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I'm in the midst of planning for my spring "Science, Technology, & Society: Examining the Future Through a Science Fiction Lens" course, and was researching a bit for interesting material. Here's some of what I found.

Are you the very model of a singularitarian?

Speaking of transcendental or catastrophic change, this book on Armageddon Science looks interesting. Here's an interesting interview with the author, discussing various end-of-humankind scenarios.

Poll #1659680 End of the world!

What's the most likely extinction scenario for humankind?

Nuclear war!
Bioterrorism or biowar!
Natural virus or other microbe (think Cordyceps fungus)!
Nanotech run wild (think grey goo)!
Singularity-good (think Rapture of the Nerds)!
Singularity-bad (think Terminator or Berserker)!
Other science gone mad!
Alien invasion!
Asteroid collision!
Slow extinction (think global climate change, overpopulation, end of cheap energy...).
Any or all of the above!
Other (explain in comments).
What are you worried about? Humankind will survive forever.

Later: How do we avoid such scenarios?

In related news, have you seen the Google Ngram Viewer? Interesting tool for seeing word usage in the books that Google has scanned. Note how "natural philosophy" reaches peak usage in the early 1800s, while "fuck" saw its peak usage from the late 1600s to the early 1700s, appearing almost not at all from the early 1800s through the 1960 or so. "Extinction" doesn't see much regular use until the late 1700s, becoming more popular ever since. What can we learn from these trends? Just sayin'.

Singularitarianly yours,


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 22nd, 2010 02:08 pm (UTC)
I'm eternally optimistic, and if you try to pop my bubble, I'll stick my fingers in my ears and sing, "lalalalalalaaaaa!"

Dec. 22nd, 2010 03:44 pm (UTC)
Hooray for optimism about the human spirit! I want to believe that we'll never go extinct; instead we'll modify and adapt to our changing place in the universe.
Dec. 22nd, 2010 03:16 pm (UTC)
I am not a filker by nature, but somebody needs to put on that Gilbert & Sullivan number, perhaps on the occasion of Vernor Vinge's next book release.
Dec. 22nd, 2010 03:45 pm (UTC)
That would be hilarious!
Dec. 22nd, 2010 03:46 pm (UTC)
Later: How do we avoid such scenarios?

Dec. 22nd, 2010 10:06 pm (UTC)
...then that'll be option X: Evolve! If we become a new species, the old species - us - goes extinct....
Dec. 22nd, 2010 03:51 pm (UTC)
Video guy is adorable. I'd like to ask him about the line "while we destroy all of the useless information that remains," though. Especially after he said the bit about any loss being a tragedy. Maybe that was his attempt at showing the contradictory nature of being human. =D
Dec. 22nd, 2010 05:16 pm (UTC)
I think you give him far too much credit. But this was all very clever nevertheless.
Dec. 22nd, 2010 03:54 pm (UTC)

One other, that of the Conspiracy/New World Order Theorists:

Decimation of the overall population by poor food, lab-created disease and incarceration for the purpose of labor.

Those that remain will eventually be annihilated by our Benevolent Feline Overlords returning to find what a sad state has been made of their initial experiments on human evolution. They are going to be really pissed off about having to start all over again.
Dec. 22nd, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC)
I welcome our Benevolent Feline Overlords. They've been away for far too long.
Dec. 23rd, 2010 02:36 pm (UTC)


Atheist cat approves.
Dec. 22nd, 2010 05:31 pm (UTC)
I orginally marked slow extinction then switched to other, because i think the total destruction of civilization as we know it will happen rapidly due to causes mentioned, but a few small bands of humans will surely survive to die out slowly as the earth changes. They may survive long enough to create new civilizations and see them decline. It's all cyclical.
Dec. 22nd, 2010 10:08 pm (UTC)
We've always made it through a couple of extinction events so far, even if it was touch-and-go!

Edited at 2010-12-22 10:08 pm (UTC)
Dec. 22nd, 2010 06:37 pm (UTC)
random commenter
really? I am the only one who went for natural virus, surprising, oh well, I guess that wouldn't mean the whole extinction... just maybe 2/3rds gone...I change my vote, I go to asteroid.
Dec. 22nd, 2010 10:09 pm (UTC)
Re: random commenter
I know! I'm surprised by the lack of fear about sudden extinction.
Dec. 22nd, 2010 10:16 pm (UTC)
Re: random commenter
Oh, I have already resigned myself to the fact that something like that may very likely happen in my life time...it does make it hard to think about having kids though....
Dec. 22nd, 2010 06:57 pm (UTC)
specifically shortage due to overpopulation/overuse. Plausibly also some existing technology coming back to bite us in the butt (e.g. Bhopal or Chernobyl)
Dec. 22nd, 2010 11:00 pm (UTC)
Overpopulation will become a self-correcting factor if we don't do something about it, I suspect!

Don't forget my colleague's work at CERN....
Dec. 22nd, 2010 11:37 pm (UTC)
I think it's unavoidable, Chris. Because by the time fear of extinction outweighs greed, it will be too late.

I do what I can in my own life. And hope that there are enough people doing this that it actually makes a difference.

By the way, I never got my copy of Transcendence. :(
Dec. 22nd, 2010 11:57 pm (UTC)
I'm afraid you're right about greed, and we seem to be (on average) no better than other animals.

I hear ya, and I think it makes a difference!

When did you order it? If you ordered directly from the publisher, drop him a note!
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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