“For things will never be perfect, until human beings are perfect – which I don’t expect for quite a number of years.” – Sir Thomas More, Utopia.
In the last twenty blogs we have looked at human destiny as understood by about two dozen experts and sources covering religion, history, philosophy, science, and technology. In this blog and the next we will try to draw together the various elements into an admittedly speculative and mostly hopeful vision of humanity’s future. The reader may have noted that this subject is not found in most philosophy textbooks and wondered why I allotted so much space to it. My answer is simple – it seems to me that if we grant life is worth living, then it must offer the possibility of meaning on a larger scale than one brief life in one unmemorable time. Human destiny is the stage upon which cosmic meaning is to be found. Let’s look at what we have uncovered.
First we must return to the pessimistic possibility of man having a quite limited future – either because of self-destruction or subjugation by super-intelligent machines. While any estimate of the likelihood of these is no more than a guess, my six decades of study and experience suggest about a 50% chance of this future – especially the end of man by nuclear or biological weaponry or by climate or other terrestrial apocalypse. If I am right or close, the onus is on all of us to move the needle in changing man’s destructive tendencies by greater recognition and wisdom with respect to the risks, and active opposition to its inevitability. Our cosmic ethical duty then is prevention of man’s self-extinction.
Another pessimistic outcome is conquest by an extra-terrestrial civilization, which seems much less likely – let’s arbitrarily say no more than a 5% chance. Here human cooperation, preparation, and maturation may offer some hope.
This leaves something less than a 50% chance that humanity will survive to follow the more optimistic path our experts have outlined, in which case human destiny unfolds over roughly three time frames.
The shortest time frame is that of the theologians, historians, and philosophers encompassing the next few hundreds to thousands of years. The eschatologic bet is a long shot (likely <1%), but perhaps the nearest in time; and includes the rise of evil and its eventual defeat by good, the salvation of the chosen, and a divinely-ordered paradise. If one decides to live one’s life for this hope (which requires tremendous faith), moral perfection and service to the deity appear to be the ethical path.
Meanwhile the historian and philosopher focus on the evolution of kindness, the rise of global democracy, the federation of nations, and the arrival of a cosmopolitan society possibly founded on a universal religion and respecting the dignity of the individual. The ultimate end is world peace, human moral perfection, the transmission of civilization, and the unity of mankind. Each of us needs to be a proponent of these principles in order to participate in the making of this humanistic utopia.
(continued next post)