I am going to leave on a trip in a couple hours, so I’m doing kind-of a fun silly blog post today.
On Facebook, I recently asked people to give me their favorite podcast episodes, and one of the ones suggested was called “Ten Thousand Years,” by 99% Invisible. The podcast was about how the government buried nuclear waste in the New Mexico desert, and then called together a number of different types of people to try to figure out how to communicate to future generations that this was a dangerous place. Not future generations as in 100 or 200 years from now, but 10,000 years from now.
Of course this was quite the task, as all languages we speak now will be obsolete in 10,000 years, and symbols change meaning over time too.
The weirdest idea by far, though, was this one:
Bastide and Fabbri came to the conclusion that the most durable thing that humanity has ever made is culture: religion, folklore, belief systems. They may morph over time, but an essential message can get pulled through over millennia. They proposed that we genetically engineer a species of cat that changes color in the presence of radiation, which would be released into the wild to serve as living Geiger counters. Then, we would create folklore and write songs and tell stories about these “ray cats,” the moral being that when you see these cats change colors, run far, far away.
Of course, this immediately had my mind spinning. Wouldn’t that make the greatest story ever? You have this town, 10,000 years in the future, with only the vaguest concepts of what happened in the 1900s/2000s. But there are these ancient songs about cats changing color, and some weird backwards people actually believe that cats changing color signifies danger. The idiots!
And then someone digs a new well or something, and the cat changes color, and all the old-wives-fable believers flee town, and all the modern people who don’t believe in such hogwash drink the water and slowly die of radiation poisoning.
Okay, maybe that wouldn’t be such a great story. But it got me thinking about what the world will look like in 10,000 years. And making some predictions.
First, I don’t know if human nature even allows us to believe that the world will be around that long. The Christian people I talk to are always convinced Jesus will come back before even 1000 more years pass, and many non-Christian people think we’ll destroy our species, in one way or another, within the next several hundred or thousand years as well.
But if we do make it, here’s what I think will happen.
First, I don’t think the way we live now will continue much more than a couple thousand more years at the very most.
I think world population is going to decrease drastically. Wait, decrease? Shouldn’t we be concerned with overpopulation?
Well, here’s the rub. Bringing down the birthrate is actually fairly simple. If you give women birth control and educational opportunities, they often choose to have fewer children. This has happened all over the world.
But. No one has figured out how to bring birth rates back up.
So what I see is the world slowly having fewer and fewer people. We won’t have the wo/manpower, then, to necessarily maintain the infrastructure we’ve created. Or massive amounts of people to exploit into making us all the gadgets/etc we want. So the technology-driven consumeristic world will slowly fade, and people will go back to the countryside in order to survive.
(I’m actually loosly basing this urban-to-rural prediction on the shift from the urbanized Roman Empire to the rural-based Middle Ages. One of my professors seemed to think that this was mostly based on population demographics. The Romans just didn’t have many children.)
Oh. Similar note. I think the ideologies that promote big families are the cultures that are going to survive into the distant future. So like, the Bill Gothard homeschoolers are going to take over America. I mean not really. But maybe.
Of course, 10,000 years is plenty of time for the world to become ruralized again and then become urbanized again and then become ruralized again. So who knows at what point we’ll be in 10,000 years.
However, I don’t necessarily think that people 10,000 years from now will have technology that’s the same, or even as good as, what we have today.
We think of tech as this thing that keeps building on itself and getting better and better, right?
But what happens if society gets to a point where we’re focused on survival more than keeping the infrastructure going. I could easily see the tech knowledge we have today being lost. Mostly because most of our tech knowledge is stored on tech.
So, say, an archaeologist digs up a laptop and a manual typewriter. She can take the typewriter apart and figure out how it works, but if she can’t plug the laptop in there is no way to see how it works.
I also think there is going to be a massive digital dark age. So I don’t think they’ll know much about what this age was even like.
Enough of my ramblings. If you want to know what’s been spinning in my head for the past couple of days, it’s these ideas.
What do you think the world will be like in 10,000 years?