Lord Martin Rees: End of Civilization 50/50 by 2101

The year 2101 may be a whole 90 years away and seem distant, but top astronomer Lord Byron Rees suggests we may only have until then to survive a disaster created by humanity itself.  Aside from the obvious, this has some dramatic implications as others have suggested for reasons that become clear when looking at the bigger picture.  According to technologists projecting into the future of mankind, at current technological progression humanity may achieve immortality before our current generation dies of old age.  Will we live long enough to see the end of the world?

There is good news, however.  Though Lord Rees is joined by Royal Astronomer from Scotland Professor John Brown in their problematic prognostication, they do give us a fifty-fifty chance of surviving upcoming manmade disasters such as nuclear war, ecological disaster, biological catastrophes, global warming, and technological breakdowns.  And the survival of civilization doesn’t necessarily mean the survival of the human race.  And that’s just the route some futurists are hoping for.

The two squared off with some of the most interesting possible scenarios that could hit as early as the conclusion of the seminar (luckily this didn’t happen) to sixty million years from now.  But analyzing the statistical likelihood of something happening in the next ninety years they found one of the most likely conflicts could come from within.  If there were a major power shift that resulted in a nuclear war, civilization as we know it could be devastated even if some pockets of humanity survived.

There are even other possibilities.  And some of those may at once destabilize civilization and grant humanity powers of immortality.  If we were to, for example, begin digitizing our consciousness there would be no need for us to look to one another for time or resources, instead living within the confines of a virtual world we could create and then living the rest of our lives constructing reality as we went or just living as pure consciousness interacting with one another on that level.  Of course one of the downsides is there would be virtually no need to be creative in this newly constructed world and revenue would have to more or less center around creativity and ideas.  This new currency would be one of the only forms of labor left in this newly born civilization built upon the old.  And with consciousness melding in one large central computer it has to be considered that we could in fact lose our individuality and not even require interaction any more than different neurons within the mind require interaction with one another.

But not all forms of immortality would result in the disintegration of civilization.  If we found ourselves looking at a form of purely biological immortality that existed within the already constructed physical world, it is possible we could just live normally and still risk seeing this 50% gamble of civilization ending.

Will we see the end of the world by the year 2101?  If this is an all encompassing question (because it is a fairly large one) it may be worth remembering that even these brilliant minds agree: It’s possible we could see it long before then – or never.