The Long Excerpt

An excerpt from a wholly alarmist but very intriguing book, one of the conclusions of which seems to be that Iowa City may be a good place to be in the long run.


Confucius said...

I take exception to a depopulated, lawless Arizona, without cheap air conditioning, being a bad thing. That's where I live now...and it's much of its charm!

Grendel said...

Thanks for posting this, bR!
It's great to read a succinct, plain-spoken run-down of the current situation. I don't think this is alarmist, though. More like plain common sense, looking at past and current trends and projecting them into the future.

Stop reading now -- long-winded, pointless, possibly psychotic rant ahead. I've had a lot of coffee and need to burn off some energy.

I could speculate about this stuff for hours (another warning - I said stop reading). There's nothing funner to me than remembering our proper place within biology. We think we are independent, super-intelligent beings living on an indifferent, convenient rock, and that not just our future but the earth's future depends on our choices. Oh, hubris. Oh, cosmic microtragicomedy.

Our future does depend on our choices, certainly, but we've seen the choices that primate politics lead to since the invention of agriculture: maximizing human population and wealth at the expense of every other species and resource we can find. Which is par for the course, according to the laws of species survival, which are exactly the laws of brutal death and domination, but only until suitable equilibrium is reached that balances your wholesale murder with the fact that you're going to be murdered. Every other species understands this on some level. But we couldn't give less of a shit about equilibrium -- it's inconvenient and therefore doesn't matter. We've drifted from the script, and we're about to be kicked offstage for it.

Because of course the earth will not put up with such monkey business forever. So far it's allowed us to exist for about 0.1% of its lifetime to see what we're going to do, and what we're going to do seems pretty clear now. That is, try and fuck up everything around us as much as possible as fast as possible if it means making a buck. Earth's logic for our extermination doesn't even require that it use weather, atmospheric gas changes, flooding, whatever tool in its arsenal it might choose, because we'll do the job ourselves.

Even if we deliberately blew up all our nuclear weapons in a mass suicide experiment, many species would survive, especially insects and the older plants, and they would even eventually become stronger thanks to our futile efforts.

The earth is approximately one thousand times smarter and more experienced than we are, which can be seen instantly by comparing 4 billion years to 4 million. For all we know, it may well be the most spectacularly successful life system of any kind within 100 light years -- whereas we are brand-new temporary parasites that only even realized we live on its surface less than five hundred years ago. In four billion years, or about 20-30% of the existence of the universe itself, earth's gone from lava crust-ball to gorgeous Heaven for millions and millions and millions of species. That's success. You don't make it that long without unutterably robust self-correcting mechanisms.

(I told you to stop reading!)

Even our pitiful attempts at global warming would be laughable if they weren't so insignificant. They barely register on the scale of some of the temperature changes the earth has cruised through many, many, many times -- and it always comes up smelling like roses. Literally. Of course we're evil assholes for even trying our global warming, but it's trivial compared to previous periods of global warming (see Greenland Ice Core Project).

So, yeah. Sell your shares of the human future to the robots while they're still dumb enough! No news there. From earth's perspective our demise'll be like finally smacking a fly that's been bugging you. A final irony: We -- the gross mass of human bodies -- will become oil, which is simply the stored, concentrated energy of death. Like worker ants or something, maybe our whole purpose, earth's whole project for us (and maybe for all of DNA, since it led to us), has been to achieve the big switchover from carbon to a cleaner, sturdier element, as in, "Attention, humans, ahem. First get self-replicating silicon and metal life up and running, and then, as a poetic bonus, provide the lubrication for the new system with your corpses. Thank you and, by the way, good riddance."

Vampiro said...

The bright side: power shortages = less TV = more people reading books? Hey, we could all come out of this quite well. Except, well, no one could actually afford to print our books. So, maybe we should all get back into hand-written, hand-drawn illuminated manuscripts? Start drawing, kids. We're like cockroaches, we'll come out on top in the end, even if we have to eat half-emulsified Nikes from a landfill to survive.

The future is bright! Why so much gloom & doom!