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Are we doomed?

Scientific discovery and discussion
kiloran
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Are we doomed?

#223127

Postby kiloran » May 20th, 2019, 12:10 pm

I watched a documentary the other day about space junk. There are thousands of working and non-working satellites up there, along with various bits of rockets and whatever. Every now and then, a few of these collide, and create a lot of smaller items flying around the planet. These, in turn, collide with other bits of debris or whole satellites, creating even more debris. It's an exponential effect, causing a much bigger mess over time, and a greater risk of working hardware (satellites, space station, astronauts) being hit. And a minuscule piece of debris can cause a massive amount of damage when it's travelling at many thousands of miles per hour. If nothing is done, space will become unusable, due to an impenetrable cloud of debris flying around at something like 7km per second. And if something is done, like retrieving non-working satellites, this may just delay the inevitable. We are extremely dependent on satellites for communications, weather forecasting, GPS, you name it.

We are all aware of the growing problem of plastics. The visual effect of plastic litter is bad enough, but as it breaks down into microfragments and enters the food chain, what effect will that have on nature and mankind?

Global warming.

Growing resistance to antibiotics

A growing dependence on technology..... what might AI develop into? What might be the long-term effects of some of the nasty aspects of social media? The ability to fool a lot of people with fake news?

When will the earth be hit by a big bit of natural space junk, like the one that upset the dinosaurs? It's gonna happen one day. Most of us might survive the impact, but what about the after-effects. A permanent winter due to dust blocking out the sun for many years.

I've often pondered that there just has to be a massive amount of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe (universes?), and perhaps the reason we have never detected other civilisations is that they don't last very long once they become technologically capable. Mankind has been around for quite a few years, but it's only been technologically capable for perhaps a couple of hundred years and we can all see (and marvel at) the effects of that, mainly over just 50-70 years.

So, are we doomed or will we always find a solution to any problem as we get smarter and more capable?

--kiloran (with apologies if I sound too pessimistic and depressed!)

richfool
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Re: Are we doomed?

#223134

Postby richfool » May 20th, 2019, 12:25 pm

I did read that we (mankind) were developing various satellites, machines or whatever, that would orbit the earth collecting, consuming or vapourising the space junk, and that a lot of the larger stuff is currently being monitored.

Don't forget in many millions of years, (I am not sure how many) our sun will go supernova and swallow up our planet before it explodes. And that's if we don't get hit by a giant meteorite before then, as took out the dinosaurs.

Maybe I will have that extra latte now while I am waiting.

Snorvey
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Re: Are we doomed?

#223135

Postby Snorvey » May 20th, 2019, 12:26 pm

I think we are approaching a variety of 'tipping points' when it comes to the planet (see my threads over in Beerpigs Snug)

Global warming, ocean desalination, methane release from the permafrost, melting icecaps, plastic pollution, species extinction, over population, climate change, crop failure, mass migration, war, global pandemic.....

I'm glad I'm as old as I am to be honest.

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/pess ... e-to-2019/

Itsallaguess
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Re: Are we doomed?

#223146

Postby Itsallaguess » May 20th, 2019, 12:47 pm

kiloran wrote:
Global warming.

Growing resistance to antibiotics

A growing dependence on technology..... what might AI develop into? What might be the long-term effects of some of the nasty aspects of social media? The ability to fool a lot of people with fake news?

When will the earth be hit by a big bit of natural space junk, like the one that upset the dinosaurs? It's gonna happen one day. Most of us might survive the impact, but what about the after-effects. A permanent winter due to dust blocking out the sun for many years.


I think I'll start a petition to abolish the football season ending - this is what happens when we're not so easily distracted, you see! :)


kiloran wrote:
I've often pondered that there just has to be a massive amount of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe (universes?), and perhaps the reason we have never detected other civilisations is that they don't last very long once they become technologically capable. Mankind has been around for quite a few years, but it's only been technologically capable for perhaps a couple of hundred years and we can all see (and marvel at) the effects of that, mainly over just 50-70 years.

So, are we doomed or will we always find a solution to any problem as we get smarter and more capable?


Oh we're doomed, there's no doubt about it.......

It's all to do with the Great Filter - no-one ever makes it to the other side, you see.....

The Great Filter, in the context of the Fermi paradox, is whatever prevents dead matter from undergoing abiogenesis, in time, to expanding lasting life as measured by the Kardashev scale.

The concept originates in Robin Hanson's argument that the failure to find any extraterrestrial civilizations in the observable universe implies the possibility something is wrong with one or more of the arguments from various scientific disciplines that the appearance of advanced intelligent life is probable; this observation is conceptualized in terms of a "Great Filter" which acts to reduce the great number of sites where intelligent life might arise to the tiny number of intelligent species with advanced civilizations actually observed (currently just one: human).

This probability threshold, which could lie behind us (in our past) or in front of us (in our future), might work as a barrier to the evolution of intelligent life, or as a high probability of self-destruction. The main counter-intuitive conclusion of this observation is that the easier it was for life to evolve to our stage, the bleaker our future chances probably are.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Filter

Still, it'll soon be Christmas!

Cheers,

Itsallaguess

kiloran
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Re: Are we doomed?

#223147

Postby kiloran » May 20th, 2019, 12:50 pm

richfool wrote:I did read that we (mankind) were developing various satellites, machines or whatever, that would orbit the earth collecting, consuming or vapourising the space junk, and that a lot of the larger stuff is currently being monitored.

There are plans to collect big items by harpooning or netting, but these seem to be at an early stage of development. They are intended to collect specific targets, not do a general clean-up. And apparently the americans decided collection would be too expensive so are developing better monitoring systems so that they can move satellites or the ISS out of danger if some debris gets too close, but that just delays the inevitable rather than fix the problem. And of course it cannot work with a dead satellite.

richfool wrote:Don't forget in many millions of years, (I am not sure how many) our sun will go supernova and swallow up our planet before it explodes. And that's if we don't get hit by a giant meteorite before then, as took out the dinosaurs.

Ah you don't need to worry about an exploding supernova sun (phew!). It will expand very close to the earth and become a red giant which ultimately fades away. But we've got 5 billion years to plan for that.

--kiloran

Archtronics
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Re: Are we doomed?

#223153

Postby Archtronics » May 20th, 2019, 1:03 pm

“The future is uncertain but the end is always near.”

Jim Morrison

colin
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Re: Are we doomed?

#223157

Postby colin » May 20th, 2019, 1:19 pm

kiloran wrote:
So, are we doomed or will we always find a solution to any problem as we get smarter and more capable?

--kiloran (with apologies if I sound too pessimistic and depressed!)

Can't say that i have got any smarter over the years , certainly not smart enough to avoid the same fate as all of us, perhaps giving up smoking has postponed the inevitable somewhat?
As to the species then who are 'we', it seems inevitable that people living in technologically modern societies will evolve a symbiotic relationship to technology and 'we' will become fully dependent on technology as a snail is dependent on it's shell.Perhaps tribal peoples living in protected areas will manage to survive somewhere without modern technology and medicine , if so natural selection will continue to produce adaptations to whatever selection pressures their environment subjects them to. But in that future of two worlds with completely different selection pressures who would then become the 'we' you refer to?

ursaminortaur
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Re: Are we doomed?

#223259

Postby ursaminortaur » May 20th, 2019, 8:16 pm

kiloran wrote:
richfool wrote:I did read that we (mankind) were developing various satellites, machines or whatever, that would orbit the earth collecting, consuming or vapourising the space junk, and that a lot of the larger stuff is currently being monitored.

There are plans to collect big items by harpooning or netting, but these seem to be at an early stage of development. They are intended to collect specific targets, not do a general clean-up. And apparently the americans decided collection would be too expensive so are developing better monitoring systems so that they can move satellites or the ISS out of danger if some debris gets too close, but that just delays the inevitable rather than fix the problem. And of course it cannot work with a dead satellite.

richfool wrote:Don't forget in many millions of years, (I am not sure how many) our sun will go supernova and swallow up our planet before it explodes. And that's if we don't get hit by a giant meteorite before then, as took out the dinosaurs.

Ah you don't need to worry about an exploding supernova sun (phew!). It will expand very close to the earth and become a red giant which ultimately fades away. But we've got 5 billion years to plan for that.

--kiloran


Plant life and complex animal life will probably be extinct long before that because as the sun ages it is getting hotter. Hardy extremophile bacteria will last longest.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Future_of_Earth

The luminosity of the Sun will steadily increase, resulting in a rise in the solar radiation reaching the Earth. This will result in a higher rate of weathering of silicate minerals, which will cause a decrease in the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In about 600 million years from now, the level of carbon dioxide will fall below the level needed to sustain C3 carbon fixation photosynthesis used by trees. Some plants use the C4 carbon fixation method, allowing them to persist at carbon dioxide concentrations as low as 10 parts per million. However, the long-term trend is for plant life to die off altogether. The extinction of plants will be the demise of almost all animal life, since plants are the base of the food chain on Earth.

In about one billion years, the solar luminosity will be 10% higher than at present. This will cause the atmosphere to become a "moist greenhouse", resulting in a runaway evaporation of the oceans.

CommissarJones
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Re: Are we doomed?

#223264

Postby CommissarJones » May 20th, 2019, 8:47 pm

ursaminortaur wrote:Hardy extremophile bacteria will last longest.

And the cockroaches, one supposes.

AleisterCrowley
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Re: Are we doomed?

#223270

Postby AleisterCrowley » May 20th, 2019, 9:21 pm

CommissarJones wrote:
ursaminortaur wrote:Hardy extremophile bacteria will last longest.

And the cockroaches, one supposes.



...and Keith Richards

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Re: Are we doomed?

#223276

Postby vrdiver » May 20th, 2019, 9:52 pm

On a positive note to counter all the doom and gloom, Moore's Law applies to technology, not just computer chips, and the exponential rate of change is itself speeding up. We are predicted to make more advances in the next 100 years than in our entire history, with the doubling again taking less than a hundred years after that...

So, without my crystal ball being handy (sorry, the working ones don't arrive for another 50 years yet) I have no idea what that future will look like, but it's likely we will be much more dependent on data access, AI and neural network "thinking" as well as computer "deep learning" (moving from specific problem solving to more generic thought process mimicking). Maybe AIs will become self-aware (if allowed to survive to that point - there's a "filter" to extinction possibility right there) with human labour becoming less and less important.

We may. rather than kill ourselves, figure out a way of getting off planet (be it in organic or digital form) and "civilisation" in such form may survive beyond the end of one specific planet.

Of course, we could be bulldozered to make way for a space hyperway before we get that far....

VRD

ursaminortaur
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Re: Are we doomed?

#223305

Postby ursaminortaur » May 21st, 2019, 12:39 am

vrdiver wrote:On a positive note to counter all the doom and gloom, Moore's Law applies to technology, not just computer chips, and the exponential rate of change is itself speeding up. We are predicted to make more advances in the next 100 years than in our entire history, with the doubling again taking less than a hundred years after that...

So, without my crystal ball being handy (sorry, the working ones don't arrive for another 50 years yet) I have no idea what that future will look like, but it's likely we will be much more dependent on data access, AI and neural network "thinking" as well as computer "deep learning" (moving from specific problem solving to more generic thought process mimicking). Maybe AIs will become self-aware (if allowed to survive to that point - there's a "filter" to extinction possibility right there) with human labour becoming less and less important.

We may. rather than kill ourselves, figure out a way of getting off planet (be it in organic or digital form) and "civilisation" in such form may survive beyond the end of one specific planet.

Of course, we could be bulldozered to make way for a space hyperway before we get that far....

VRD


I think the latest estimate for the technological singularity is 2045

Urbandreamer
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Re: Are we doomed?

#223320

Postby Urbandreamer » May 21st, 2019, 7:28 am

I'm a lot more optermistic than many on this thread.

Space Junk? Well the stuff in low orbits (which is most of it) will drop out of the sky in a couple of decades. The stuff in higher orbits can be delt with if we wish to. Large objects can be captured and towed either into higher orbits where they spiral away or low orbits where they, again, drop from the sky in decades. If the journalistic trope were true, large soft sticky objects could capture the small stuff in high orbits. If it's less true, ie that science is right and stuff in a given orbit has to move at a given speed or change orbit, then they are less of a problem though of course they then would not impact sticky objects in the same orbit.

Malthus predicted back in 1798 that we would live on the edge of perpetual starvation, then we got serious about food production. We started trying to find out how to grow more of the stuff and managed. Today robots toil in the odd fields (check it out, it's true), or milk cows. We grow salads in factories under artificial light stacked verticly! We even use satilites, wonderfully not destroyed by space junk, to check plant health and advise on irrigation etc.

Plastic is a problem, but so was the hole in the ozone layer. The hole is still there, but gets smaller each year since we decided to do somthing about it.

IF we stop adding to the plastic problem, eventually plastic will become like chalk, slate, limestone or sandstone. Just anouther layer of rock made from sediments. It might even return to the hydrocarbons torn from underground that were used to make it in the first place.

Are we doomed? Well yes. As said, long before the heat death of the universe our little area will be destroyed. Just like the once fertile doggerland, it will be gone. Sadly unlike those inhabitants, I can't see us moving.

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Re: Are we doomed?

#223395

Postby XFool » May 21st, 2019, 10:52 am

kiloran wrote:I watched a documentary the other day about space junk. There are thousands of working and non-working satellites up there, along with various bits of rockets and whatever. Every now and then, a few of these collide, and create a lot of smaller items flying around the planet. These, in turn, collide with other bits of debris or whole satellites, creating even more debris. It's an exponential effect, causing a much bigger mess over time, and a greater risk of working hardware (satellites, space station, astronauts) being hit. And a minuscule piece of debris can cause a massive amount of damage when it's travelling at many thousands of miles per hour. If nothing is done, space will become unusable, due to an impenetrable cloud of debris flying around at something like 7km per second. And if something is done, like retrieving non-working satellites, this may just delay the inevitable. We are extremely dependent on satellites for communications, weather forecasting, GPS, you name it.

We are all aware of the growing problem of plastics. The visual effect of plastic litter is bad enough, but as it breaks down into microfragments and enters the food chain, what effect will that have on nature and mankind?

Global warming.

Growing resistance to antibiotics

A growing dependence on technology..... what might AI develop into? What might be the long-term effects of some of the nasty aspects of social media? The ability to fool a lot of people with fake news?

When will the earth be hit by a big bit of natural space junk, like the one that upset the dinosaurs? It's gonna happen one day. Most of us might survive the impact, but what about the after-effects. A permanent winter due to dust blocking out the sun for many years.

I've often pondered that there just has to be a massive amount of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe (universes?), and perhaps the reason we have never detected other civilisations is that they don't last very long once they become technologically capable. Mankind has been around for quite a few years, but it's only been technologically capable for perhaps a couple of hundred years and we can all see (and marvel at) the effects of that, mainly over just 50-70 years.

So, are we doomed or will we always find a solution to any problem as we get smarter and more capable?

--kiloran (with apologies if I sound too pessimistic and depressed!)

Careful! Or you will in future have to get used to being referred to as 'Marvin'.

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Re: Are we doomed?

#224159

Postby UncleEbenezer » May 24th, 2019, 9:36 am

Lots of fundamentally different problems there. They all have solutions, but the solutions don't look nice.

Plastics? Good energy-rich organic stuff. An ecological niche just looking to be filled. Nature abhors a vacuum, and it can only be a matter of time before something evolves that can digest plastics. Of course, things could get a lot worse during that time.

Global warming? That's merely a symptom of an underlying problem - burning fossils - which is terraforming our planet. The eventual destination could be uninhabitable to life as we know it. But we won't reach there. The first life forms to go as a consequence of rising CO2 will be those high-metabolic-rate life forms that are most sensitive to it. That is, broadly speaking, warm-blooded animals, and includes the ones responsible for it.

I expect nature will adapt in other ways, which we might consider quite disastrous. Life forms that can photosynthesise more rapidly than today's seem likely to find a niche. An obvious candidate is algal blooms, which are of course devastating to ecosystems around them. Yet an ocean-scale algal bloom could be prelude to a healing process.

Antibiotics? Worst that can happen is that we lose an element of modern medicine. Life went on (albeit with much higher rates of early death) before modern medicine.

Technology? Merely a new platform for how humanity has always behaved. Social media vs your mates down the pub? Fake news is itself in a sense a fake news story: what the media are upset about is the democratisation of an ability to mislead us en masse that was previously limited to an elite Fourth Estate, and before them to religion. It may indeed limit the power to do really harmful things, as it dilutes the kind of tribal mentality that led to the Crusades, Inquisition and Holocaust.

The big issues for humanity are overpopulation and over-use of finite resources (the burning of fossils). It's not new: it's driven migration for ever, and we sustain heavily overpopulated places (like Blighty) through trade. What has changed since Malthus's time is that we're running out of places for excess population to migrate to and to import from, and have gone much further in degrading the ecosystems that sustain us. And since 1945 we've resorted to unsustainable, petrochemical-intensive farming methods to create an illusion of no more boom and bust.


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