From the onset of the Industrial Revolution, human progress has been unprecedented in its sheer speed and scale. Anyone born before the mid-1980s, remembering the world before the internet, will surely appreciate technology’s power to uproot our lives. There is no doubt that advances in technology and automation will keep on transforming our lives. Soon the devices we use will respond to our voices, performing many routine chores as we talk with them. The testing of self-drive cars and of drones delivering packages have already reached an advanced state. The virtual world will become ever more developed and sophisticated, offering us yet more unimaginable ways to experience reality. Humans will in all probability make it to Mars before the end of this century; and afterwards leave our imprint further out in space. Meanwhile humanity’s dabbling with and control over nature will continue to know no bounds in the years to come, thereby helping societies more effectively combat illness, disease, infertility and ageing.
But the most terrifying aspect of the future will be when the code of life is altered to suit the vanity and greed of humans, the ageing process is prolonged or postponed, and human mortality is eventually overcome. I think such developments could indeed spell the doom of humanity, as they spark an all-out war between the haves and have nots. It cannot be denied that in all epochs of history we have continuously resorted to war and violence to solve our conflicts, and to the present day humanity has failed to organise societies truly capable of addressing the unequal distribution of resources. Meanwhile the systematic degradation that has been wrought on the natural environment in the name of progress still cries out for our care and attention. Above all, climate change remains the most pressing problem to be tackled on a global scale if the future of humanity is to be safeguarded.
Nevertheless, I do hold some hope that humanity can be saved if an influential world movement recognises that the availability and sustainability of natural resources must be foremost in whatever economic philosophy is advocated; that unless the sharp inequalities in different regions of the world are truly addressed, the world will remain bedevilled by uncontrollable immigration, hatred and terrorism; and that unless humanity becomes consciously aware of the futility of war and violence, the path of self-destruction will continually be sought. Alas, the future of humanity can only be truly safe if humans accept that they are mortal beings and that happiness on this planet can only be achieved if the comfort and convenience bestowed on us by technological improvements is reconciled with meaningful and uncomplicated lives.
This post featured in Philosophy Now Magazine in April/May 2017, Issue 119 as a contribution to the Question of the Month. It was selected along with twelve other entries.