Thursday, January 24, 2013

5 REALLY Long-Term Problems

The world has a lot of problems.  Some are short-term (think unemployment, Congressional Republicans), and some are long-term (think entitlement spending, climate change).  And especially when it comes to these long-term problems, people get to moaning and moaning.  They blather on about opportunities being missed and decisions being punted and cans being kicked down roads.  (As if they've never procrastinated!)

There's nothing we can do about these whiners now though - their complaints tend to be more-or-less justified after all.  But we can do something about the whiners of the future, so that our children and grandchildren don't have to endure their unproductive hand-wringing.

I hereby propose that we begin examining five of the REALLY long-term problems our species is going to face.  If we can get a head start on these, we should be well-prepared for when they finally arrive:

5. Cloned Neanderthals

This Neanderthal is looking sad/confused because he has been born into a world that does not know what to do with him.

This is going to happen sooner or later - what are we going to do with them?  Can they be slaves?  Research test subjects?  What if they're smarter than us, will they make us their slaves? Are we prepared for the "Who's the daddy - human or Neanderthal?" episodes of Maury? Sidenote, but can we please clone some mammoths too?   I've said it before and I'll say it again: People love fluffy dogs and people love baby elephants.  Miniature woolly mammoths are going to be HUGE business.

4. Robot Revolution

I found this picture by googling "death roomba."

Because it's going to happen. We've already got neurons in a dish that can control a flight simulator (pdf), artificial neural networks that can learn to recognize cats with no a priori instruction just by watching Youtube, and some 600 million dollars being given away to simulate the human brain.  It's not hard to see how this ends - first the computers will entrance us into a total stupor by generating the cutest cat videos possible. Then they take command of Predator drones and obliterate us all.  And the Roombas will gleefully and methodically vacuum up the bits of our vaporized bodies.

3. Alien Invasion
 Let's hope they're friendly!

Statistically, there are aliens.  Now we're not completely unprepared here - when they do show up we'll have plenty of movie scripts to guide our decisions.  This is on the list because I think our religious leaders need to start figuring out how to make alien existence compatible with church doctrines.  We don't need billions of anthropocentric worldviews being crushed all at once!

2. Solar Surprise

At least we'd go with an awesome explosion.

People say that solar power is a limitless resource, but those people are shortsighted and wrong.  Good ol' Sol is going to bloat up and eventually wipe out Earth in the process. Fortunately we are already looking for new homes.  Now we just need to figure out how to get to them.

1. Entropy 

This is what the Universe will look like after entropy has its way.

This is the biggest, longest-term one of them all, folks.  The fading of every star in the Universe as the second law of thermodynamics thrusts us all into eternal chaos.  If we don't get moving on how to mesh our consciousness within the space-time continuum itself, we're going to all be super-screwed when entropy gets serious.


1 comment:

  1. My editor in CHIEF told me to delete the "bottom line" section ("The whole thing crescendoes to a good end, and the last bit ruins it") so here's the rimshot joke I had there:

    if you ever want to one-up someone being existentially angsty (and make them feel even more insignificant), try the following trump card: "Not only are we all going to die anyway, but the whole Universe is going to totally succumb to entropy. The whole Universe is going to die." (Note that this line might not work on cosmologists, but they tend to be more or less okay with their existential insignificance already.)