20 Big Questions about the Future of Humanity

The journal Scientific American recently ran an article reporting on how leading scientists responded when they were asked to predict the future. The questions included humdingers such as "Does humanity have a future beyond Earth?" and "Will we ever understand the nature of consciousness?". Although the responders may not all be houshold names the responses they provide are fascinating. For myself, the most interesting question was sround whether humanity has a future beyond Earth. The response was provided by the British cosmologist and astrophysicist, Martin Rees. He said “I think it’s a dangerous delusion to envisage mass emigration from Earth. There’s nowhere else in the solar system that’s as comfortable as even the top of Everest or the South Pole. We must address the world’s problems here. Nevertheless, I’d guess that by the next century, there will be groups of privately funded adventurers living on Mars and thereafter perhaps elsewhere in the solar system. We should surely wish these pioneer settlers good luck in using all the cyborg techniques and biotech to adapt to alien environments. Within a few centuries they will have become a new species: the posthuman era will have begun. Travel beyond the solar system is an enterprise for posthumans—organic or inorganic.”

However, perhaps the most poingnant question was Can we avoid a “sixth extinction”? Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor emeritus at Harvard University answered " “It can be slowed, then halted, if we take quick action. The greatest cause of species extinction is loss of habitat. That is why I’ve stressed an assembled global reserve occupying half the land and half the sea, as necessary, and in my book Half-Earth, I show how it can be done. With this initiative (and the development of a far better species-level ecosystem science than the one we have now), it will also be necessary to discover and characterize the 10 million or so species estimated to remain; we’ve only found and named two million to date. Overall, an extension of environmental science to include the living world should be, and I believe will be, a major initiative of science during the remainder of this century.”"

Take note - that wasn't much better than maybe (along with an advert for his book)! Perhaps they should have asked whether we can avoid being wiped out ourselves or having our true potential unfullied.