The futures of futures studies
Pushing the boundaries of futures thinking
26 October 2023 (Thursday), 14:00-15:20, imagine2

Forth to the stars or back to the caves? Kardashev vs. Malthus

In the next 40 years we as a species will have made a decision, deliberately or otherwise – to go forth to the stars or back to the caves. EROI of fossil fuels, - our civilization’s energy base, - is falling: in 40-50 years extracting a barrel of oil will cost as much energy as the barrel contains, with nothing left for you and me. Replacement technologies were developed 50 years ago, yet 80% of our energy still comes from fossils. The prevalent neo-Malthusian mindset apparently hinders humanity’s pursuit of common good.
Is humanity too misanthropic to adequately invest in itself? Demographics suggest so; a recent demography-based economic model is tellingly called “Empty Planet”. Degrowing global civilization risks extinguishing itself (and the rest of Gaia) in thermonuclear resource wars.
Is there another, positive, way to see ourselves? I suggest that asking Gaia to support our dash to the stars is more than fair - it's Gaia's only shot at immortality. I suggest that a space-faring civilization is an evolutionary adaptation. Space is a shooting gallery, and every life-bearing planet will one day be sterilized one way or another. The only way Gaia can immortalize itself is to evolve a civilization that can protect it from global catastrophes - and/or plant its backup copies elsewhere. If some Earthlings climb the Kardashev ladder to the stars, it'll be us. That is, if we choose to, and if we are lucky enough and persistent enough to succeed.

Scientific Advisory Board member