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What Does the End of the World Look Like? A Q&A with the Author of 'End Times' | Space
Add the power of Cambridge Dictionary to your website using our free search box widgets. Dictionary apps. Especially if we do actually find basic life, [if we] can't find any evidence of other civilizations , that does sort of raise the risk of, "Is there something about technological development that actually causes existential risk and that actually may lead civilizations to destroy themselves?
I don't know if that's the case, and I actually don't know what we would do in that event. I think we're so curious, it would be hard to imagine we wouldn't want to. It's hard to tell our own future. But maybe there's something out there in the rest of the universe that could tell us. Walsh: I think there's something captivating about the idea that if the Earth itself is a target or at risk or could be destroyed, the best way to safeguard ourselves is to expand — to not be geographically isolated on a single planet but to open it up to others, which does make some sense in a very long term [way].
My feeling about that was, that's pretty far in the future. It's hard to imagine a situation — no matter how badly we screw up the Earth, it doesn't matter how bad climate change gets or how big a nuclear war or what have you — [where] Mars is going to be a more hospitable place to live than the Earth. If I were to choose the money that could be spent on preparing for these risks, space settlement would not be high on that list, for that reason.
But I do think it does mesh onto my idea that in the future, we will need to expand.
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One thing, looking back over history, especially since industrialization, is that we are constantly pushing up against what seem like natural limits. What I saw is that you have two paths in front of you: sustainability — you can try to live with less to a certain extent, you can try to pull back and live within safely defined boundaries; or, you can try to push forward and try to innovate ways around those limits, find new technologies, new forms of energy, new ways to expand and new environments that give you more space for more people.
So much of this goes back to the years I spent working on climate change. What I came to see was that human beings — we don't really seem to want to limit ourselves. You can make any kind of moral, ethical judgment about that, but that seems pretty encoded into us. And so the idea that we do need to continue to expand, the idea that we will need to find new space and new technologies, that's true to me. Walsh: I've always been a fan of science fiction. I've always felt that science fiction can really help us imagine the future, and sometimes imagination includes fear. But it also enables us to, almost the same way that children do with nightmares, play out what they're afraid of, and maybe in doing so actually figure out something.
And sometimes they even have practical effects. Walsh: You realize how this planet's changed over time in a way that, it's just hard to wrap your head around.
And yet [there's] resilience, life came back from every one of those [extinction] waves, up to the point to us being here now, which is pretty amazing, I think. And I believe that we do have a great resilience. As much as we can be mismanaging things right now — and certainly, to a certain extent we are — I also learned by looking at smaller-scale disasters that humans are actually very good at coming together around those things.
The ability to survive in many different types of environments, the fact that we've been able to spread through basically every corner of this planet, says something about humans as a species that is innovative, that is resilient. Those same qualities are a lot of the same qualities that might lead us to come close to destroying ourselves. You can buy "End Times" on Amazon.
Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels space.
India in 2024: Narendra Modi once more, but to what end?
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