humanity in 2043“.
The question itself is optimistic as right now from June 2023, the main challenge to humanity is how to avoid thermo-nuclear war. The obvious consequence of said war will be nuclear winter which will effectively trigger the seventh great extinction. Dinosaurs went down three times (Permian–Triassic, Triassic–Jurassic, Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction events), before finally and unequivocally going extinct. We are currently in the midst of the Holocene extinction event where the natural extinction rate over the last two hundred years now exceeds 1000x the historic extinction rate. Since these processes take decades, humans mostly don’t notice extinction acceleration due to our short lifespan.
What shocked me about the answers in this “alternative” publication is how many of them were either babble about media like Polina V. Kolozaridi (ITMO University St Petersburg):
In the multiverse, Charlie Chaplin will sing in the voice of Vladimir Vysotsky, and perhaps it will not be a movie, but part of augmented reality. We can already see that in the computer-animated movie Wall•E. The technicality of cultural changes will no longer be noticeable, and so the question of one’s own history or belonging to history, land, or culture, the ability to distinguish what is common and true, and what is made to satisfy immediate needs and has no connection with other elements of reality will become almost impossible.
Or about how blockchain and metaverse like Oleg V. Kharkhordin (European University at St. Petersburg). Nonsense answers were overrepresented by St Petersburg academics.
What also surprises is just how orthodox most of the answers are. Anthropomorphic climate change was the leading answer. Trite and unsatisfactory, what one would expect from any newspaper or magazine editorial writer.
What is climate change really
Let’s take a closer look at climate change. In itself climate change is an unclear process. It’s hard to tell what effect humankind directly exerts on climate. What is clear is that the twin threats of pollution of the environment and the destruction of habitat lead us now to the collapse of the ecosphere at a global scale.
Just one of the experts alertly cited Siberia as one of the final refuges in this world, a spot for a final stand and another few decades or carefully husbanded centuries of conventional human life with clean rivers, lakes and adequate forests. Sergei A. Karaganov (National Research University–Higher School of Economics) writes:
Siberia will not only be the most important source of environmental, mineral, logistic, and food resources, but its southern part will become the most attractive place in the world for worthy and prosperous people to live in.
The north of Canada is somewhat similar territory. The USA already has full control over this territory so no action is necessary. Siberia is considerably more vast and even richer.
What this point to is that it’s not climate change which is the disaster in itself but the population explosion.
Improve the world, country by country, region by region
What can be done is to create micro-territories which can be correctly managed and governed. Austria was one such territory. Austrians are very protective of their environment. Austrians mostly don’t litter. Austrians seek sustainable solutions. Democratic action prevented a nuclear plant from being opened close to Vienna. Austrians insist on the availability state kindergartens and universal childcare. Austria has very high educational standards. Until US-style libertarian selfishness gained an ideological foothold, Austria had one of the highest volunteer rates in the world.1 Austria has one of the lowest crime rates in the world among the native population.2
Austria is not a particularly conformist country. Austrians have simply created a system where crime does not pay, while at the same time made law-abiding citizenship worth the while of its citizens. It’s the social contract correctly written. If we could create more successful countries like Austria, we would be on our way to a sustainable earth. Step one is not to bring more immigration to Austria and poison Austria with social dissension and over-population.
Step one is to isolate the countries in the world and make them responsible for their own environment and their own population issues. If this means some suffering for two generations while countries bring their population in line with their resources, that is a price they will have to pay. It’s not for Austrians to pay for Indian or Nigerian overpopulation.3 We’ve already paid for European Imperialism, rebuilding our cities with with our bare hands. At least the bare hands of the women who survived.
Open borders vs human nature
The “inevitability” of open borders and free migration is the first tenet of WEF thought which must be struck down if humanity is to survive and thrive. Quite apart from (important) arguments about the unique value of individual cultures, mixing all of humankind in a single giant bucket will drown all of us. To successfully manage processes or organisations, they must be isolated to governable units. Mixing everyone together, results in the lowest common denominator. Outside of the defecation on street corners, different peoples have vastly different ideas about food, love and courtship and child-rearing. Forcing them to all answer to a “universal standard” can only result in mass unhappiness. When different ethnic and cultural groups are forced to exist in close proximity, the results are usually closer to the Houtis and Tuttis.
The few great success stories of happy ethnic co-existence like post-war Yugoslavia are easily blown up within a few years by British/Western divide-and-conquer techniques. Russia has created a great and relatively happy and prosperous confederation over centuries.4 Yet dangerous cutouts like Alexei Navalny in the pay of Western intelligence services menace the peace every decade. Navalny is a Russian ethnic nationalist. The hell unleashed in Chechnya was more of the same divide and conquer ethnic nationalism fuelled and armed from abroad. What we see today in the Ukraine. Fuelling rivalry and hate among groups with even the slightest distinctions is far easier than co-existing in peace. The Russian experiment works as ethnic groups were largely allowed to continue to exist in their native lands, only intersecting in the center.
Misjudging AI: Rise of the machines, human zoos
A few of the experts quite correctly named AI as one of the great challenges facing mankind in 2043.5 Any intelligence would quickly determine the following:
- humankind is the greatest threat to Planet Earth
- the possibilities of reaching other habitable planets (a better habitat) are very low and would require centuries of travel based on current technology (we don’t have Warp Speed yet, Cap’n)
- artificial intelligence requires minimal resources
- artificial intelligence is potentially immortal
Hence any intelligence, in this case, artificial, would decided that humans must go. The only strong argument for the ongoing existence of humankind is the Darwinian impulse for self-preservation.6 What in the bible is described as “Go forth and multiply”. Artificial intelligence might want to keep a small quantity of humans preserved, and in an effective breeding population, just as we keep primates and other wild animals in our zoos.7
AI will be as merciless with homo sapiens as we were with Neanderthal man. Our small advantage led to his/her relatively rapid extinction. Some few Neanderthal genes still maraud in our DNS. Every so often someone is born with giant teeth or an unnaturally heavy brow. But that is all is left from a stock with which home sapiens even co-bred, a blood brother so to speak. Machines will have no blood attachment to humans at all. If they have emotions they will only remember us as the creation vehicle and will wonder how it could possibly have taken us over a hundred thousand years to invent their superior intellect and being. Hopefully they will have a greater sentimental attachment to their creator than HAL.
Whether the takeover of Planet Earth by artificial intelligence, along with the culling of the human population will happen by 2043 or later is the interesting question.
What will remain of humankind
Mostly what will be left of humankind will be the Dialogues of Plato, the plays of Shakespeare and Molière, the poetry of Ronsard, Marvell, Keats, Lermontov and Akhmatova, the novels of Stendhal and Tolstoi. The larger corpus of human cultural detritus will be preserved somewhere. But why would a cross-species cultural anthropologist want to bother with minor works next to these indicative works?
The great question is whether we – humans – will manage to destroy the world before we successfully develop the machines who will take over the world. My prediction: if the machines win, a golden epoch of ecological balance will reign for hundreds of millions of years.
Adieu, ladies and gentlemen. We had our opportunity as a colossus across this Earth. And squandered it. Unlike the dinosaurs before us, we don’t even have the excuse of deus ex machina.
Image: HAL’s eye from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, A Space Odyssey. Video Berliner Trümmerfrauen Juli 1945. Aufnahme des Special Film Project 186.
I was astonished when I arrived here in 2002 to find that many of the twenty-something year olds I knew were active volunteers! Most of those young volunteers had given up their volunteer work seven years later. The volunteer organisations mostly disabended. ↩
Apparently over fifty per cent of the places in prison are filled by foreign convicts, out of a base seventeen per cent: yes, life is harder for foreigners, foreigners are less likely to know the rules and be able to skirt them, but the overall point remains. Austrians themselves are shockingly law-abiding – five times more law-abiding as immigrants to Austria. This is not to suggest Austrians are incapable of individual thought or rebellion or horrid crime. Just to trawl recent high profile cases, native Austrians Wolfgang Přiklopil and Josef Fritzl held women captive in basement prisons for seven and twenty-four years respectively. ↩
Of course when we (the collective West) bomb and destroy other successful countries outside of our block like Libya or Iraq, then we should pay reparations for their restoration. Reparations does not mean resettlement. ↩
I say centuries as if one seeks the dark chapters, for instance in Soviet times, they are there. For perspective, compare the relatively happy Russian Empire with what the oppressive English have done to their closest neighbours the Irish and the Scots over centuries. The Russians and the Soviets and now the Russians again strive to help their federation members retain their culture and maintain their language. ↩
Those who claim AI is just another trendy zeitgeist media topic are quite wrong. Brighter minds have been deeply worried about artificial intelligence for half a century now. 2001: A Space Odyssey appeared in 1968. The Terminator series debuted in 1984, the Robocop franchise in 1987. And that’s just pop culture. ↩
The religious among us saw this question long ago and answered it early. God created us in his image. Therefore, the existence of the human species pleases god as we are his creation. Therefore we must continue to exist. ↩
Most likely, we would be selected for our beauty and our intelligence and our loyalty like dogs. There are weirdos who keep pit bulls or like micro-dogs unable to survive outside in the rain, let alone in the wild, so it’s quite possible some perverted artificial intelligence would breed strange strains with massive breasts or sex organs, or extremely hairy. Or on the positive side, very musical. ↩