How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policy (t3knomanser) wrote,
How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policy

The Million Year Project

In a recent thread, I got into a discussion that terminated with a question: "What tools and technologies do we need to start planning out into geological time-scales?" (It wasn't worded that way, I cleaned it up a bit).

This is beginning to germinate into an idea, but I think first, we need to understand why we need to plan on geological time-scales. More importantly, why should we start now? In a nation where it is difficult to plan for a college education in eighteen years, or retirement in fifty, why would we even need to contemplate planning on such a long- say, million year- time line?

Our level of technology can carry with it consequences that begin to move towards geological time-scales. From greenhouse gas production to nuclear weapons we are operating on a planetary level. An Cold War Era mutually-assured-destruction scenario would render vast swaths of the Earth uninhabitable to human life for millennia. A potential nuclear winter lasting for centuries, and reshaping the biosphere of the planet Earth to a degree not seen for sixty-five million years. Despite the end of the arms race, such an event could still occur within our lifetimes. Not only that, we aren't clear on the eventual consequences of all of our technologies- greenhouse gasses and ozone depletion are clear demonstrations.

Within decades, we will be not merely studying human genetics, but modifying and altering them. We will be creating new forms of life, and possibly even investigating the miracle of biogenesis. All the laws and international treaties in the world won't stop such a promising technology from being used- but it will certainly carry with it severe risks. Even ignoring the risks, genetic modification of humans is not merely an individual choice that someone might make, but a choice they make for their offspring and the entire line of descendants that follow. Within this century, we will have the capacity to produce an entirely new species that is an off-shoot of homo sapiens. Talk about far reaching consequences! Similarly, the Global Warming alarmists are on target with the threat posed- but are losing sight of the larger threat. As our hunger for energy increases, there are no clean alternatives. Solar power lowers the albedo of the Earth- on a small scale now, but on a potentially much larger scale. Fusion, should it ever become a controllable phenomenon, breeder reactors- it doesn't matter how clean your power is. More energy means more waste heat. In a million years, we will be roasting in our own waste heat.

These are all clear reasons to begin analyzing the longer time-scale, and all of them are human initiated reasons. We will need to start planning on geological time-scales to keep up with ourselves. But- there are other, external threats. Within a million years, a multi-kilometer Near Earth Object will pose a serious collision threat. At least one- possibly more. Within a million years, we may begin facing competition from other species that have evolved tool using capacities. (Sure, it's far more likely that we'd kill them off- by definition, there can be only one apex predator.) Stellar irregularities, polar reversals, and plate tectonics become key points of consideration- and not just for human convenience, but human survival.

Okay, those are some random considerations about why. I'll flesh that out, clean them up, polish the absurdities till they shine. Honestly, I do think every threat listed there is a real possibility- especially on a million year time scale. Probably need to work clinical immortality in there somewhere. Now for the what.

I propose the creation of The Million Year Project, a not-for-profit corporation and think tank geared towards advocating and promoting the creation of technologies that will allow us to begin thinking on such long time-lines. Because, it's true- we have a very difficult time thinking beyond the measure of decades. The threat of greenhouse powered warming seems distant. The span of human human history seems eternal. Our brains are very small, and very weak. We amplify their powers through the use of tools, in the same way we amplify our bodies. We need to make ourselves large, and we need tools and technologies that enable us to be wise, to see beyond the horizon, and to predict the growth of our species, and the species that will branch from our own. We need to safeguard the heritage of humanity, and its offspring (including machine intelligences) and not only ensure that we have given them worlds to inhabit and share, but a vision for their future, a destination and a goal.

The Million Year Project's goal, again, would be to create the tools, scientific, computational, physical, that encourage and allow humanity to plot their existence not merely over generations, but over epochs. Eventually, in a few centuries, the Million Year Project could even begin to formulate the first Million Year Plan- a chart of goals, obstacles and concerns to address over the course of the next million years of human development. To even contemplate such a thing, as a species, would be an incredible statement of optimism and hope- because it means that we are planning to still be here a million years from now- maybe not humans, but our genetic and technological offspring. In fact, such a plan would allow us to ensure that homo sapiens doesn't become the be-all-end-all of being human.

Now, I'm rambling. But this gets the data-dump out, in a public forum, for feedback.

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