Tuesday, May 16, 2006

100 years: likelihood of human survival

Pharyngula writes:
Pharyngula: The Seed Crystal Ball:

Our Seed Overlords have submitted yet another question to their blogulous oracle, i.e., us: Will the "human" race be around in 100 years?

I don't think it's a particularly good question, I'm afraid. The answer is simply "yes". If the question were about prairie chickens, cheetahs, or chimpanzees, it would be a more challenging question, but with a population of 6.5 billion of us, I don't think there's much doubt. We'll be here. The only question is what state we and the world will be in. I'll speculate a bit on possible outcomes.

To which someone responds (comments):
... 100 years is now a very LONG time. In terms of the accelerating rates of change in our de facto environment (which is technological and increasingly virtual) it's probably equivalent to 30,000 years of pre-10K BCE living.

I can't imagine any ecosystem catastrophe that would wipe out humans. So the options are:

1. Wild tech: Gray-Goo nano disaster, some weird vaccum energy thingie, etc. I'd put these all down as unlikely.

2. Engineered plague: A pimply 15 yo in southern China is upset by social rejection and engineers a virus using his home biotech kit that wipes out humanity. I'd put this at 20% when you consider all the folks that might try this.

3. AI: If we ever did produce a sentient AI, and if it turned out that 'intelligence' scaled to an IQ of, say, 100,000, then all bets are off on everything. I'd put that down as a 40% probability over a course of 100 years.

Since we have to survive both 2 and 3 to make the 100 year mark I'd say:

.8 * .6 = .48 or less than a 50% survival probability.

PS. The Fermi Paradox (aka the great silence) is not comforting here.

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