In the previous two chapters, we discussed the external threats that threaten humanity, as well as generally recognized self-threats. This chapter will review and reflect on these threats to ascertain the most important factors that endanger humanity and seek corresponding solutions.
External threats exist objectively; they have nothing to do with human nature or social systems. They exist whether we want them to or not. Self-threats are a different matter. They are largely decided by human nature and human social systems. In order to reflect on the threats we pose to ourselves, we must first understand human nature and the main social systems.
SECTION ONE: RE-ANALYZING EXTERNAL THREATS
Based on our previous analysis, we can re-analyze external threats on a new level. It may be beneficial to rise above the issue of external threats itself and look upon the future of humanity instead.
One: Accepting the Extremely Unlikely
We all know that external threats like disease are almost impossible to avoid, as is individual death. The only thing we can do in the face of such threats is to calmly accept. Individual death does not threaten the whole species; contrarily, humanity would not last long if humans lived infinitely.
Accepting individual death is a matter of common sense. Although most people are reluctant or afraid of death, they do accept the reality of illness and old age. However, any normal person would not be able to accept the extinction of humanity. As members of the race, it is only logical that we value overall human survival above all else.
Previous discussion has made it clear that many external threats can endanger the survival of humanity, such as black holes, antimatter planets, close-up supernovas, and alien invasion. Any one of these could be the end of mankind. The question is: Will we really encounter them?
There are only two lethal external threats that will definitely befall us and cannot be solved with current technology—the end of the universe, and the sun’s evolution into a red giant.
Existing cosmological theory has determined that the universe must come to an end, but that day is trillions of years in the future. We are completely helpless in the face of this threat, and all of our current solutions are still within the realm of scientific fantasy; therefore, it might be wiser to leave this problem up to the more intelligent future generation.
At five billion years, the evolution of the sun into a red giant is also sufficiently far off in the future. Though it is impossible to deal with or even take precautions against such a threat today, we can hope that humans five billion years in the future will be better equipped to handle the situation. It is possible that future humans will be capable of moving away and building a new home elsewhere in the universe once the sun becomes a red giant.
Before the sun evolves into a red giant, there may be two other threats that could end humanity: asteroid collision and human devolution. However, humans already possess the ability to guard against these threats. The possibility of an asteroid collision large enough to destroy Earth is quite minimal. Some further development in astronomical observation, nuclear technology, aerospace technology, and missile technology would be enough to predict and resolve this issue.
The possibility of human devolution is somewhat higher. It is inevitable that some human organs will devolve after long periods of reproduction and threaten human survival. This day may be far in the future, but it will come sooner or later. Fortunately, the genetic engineering technology we have mastered today is enough to imagine the prospect of genetic re-engineering as a solution to this problem; thus, our future is still looking very optimistic.
Our optimistic estimate here has ruled out external threats like black hole swallowing, stellar and independent planet collision, micro-black holes, antimatter planets, and alien invasion. This is because these threats are all either purely theoretical speculation, as yet unconfirmed, or exponentially low in probability.
The abovementioned threats are all impossible to prevent or avoid with current technology, and solutions are not likely to be found in the foreseeable future either. If such unlikely coincidences really do occur, humanity can only accept them as they are.
Conversely, there is no need to expend too much energy on combatting these extremely unlikely circumstances. Mankind has many things to accomplish before the sun evolves into a red giant, so it would be unwise to divert our attention to such theoretical possibilities. Especially since it is unlikely that we would receive satisfactory results even if we did focus on these matters. Therefore, calm acceptance is the only reasonable attitude towards such things of extreme unlikeliness that are also infinitely difficult to surmount.
Two: Determining Reasonable Precautionary Periods
Threats that endanger human survival and happiness are bound to transpire, so it is only reasonable that we consider corresponding prevention methods. Such external attacks will only occur as isolated events at specific points in time, so it would be a huge waste of resources to maintain constant vigilance at all times. Moreover, a constant state of preparation might dull our sense of danger and numb us to potential threats, proving detrimental to the implementation of these preventative measures.
When it comes to the prevention of likely external threats, a reasonable and secure precautionary period is necessary. This period should be long enough to ensure the development and implementation of a series of effective measures. It should be emphasized that this precautionary period must be both reasonable and also secure. For example, for a serious and unequivocal threat like the sun’s evolution into a red giant in five billion years, a precautionary period of one billion years should be implemented.
This period of time is acquired through comprehensive future projections based on the scientific and technological capabilities we currently possess. (As science and technology advances through the years, the number will be adjusted accordingly.) Based on existing capabilities, humans would only be able to survive the sun’s evolution by moving out of the solar system to a different planet; building a large, man-made living space; or moving the earth towards a new secure star. The above designs are obviously impossible to achieve today, or even in the near future. Countless generations of scientific and technological research would be needed just to build the bedrock for such achievements. Therefore, a preparatory period of at least hundreds of millions of years would be the minimum requirement.
When it comes to the question of human survival, there is no room for error, so this precautionary period should be as adequate and sufficient as possible. Although it will take five billion years for the sun to evolve into a red giant, it will begin to destabilize long before that. During this period of destabilization, the sun will undergo many “adjustments,” and even a minor adjustment would have a huge impact on Earth. Humans absolutely cannot wait until the last minute to move away from the sun. Additionally, our calculation of the sun’s evolution into a red giant in five billion years may not be 100 percent accurate, so some room for miscalculation is also necessary.
In comparison, other external threats would need a shorter precautionary period. Take asteroid or comet collision, for example—since we are closely monitoring the trajectory of such bodies, a few decades would be enough to resolve the situation adequately. The use of a spacecraft to launch an atomic bomb at the celestial body and change its trajectory is one reasonable solution. This plan would only take a few, or even one, decade to implement.
The precautionary period for human devolution should start after humans begin showing definite signs of devolving. Devolution does not occur simultaneously in an entire group; it would have to start with individuals or individual groups. At the same time, devolution would be a gradual process, so that would leave us enough time to prepare for the threat.
Currently, we already have a great understanding of gene re-engineering; only some further development would be required to perfect the technology. Current “cloning” technology, artificial insemination technology, gene freezing, and preservation technology can all serve as a basis for further research. Initiating precautionary methods when signs of definite devolution occur is a completely reasonable strategy.
Coping with geomagnetism disappearance may require a longer precautionary period, since we cannot predict the accurate timing of this event.
Of course, geomagnetism disappearance poses a smaller threat to humanity than the former three threats. The impact from geomagnetism disappearance would also be less direct, so there might be less investment required. The only surplus necessary would be in preparation time.
The determination of reasonable and secure precautionary periods is essential to the survival and happiness of humanity. Too long or too short of a precautionary period would both be detrimental to humanity.
Three: Reflecting on the Far-Reaching Principle
In Chapter Two, we determined the two principles of this book: the maximum value principle and the far-reaching principle, indicating that our research field and view should be as broad and as long-term as possible. We have set our research field to be the entirety of the universe and our time frame to be billions of years.
Conclusions drawn from previous study tell us that there are no unavoidable external threats within a five-billion-year period; therefore, mankind can face the billions of years to come with a calm and peaceful attitude and focus more time and energy on immediate interests. At the same time, this conclusion informs us that our external conditions are enough to provide for a few billions of years of tranquil, stable life, and that we should focus on internal threats to humanity instead.
Based on the above reasoning, we can see that our far-reaching research frame is not laid out to study what we should do far into the future in the depths of the universe. Instead, it uses the breadth of space and billion-year length of time as a reference to eliminate hubris and focus on a more realistic level. What real actions should humans take in our immediate surroundings? How should we deal prudently with possible, realistic threats?