To answer this question, we have to first understand the dangers of the world, choices we possibly make in the future, the role of technology and external forces of nature to estimate the odds of human race survival.
My one half of the brain is fairly optimistic in the sense that less than 1% of the world’s population (who I call ‘superhumans’) has enough will and wisdom to overpower the future threats, which have the potential to wipe out humans from the face of Earth. My other half is equally pessimist in the sense that the never-ending greed of over 99% of the world’s population (who I call ‘hungry hamsters’) will make it harder and harder for superhumans to be successful in their mission.
I don’t fear an asteroid bolting into the earth and demolishing us because such incidents happen once in millions of years and our life is too short on this planet to even worry about this. I don’t even fear a series of nuclear attacks as a result of world war III and wipe out the human race because we have made enough checks and balances through international treaties to safeguard the human race.
I think the main threats are going to come from our own actions. We are rapidly and at exponentially increasing rate digging our own grave – much so by the actions of ‘hungry hamsters’. Let me first accept that I am one of the ‘hungry hamsters’ before I speak more about them.
Our wants are unlimited and never seem to be satisfied. When I was growing up, people I know had only basic items necessary to live life with dignity and the shops in the neighborhood carried a limited number of essential items. Today, when I look around, people have every possible comfort in the house, ultra-luxury cars parked in the garage and retail stores have multitudes of items stacked up on the shelf. Yet people are not satisfied. Our wants are virtually unlimited.
Not too far ago, people traveled mostly in and around cities and in rare cases outside the city. Family and friends lived in the same city or neighborhood. Today, cities have expanded horizontally, family members are living in different countries, sometimes continents for work. Frequent air, rail, and road commute to work or meet with friends and family has put excessive stress on the environment.
The technological advancements (e.g.: powerful chainsaw, earthmovers, icebreaker ships, super trawlers) have increased the capacity per capita to destroy the earth at a much faster rate than ever before. Though technology improves our productivity and helps us get more of what we want but doesn’t tell us what we should want to keep the planet safe.
The economic race between countries makes the matter even worse. The gap between the incentives driving our behavior and our actual interests in protecting the earth is growing. Some of the measures that have far more positive impacts on the environment are beyond an individual’s capacity. These measures require a foresighted government with a strong will to prioritize the environment over the economy. In some cases, one country alone cannot bring about change. It needs a collective will and coordinated actions of many major countries and long-term planning to even slow down the deteriorating impact on the environment. It seems next to impossible to convince governments because governments have no choice but to fulfill the greed of ‘hungry hamsters’ to stay in power. Therefore my pessimist half has no hopes from them.
Another possible threat to the human race is a virus. It may seem an exaggeration but it is honestly not. If you go back in time, in the 2nd century Antonine Plague killed 5M, in the 6th century Plague of Justinian killed 25M, in the 14th century The Black Death killed up to 200M, and in the 20th century AIDS and Flu Pandemic killed about 75-100M. In the first quarter of the 21st century alone, we have seen in numerous attacks of viruses such as Ebola, Zika, SARS, Encephalitis and now COVID-19 that have threatened the existence of the human race on earth.
In the most recent COVID-19 attack, once it gets beyond the capacity of hospitals to cope with all the cases, then I think it will lead to a pile-up of dead bodies at an unprecedented rate. We are already witnessing this in some of the countries. We are so interconnected today that a small change in one part of the world can have a ripple effect on the rest of the world at a much greater magnitude. Such threats are growing at a much faster rate than ever before. Based on my past experience, I don’t think we will ever be incentivized appropriately to change the course of these threats.
My other half of the brain, which is fairly optimist, thinks that we can exploit the same technology, which has the potential to destroy the earth, to potentially save the human race from extinction. This is where comes the role of ‘Super Humans’ who can effectively coordinate among themselves because they are driven by the same mission and equal passion to bring about the change we all need to survive. Elon Musk is one of those who is making every possible effort to make humans flee Earth before all is over. There is a 50% chance that we will survive through the 21st century. If we survive, there is a 50% chance that we will see ourselves thriving in Mars. Remember, Mars weather is several times more hostile than the most hostile place on Earth.
My belief is that we are in our last hour. The choices we make today and in the near future will more or less decide the face of human life on earth. Especially after the COVID-19 incident, the race to go to Mars will accelerate and the rich will be in the forefront to take the first risk as only they can afford to take it financially.
It will be interesting to see whether ‘Super Humans’ will be able to convince ‘Hungry Hamsters’ and take them along with them in the journey of ‘reversal of environment’ or give up hope and succumb to ever-increasing greed of ‘Hungry Hamsters’.
What do you think of the odds of the human race surviving through the 21st century? How will we survive, if we do? Will ‘Super Humans’ like Elon Musk be successful in their mission?