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The present in deep history

I'm head-down, redrafting a book right now. But in the meantime, I am mulling over a question.

Assume you are a historian in the 30th century, compiling a pop history text about the period 1700-2300AD. What are the five most influential factors in that period of history?

Please note that this is a 600 year span—around the duration of the entire mediaeval period. Events a mere 20 years apart, such as the first and second world wars, merge together when viewed through the wrong end of a temporal telescope, just like the 30 years' war or the Wars of the Roses. Individual people, even hugely influential thinkers and rulers and tyrants, are a jumbled mass of names with dates attached. This is a question about the big issues—the ones big enough to remember half a millennium hence, like the Black Death, the Crusades, or the conquest of the Americas.

I'm not asking for specific historical events but for major trends. Anthropogenic climate change is obviously one of the big ones, and I have a number of others in mind; I want to see if I've missed anything obvious.

(For the sake of argument we assume: no singularity/rapture of the nerds, no breakthroughs that lead to wholesale invalidation of the known laws of physics, and no catastrophic events that render humanity extinct, destroy all archival records, or consign us all to a pre-industrial level of civilization.)



Note: my list of candidates are:

1. The great fossil fuel binge

2. The population/GDP/innovation bubble (fuelled by #1)

3. The parasite crash and social rebalancing, including the end of patriarchy (made possible by medical advances facilitated by #2)

4. The end of [vertebrate] meat eating (side-effect of #1 and #2)

5. The collapse of cognitive distance and the perfection of memory (side-effect of #2)


Basic trends under way and things that happened that historians might find important*:
Demographic transition across the globe

Nuclear tests, then their banning of.

The rise of TINA (And hopefully it's fall, but that isn't clear just now)

Internet use

The weird mix of under and over employment; some people can't find work, whilst others are worked to death.

* I'm not a professional historian, but am at least an amateur one and have noticed some blind spots in historians and their approach to things.


I note that nuclear tests and TINA and internet use are all very short-term trends -- under 50 years old.

I'm looking for stuff more like the emancipation of women, which looks to me like it may be as much an irreversible phase change in human society as the shift from hunter-gatherer to agrarian societies during the neolithic. Huge changes that take place over a period of centuries, in other words. Things so big we see a snapshot of them -- they're bigger than our lifespans.


YOu know what, I suspect you are overestimating the ability and intelligence of our putative historians, and their data sifting capabilities, but who cares, this is an intelligence gathering exercise.

I note also that post no. 1 relegates the Industrial Evolution to a sub-set of things. Or else you're looking at it in a very different way from everyone else.

And in that 600 year period, you've also got the rise of computing and networks.


Yes, your first comment made it more clear you're after very high level abstract things that frankly most normal folk don't really notice.

Have you covered urbanisation? That's a massive global change in the last 200 years which has changed a lot of things?


I'd go for sewage treatment and birth control.


Predictive power.

In 1700, calculus had only just been invented. Humans were extremely limited in which systems they could make accurate predictions about. Over the past 300 years, the set of systems we know enough about to make useful predictions for has expanded enormously.

Importantly for your question, it doesn't look like the kind of trend that's going to grind to a halt any time soon. Working with novel/dangerous/expensive systems is going to continue to get cheaper and cheaper as the quality of the predictions for them improves, and the number of mistakes you have to make to get them to do what you want falls.


I'm hopeful(ish) that your "1" would be part of a story that end with large scale fusion generators and and the means to clean up after our (and or ancestors) mess.
Relatedly, I would expect (and hope) that "The end of meat eating" would actually be part of "The end of agriculture". Factory-grown nutrients, with power straight off the grid, 3D-printed into an enormous variety of ingredients would be big from a social history point of view and changes to the economy, the rewilding of farm land and the extinction of domesticated species would be massive.


Hmm, how about the rise and fall of rationalism, the enlightenment and science itself?


From the 30th century, the 'population/GDP/innovation bubble' will look like the singularity, which is what it actually is. Post-industrialization life is inconceivable to people who lived pre-industrialization.

My candidate to add to your list would be the wage economy, careers, employment, working for pay. Our whole lives are organized around earning a living, the same way pre-industrial life was organized around getting enough food to eat. When in the future this changes, the daily lives of people will fundamentally be different and there will be no doubt that we are living in a new era.


1) Systematization of medicine and public health.

2) Increase in levels of literacy

3) Urbanization

are the only three I can think of that would be metatrends or megatrends for that era


Germ theory of disease seems an omission unless you want to be rigid with the start date. Maybe just "medicine that sometimes worked".


Posting without seeing anything that may have hit while this was open. Sorry!

This is a Western biased History. The -- notes are what most casual students "know" in the 30th century.

Scientific Method and it's applications to Physics, Biology, Medicine, Invention and Industrialization.
-- Isaac Newton invented electricity so he could cure cancer that people got from living in pollution.

Capitalism and the rationalization of Markets, Finance, Money and Debt.
-- A cartel of banks called the Fortune 500 ran everything.

Nation Building and the rise of Democracy, Colonialism, World Wars, United Nations
-- Cowboys settled the Wild West (in what is now known as the Greater Yellowstone Lava Plain) from 1700-2100.

Universal computing, connectivity, automation and AI.
Inner Solar System expansion and Long Life. Both mark extended dusk for Industrial Age style Capitalism and Nation Building.
-- Elon Musk invented the Internet, Long Life and the first L5 colony.


Cynical. But I like it.


1. The black death (not for the loss of life, but for the subsequent legal and social developments).

2. The rise of near-universal literacy and the rise of printing which went hand-in-hand with it and which led to the enormous acceleration of scientific and engineering progress.

3. The invention of the limited company which led to an acceleration of basic economic activity.

4. The geographical distribution of readily mined deposits of various materials including coal, copper, iron, oil and so on which determined the course of most of the wars in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

5. The space race, not for its primary achievement but for the civilian development of most of the technologies in the late 20th century that led to many of the major challenges of the 21st as well as many of their solutions.


1.) The magnification of human ability to perform labour, physical and intellectual.
2.) The magnification of the human ability to influence organisms, first by medicine and then by genetic hacks.
3.) The routinely massive changes in the environment engendered by the first two.
4.) The first three's leading to growth in the understanding of modes of human living as contingent artifacts with greater and lesser desirability according to circumstance and opinion, rather than as just 'the way we've always done it vs the Bad Ways'. (Wider-spread agnosticism and fundamentalism both ensue, though I consider the first much more desirable.....)
5.) The other four's leading to massive dissatisfaction, from fear of the future and impatience with the speed of its arrival and distribution.


The widespread ability to process information. Starts with growing literacy, then computers, then whatever comes between now and 2300.In 1699 most people ( especially globally) are illiterate. Even avg. literate person has only a few books. In 2300? Assume much kre than I cam even imagine.


1. The era of rebellions setting up democratic governments, which kicked off with a minor colonial rebellion before taking hold in a major Power with the French. The era continued for over 150 years until nearly all governments were some form of democracy.

2. The Automation Revolution, which began around the start of the period with automated looms in France. It is notable for the gradual replacement of animal and human powered industry with artificially powered and controlled machinery. (This replaces out idea of separate Industrial and Green Revolutions). Culminated in fab boxes and AI assisted design.

3. The Space Age, which saw first robotic then limited human expansion off Earth. Primarily take place in the final 150 years of the period. (I know you're going to disagree with me here.)

4. Mapping of natural biology and development of artificial biology. Which is why you're sitting out side on Mars having the history read to you by your herald-bird.

5. The end of false religions with the scientific discovery of our One True God. (ok, I'm trolling with that one. ;)


It didn't start that way, but every time I started working on a bullet point I couldn't get this 2305AD sixteen year old history student's voice out of my head. Literally, because Disney's Facebook Messenger for AppleSoft iHead 8s has neural notification links.


One issue, of course, is that if you zoom right out it becomes really hard to draw clean lines between things. The emancipation of women does indeed feel like a phase change, but it also feels like the Industrial Revolution was a necessary pre-requisite, because it liberated societies from the need to devote 2/3rds of their population to subsistence-level agriculture. Everything's connected, innit?

Anyway, with that caveat out of the way, here are a few:

1) The Industrial Revolution. Starts around your start date and is by no means over in the 21st century. There are parts of the world (think rural India or the remoter provinces of China, or much of central Asia) where the social changes the IR caused elsewhere have yet to manifest themselves. The West is already going through phase 2, transitioning from a manufacturing-dominated economy to a service-dominated one. A lot of the current economy is being driven by wage imbalances as non-industrialised countries "catch up". It's really hard to know how that will all shake out over the next 300 years (a world of broadly similar incomes? A world still polarised between rich, middle-income and poor?) but whatever happens the effects will be profound and irreversible short of the kind of catastrophic disaster you explicitly don't want us to think about.

1a) General-purpose, human-level or higher AI - what happens when labour becomes a subdivision of capital? What happens if (when?) we come up with a robot that has all the intuitive reasoning and common sense of a human, all the raw number-crunching power of a traditional computer, never gets bored, doesn't need sleep, and has no tedious desires for kids or personal fulfilment or doing anything other than whatever task it's assigned? Then what happens when its price falls below the cost of even a minimum-wage worker?

2) Urbanisation. Consequence of 1, and historic. For the first time in its history humanity is a predominantly urban species. You'd think the internet and the death of distance would reduce the need for people to live together in big cramped cities, but nope, not happening so far. Cities are the engines of civilisation, so having more of them, and more people living in them, is a profound change.

3) The "nice-ification" of existence - consequence of 1 and 2. Sounds woolly, but I don't mean it to. I'm thinking of the stuff Steven Pinker rather convincingly notes in The Better Angels of Our Nature - the long-term trend towards a world with less violence, murder and oppression. And industrial, urban civilisation seems to lead to the sort of liberal attitudes that reinforce this. Again, look at China to see what a dose of industrialisation and urbanisation does to a traditional, family-oriented, male-dominated, rigid society. Also incorporates nuclear weapons. It's a bit early to say definitively but you can certainly make the case that nukes make old-fashioned state-on-state total warfare obsolete, or at least suicidally dangerous. If that holds over the next 300 years it'll be a phase change in international relations and how states interact.

More speculative stuff:

4) The re-imagining of humanity. Biology isn't magical, it's just really, really complicated. But we're laying the groundwork right now for our future ability to manipulate it. There's no reason, in principle, why the gerontologists can't be right. And a society of people whose average life expectancy is 200 would look profoundly different from how things work today.


1. The scientific method
2. Instant communication including telegraph, radio and internet
3. high energy fuels (fossil, nuclear)


The difficulty in answering the question as posed is that we are only half way through that period, and anything relating to the second half of it can be no more than guesswork. (If you asked someone in 1700 to answer the same question relating to 1400-2000, anything they said concerning their second half would be correct no more often than by chance, and would far more likely look really silly.)

Of the first half, I'd be saying...

Codification and systematisation of scientific enquiry, leading to an unprecedented profusion of valid and useful results which in turn form a basis for further investigation.

The development of engineering, especially mechanical engineering, which I regard as a separate matter from the development of science since it began with tinkering and empiricism, achieved a considerable amount by that means, and did not fully converge with science until comparatively recently.

The development of agriculture and the vast improvements in its efficiency, changing it from a major preoccupation of most of the population to something which is such a minority activity that food almost appears by magic.

Medical progress: germ theory, sanitation, hygiene, anaesthetics, antibiotics, the application of scientific thought to medicine. Probably one of the biggest reasons why any of us are here at all.

The development of mechanised large-scale warfare, by which war ceased to be a concern of (more or less) only the small fraction of the population who are rulers and soldiers, with the rest maybe (but not necessarily) suffering consequences but not actually being involved, and became something which could involve everyone, and kill enough of the population for its effects to remain discernible generations later.

Those are all major changes which occupied large fractions of the period and set the tone by which what comes after differs greatly from what came before, and the absence of any one of them would mean that the modern world would be nothing like it is now.

For the next 300 years I would like to think we'll get: the elimination of the fallacy that "everyone must work, all the time" (it'll have to happen sooner or later); the death of capitalism (necessary for the previous one), and consumerism with it; the development of some system for enforcing the resolution of disputes without warfare; the end of uncontrolled breeding; and (to change the tone completely) a practical FTL drive. But as I said to begin with, that is really worth no more than any other fantasising.


That's certainly one of the big changes. There were big cities, but they depended on huge pleasant populations to feed them. The actual mechanisation of agriculture only really boomed in my father's lifetime—he ploughed with horses—and he was also pretty well up on the "Green Revolution". I see people having some weird ideas about things like plant-breeding, fertilisers, and pesticides.

There's huge use of these things in both the USA and Europe, with higher crop yields in the USA—we're still learning the details, but European farmers seem less likely to waste chemistry on low-grade land, and when I was farming it was already routine to monitor soil nutrient level to avoid applying excess.

Heck, some of the earliest statistical science was for experiments in agriculture that are still running, and are visible from space.

The Green Revolution wasn't just the sudden spasm that got that name. Rather like the Wars of the Roses, there were a whole load of things happening, and maybe it will be seen as a part of urbanisation, which encompasses food production, transport in general, and waste disposal. And a lot else.

I have the viewpoint to see the farming, and I remember my father's slightly bemused account of ending up driving a combine harvester in the USA because the farmer, one of many cousins, hadn't actually checked the crop was ready. It was only a few yards before the frantic cry of "Stop!"

It's possible that labour is hugely more specialised. That might be the trend. When the pre-industrial masses worked, they routinely did so many different things. Farmers still do. But the domestic mechanisation which started to take hold in the Fifties, machines replacing servants, might be seen as part of the same pattern.

So the label might be different, but I shall plump for The Rise of the Machine.


I don't know if historians in fact make that mistake. I think it's more a combination of the study of metatrends and the popular culture view of the era.

1) The age of exploration and settlement. We differentiate between Columbus, pirates, conquistadors, cowboys, and the Apollo astronauts. I doubt popular culture in the 30th century will.

2) In combination with 1 and some of your choices, the age of globalization. I'm not going to derail this thread right now to try and extrapolate this to the 24th century. If you want me to I will include this in a separate post.

3) The demographic change in the world. The Netherlands and France began their demographic transition in the late 1700's, which is why they experienced relatively little population growth or emigration in the 19th century. Already the past 300 years are grouped together by demographers of society after society going through the five stages of demographic transition. Again, I'm not going to try and predict how another 300 years will look like. I don't think it's possible to predict beyond 100 years anyway

4) The age of invention. We differentiate between the 18th century when aristocratic thinkers like Condercet and Voltaire, garage inventors like the Wright Brothers, large corporate inventors like Thomas Edison or IBM, and programmers working in their garages like Jobs.

5) Attached to 4 will be the view of the democratization of inventions. The trend for the past 300 years has been that technologies which were limited to the elite in one decade have proliferated down to the common people

6) The new Renaissance. Look at how many art forms have been created in just the past century. I will focus on music right now. New genres include Country, Jazz, Rhythm, Blues, Gospel, Rock and Roll (first in the 50's and then in the 80's), Rap, Hip hop. This ignores opera and theatre music, both of which were created in the previous centuries (I'm not sure of this fact right now).

7) The Capitalist age. Don't forget that the economy of the 1700s was mercantilism, then the reforms, then Keynes, the abandonment of the gold standard. We differentiate between these states (sometimes), but I doubt future popular culture will

8) It will be known as the age of migration and the breakdown of the previous millenium's racial differences. Already a lot of Latin Americans are a varying combination of pre-Columbian natives, whites, and blacks. Speaking of, the slave trade will be viewed as being part of our age despite starting a century prior. This is the same as the mistaken assumption that serfdom began only after the Western Roman Empire fell. Now add the changes in N. America, Europe, and Australia that have taken place between the 1700s and now. Heck, even Southeast Asia and South Korea have become more diverse (mostly with other immigrants from Asia). Also, India's British imposed unity probably mixed people around? Depending on how the trends progress, we might even see another migration out of Europe, Asia, or Latin America towards Africa? 300 years is a long time.

I'll write more later when I have time to iron out my ideas.


One example of this runs through the books of James Herriot. Animals rather than human medicine, but many things went from being livestock killers to something that could be easily prevented. And he was a vet who trained at just the right time to get a reputation as a miracle-worker.


The use of AI to abolish work and the subsequent revolutions it spawned.

The rise and fall of The West and its institutions

The rise of total surveillance and the elimination of all criminals (however defined)

Germline genetic engineering of Humans, 2015-2300 and the speciation of Homo Sapiens


My WAGs here:

1. Globalisation. This includes that communication and transportation has become cheaper, more accessible, safer, faster, and with more capacity during this entire period. Here lots of things can be included, like improved navigation methods, trains, aircraft, telephones, the Internet et c. Mass media can also be included here.

2. Climate change and mass extinction of many species, as you already mention.

3. The shift from autocratic to democratic/bureucratic systems of government. The rise of the nation states is part of this.

4. Urbanisation/specialisation. This includes a lot of the industrial revolution, and arguably a bit of the scientific method and the things it led to.

Drawing a blank for the fifth.


Those are a huge part of it, but they're also aspects of a broader picture. Guthrie mentioned urbanisation; you can't have megalopoli or large scale urbanization without decent sewerage (unless you're willing to accept pandemic cholera and friends). Birth control: yes, but per Germaine Greer ("Sex and Destiny") and others, women have been using contraceptives and abortifacients for millennia -- I think the really significant thing is the post-Wollestonecraft rebalancing of gender relations, and the acceptance that women are people, too. (Which I think is an entrenched long-term trend and probably irreversible as long as we continue to be an urban technological species.)

In other words, you're right -- but these are smaller aspects of broader patterns.


human driven mass extinction ?


From the distant future, they'll lump together the Industrial Revolution with the rise of computers and the Internet, as well as medicine, physics, etc. It might be called the Technology Revolution or the Scientific Revolution. The use of fossil fuels and the transition to solar (or whatever else) will be marked as a footnote at best.

That said, the broad adoption of representative democracy, capitalism, and the rule of law, is something they'll certainly call out, particularly as it relates to the rise of trade and drop off of massive warfare.

Fossil fuel use, climate change, mass extinction, rising oceans, and other consequences thereof will probably gain a banner under which to ride together.

Perhaps this time period will also include the rise of humanity as a spacefaring species and / or the discovery of other spacefaring intelligence. That sort of landmark would be as seminal in the distant future as anything we recall from our most distant written history. Ditto any sort of extinction-scale events (eg, massive meteor strike, nearby supernova, worldwide pandemic). The whole global warming thing may well be lumped in this way as might any sort of AI singularity.

Future cultural historians will probably identify this time period as the end of "regional" cultures / languages / cuisines / governments and the rise of "global" cultures, along with the friction that ultimately entailed until it all presumably settled down.


Even without a singularity, at some point in the next 100-200 years we're going to see automation, manufacturing and AI (not necessarily human level or self aware) converge to make all human labor - and most white collar jobs - unnecessary. Future generations might view the last couple of centuries as incremental steps towards the goal of eliminating the need to work for a living.


Ah, bingo. The Enlightenment. We're all children of the Jacobin society, after all (except for Mencius Moldbug and the Dark Enlightenment folks, that is). And the Enlightenment begins as a Protestant near-heresy, then broadens into a rationalist pseudo-religion that coexists with an atheism that would have gotten its adherents hanged in earlier centuries.

As an enabling precursor to both Marxism and capitalism, not to mention the scientific worldview and post-monarchism, I think it fits.


The reduction of languages, making communication and shared media much more practical. Probably not in the top five, though. Similarly, the completion of urbanization and the development of arcologies.


Historians looking back at this time period will see it as a transitional period between a planet with hundreds of diverse human cultures, each with distinct features, to one which is homogenized through travel and later technology to have more or less a single, pervasive, consumerist culture. This is well on its way to happening already: most countries have similar games shows, insipid pop stars and pop music, the same cheap and disposable consumer goods, chain restaurants (many global), similar financial and corporate structures, etc. This trend will continue with increased access to global audiences through increased global trade, better internet connectivity, further globalization of corporations, neocolonialism through global organizations (World Bank etc.), and the ongoing extinction of regional languages in favor of a few, wide-spread global languages.

The period will also be known for the disappearance of most natural spaces, wilderness, forests, abundant oceanic life, nearly all large animals (except domesticated animals and some very common species such as deer), and easily obtained natural resources, through a combination of climate change and over-exploitation.

The concept of privacy will completely disappear with ubiquitous surveillance, cameras, logging of internet and communication use, cheap data storage, etc. People looking back at our time will have a completely different sense of self as a result.

They will look back at this time as an age of hubris and ignorance paradoxically occurring at a time of massive increases in knowledge and great technological advances. This period will essentially be viewed as an inflection point: the time where diversity and abundance were traded during a period of rapid population and technological growth for whatever comes next (with that whatever probably being something in the "flat, hot, and crowded" model).


1. The domestication of homo sapiens. In 1700, violence and violent death are commonplace; in 2300 (if current trends continue) they are practically unknown.

2. The demographic/economic/scientific/cultural/technological transition from one steady state (patriarchal agricultural late feudal society with high fertility and high mortality) to another (currently unknown, but certainly with low fertility and low mortality).

3. The final collapse of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Wars of the Roman Succession (1914-?).

4. The environmental crises caused and also eventually resolved by the transition in point 2.


1) The unification of national governments into a global governance system.
2) The rise of machines to do generalized information processing outside of the human mind.
3) Climate change and the eventual establishment of management and control of global climate.
4) The decline of old religious beliefs and their replacement by a secular understanding of the world.
5) Effective medicine and control over disease and reproduction.


That bucket list is close to what I'm thinking of ... possibly with the Enlightenment and its philosophical/political/scientific consequences fully explored.


By the 30th century people will come to believe that a significant proportion of the world population were pagans. Because whenever their archaeologists excavate old water courses the find strange basket like structures which were obviously put there to hold votive offerings to the water gods.


I typed 'fall' because you've left nearly 3 centuries of time in which things can happen, and today I read this short article which argues that US sat test scores are dropping because basically people don't value intelligence and ignorance is prized:

Also finished "Shockwave rider" today, which is still relevant nowadays, and in which the powers that be are desperately trying to hang onto power and influence and wealth however they can. If that includes destroying education and the enlightenment, so be it.


While I'm not convinced that the banning of nuclear tests will have any long term effect, nuclear weapons will. Just what effect isn't yet clear, but it could lead to the "nuclear autumn" solution to global warming.

Another thing that might be significant is use of electricity. Possibly also genetic modification.

Most of the things that will be important in the 30th century aren't events, but processes. A nuclear war might be an exception. So might space travel be, if we ever move into space. (OK, that would be space habitation considered as a process rather than an event.)

Just because something is recent doesn't mean it's not important, though it's likely to me we don't understand its importance. Genetic engineering, e.g., could lead in all sorts of directions...and may do so. This includes wide spectrum cures for diseases and new diseases that have no cure. It may include diseases that wipe out all people who differ from "us" in some specified way (must be detectable at the immune system level, of course). That could have repercussions until the end of the species, and possibly beyond.

Clearly most of the things that will be most important in the 30th century haven't happened yet, or at best have only started. The use of electricity is possibly an exception. (I'm tempted to include "the great blackout" where all media created is lost because of copy protection...but that probably wouldn't be among the top five.)




The rise of energy intensive technologies. Firewood => coal => oil => [insert semimagical energy technology here]. The vastly increased use of metal afforded by all that energy.

The rise and fall of the Enlightenment. Well, an Enlightenment. There have been ages of reason before, and probably will be again.

Whatever put the nuclear genie back in the bottle. Ditto bioweapons.

On a more practical level, the primary concern of sponsors of historical research will be to legitimate the then-present social order. You can't really figure out what the historians will teach without figuring out what social order they're trying to reinforce. For market acceptance reasons, this will probably have to hew unrealistically closely to early 21st century mores (secularism, pluralism, commercialism, etc).

Also, sexual mores tend to wax and wane on a period of maybe 150 years. I would be extremely hesitant to extrapolate too far from present trends.


I think you're effectively asking for "trends that affect species-level selection pressure on humans", 1700-2300, from the perspective of 3000.


1. the warm thousand centuries; by 3000 it will be obvious that we're going to skip a glaciation due to anthropogenic carbon loading of the atmosphere. There are new deserts, new rain belts, new grassland, but probably no new forests. All the great World Cities are in different places. Ocean currents are in different places, as well as shorelines.

2. the subsequent fragility; due to the Anthropocene Mass Extinction everybody will be living in a drastically depauperate ecosystem. If you're right about no longer eating meat, there aren't any animals larger than dogs (and only maybe dogs). No sharks, no marine mammals, acid oceans and coral reefs and most food fish are history. Everyone has to be Very Careful or the already fragile ecosystem lurches dangerously. Understand before action; act with respect; build to last. Profligate energy budgets are an indication of incompetence or haste, and both should be avoided.

3. the end of selection; humans, and pretty much everything humans care about, are now subject to design in terms of (at least) heredity and probably environmental developmental pathways. Still an ongoing job in 3000 to eat the complexity, but it will have started by 2100 at the outside. Whatever the current aesthetic is, almost everyone is very pretty.

4. post-tribal organization; nation-states were an early, flawed, and failed attempt to organize large groups of people to achieve common purposes. How fortunate that these problems were solved effectively at the end of the transition to modern humanity. (The solution rests on the end of selection and better comms tech and computing devices, but no one will think of it like that who isn't a technical specialist in the subject.)

5. aesthetic norms; humans used to be defined by their constant struggle to obtain enough resources to reproduce, in part because of the extreme poverty of the past and in part because of unfortunate inherited drives. Lacking these drives, modern humanity devotes itself to creating a more beautiful world. The last body-birth of a human being was centuries in the past, and we can forgive our ancestors much when we recognize that they were all inescapably products of that traumatic and uncertain practice.


A lot of earlier birth control didn't, IMO, work that well, and the abortifacients could be dangerous (and also unreliable). Gender relations are a historically cyclical thing but with reliable birth control women have a fighting chance to break the cycle and stay equal (ish) this time.

And sewagerage and soap--I suppose you could argue that sewerage depends from the scientific method/the Enlightenment.


> Ah, bingo. The Enlightenment.

Yeah. I'd add to that the consequent emergence of materialistic reductionism (goes under several names) as the last paradigm standing, at least for now, for how reality is to be understood. Angels don't appear a lot on the pages of scientific journals these days.

As for more technical stuff, I agree that the Industrial Revolution, probably as kicked off by the steam engine in the 1700s, was a key factor in the first half of the period being discussed. There was a recent blog post that I can't find at the moment making the point that a number of social and economic trends took off more or less concurrently with the introduction of steam power. Causation and correlation and all that, but the linkage seems somewhat persuasive.


The decline of old religious beliefs and their replacement by a secular understanding of the world.

A movie called "War Room" just opened in my town. It's about a woman who saves her marriage by prayer and plastering devotional sayings all over the walls of a spare room (the titular war room). This makes God give her husband stomach problems when he tries to cheat (according to reviews). All of this is apparently treated perfectly seriously. I'm not totally buying your argument, in other words.


1. Global Urbanization - which encompasses many of the trends we see, such as the shift towards non-agricultural production, higher population density, high speed transportation, and so forth.

2. The Great Demographic Change - they'll likely see this as part of a spectrum including changes in behavior, access to birth control, massive reductions in infant mortality, and so forth.

3. Dawn of the Robotic/Computer Era - I'm not talking about Rapture of the Nerds or even Strong AI or its ilk, but a widespread use of automation and robotics by their time that they'll take for granted, but which we will likely consider marvelous. They'd probably also talk about the end of most routine, repetitive work, and be horrified by our willingness to send people into (what they would consider) extremely dangerous mines, or into all-day work in the fields.

4. End of the Eurocentric Era - I tend to think future historians will look at about the 15th century to the early 22nd Century as ones dominated by European countries and their spin-off colonies, becoming less so late in the 21st century. It will be kind of like how we talk about the "Classical Era" before the fall of the Western Roman Empire, albeit with vastly more documentation.

5. Rise of Women Equality - This one will likely be seen as even more important down the line than it is now.

I'm actually not going to put Anthropogenic Climate Change on here, simply because I tend to think folks 900 years from now will see this as less important than we do (although they'll undoubtedly recognize it as a Big Problem for people in the 21st-22nd centuries). But by the Year 3000, they'll probably have either brought it back down to more comfortable temperatures or (more likely) restructured around the warmer temperatures and work to maintain those. I mean, think of how often the Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period come up - sometimes.


> Assume you are a historian in the 30th century, compiling
> a pop history text about the period 1700-2300AD. What are
> the five most influential factors in that period of history?

Off the top of my head (and without having read any of the
other comments):

The Scientific Revolution (Newton onward, Darwin along
the way), which began the slow and painful (and not
yet completed) decline of the intellectual authority of traditional
religions (and the secular authority based on them).

The Industrial Revolution, which began the fossil-fuel
consumption boom and its ensuing impact on the climate.

The human population explosion, enabled by scientific technique,
and its impact on the global environment.

The development of nuclear weapons, and their associated delivery

The human-interconnectedness explosion, fuelled by mass
entertainment, mass education and literacy, and communications
technology (the Internet, cellphones).

That's as of the early 21st century. By the 23rd century, we'll
either have:

Sustainable planet-wide energy resources (solar, nuclear, whatever),
stable and equitable global consumption, stable and sustainable
human population, and safeguards on the remaining bio-diversity
and natural resources of the planet, or

Global ecological and economic collapse. Probably not outright
human extinction, but a huge population collapse amid unspeakable
suffering, including famine, mass population displacements,
pandemics, and political instability up to and including
nuclear war. The human (and other) survivors will live on a
radically impoverished planet, in a hostile environment with far
fewer natural resources than existed in 1700.

I do not expect that the 30th-century historians will have observed any dei ex machina
along the lines of the Second Coming of Christ, artificial superintelligence
a la Colossus: The Forbin Project, or friendly superintelligent
aliens a la Arthur C. Clarke's "Overlords" from Childhood's End, to clean up the
mess and save the human
race from itself.

Did I miss anything? ;->


Sorry, to add-

On second thought, I think they'd discuss the Demographic Transition as part of the Great Urbanization, although with discussion of new communication technologies and so forth. I'll change that to

2 The Leveling Off of Technological Advancement: by the time we hit the year 2300, barring a collapse or major civilizational setback, I'm fairly confident we'll be almost to the point where further major technological advancement either requires staggering commitments of resources and energy, or is extremely incremental. We'll have a thorough understanding of virtually all the basic principles and processes in biology, physics, chemistry, etc, as well as how to apply those in technology. From that point on, future technological change will either be part of cyclical trends (think fashion or aesthetics), or "Super Big Projects" like building a giant space telescope or particular accelerator.


I'm going to say:

1. Industrialization

A lot of stuff fits under industrialization. I would even argue that the Enlightenment was demanded by industrialization and spread by it. So:

1a) The Enlightenment.
1b) Replacement of slavery with independent contracting
1c) Capitalism and communism
1d) Globalization
1e) Climate change, the sixth mass extinction
1f) Mass production of culture, pop stars, movies, radio, TV, the internet, the global village, genrefication, terrorism
etc., etc.


1700-2300AD is far too broad, but hey.

Chapters in the pop-sci book:

#1 6th Extinction Event (Non Human)

Starting with deforestation of Europe for the great sailing age, includes all of industrialization and 19th / 20th C Capitalism. Specialists will decode Ideological differences within this (Capitalism vrs Communism).

Ecological thinking will map ocean decline, population growth, loss of habitat etc.

#2 Rise of automated systems (Non-conscious)

Starting with the mechanical automata of Greece, then Europe, then analog and then digital systems.

Cybernetics is a footnote, large system predictive simulations of early 21st C "super" computers, quantum computers, use of bot nets in military applications.

#3 7th Extinction Event (Human as defined by +/- 2 on Cognitive Index scale)

Gigacide becomes definable on a global scale. Marked by use of genome specific bioweapons and automated systems (at first overseen, then totally automated) coupled with ecosystem collapse.

Chapter focuses on the comparative analogies between ecological collapse, societal collapse and systems collapse (both real world supply chains and digital networks).

Students will visit the forests of central America (ex-USA), China (South region) or Africa (Central South region) to reflect on this and see memorials. Footnote to genocides of 20th C and differences between the two.

Middle East and Southern Europe are still too hot to visit.

#4 Refutation of prior Ideological, Religious, Psychological and Gender control systems.

Starting at the point of writing in Sumeria, students will track the progress and cannibalization of societies and cultures by aggressive versions of each of these.

Philosophy, Enlightenment, Emancipation (both racial and gender based) will be included to offset this overwhelmingly negative part of the course.

#5 Study of remaining live Homo Sapiens Sapiens in preserve.

Students will be reminded that despite precedence, blowing or squirting water or ink on the animals is strictly forbidden.

Homo Sapiens Sapiens extended our lives through genetech to create weapons, and we have taken that gift and spread it to the orcas, whales and so on.

Students will be encouraged to adopt, socialize and attempt to become penpals with last remaining (normalized non-adulterated) homo homo sapiens[1].

[1] Due to the age group this book is intended for, mature topics on hybrids, cyborgs and chimeras will be left until puberty has passed. There are horrors that young minds can do without.


Unfortunately I have to agree. Assuming that there is no singularity and all the easy technology gets discovered and things slow down then there is no real need for an "enlightened" worldview.

I'm not saying that you don't need to understand an engineering discipline to apply it, but the philosophy of science side hardly matters.


The rise of nation states and as a consequence a series of military and commercial empires. Followed, as world prosperity equalised, by the universal ejection of such empires and the disintegration of nation states.


A number of people have already said, so it's mostly placing them in importance:

- The end of work. We're moving (still) from an era where every form of work (save a handful done by animal teams or mills) was done by humans to an era where none of it will be.

- Urbanisation and admixture. We're moving from mainly living in small inbred communities with little gene flow to living in large conurbations with lots of people whose close ancestors did not actually live there.

- Social egalisation. Bit of that is iffy, in as much as the class divides come and go, and we're seeing a resurgence of it. But we've seen vast egalitarian moves, starting with the various shifts from kingdoms to republics, reduction of class walls (there's still classes, they're just far more porous than they used to be), a return of female influence in society/politics/economy.

- The Scientific Revolution and the decline of religion. They're probably two separate things, but it would be hard from a future historian's perspective to separate them, seeing as they tend to be inextricably brought together quite often (and pumped up by atheist militants).

- The full taming of Earth. With various mishaps along the way, we're seeing the entire planet put to use. The loss of the Amazon's carbon sequester is basically due to the conversion from a unused living area (people lived in there, but did not use it) to a farming area. Asia/Siberia are being more and more used, and I wouldn't be surprised if Antarctica did not finally fell to a land rush before the 23rd...



I think "Industrialization" would be folded in as part of "Global Urbanization" as a mega-trend, along with the rise of more democratic regimes, the demographic transition, the development of mass communications and transportation, and changes in agriculture. To some extent they all revolve around a massive change in human social organization from one in which most humans are farmers to one where we all live in dense social settings off the back of technology-maintained living standards.

This makes me think of how different Historiography is going to be like in the future. Historians studying the 1700-2300 CE period will have a wealth of stuff like national statistics, scientific reports, and all kinds of stuff considered interesting enough to migrate over from one database to another. By contrast, there will be a ton of more personal stuff - like diaries and personal Facebook pages - that won't survive the centuries because no one considered it important enough to migrate to a new set of servers at the time.


Upgrading of mammalian intelligence using techniques that are known today. Mice (obviously - been done), but cats and dogs. Whether there is a wholesale "uplift" is not something I think inevitable even if the techniques exist to do it (apes, elephants, dolphins etc)

Then we have the return of previously extinct species, starting with the woolly mammoth and moving on to passenger pidgeon and others from this era (where they are not yet extinct).

I would also think the Hedonistic Imperative may well be implemented in some form

I was rather unconvinced of its feasibility until I had a long conversation with him. I now think it do-able in the short to medium term. Certainly gene tweaks are possible to limit the degree of pain and stress mammals can suffer.


30th Century is 1,000 years in the future.

Not many comments here are getting that fact.


Because the specified time period is 1700-2300


Politics - the Rise and Fall of the British Empire (Western and Eastern)


Just from what we can know so far - Global urbanisation, global literacy, and global wars (7 Years War, the World Wars and the Cold War - which might get compressed into the Great 20th Century Wars, merging pretty much every Western, Russian, and Chinese military deployment between 1914 and 1990). The end of plagues (yeah, we have HIV and Ebola, but the last true plague was 1918, Spanish Flu. Everything since has been either regional epidemics like Ebola, brief bursts of broadly distributed illness like swine flu, or new endemic diseases like HIV). I won't make any real gambles on the next 300 years...


The biggest change is that I think we'll be remembered as The Consumers, but more in the wendigo sense than anything else.* By 3000 CE, they'll be getting their resources by reworking both our junk and their own junk, because it's simpler to do that than try to mine and smelt what little we won't have exploited in the next 100 years. We're the Consumers who consumed the Earth. They're the people stuck dealing with our shit, whether they're more or less sophisticated than we are.

But the fundamental answer is that what they see in our history really depends on what they're dealing with.

A good example is that even the worst models of climate change say that global temperatures should be stable (hot) or falling (slightly less hot) by 3000 CE. However, unless the GHG in the air are down to 20th Century levels, we can predict that Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheets will have melted by 3000 CE. Under worst case scenarios, the East Antarctic ice sheet will still be melting at about 3 meters/century until 3500-4000 CE. In this worst case scenario, the coasts will be really messy places, oceanic ship size will be limited to whatever can be pulled up on a beach, and transoceanic trade will be largely absent.

Depending on the climate change scenario they're living through, they may remember our age as the age of global trade. Depending on what we do to the oceans in the next century, they may remember us as the fish eaters or as the fisherfolk, something they can't really do any more.

Still, remembering us as fishers means that they have a history of what the oceans used to look like. If they're in the middle of recovering from societal collapse and an extinction event, they probably won't remember what the oceans used to be like. This is why what they remember depends on what they're dealing with.

Regardless of this, they'll certainly be reprocessing our ruins for things like iron, copper, aluminum, possibly old sewage (for fertilizer) and so forth. That's why I'm pretty sure that we'll be remembered as The Consumers, and they won't identify with us, whatever else they do. They probably also won't do archaeology the same way we do, either. Ruins are for reuse, not remembrance.

*Wendigo myth: I'm using the simplified version here, of anthropophagous giants who are constantly starving. The only thing that satisfies their hunger is human flesh, but after eating a human, wendigos grows in proportion to the size of the meal, so they are even bigger and hungrier thereafter. Note that at least one Algonquin storyteller compares modern corporations to wendigos, and I think the comparison is apt.


I did!

Another thought, looking back from 1k years - the organisation and rise and takeover of the capitalist corporation, from roughly the 18th century onwards, peaking in the 21st century. As with many other innovations, earlier versions existed, but were localised and often lacked permanence.
Whereas the kind I'm talking about bend entire societies to their will. The triumph of the organisation man, man as cog in big wheel, mediated by money, which hopefully our descendants will see as being quaint and inefficient.


I'm going to say two specific bits of "The Scientific Method" that haven't been mentioned or swept up as too specialised have been or will show up as major events for a century or more so probably get to count.

The first is Germ Theory of Disease and all the ramifications of that. It underpins sewerage treatment, (successful) urbanisation and a lot more.

The second is something I'm going to call Genetics but in 2300 it might be called something else, from that perspective it will certainly included things like epigenetics, molecular biology and the like.

I know that's only two but my futurology hat isn't working that well and I figure the other three will be from the next 300 years. So these are a bit on the safe side.

I would predict a better power generation system to get rid of coal and nuclear. Don't know what though. Sometime "the next 30 years" for fusion has to come true so I'll go for that.

The great leisure revolution. Robots do everything and people are paid an existence allowance and "work" on projects as they choose. Cities disappear as the rationales for them vanishes.

Quantum computing extends computing power and speed by orders of magnitude. I can't predict all the ramifications of this, but one of the early ones - your 4096 bit RSA key takes seconds to crack.


To be a little bit serious, take a look at the Temperature Thresholds for varying species.

Trees: about 42-6oC (dependent on species)
Low Bush / non-specialized leaf structure: 44-48oC

50oC - all non-specialized plant life cannot survive.

And all the little critters that live on them.

A 2oC - 4oC rise which has already happened[1] means vast swathes of the Earth start flipping those biological zones.

Without a few million years for ecosystems to adapt (counter-point: flip point for the Sahara is 36,000 years, but that's a special case - it always had a large aquifer system underneath and invasive species were the norm. Yes, the desert literally blossoms. More on that if you want. Sad panda fact: currently at about half way into the climate flip that usually produces it, has no effect on current effects. Modelling suggests that it will never happen again if Central Africa is deforested).

Parts of Australia (which has always included wonderful places literally called "Land without Trees") and so on give you a good ecological model of how this pans out. Northern China as well.

You can't put the Genie back in the bottle.

More importantly, hit those targets and you're in a world of hurt.

I'm not in the mood to put an actual accurate ecological time line here, but it's bad.

2300 - 4 billion dead.

You're not writing history at this point, you're writing laments.

[1] 100-200 years lead time for effects to be felt.


Not even being funny.

2000-2300. Gigadeath. That's what will be remembered.



What I'm after is how this turbulent period's big trends will be seen a long time after they've ended. (Your list was pretty good, although I think the gigacide thing could be plausibly mediated by emergent malign social networks ...)


And nobody is going to be able GE trees to survive higher temperatures? GE is going to be the Big Thing this century (barring AGI)


Another thing they'll probably remember our 500 years for is as an Age of Migration, bigger than the one at the end of the Roman Empire. While technically the first Hispanics (Cortes' Half-Aztec children) were born in the 16th Century, it's worth remembering that we have this whole huge ethnicity that didn't exist prior to the age of intercontinental empire. This is continuing, and probably will accelerate as groundwater and watershed depletion (cf Syria) and climate change force people to move and continue moving. This is something that has been happening for centuries, although I don't think it will continue to happen indefinitely.

There might be a -Lish language family, based on Spanglish, Chinglish, Konglish, etc. around the world. This is akin to the Romance languages that were offshoots of Latin.

They'll probably also remember our era for the birth of the sciences. What they remember of our sciences is totally up in the air. In part it depends on what discoveries happen between now and then. Rather more depends on what we choose to save. Modern scientists see their discoveries as ephemeral, things imperfectly learned that will be overturned by later work. This kind of attitude doesn't lend itself to long-term preservation of knowledge. It's interesting to speculate on what will be remembered from all this churn.


Urbanization, predictive power and explosion of information density have already been mentioned.

Maybe a trend would be the networking of data processing nodes (high density of knowledge workers and/or knowledge tech in each node), at all kind of scales and with increasingly sophisticated technology?

I'm putting the tag "network" on such disparate things as ARPAnet, stock exchanges, banking networks, inter-library loan systems. Also the logistic and accounting departments of large companies and organizations.

Up to having entire cities being nodes of data processing/creation/dissemination: NSA in Fort Meade, Soviet science cities, Silicon Valley for software, Hollywood (are not movies data?), and all the financial and banking centers of the world.

The word "network" itself is new to the time period.


The age of Capital: The period saw the global rise, and fall, of capitalism. This brought colonialism and nations state on a macro level, and a distinct societal divison of labor on a microstate - the latter led to the forming of what we now call ...
The age of Identity: The period saw the rise and fall of race, class, nationality, and diverse gender identities as distinct normative categories that would exert their force over an individual life. Case studies include 'homosexuality' ("The sodomite had been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species." Focault, 20th. cen. "What does reproductive sex have to do with fucking?" Any 30th cen. history student) and 'work'. Luckily, this is all past us because this was also ...
The age of Revolution: The start of the period has been tumultuos with small scale revolts against and temporary retreats from the global encroachment of (see point 1). Transformations with visibly effect to this day only started in the last two centuries of the period, but we will conduct a sort of 'archeology of struggles' to see how these late transformations here empowered, informed or even hindered by previos attempts. There also a deep irony, as we look at ...
The age of Teleology: Starting with enlightenment as secular religion, the belief that history has a direction, that things are destined to become more of this or that, really took hold. We will investigate examlpes about technolgical, economic and political trends. Herein lies the great irony: While the cultural changes in the age of revolutions swept the rug from under this 'last religion', the belief in social progress and revolution was an important factor, without which we might not be here today. Because we must not forget, we are talking about the ...
The age of Ecocide: Through soil depletion, green house gas emissions, extenction events and habitat estruction, previos societies rendered the planet almost unfit to live on. Why where these events not prevented? This is hard to fathom at first glance, but becomes explainable once we systemic expansionsim in capitalism, the fact that the existing political institutions where built around the creation of and catering to distinct identies and the fact that certain teleologic mindsets, prevailing at times, led to the belief that these problems where either unavoidable or would sort themselves out.


And nobody is going to be able GE trees to survive higher temperatures? GE is going to be the Big Thing this century (barring AGI)


If you want a long explanation of the why, I'd suggest looking into biological thresholds for certain chemical processes.

We conclude that high temperature initially accelerated thylakoid component breakdown, an effect similar to normal senescence patterns. Thylakoid breakdown may induce a destabilizing imbalance between component reaction rates; an imbalance between photosystem II and cytochrome f/b6-mediated activities would be particularly damaging during heat stress.

Photosynthetic Decline from High Temperature Stress during Maturation of Wheat

Note: that's wheat not anywhere close to 50oC.

You can't genetech away the Laws of Physics.

50oC = no water / humidity and a lot of other effects.

It's basically the point where nature went: "Fuck this, bacteria only".


You don't think the first minor genocide would be enough to kill social networks dead?

I must be an optimist.


Some aspects of some plants could be tweaked, but you're talking enzymes and proteins and stuff which significantly degrade above 37C or 40C or whatever. You'd have to rebuild their genome significantly.

Also I don't know how much it affects plants, but the important point for humans is humidity and heat. 100% humidity and 37C = death. 20% humidity and 40C = carry on living. Making parts of the globe only capable of being inhabited by humans with significant engineering work and air conditioning is not exactly sensible.


It depends on the perceived utility of social networks. I'd expect the first SNMG (social network mediated genocide) to be rapidly followed by other social networks optimizing for collective self-defense, and the obvious benefits of size will make it a no-brainer to join a defensive alliance. Indeed, in a world with collapsed distance due to high-speed networking, social networks might end up as the logical successor to the Westphalian nation-state (territory, internal control, collective self-defense) -- although they'll bear about as much resemblance to Facebook as a modern NATO member state bears to a 9th century Viking colony.


So? We are not talking about 50degC across the whole planet. There is plenty of work being done now on over expressing heat shock proteins to boost their ability to survive in warmer areas.


Some aspects of some plants could be tweaked, but you're talking enzymes and proteins and stuff which significantly degrade above 37C or 40C or whatever. You'd have to rebuild their genome significantly.

The key question is whether we can design enzymes from scratch to be heat resistant, then start swapping out bits of the plant genome. I think it's a hard problem -- electron mobility and light absorption at specific wavelengths locks in the parameters at the underlying physics level -- but I wouldn't want to underestimate 500 years of plant genomics research driven by an ongoing planetary emergency.


How about cosmology and the Hubble Constant. For the first time in human history we have some understanding of the universe around us, how it works and our place in it.


Of course in the medium term the nuclear option is still the nuclear option.

Someone with themeans could decide this has gone too far and that modern comms networks have to go. A few megatonnes in the ionosphere ought to do the job.


OTOH they will bear a large resemblance to organized crime gangs.


The emancipation of women is actually part of an encompassing trend, "humans are not property" aka cannot be owned.

The idea that women are not property has still to arrive in quite a few heads, and the situation for children tends to be worse, but in quite a few polities the legal situation is no longer that children are owned by their parents.

Most, otoh, have gotten over serfdom or slavery regarding adult men; even in the comparatively rare cases where adult men are kept in slavery there is a recognition that that's not legal nor ethical.

Provided we continue in that direction and don't backslide. As they say, over my dead body, but that could be arranged.


That may hold some of the biggest and nastiest Black Swans


I think we should remeber the 'social networks' are not networks, but (organizationally, not neccesarily technically) centralized stacks we may feed data, and they will feed this data back to other users in a way that simulates a network, sometimes. Idk, maybe the phrase social network is too much burned by now to be useful when talking about, you know, actual social networks.


"even in the comparatively rare cases where adult men are kept in slavery there is a recognition that that's not legal nor ethical."

Unless the State is the owner


1) The invention of antisepsis and anesthesia in the 19th Century, along with all the other medical advances of the 20th Century and today. But antisepsis and anesthesia will loom largest. For the first time, men and women had a good chance of living healthy lives past 40, and childbirth became less terrifying.

1b) Birth control. Don't think that's a big deal? You might get a different ancestor from your great-great-great grandmother, who had 14 children and NO modern appliances.

2) Revolution in transportation and communications, giving a middle-class person the ability to wake up and have breakfast in London, and go to sleep that night in his own bed in California. Or for a middle-class Californian to work daily with a team of colleagues in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York, London, and the Isle of Wight. All technological and societal advances of the period will be lumped together.

2a) Regional conflicts which would in previous centuries be local have a tendency to pop up in other locations, almost as though teleported there by a Star Trek transporter. Consider 9/11.

2b) World Wars. The Napoleonic War was the first. Or maybe it was the America Revolution, viewed as a proxy war between Britain and France.

2c) Slavery and the African Diaspora.

2d) Diseases spread by airplane. If I recall correctly, Patient 0 for the AIDS epidemic was a flight attendant.


Ok, you're not getting scale here.

Remember that old chestnut about how you could fit all 7 billion people into Texas and have the same population density as the Kowloon Walled City?

Well, you could.

And a year later, no-one would left alive (even the cannibals).

You're vastly underestimating the size of agricultural land and resources used or just how big the "swathes" are.

I mentioned the Sahara desert.

Might want to go see just how big that is.

Larger than Europe.

Every 36,000 years (pre-human involvement) the axial tilt of the Earth changes, and you get a shift; this axial shift moves the climate from central Africa towards the equator...

and the entire area gets vast rainfall and goes green.

There are literally millions of prehistoric flint knappings and bones and cave paintings from this period, from when it last happened.

The desert didn't create them, it was all invasive species (including H.S.S. and precursors).

And now.

Go look at it.

That's the scale you're dealing with.



Industrialisation - which will probably be viewed, at that distance, as th entire ascent from concentrating weavers at their looms in 'manufactuaries', to steam, consumerism, and large-scale infirmation systems and the 'Internet of Things'.


Unless the State is the owner

That's actually one of the defining characteristics of fascism, and it seems to be (in the large scale of human ideologies) rather an unpopular one with those people who have been subjected to it.

I'm more worried about what I used as a throw-away in "Glasshouse" as "cognitive dictatorships" -- systems which impose dictated limits on the thinkable thoughts by control of information streams or actual direct brain interfaces. People inside a cognitive dictatorship wouldn't see it as bad; quite possibly they wouldn't even notice the limits on their freedom of cognition, it's just that some ideas would be repugnant or difficult to express semantically in a manner that could be transmitted to other people. Doesn't sound too bad? Consider if the suppressed ideas included abstractions like freedom, emotions reinforcing undesirable primate behaviour patterns like love, or the idea that one shouldn't have to work at whatever one's employer deems apropriate in order to live.


1b) Birth control. Don't think that's a big deal? You might get a different ancestor from your great-great-great grandmother, who had 14 children and NO modern appliances.

Great grandmother, in my case. (My family did the demographic transition thing early in the 20th century, and tended to reproduce at 30-40 year intervals if you follow the male line.)

But seriously, this hit Iran in the 1980s to 2000s. TFR dropped from over 6 to around 1.5 in 2 decades flat.


A couple of random and unimportant thoughts on the later ones

2c. Following the implications of that with the wrong wording would get me banned from every civilised forum I hang out in. Who laughs last laughs longest.

2d. Assuming the concept of infectious disease isn't a footnote in history by then. I'm hoping a milennium of progress will make the concept obsolete, and fearing that a milennium of collapse will make simple infections guaranteed killers.


And if the world was populated at the density of England there would be 50 billion of us. In 1000 years I suspect there may be quite some planetary engineering accomplished.


One more: The emergence -- and decline? -- of the West as the center of civilization. For nearly 10,000 years, the center of civilization was Asia and the Middle East.

During several centuries leading up to the 21st, the hub of civilization shifted to Western Europe and North America.

Beginning in the early 21t Century, civilization shifted back to its historical normal geographical location.


"That's actually one of the defining characteristics of fascism, and it seems to be (in the large scale of human ideologies) rather an unpopular one with those people who have been subjected to it."

Maybe, but every nation has prisons. And they seem rather popular with the general populations, as long as the right people are locked up.


Apart from Africa, the world is on the edge of a population collapse.


Umm, the current mass media act as a "cognitive Dictatorship".


Well.... There are a lot of plants in deserts that get to 50oC, and they've evolved all sorts of tricks for dealing with the heat. I do agree that it's hard for trees, especially if there's no water in the ground (the problem is water potential, not just heat).

The one that's got me and some other botanists scratching our heads is the high heat/high humidity problem posed by Sherwood and Huber's model in PNAS.

We know that high humidity isn't the end of the world, because Bosaso airport in Somalia already has hits that temperature and humidity at least occasionally. Still, I don't know of any research on how plants can survive high heat and high humidity. My gut level guess is that they can, even if humans can't, but it would be nice to find research that tests our gut assumptions.


From Ian McDonald's novel Necroville we have Watson's postulate "The first thing you get with nanotechnology is immortality ", and Disney's corollary "The second thing you get is dinosaurs ".

Or maybe with genetic engineering. Either way, a dramatically increased human lifespan would mean that the dynamics of social evolution would change, to the extent that the period 1700-2300 might be at the limits of living memory for a historian in 3000.

Also, dinosaurs.


dpb - "2c. Following the implications of that with the wrong wording would get me banned from every civilised forum I hang out in. Who laughs last laughs longest."

Oh, go on, spill it. We're up to nearly message 100 -- nobody but us pals here now.

Some people argue that slavery was historically good for Africans, that an African-American today is better off than his or her contemporary in Africa.

In my own case, my ancestors were Eastern European Jews. They fled persecution in their home country to come to America. I'd much rather be an American Jew than living in Eastern Europe right now.

This suggests a broader trend than just the African Diaspora -- a general diaspora of people using modern transportation to find better lives for themselves, with all the cross-cultural pollination that goes along with this.

This is hugely profound and belongs at or near the top of Charlie's historian's megatrends list.


Maybe, but every nation has prisons. And they seem rather popular with the general populations, as long as the right people are locked up.

Maybe, but if you go back 500 years pretty much every nation also held public executions and tortured prisoners; these days that's a minority pursuit.

I suspect (per the Stephen Pinker hypothesis) that in the long term carceral punishment will be superseded by geofencing and tagging, and a switch from retributive to rehabilitative treatment of criminals. Assuming current long term trends continue, of course.


Umm, the current mass media act as a "cognitive Dictatorship".

The current mass media are not deterministic. They can throw thoughts at your head, but they can't make you accept them against your better judgement.


If you look at the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, you find that people are finding oxygen isotope paleothermometers indicating prolonged 40C sea water temperatures.

This is associated with a lot of desertification; it would also be associated with conditions promptly lethal to humans.

So "oh, we'll just genetically engineer our way out of this" is perhaps over-blythe.


Dirk, no, it isn't.

2.1 is the equilibrium birth rate for a population of 7 billion. The population in 1899 was... about 1 billion.

If you want to play magic, go look at the desert and think about Shai-Hulud and the voice from the desert.

If you can't see the past, you certainly can't see the future.


I want you to imagine a history where Babylon and the Nile remained fertile and the surrounding areas never went to desert. A land of landscaped gardens, water reclamation (a la Central American or even Easter Island tech, despite the desperation that produced it) and where ecology was the central tenet.

If you can see that past, then you could possibly see a change by 25th C.

If you can't, and you won't, well then. Join your peers in history.

You're supposed to be the forward thinker, aren't you?


Dirk, this "population collapse" thing is utterly wrongheaded.

You're familiar with the ecological concept of overshoot? What happens when there's no predators and you introduce deer to an island and the population goes well past the carrying capacity before undergoing an ugly crash?

Carrying capacity is not a constant.

Our current food production depends on three things; mechanization, supplemented inputs, and a stable predictable climate for which the crops have been optimized.

Since all three of those things are currently increasingly problematic, carrying capacity is coming down, in ways for which we absolutely have no applicable fix for. (No amount of genetic engineering gets you high crop yields in high heat conditions; there's a reason desert plants bloom rarely.)

So what's actually going on is an uncertain overshoot; we're over, but we don't know how far over.


I don't the hot planet scenario happening. We will decarbonize our energy production this century, and various techniques will be in place to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. If that isn't enough, our industrial base will be able to reduce insolation even if that means putting sunshades in orbit.

Ocean acidification may be much more problematic, and we may lose much of the richness of sea life.

I would lump this in with the urbanization/taming the planet trend.

I would also go out on a limb and suggest the period includes the beginning of interstellar colonization (by machines, not humans).
Our year 3000 history writers will not be human as we know it either, and may characterize the trend as the transition from purely biological humanity to whatever form they are taking by 3000CE.


1. Nationalism and Globalization
2. Industrialization (includes the Scientific Method) of:
Means of production
3. Public Health and Sanitation
4. Literacy and Media
5. Growth of Popular Governments (Intermittently and incompletely)
6. Environmental degradation


Remember that it's not enough to make plants that can survive. The plants have to be edible and nutritious, which means that much of their chemical nature is fixed by our own co-evolved biological requirements.


Well, a lot of the people I hang out with would shun me for pointing that out. Nowt more reactionary than a revolutionary and all :)

Having said that, is the "african diaspora" you mentioned actually noteworthy in itself? A bit of gene mixing makes genetic analysis of history more complex but if everyone ends up cooperating in the long run then it's just blip. If the long run is 300 years then I think it will disappear in the noise.


TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?


Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
And death's my destination.

Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
The stars my destination

What have you already lost?

A world without Lions, Tigers and Bears... well. Burn it all rather than let it all become Disney.


Well, a lot of the people I hang out with would shun me for pointing that out. Nowt more reactionary than a revolutionary and all :)

Having said that, is the "african diaspora" you mentioned actually noteworthy in itself? A bit of gene mixing makes genetic analysis of history more complex but if the long term trend of increased cooperation holds then it's just blip.

If the long run is 300 years then I hope it will disappear in the noise. Still worth mentioning in history books but a dead issue.


The emancipation of women is actually part of an encompassing trend, "humans are not property"

We won't have slavery in the future, but some people may be born into lifelong unpaid internships.


Assuming current long term trends continue, of course.

Has that ever been a reasonable assumption over the course of even a few centuries?


I don't the hot planet scenario happening.

We are absolutely getting at least 2 C already. No way around it. Given current trends -- that is, alien space bats do not show up and force us off all fossil carbon extraction in a 10 year time period -- we're going to hit 4 C by 2100, sure as death, sure as fate.

Extracting carbon from the atmosphere posits a massive energy surplus and an effective means of carbon sequestration. Neither exists, and there are reasons to suppose that the later can't. (Pumping synthetic oil back down the oil wells isn't practical. And making the synthetic oil basically gives us a civilizational energy deficit of every bit of fossil carbon lit on fire since 1000 AD.)


I think your #1 is spot on -- the fossil fuel bubble and all of the things that came with it, good and bad. #2 has to be the back side of that bubble. The fundamental guess about that is whether fusion works. My bet is that fusion isn't ever commercially practical, so the back side is renewables and population decline back to about 1.2B. The decline is ugly -- as were many aspects of the bubble inflating -- but not globally catastrophic, and not just because your guidelines preclude that. In fact, enough tech survives to make global post-industrial practical at that population scale.


Following up on my own post: I reject the idea that slavery was a net gain because African-Americans today are better off than their African peers.

For one thing, they'd be better off still if their home countries hadn't been shattered by slavery.

And for another, I'm not sure they are better off. Africa is a diverse and huge continent, with a big, thriving, growing middle class. All we in the West ever seem to see is famines, massacres, and terrorism.

Similarly, while I feel I am better off as a Jewish American than my Eastern European distant relatives (hypothetical -- I have never met them. They may have been killed off in the Holocaust): We'd all be better off without the pogroms and oppression that drove my ancestors to America.

Just want to get that on the record.


and population decline back to about 1.2B. The decline is ugly -- as were many aspects of the bubble inflating -- but not globally catastrophic,

On a prior thread there were links to epigenetics and Holocaust survivors predisposition towards anxiety.

I'd suggest looking into Germany post WWII (mass rapes etc) or Japan or China (oops.. yeah, no studies there).

You could expand that into Germany 1960's ultra-left revolutionary movements (funded by State Security) or Ultra-Nationalistic revivals in Japan (including an on TV assassination by sword of a high leveled politician) or Mao and the total rejection of the West. Or the CCCP. Hmm.


What. The. Fuck. Do. You. Think. The. Consciousness. Of. Your. 1.2 billion. Survivors. Looks. Like?

Not asking the real questions here. Genocide defines populations long after the event.


Then again, if you can't understand why a world without Lions, Tigers and Bears is going to fuck you up, I'd suggest grabbing some BBC Living Planet docs voiced by David Attenborough right now.


Your environment defines your consciousness.


dpb - The African Diaspora has been just part of an overall global diaspora fueled by advances in transportation and technology: The migration of people all over the world, and settling of the American and Australian continents.


People got to Australia 40,000 years ago.

People got to the Americas at least 15,000 years ago and possibly considerably sooner; that's still contentious and it's quite possible most of the early sites are now under the sea.


Homo Sapiens Sapiens arrived in Australia about 50,000 years ago. Genetic analysis shows that Dev. type and...

Oh, what. It's too ignorant to even be racist.

They all fucking walked / paddled.


Well, that's your Disney future right there. 2001 but they're wearing Mickey Mouse[tm] ears and no-one learns anything.


You'5re not paying attention to what I said, just parroting the prediction if the world is the same but with higher CO2 in the atmosphere. You are entitled to argue that carbon sequestration is hard, but it is clearly possible if we dumped a lot of fast growing plants/trees in the deep ocean. If that cannot be done sufficiently, we shade the Earth. We could create a snowball Earth if we wanted.

What our response will be will depend on a lot of factors, but I don't see letting the Earth heat up to Eocene temperatures being an acceptable response when we could use our resources to mitigate that.

What would it be worth not having to face the costs of permanent massive climate-induced refugee migrations?


Good question. At the moment, nobody seems willing to bother paying the price, even although it clearly won't be much, and probably less than the Iraq debacle.


Well, that's your Disney future right there. 2001 but they're wearing Mickey Mouse[tm] ears and no-one learns anything.

Learning? Luxury!

If we are expecting to return to historical norms anyay.


but it is clearly possible if we dumped a lot of fast growing plants/trees in the deep ocean

Right, so you're trolling.

Not even clever trolling, just standard Monty Python Black Knight trolling.

Well done.

3,999,999,999 bottles on the wall...


Oh, and hands up who has actually bothered to cover genocide here?

You'd be less smug and twattish once you've seen the reality of the situation.


30th Century:

Empathetic Mirror Neurons are no longer damaged by environmental pollutants, socio-psychological trauma through bad parenting and so on. The human mind is what it was 50,000 years ago

Now watch the video again Alex.

Viddy me, my brotha, I'd guess your flippant shit would be a lot less funny.


Remember R. Crumb's "Short History of America" and its two
possible outcomes?


Two possible futures ("worst case" vs.
"techno-fix on the march"):


Has it never occurred to you that the total amount of plant life in the oceans hit its resource constraints something like 1.2 billion years ago? As for "shading the Earth", that's far beyond our (rather pitiful) remaining orbital lift capabilities, and anyway the side effects could easily be as severe as the effects of global warming. Plants need a specific temperature range, but they also need a specific pattern of illumination.


What our response will be will depend on a lot of factors, but I don't see letting the Earth heat up to Eocene temperatures being an acceptable response when we could use our resources to mitigate that.

Why are you assuming we can do something about it, other than ceasing fossil carbon extraction completely and hoping the degree of warming we're going to get based on the current atmospheric carbon load is survivable?

Ocean carrying capacity is already limited, and headed down, and there's absolutely squeaky-damn-all evidence that ocean sequestration rates can be increased, since the primary ocean sequestration mechanism is carbonates and an acidic ocean dissolves already sequestered carbonates. (And a warm ocean releases methane clathrates rather than storing them.) Stuffing terrestrially grown plant matter into an anoxic hole doesn't work well on a scale of centuries; the carbon tends to get out. So the function of the ocean as a net carbon sink is pretty dubious.

Plus I think you're underestimating the sheer mass of carbon involved; you're looking at 200 years of industrial effort, only now we have to reverse it in a decade.

Shading the earth requires building a very large structure in space. We don't have the technological capability to do that. It's not clear if we could pay for it with the present world economy. (Since if you don't have the technological capability it's really hard to price the project accurately.)

You're totally correct that it would be worth the effort, but we can't. We can stop fossil carbon extraction; it would take a total industrial mobilization to do it usefully quickly, but we could certainly do it and we might conceivably get lucky if the market does it rather slower, but I doubt it. Someone managing to put the fear on Davros' total attendees probably isn't enough for a market based solution.


They all fucking walked / paddled

Of course they all walked or paddled. Just when people walked/paddled to the Americas is still contentious.


Graydon - Good point re: settling of Australia and the Americas. I'm giving myself a dope-slap in the forehead now.

Amend my earlier post to read settling of Australia and the Americas BY CIVILIZED PEOPLE. And I'm using "civilized" here in a non-judgmental sense -- I'm not trying to suggest hunter-gatherer societies are inferior or less advanced. Anybody know a better word than "civilized?"


Widespread desertification in the PETM? Have you got a reference for that?*

As a note, the southern Red Sea reports water temperatures around 40oC, which is how they got to a wet bulb air temperature of ~37oC at Bosaso. Apparently the eastern Persian Gulf got pretty close to 40oC in early August, too.

*This isn't a hostile request. Rather, it's something I'm covering in that book I'm working on. I didn't see anything about widespread desertification, and I'd really like to see the reference to make sure I didn't miss something important.


CatinaDiamond: are you thinking an across the board die-off or a segmented one? What if, say, South America keeps most of its population while most other places flat line harder?

I also agree with your comment that this is not the kind of analysis that most modern historians do. This is pop speculation. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I wonder if 1950 or thereabouts is actually going to end up being the end of a big era. We might be living in the murky transition to the next or in a rather short period of its own followed by something quite different. Worse, better? Who knows, but just quite different.


Widespread desertification in the PETM? Have you got a reference for that?

So far as I'm aware, the issue is quantifying the amount; it's obvious that it happened. But because the PETM was quite short in geological terms it's one of those vexed temporal resolution questions.


Amend my earlier post to read settling of Australia and the Americas BY CIVILIZED PEOPLE. And I'm using "civilized" here in a non-judgmental sense -- I'm not trying to suggest hunter-gatherer societies are inferior or less advanced. Anybody know a better word than "civilized?"

Ok, Mitch, this is just wrong.

There were stonking big cities in the Americas. So they were civilized. It's pretty easily arguable that they had a superior agricultural toolkit -- to the point where it's very likely at least one of the civilizations involved understood selective breeding in an empirical way *at least* -- and overall state of technological progress, Inca vs Spanish, is close to a draw at the time of contact. Only the Spanish, and notably the Catholic church, burned their books, so we lost a lot of history.

I don't know of any cities in Australia but "civilized" in that sense is just inherently pejorative.

I'd go with "European". Or "colonizer".


Hi Alex,

So far as carbon sequestration goes, the simple solutions turn out to be annoyingly complex: The two easy ones for us are reforestation and burying carbon in the soil as compost. Indeed, in California there's already legislation to do this, by moving greenwaste around, ideally composting it, and burying it in ranchlands and fields all over the place.

This sounds like a great idea until you realize that California is a major agriculture state, but about half the counties in California have quarantines for major agricultural pests and pathogens, all of which can be moved in greenwaste. State Ag runs a whole elaborate system of skills certification and inspection to try to keep the worst pests from spreading further.

Problem is, the mass-greenwaste bill was written by a whole different bureaucracy (Cal Recycle), who'd never heard of the quarantine issue. Hopefully they're starting to find out now.

The tl;dr version is that if, in sequestering carbon, you spread diseases that take out an agricultural industry, you're really not helping the situation at all. And this doesn't even get into the growing problem of introducing diseases into wildlands.

When it comes to reforestation, the current model is to replant the forests that are already there, paying no mind to the 12 million trees that have been lost so far in the drought. The trees need to survive a century or two to really keep the carbon out of the air for the critical period, and right now, no one has a clue what will survive that long.

And yes, I've been insulted rather viciously by a retired official for pointing this out. Most of the bureaucrats in charge of this don't have the education to think about what a changing climate means. They were brought up on 20th Century preservationism, and it's not clear that they know how to learn any more.

In any case, it's complicated. I'm not preaching doom and gloom, because I do really advocate for sequestering carbon in plants and especially in the soil. It's simply that we can't afford to be stupid and simplistic about it. Right now, I think I'm seeing the start of a "War on Climate Change" that is modeled on the War on Terror, and I don't think it's the right way to solve the problem.


Graydon - Of course you are correct about cities and agriculture existing in the Americas prior to European colonization. This is covered in some detail in 1491, which I have read and loved, as well as in Bill Bryson's "At Home: A Short History of Private Life," the audiobook of which I was listening to JUST THIS MORNING.

My fingers are clearly living a life of their own here.

European colonization it is.


>1. The great fossil fuel binge
Agreed - though I'd phrase it more along the lines of industrialization or mechanization, as may commenters have. In the early years, some of the fuel used was wood, and today, a substantial chunk is hydroelectric and another substantial chunk is nuclear. Perhaps 2115 will have civilization powered mostly by thorium... The broad trend since 1700 has been away from human muscle power.
"From muscles to machines" is a decent summary of the last 300 years.

The demographic transition is another important chunk of the last 300 years, but it is anyone's guess whether it can be sustained. There are potential problems from high-fecundity subgroups bearing enough kids to reverse this trend. Whether that actually happens is anyone's guess.

The cost reductions in transportation and communications are longstanding trends, from clipper ships to containerized shipping, from letters on those ships to electronic communications. Even if we totally screw up the energy supply after the fossil fuels are used up, I doubt that we'd run so low on energy that we'd be unable to power telecommunications.

Looking forwards:
The potential gains from molecular biology and related sciences could be vast, or could be vastly disappointing. Practically every time we think we have an answer to a biological problem, it turns out to be more complex than we thought it was. Look at e.g. the last four or so breakthroughs in cancer treatment that didn't pan out... Even in cases where we know _exactly_ what is going wrong - e.g. sickle cell anemia, where we know the exact base pair responsible, we don't have much better treatments than we had decades ago.

Re the end of work:
Frankly, given what Google was able to do in self-driving cars, and what Watson aka deepQA was able to do with questions in broad ranges of subjects, I expect machines to be able to do the vast bulk of human economic tasks sometime in the next century. I don't see that as a situation that allows stable human existence. Corporations are quite dangerous enough already (do any of them have "with depraved indifference to human life" as part of their official mission statement?). If they can buy what economically amounts to plug-in replacements for their workers, and given that they are also the economic actors that build the component parts for these machines, then they will effectively act like a competing species. It may not be a singularity, but it might still make humans extinct.


Hideous link, but the book has a bibliography which might be useful.

Everything I've seen on the subject says "lots, but it's really tough to pin down". Hadley cell expansion moves the rain belt, and if it's getting warmer at the same time, you get bigger deserts.


Going back to the original question of the five turning points, here's my answer for what 1700-2300 will be remembered for:

1. The beginning of the Anthropocene, with the Columbian Exchange, genocides in the Americas (which may have fueled the Little Ice Age), colonial empires, shipping of people, plants, and animals around the globe, climate change, and the extinction event. No matter what happens next, we can't undo these, only deal with the consequences.

2. The Era of Consumers, as noted above: this gets at the industrial revolution, our consumption of basically every resource we can get our hands on, from coal to uranium to groundwater. This is critical because everyone after us will be reusing stuff we already touched, whether there's a collapse or not. They'll be living in a used and reused world.

3. The scientific revolution: While I think the forces of ignorance are devious, powerful, and have entropy on their side, the scientific model of a universe with evolution and so forth will no more fade than did all the teachings of the Alexandrian scientists, again whatever happens. There's no point in calling rain Zeus pissing through a sieve when you can teach a kid the water cycle almost as quickly and it's a more useful explanation. Indeed, we're still working out the ramifications of how to live in a scientific world.

4. Branching off from #1, I suspect the great political story of 1700-2300 will about global empires, rather than the rise of democracy. No matter what the system of governance is, this era has been dominated by a few big players across the entire planet. While we like to think the 21st Century is the end of empire, we honestly don't know. For instance, we don't know whether there will be another emperor sitting on the Chinese throne in Harbin a few hundred years from now, or whether the communist revolution marks the true end of the Mandate of Heaven. NOr do we know that the USSR marked the end of the Tsars. Imperial politics still dominates the world, with the US, Russia, and China being the current players. o future historians, the history of the British Empire will almost certainly enfold US history, Australian history, and Canadian history, as these will be seen as successors, rivals, and allies, no more independent and different from Britain than we see the Western and Eastern Roman empires from the 4th Century CE. Except, in our case, London takes the place of Rome, not Washington DC.

5. This era will be the Era of Capitalism, marked in its later stages by the skyscraping office towers in the heart of every major city, all of which replaced the temples and palaces that used to be in the hearts. Whatever they do for international commerce 1,000 years from now, I'm pretty sure it won't be called capitalism. Partly this is linguistic shift, but partly it's simply because capitalism has been reworked so many times since it was first invented that I suspect, eventually, the term capitalism will be thrown out in favor of something that has less history and baggage, whatever people do to and with each other.

These predictions can be considered status neutral, in that they'll hold no matter what happens next. I suspect all of them will be true in a world that's slowly recovering from severe climate change and the collapse of civilization, just as much as they'll be true in a world where we avoid both of these disasters. If we start talking about a particular model of the future, then we can talk about particular issues that will be more important in context.


Since you also appear arithmetically challenged.

carbon emissions are currently ~ 6 gigatonnes/yr = 6E12 kg

net primary productivity of forests range from ~ 800-2200 g C /m^2/yr

Assuming just 1 kg/C/m^2/yr you need 6E6 km^2 of forest to fix that carbon.

harvest that and sequester the wood. How much is 6E6 km^2? About 1/3 of the area of North America. So a large fraction of the carbon emissions could be sequestered as wood with forest farms. Obviously this competes with crops, but the point should be made that even without genetically engineering trees, our current emissions could be fixed, and that is before we decarbonize energy production. A century of carbon fixation after decarbonizing energy would likely get us back to pre-industrial CO2 concentrations.

As for shading the Earth, the objections you make are just silly, assuming dumb engineers and no ability to significantly reduce costs of space access and/or asteroid resources.


Thanks Graydon. That's a really good book that I recommend to everyone, but I think I got a different impression than you did.

What happens is that the Hadley Cells move poleward, so the southern edges green up while the northern edges dry out. We focus on increasing desertification, because it affects the American Southwest and the Mediterranean basin. However, the Sahel on the southern Sahara is greening, as is the southern Sonoran desert in Mexico. It's not clear whether deserts increase in total or not, at least AFAIK.


I've read that recarbonizing the soil could completely reverse the CO2 in te atmosphere. While the ag issues you point out are issues, we are not limited to doing this in ag states, we could do this in many areas of the US, and even globally.

I would suggest that we just lack the will to implement measures that would get us to our goal, preferring to dither with "free market" solutions, making the transition ever harder.

Just a few years ago people were saying it was pointless for the US to stop using carbon fuels because China was now the problem, yet China is m0ow the largest producer of solar panels on the planet and is actively bending the curve on carbon emissions.

While there are complications, I don't see these as unsolvable. For example, plant material can be made into biochar which I think is fairly sterile. A partial solution is going to be better than no solution if we continue to hold off doing anything. This is after all a global problem that is potentially civilization destroying.


Won't it be:
wormhole interstellar travel
wormhole interstellar travel
wormhole interstellar travel
wormhole interstellar travel
wormhole interstellar travel

The 18th century includes easy revolution back, steam back, steam travel by our steamboat, electricity, and calculus. Which one do you choose, or actually 5/6?

Easy revolution alot else happened in classical times. Like an astonishing amount of else. And alot happened much than you think.


The chief impression I have is that you can get a new desert and new herbivorous insects very fast, and that the places you're likely to get a new desert are very bad in terms of current agricultural production.

Shifting the rain belt doesn't do us much good if the agriculturally-suitable rain is falling where there isn't suitable dirt; having the southern edge green up in the Americas just hasn't got much land to fall on. Having the Sahara shift north into southern Europe isn't good, either.

Oligocene paleoclimate maps have the entire continental US as "arid". That would be bad; moving the temperate zone northward moves it into areas that just don't have soil, and wouldn't develop soil quickly.

And yes, the Oligocene is +8 compared to the baseline, narrower Atlantic, Panama not closed, etc., but it wouldn't be all that hard to get to +8. Just starting to get there would be highly sub-optimal.


I don't see the technical problems as critical showstoppers either.

In responding to climate change, I really think our primary problems are political in the broadest sense of people problems, not technical problems. We're too worried about things like money and power and who loses these, and not worried enough about the system that supports both money and power falling apart under the strain. For instance, it looks like composting is turning into a fight over who regulates the solid waste industry, and technical concerns like quarantining diseases have so far gotten lost in the scuffle.

My biggest issue is with a "War on Climate Change" that depends on '00s style crisis capitalism to make people rich off carbon sequestration. Responding to climate change will work better with a whole complex of locally adapted solutions that mobilize people, rather if the solutions are tailored to enriching a few key players. I could be wrong on this, but we'll see.


I'll have to get that book out again.

It'll probably be considerably wetter as well as hotter north of the deserts, so the world will have this weird biome pattern of: tropics, desert, tropics to 40oN/S, paratropical forests (think Florida, Yunnan, or India) from 40oN-50oN in continental interiors, to 65oN/S on the coasts, broad-leaved evergreen forests (think southeastern US, southern China) to 70oN, and deciduous forest like, say, New York or Wisconsin from 70-90oN, with a New Zealand or Chilean-style evergreen forest in Antarctica if someone imports some southern beeches down there. If the invasive beavers from Patagonia make it to Antarctica, the resulting forest will look much more northern.

The source for this from Willis and McElwain's Evolution of Plants, Second Edition, and it's the generalized biome map for the late Paleocene/early Eocene. For the PETM itself, there are only three fossil sites I know of: Cerrejon Colombia, Castlerock Wyoming, and Chickaloon Alaska (why C's? I have no clue), and they generally agree with the pattern described here.


Hopefully this will inspire someone to consider talking about this in historian circles. Ten years ago I was inclined to do my advanced degrees on this very topic but most academics I spoke to didn't want their program to touch it; too cross-disciplinary, too technology oriented, and in the words of one department chair, "too disturbing to ponder."


The destruction, through obsolescence of storage materials, of _some_ - as in ... quite a whole whole lot (given the tendency to store most everything on digital storage that may become unreadable in the near future)- was something I first heard about only fairly recently and first saw used in a novel (in any form, and as a major idea- apologies for inexactness of speech) - in your aforementioned "Glasshouse", actually...

still, it seems to me that even without _total_ destruction of archival records, this more predictably-likely decimation of archival records will have an effect. Not sure how much, though, on second thought...
this is not something historians are at all unused to, of course; records of past events, biography, even sometimes trends can be very piecemeal, the connections sometimes guesswork... (dates the layperson gives confidently as dates of birth - ok, I'm a layperson, not a historian, but *handwaves* - are known to the historian often to be boundary conditions, e.g. "this is when Beethoven was _baptised_, we just don't know exactly when he was _born_"- for one well-known but minor example...)


It is a neat idea. While I'm not in the humanities, I suspect the topic that would get the PhD would be a study of how current attitudes influence what we think future history will remember of us. One could use such a study as a study of present models, attitudes, and foci, and do it as a survey across multiple historians or some such.


In my lifetime alone, active participation in organised religion has dropped from 50 per cent of the population to 20 per cent. I suspect the cause is better education, worldwide. By 2300, I suspect we'll worship rather different Gods.


Wow. That's a tough one.
I see a lot of things I'd have claimed. One that's left is the Columbian Exchange. It's part and parcel of the simplification of the ecology/anthropecene extinctions. It's also some of the biggest changes in food.


This is an impossible exercise, since it involves predicting 300/1000 years into the future. Here are a few more, in no particular order.

(1) The gradual end of fixed lifespans. Lifespans increase over the interval, and near the end of it, death became an accidental or deliberate event.
(2) The supplanting of pure short term greed as the primary organizing principle of society. (Greed is stupid. See 3.)
(3) (Breaking one of the rules) The rise of intelligence, starting with universal education and communication and knowledge bases and then continuing with the rise of machine intelligences, both in human styles of cognition and in other styles, and including augmentation of human intelligence.
(4) The slow rise of the atmospheric CO2 crisis and subsequent partial remediation. (Maybe something like: "Emergency measures involving crudely modeled use of thermonuclear devices provided several decades of remediation, sufficient time for our ancestors to construct the first extraplanetary controls over insolation. Early inter-regional disputes over the use of the apparatus for weather control were eventually resolved peacefully. (see 3)")

I am assuming that the future historian exists, so we survive the increasing democratization of mass ultraviolence (both physical and to organizational structures), the state panopticon crisis, etc. And also no thermonuclear war or large asteroid/comet impact or malicious alien intervention or other such surprise event.


Which population are you talking about? Worldwide, Islam alone is about 20% of the population (although "organized" is a strong word). Throw in about 2.2 billion Christians, a billion or so Hindus, and about half a billion Buddhists and the (at least nominally) religious seem to have a majority of the global population.

@Alex: As a general rule, forests require at least a meter of rainfall per year (more is better). North America is, in contrast, increasingly drought-prone. Also, human capabilities for space travel are a remnant of what they were 30 years ago, and there's not much likelihood of that trend reversing in the next few decades.

@Heteromeles: I see your point, but using locally adapted solutions often involves giving up rather large economies of scale that we've already become at least somewhat dependent on.


History 201-section 002- "The Technological Era" Test 1

Please select the answer that you feel is most correct.

1. The Enlightenment most closely corresponds to which of the following:
a) When humanity invented the light bulb
b) When humanity invented the atomic bomb
c) When humanity adopted science and reason

2. The Industrial Revolution refers to:
a) A famous rock band from the early 2100's
b) The transition to mass manufacturing in the 1700's
c) The collapse of the global economy in 2250

3. The Internet, otherwise known as the World Wide Web, consisted of which of the following:
a) When our robotic overlords arrived from the future
b) The famous "6 degrees of Separation" study
c) A global network of interconnected digital computers

4. General Artificial Intelligence, otherwise known as "Synthetic People", arose due to which of the following precursor advancements:
a) The successful mathematical modeling of the human mind
b) The arrival of our robotic overlords from the future
c) When the Internet became self aware

5. Cheap and accessible nano-technology, including a functional bio-interface and personalized manufacturing applications, contributed to which of the following social-cultural changes:
a) The rise of the Techno-Mages
b) The replacement of the "Consumer Culture"
c) Mass hysteria regarding fears of a "Grey Goo Plague"

6. Advances in Bio-Engineering during this period resulted in which benefits:
a) Trans-humans who can live in a vacuum
b) Intelligent animals who speak a human language
c) A multi-fold increase in the human life-span

7. The global population "collapse" to a sustainable level for the planet Earth resulted in which of the following social changes:
a) The elimination of "territory" as a focus of inter-group competition
b) A dystopia of abandoned urban structures where it rains every day
c) The return of an ecological balance between humans and Gaia

8. The development of a practical means of faster than light travel was made possible by:
a) Faster than light travel is scientifically demonstrated to be impossible
b) Refinements in our understanding of the Special Theory of Relativity
c) Contact with an alien race who look just like ancient Egyptian Gods

9. The settlement of the solar system and the growth of large population centers other than Earth has contributed to which of the following cultural trends:
a) The rise of syncretic religions based on the ingestion of an extra-terrestrial chemical
b) The widespread presence of independent space traders who follow no rule but their own
c) The militarization of the orbital zones surrounding the major planets and other populations centers

10. Advances in neuro-psychology and micro behavioral engineering have resulted in which of the following:
a) The near elimination of most mental and psycho-social disorders
b) Only those with an Ultraviolet Security Clearance should be aware of this information
c) "Happiness is Mandatory!"

Extra-credit: Discuss your reaction to the above questions in your own words.

Please submit this form when you are finished.


>2300 - 4 billion dead.

If CD's estimate is right, I'd say there is still about a 50/50 chance that, at the level of a popular history of 1700-2300, anthropogenic global warming might be forgotten.
The black death of the 14th century is widely remembered, but
the plague of Justinian
with about 25% mortality, is something I'd never heard of
till I googled the early middle ages, looking for a period
that is about as far from us as we are from the hypothetical
3000 AD popular history of this period.


The rise of corporate power.
The rise of ubiquitous surveillance.


Even the popular memory of the Black Death is in reduced form. We remember the European outbreaks of the disease, but (at least in the West) not so much that it also devastated large parts of the Middle East and China.

I'm going to predict that the wave of climate change is not going to be the Climate Apocalypse that kills most of humanity or brings about the collapse of civilization (even disregarding the rules mentioned in the OP), although it will be unpleasant and expensive to adapt to. Keep in mind that the Earth has been through abrupt climate change before, including a Younger Dryas shift that may have involved a multi-degree Celsius temperature change within a handful of years (not decades, years). Humanity and most life on Earth survived that transition, although some of the megafauna species did not (the combo between that and human predation may have done in most of the mammoths and other iconic Ice Age megafauna).

85 years (the time to 2100 CE and a 4 degree Celsius rise) is a long time in the post-industrial age. I'm pretty certain that by then we'll be either decarbonized or well on our way to it, and we'll be adapting to climate change (or slowing it down with sulfate aerosols disbursed into the atmosphere). After that, it mostly becomes a waiting game and a decision on whether to try and keep things at the higher temperature, or lower them back down and put all life on Earth through the temperature transition again.

I'd expect the trend towards staying indoors in air-conditioned spaces to become even more prominent, especially in hotter areas. A lot more mammalian wildlife will shift towards being active in the evening and night.


Not exactly. Justinian's plague was close to 1,500 years ago. 3000 AD is a thousand or so years from now, and the massive deaths from plague/famine/etc would be in our future, so less than a thousand years from 3000 AD. A better comparison would be the Black Death of the 14th Century. So I think they'd remember it.

A curious related matter is the assumption of continued secularization. Secularization has come among people and societies where lives have become more predictable, secure and pleasant, at least for now. It seems pretty likely the ability of secular technology to provide a better world has something to do with the decline of religion. Now we're assuming a future apocalypse that in relative terms is optimistically comparable to the Black Death and pessimistically comparable to the die-off among Native American populations following first contact with Europeans. And this will be a direct consequence of secular, industrialized society. In a cruel and capricious world where the secular order has failed, a turn back to religion seems possible. Also note our host's suggestion of social network communities. New religions seem like a highly effective base for such communities. Perhaps the scholars of 3000 AD will marvel at a past world where most people felt they could do without faith.


At the risk of being pedantic, Texas with a population of 7 billion would still have less than 1% of the population density of Kowloon City. Your point about swift and ugly death following still stands.


OK, if I was going to predict five themes:

1. The Singularity* industrial/innovation revolution which leads to

2. The human revolution - a shift from a patriarchal world where the overwhelming majority of people are illiterate peasant farmers with a high rate of death in childhood and a low chance of reaching old age to one with a literate, educated and more egalitarian population where relatively few people do physical labor and death is rare until old age.

3. The information revolution - where vasts amounts of data can be transmitted all over the world and everyone has access to extraordinary knowledge and people can form communities with people all over the world which ties into

4. the globalization revolution where the world is united into a single society and increasingly a single community or at least a network of communities that form a "world wide web." Corresponding increased global dependency. And perhaps most importantly...

5. The ecological revolution. Humanity always influenced its environment but the Singularity created societies which for the first time could radically alter the ecology on a global and potentially catastrophic scale, Fortunately in the 21st Century -

and here the manuscript breaks off.

*Singularity refers here to the transformation of humanity from 1700-2300 AD, NOT the Rapture of the Nerds.

To be honest I'm not sure about a lot of these changes would persist in the face of catastrophe or even otherwise. Patriarchy may never completely go away - top ranks of society continue to be male dominated and in the US at least Ivy League educated women have a lower workforce participation rate than women from more ordinary colleges. China has a majority male population which historically tends to act against feminism. We have to get food, clothing and shelter in meatspace, so if we have a wave of plagues and famines the survivors will be those who found allies among their neighbors, not in a global virtual community. Likewise, global catastrophes might turn people away from relying on global networks in favor of local ones. Not to mention that again a massive catastrophe might kill industrialized civilization with future generations being unable to re-industrialize.


Incidentally, Paul Krugman has an old but interesting take on the 21st Century.


The colonial era, which actually began before the period in question, juddered to a halt (at least formally) in a brutal outbreak of violence during the 20th century. We can see the first movement toward a truly global civilization around this time, if we can see past the continued acceptance of vast and easily preventable suffering even in the aftermath of these events. The taste of war may have become bitter, but that curious blindness to other forms of suffering continued for a surprisingly long time. This blindness took the form of various "ideologies", democracy, socialism, mature stage capitalism, that appear more similar than different in retrospect.


I imagine there'll be something on the lines of the rise and fall and rise of empires, perhaps with a diversion into the curious period of a century or two when many parts of the world experimented with a curious form of ordering society called democracy.

Actually, 'empire' will probably have fallen out of use or just be used to describe earlier prototype versions of the societal order that keeps everything working. I imagine there'll be a profitable career path for popular historians explaining all those weird assumptions and rituals of democracy that seem as alien to them as early feudalism is to us.


Individual people, even hugely influential thinkers and rulers and tyrants, are a jumbled mass of names with dates attached.

Yes and no.

History has a habit of both looking through the lens of the 'forcing functions' of society AND through the actions of individuals. That's particularly true of cultures that fetishise the individual over the group (eg the US).

As such any putative history from the future would be picking out individuals and ascribing events to them.

Two major areas that would be identified would be

  • "the fossil fuel dieoff" (the chain of the exploitation of fossil fuels, the explosion of population, the greenhouse effect, the end of fossil fuels, and the die off of at least half of that population);
  • "the explosion of cognition" (the creation of thinking machines, smart matter, and uploading/the end of death).
These would get people attached, not just in the industrial revolution (Babbage would be in there) but also in the present day (Hubbert & Lovelock), and, of course, the future. Those individuals would be picked to play nice with the narrative the historians wanted to present (probably one of overbearing hubris and greed).


Oh help!
I go away for a day & find 159 comments on a fascinating subject.
OK: IGNORING intermediate comments & going back to Charlies original points:
1, 2, 3 probably
4 cobblers - if only because world population will diminish, either through education & falling birth-rates or through wars or both ... down to something between 5 & 1 billion humans.
5 possibly, assuming we don't have "Glasshouse"-style information wars, of the sort that Da'esh are waging right now ....
#2 misses the first, essential stage - what we call "the industrial revolution" - in three stages, even before infotech came along.
The canal-buiding fixed-steam, loom-manufacture stage
1715 - 1815.
The bit most people think of when "industrial revolution" is mentioned, 1815-1905, steam & coal-powered with electricity & turbines appearing in that stage.
1905-1975 powered flight & the development of other electrical devices, including primitive "computers"
THEN the info-take-off: JANET/Web/Google etc
And the slow but accelerating switch away from fossil fuels.


THAT is an information war, "Glasshouse" style as being waged by Da'esh & some US rethuglicam senators.
We hop they will lose, if only because the benefits of scientific information should manifest themselves.

Mind you, I've come across morons decrying science & scientists, whilst using the internet ....


Except the Enlightenment is absolutely anything at all except "Jacobin"
Think Erasmus Darwin & J Priestley & Wedgewood & Joseph Banks, instead, please?


That religions, all religions, but especially Patriarchal religions get thoroughly intellectually nuked.
Otherwise it's back to: "Cattle, women & slaves" isn't it?


But, at the same time, world birth-rates are dropping.
AND the better the education, the faster they drop.
See Charlie's example of Iran/Persia, for Ghu's sake!

IF we can keep that up, probably by simply killing all the priests, then ...
What overpopulation?
And GW will go the same way, because there will be fewer people, & those people using their energy-sources more efficiently.
Note the conditionals in there, though.

That's actually one of the defining characteristics of fascism, and it seems to be (in the large scale of human ideologies) rather an unpopular one with those people who have been subjected to it.
There's a reason why, among all the european states, Germany has the strongest personal data laws.

I'm surprised that the news about the german intelligence freely sharing all their data and spying on anyone (including germans) on request from NSA hasn't caused more problems for the government. I guess the number of people who actually remember the Stasi is below a threshold now...


We do not have to get 4C
We might get 3, we are likely to get 2.
Remember that the US rethuglicans, though influential are a tiny minority & they are losing, very slowly, but they are losing


There are dates for the earliest artifacts found.
That is the date of first settlement.
If earlier artifacts are found, then the date will be pushed back.
Anything before the last glacial maximum is impossible & it must be before Beringia drowned.


Westphalia is only 52 years before the beginning of your period.

The rise of the state and of interstate equality, and of the nation, and then the alignment of the two into the nation-state is a key part of the history of the 1700-2015 period.

It's possible that this may be starting to break down - if "failed states" come to be regarded as "terra nullius", then that would be a huge step in that direction, for example.

Alternatively, suprastate multinational structure may develop ways of interacting with people without working through the state structures (the EU does a tiny bit of this). But the era of states in international relations could well be how the period is taught in IR history classes.


One thing that has not been mentioned - 1700 is the approximate invention of a reliable method for determining Longitude and concurrently maintaining consistent time. In other words, 1700-2000 was the point when we went from rough approximations of navigation based on solar positions to accurate measurement and knowledge of time and space.

And that triggered the global diaspora, when society moved from being limited to the distance a horse could travel in a day to being ethnically and culturally diverse, across the globe.

Even looking back and concatenating events together, we would have to separate the forcible slave migrations for agricultural reasons (1400-1800) from the massive rise in voluntary migration of people around the world (1700-2050).

It's the equivalent of the expansion of city states into nations, and that would still be profoundly visible a thousand years in the future.

I imagine 300 years later we would be discussing the rise of the global state out of the squabbling nations, and the peculiar obsession that the nations had with totem animals for their sporting teams.


You mean mitochondrial DNA studies on living subjects? Sure, though it doesn't preclude multiple migrations. Physical archaeology has it a bit longer, 60-70,000 years ago (possibly up to 100,000). Graydon isn't wrong, 40,000 was the general consensus when I was in high school and I'm sure is still taught in places. There have been claims of 200,000 or higher, but these may be based on the one thermoluminescence study.

I don't mean to be facetious, but there are 6 billion people now, and, techno-immortality notwithstanding, I imagine at least 67% of those will die in the next 300 years. I know this isn't what you mean, you're talking about sudden, deliberate gigadeaths, much like we certainly seemed to make a good start with the megadeaths in the 20th C, but I suppose I don't share the sense of the inevitability of genocide, much as I might think the world's human persona is getting worse fast enough to perhaps justify this.

Back on topic: 1700-2300 == the rise, apotheosis and sudden collapse of the nation state as a form of human organisation. Not sure whether the collapse will be caused by war, famine, pestilence, climate change or people simply getting a fucking clue for just once in bloody history. Actually the last point is excessively dubious.


1700 - 2300 will be the Age of Pollution.

Most of the stuff other commenters post can be subsumed under "how to better pollute this planet" (urbanization, transportation, fossil fuel burning, scientific method, industrial revolution, nuclear energy, nation states, ...).
If there exist any humans in 3000 CE looking back, they'll see how humanity found a way to transform to a steady state ecosystem between 2100 and 2300. 200 years might be enough time to clean up some of the mess we made in the last century.


... and 2300 - 3000 might be enough time to put a thin layer of sediments over the stuff we didn't clean up.


That sounds a lot like what Orwell was thinking about NewSpeak in 1984 - just without needing Sapif-Whorf to be true.


The mistake is really about assuming European contact is the moment that makes those peoples interesting. No cities in Oz, but large populations in complex and interconnected, thoughtfully tended game (and other wild-food) reserves. Possessed of a significantly higher proportion of leisure time than we are. At least hundreds, possibly thousands of distinct languages which embedded an oral culture of tens of thousands of years.

Contact was certainly interesting for the Europeans, of course. Arguably contact was a major ignition source in the explosion that was the Enlightenment.


I don't mean to be facetious, but there are 6 billion people now, and, techno-immortality notwithstanding, I imagine at least 67% of those will die in the next 300 years.

I'm pretty convinced that 100% of all people now living will die in the next 300 years.

I know this isn't what you mean, you're talking about sudden, deliberate gigadeaths, much like we certainly seemed to make a good start with the megadeaths in the 20th C, but I suppose I don't share the sense of the inevitability of genocide, much as I might think the world's human persona is getting worse fast enough to perhaps justify this.

We had a similar discussion in another thread. If the carrying capacity of Earth lies at 1.x billion humans, the outlook is very, very dim. If we can sustain 10 billion humans for one or two generations (i.e. 20-50 years) and then manage a steady decline to a sustainable level within 200 years, that would be optimal (but unlikely).


That's another point about the year 3000 - probably almost all existing languages will be extinct. English will still be a dominant component of a global language, but submerged like Latin is in English.


This century - and perhaps this very decade - will be taught in 2305 as the moment of Enlightenment.

Prior to Enlightenment, swarming vermin lived chaotic and unsanitary lives of violence and exploitation, their prehuman minds remaining undeveloped and dominated by sociopathic egotism and ignorance.

Students in the Alpha class will proceed to study of the Elightenment itself: the rise to Reason and societal harmony, facilitated by the wise and beneficient gaze of pervasive Surveillance. You will be introduced to the concepts of deviant subhuman consciousness, crime, disease, and the inherently destructive nature of a structureless societies.

Students in the Beta Class will study the origins of consciousness, the artistic achievements of our prehuman ancestors, and their relevance to Art.

Students in the Gamma Class will study the practical skills of environmental recomplexification.


...With apologies to Aldous Huxley.


Well, to start with, that's when the population doubling time went from around 1000 years to around 50 years—and then did whatever it's going to do in the second half of the period: massive die-off, reaching a new equilibrium, or even continuing to double till we reach half a trillion by the end of the period.

You've got the birth of systematic natural science as a method and as an organizational mode, right around 1700, and a century or two later, the first technologies that are created by natural science, probably starting with aniline dyes and radio (thermodynamics started by analyzing steam engines that had already been invented without much theoretical basis, which isn't the same thing). Conceivably that might come to an end too.

You've got ecological imperialism and the massive spread of plants (and to a lesser degree animals) to new biomes. I suppose that the transformation of humanity into something approximating a single epidemiological pool would fall under that head.


Coming in late (because, other side of the world)

1) Global warming (Greenland might be a nice place to live)
2) The industrial/technological revolution
3) Urbanisation
4) Population crash -- due to overpopulation or pandemic (combined with effects of rapid increase in global warming leading to famine)
5) The fall of governments -- replaced with a rise of multinationals as a power

I could go on.

Maybe by around 3000 we're looking at another dark age, or coming out of one. And the West definitely won't be the dominant power.

Likewise, I don't think we'll have equality. Sadly, that seems to come and go, and from what I can see, most societies (even matriarchies) tend to turn into patriarchies in the end.

I'm also thinking we'll have another flip of the poles. Not sure why, or even what impact it might have.


Over that time frame, lets be wishful, the beginning and end of commodity society...


Here's what one present day actual historian (Thomas Parke Hughes) suggested in answer to that question (paraphrase):

When historians look back on this period they will remember it as the first period in human history in which humans came to live predominantly in a human built world (technology). They consciously sought to create a second Eden (human created rather than God created) with their increasing faith in rational progress. Much like with the original Eden story, their followed a period of disillusionment and even downfall (holocaust, environmental destruction) due to their increasing technological know-how.
Political events, economic events, all pale in contrast to this fundamental transformation of the human experience.
Speaking for myself i think it is fair to say this transformation is only accelerating.

Thomas Hughes was a founder of the field of History of Technology. His Pulitzer Finalist book related to this theme is "American Genesis."

P.s. I am horribly biased, being his son :). However, his being a Pulitzer Finalist speaks to the legitimacy of his opinion as an Historian.


I can't see that any one mentioned drugs. Drugs like cannabis and opium were (as far as I can tell) only widely restricted in the late 19th and into the 20th century. I.e. it's only been in the last 150 odd years that legal restrictions have been placed on recreational drugs (ignoring taxes on gin and similar, as other alcohol was still easily available)

I foresee in the next hundred years a wide-spread relaxation of the legislation around recreational drugs will occur.

Thus, this time period we are in is a (large enough to warrant mention) aberration in the way that drugs are treated legally and societally.


This gets into the distinction between committed warming and observed warming.

Observed is at 0.8 C.

Committed, well, we don't really know. How much methane is going to come up out of the ocean? what do the feedbacks look like as the Arctic loses sea ice? All that stuff.

Then there's the minimum time to stop fossil carbon extraction and shift the economy to some other energy basis. That's at least a decade just on things like construction time. So fossil carbon emissions will continue for at least that much longer.

Calling committed at only 2 C is very questionable at this point in time. It's also very worrying, because 2 C is looking like a very optimistic threshold for "will break agriculture". Are we going to be committed to 4 C by 2020? Very probably.

Is that going to be Too Late in a bunch of significant senses? Also very probably.


Totem animals? That puts you somewhere in the US of A. Very much not fashionable on this(east) side of the pond.


18th century scientific method.
19th century industrialisation.
20th century globalisation.
21st century biotech matures. Vertical farming ends dependency on land for farming. 6th global extinction event averted.
22nd century spaceage begins (Space cadet. Can't help it :)
23rd century magic age “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” A. C. Clarke


From the standpoint of population genetics, the remixing of populations that had been reproductively isolated for tens of thousands of years may be considered a major consequence. It got started a few centuries before 1700, but from the perspective of 3000 CE that may seem unimportant.


That depends on your sport: the Springboks and the Lions in the sport that doesn't require wussy shoulder pads, for example.

(OK, the Lions is a multi-national team, and the Springboks are somewhat further south than 'east side of the pond' usually implies.)


All of the 5 Big Things are but rubble rolled about by the Columbian Exchange. True, Enlightenment is independent, but the rest are contingent upon discovery of the New World. Late 20th cent. Capitalism merely looks like it won, when in fact only subsidized, like Reagan's mythical Cadillac driving welfare queen. Fossil fuels? Certainly a big impact, but the first and most important thing not to ignore is Food!

Nothing else happens without it. Of course, nowadays with the meta this and that, the data about food is worth far more than the food itself. And what with the cyberarms race, with us building these giant Irish elk antlers contained on server farms at the expense of who knows what, I don't know.

So, regardless:

1) The triumph of the command economy, through panoptic consumerism, IOT, enforced electronic telepathy, and the mathematization and fidelity of all resource streams.
(1 a) the end of arbitrage, or rather, the maximum light speed setting of which
2) The Big Squeeze (the push of ocean life towards the poles).
3) The triumph of the concept of liberty over freedom (the quaint ancient unwritten and/or medieval concepts of freedom) - or - this is your brain on approved topics
4) that's all I got.


I like this question a lot. In thinking about it I was trying to think what I know today about the period 800-1400, which is not very much. (I’m a history student, but the early modern period is usually as far back as I go.) But historians of that era know quite a bit, and I expect historians in the distant future will have an even better idea of our times simply because there will be more surviving sources – the question assumes it, but even if it didn’t there are far more written materials to be lost from our time than there were from 1400.

The question also assumes that human civilisation survives to the 30th C more-or-less in tact, but it’s difficult to know how historians of the distant future will conceptualise the past. The received view of history, for example, as the story of technological, political and social progress of humanity, is itself historically-constructed. But this ‘Whig history’, a product of the Enlightenment, isn’t well-received in academia, and if that tradition is preserved then future historians are likely to be suspicious of terms like ‘turning points’.

So I’m going to assume these future historians would re-construct the 18th-23rd Century thematically, if only because it represents one possibility and therefore seems as good as any other. As such, this is what I imagine the outline of a first-year course on “Early Modernity: 1700-2300” would look like.

-'Globalisation' will cover how the world became thoroughly traversable and interconnected in a few hundred years. It will cover the slave trade, imperialism, global capitalism, urbanisation and regional political entities, touching on global inequality, linguistic hegemonies and nationalism.

-'Extinction' will follow how humans have affected the environment. It will cover industrialisation, anthropogenic global warming [including deaths due to climate change], species-level extinction, and the development of large-scale environmental engineering. A particular focus will be the 1-2 billion human lives lost in the fallout of climate change. [It might also cover how we 'tainted' the genetic record with our early, ham-fisted attempts at genetic engineering – I imagine cladistics becomes a bitch when you start putting banana genes in elephants.]

-'Enlightenment' will cover the shifting political, social and religious developments in society. It will look at statehood, parliamentary democracy, Christianity and Islam, institutional science, eugenics, and the Holocaust.

-'Discovery' will cover the technological developments of the era, particularly with respect to nuclear energy and space exploration, but will also cover medicine and biology. [Most of our science/technology would be seen as a precursor to the truly exciting stuff that happened in the 24th-31st Centuries, and therefore this course would only run through the basics.]

-‘Society’ will cover social and political inequalities, the construction or state of categories such as race, sexuality and gender, and the popular artistic movements of opera, spaghetti westerns and muncent serials.


I'm thinking something similar to the overthrow of the Aristotelian universe by Newton but this time the orbs and the heavens are the self and 'society'.

1. Racism dies because it's no longer technically possible to identify any of the old races due to intermarriage. (This for a short-term led to some serious immunological issues ... HLA typing for transplant, etc.) There is some evidence that new 'races' might emerge however this is considered to be of very low probability. (Socio-economic loci are being monitored nevertheless.)

2. Social/caste systems undergo similar disintegration/assimilation (for similar reasons) but at a slower rate. (See: Late 30th century scholars say the role of religion in self-knowledge through emotional mirroring should be rejected as trivial despite persistently strong hedonism correlations.) Self-identity with ' a cause' had previously been thought to mostly/only correlate strongly with economic worth.

3. Energy ('you eat what you are') ... food production is tied to physiological need. Implants and gene modifications show over a 99.99% success rate in balancing appetite and food availability. Eating for pleasure continues, although due to substantive changes in taste perception during the epigenetic originated anhedonia plague, is rarely experienced. The 0.01% individuals experiencing eating disorders tend mostly toward complete food aversion (anorexia 84.5%) rather than 'gluttony' (15.5%).

4. 'You are your own worst enemy' - Repeated hacks of social media starting in the early 21st century altered thinking related to adolescent socialization and maturation. This ('You are your own worst enemy') truism is largely thought to have come about in the early 21st century when private teenage angst became public humiliation by 'schoolyard bullies' or the 'in-crowd' leading to increases in teen suicide. Despite public efforts to stem 'cyber bullying', teen suicide continued to claim as much as 1.5% of all teenagers. Efforts to secure private data also failed. Finally, in desperation, the publishing of any personal/private musings online or where a member of the public might find them became outlawed, i.e., 'The Live in your own head' movement. As the overall proportion of adolescents continued to decline as a percent of total population due to increased life spans, there was a concomitant increase in both human and AI attention focused on all 'in development' persons, i.e., psychologically, socially, cognitively and/or economically immature. Within 50 years, the teen suicide rate declined to fewer than one a year.

5. 'Interchangeable cogs in a machine'... by the late 25th century scholars noted that the universal access educational system had been producing increasingly 'technologically adept' graduates. This was regardless of whether the students were in the so-called Arts, Sciences or BizTech programs. All fields of studies ultimately taught only one core subject: statistics/mathematics. That is, the deciphering of underlying rules of that (or any) discipline. Thus, the reference to some underlying algorithm was as likely to be mentioned by an EngLit graduate as by a geneticist, social scientist or marketer. (This algorithmic-thinking aptitude was tested in a series of government elections and appointments - double-blinded research studies - where individuals who otherwise would not have been considered were placed into positions of authority/responsibility and were found to have succeed as well as those 'destined/born to/educated' into those positions.) Studies related to levels and types of artistic expression among graduates of various programs are in progress.

Comment: Historians try to identify/list what they think might be the 'big reasons'. However this is just guess work. Also, when two extreme/opposite forces are at work at the same time, historians report but do not explain why or how this can be.


> asteroid resources

One possibility for the second half of the period might be non-sentient AI robotic factories with self-replication capability in space. Think Saberhagen's Berserkers, but dumber and nicer. Given such, large-scale projects could be undertaken using asteroidal material with little additional stuff being launched from Earth.

Of course, if the 2000 - 2300 period is taken up with vast climatic catastrophies and gigadeath die-offs, the robots might take a bit longer to appear.


It's the authors' sandbox, and he can do anything he wants with it,

BUT, I see a mixture of Polyanish thinking (We will decarbonize and everything will be hunky dory) and disaster scripting. We are living in a brief interregnum (Between the end of the short, violent twentieth century) and the Global Warming and Ecological Catastrophes predicted in the near term future; This brief era "didn't happen" on the scale the author is writing about.

I am inclined to be a pessimist, but don't think the "West" is dead yet.

China could very well self-destruct, read an article this weekend about how much of their arable land is now carrying a devastating level of Toxic Pollution. Much of their water supply is similarly polluted. And regime legitimacy is now potentially in play, so you get the collapse of the Soviet Union with Baroque (Grotesque?) flourishes. And Famine.

What does the world do when the Indian Monsoon Fails? With anthropogenic warming, this is almost surely going to happen. the question is will the disaster happen ten years out, or fifty?

Another case, the worldwide exhaustion of groundwater aquifers, among other things, that is going to make the whole middle east look like Syria and Yemen.

So, three "Major" crisis points, plus the potential for at least one more spasm of traditional "State on State" conflict, in which the above may or may not play a role.

To partially answer those who see Religion withering away, why does Pope Francis get so much Press? Not quite "The Shoes of the Fisherman" (Watched that Cold War artifact on cable a couple of months ago), but Francis is trying to be helpful.

Back on topic: 1700-2300 == the rise, apotheosis and sudden collapse of the nation state as a form of human organisation. Not sure whether the collapse will be caused by war, famine, pestilence, climate change or people simply getting a fucking clue for just once in bloody history. Actually the last point is excessively dubious.

The problem here might be how future historians even understand nationalism, considering it's difficult to define even today. The working academic definition of nation is Benedict Anderson's of an 'imagined community' that is both sovereign and bordered. There is considerable debate, though, about when nations first developed and even if this definition is particularly meaningful (I believe the sociologists tend to role their eyes whenever historians speak of 'imagined communities'). 'Nation' might be a word with very different connotations in the 31st Century, and as such historians of the era might have trouble even conceptualising nationalism in terms we would recognise. They might be tempted to call the development of our modern state something different. It might not decline, that is, just change subtle ways that are difficult to pin to any rise/fall analogies.


I don't really see religions as inherently any more patriarchal than any other part of society. Religions can evolve to become less patriarchal just like any other institution. It always amazes me that anyone can read a lot of science fiction and still assume atheism excludes sexism. Also remember that women tend to be more religious than men. Either you go with a false consciousness explanation or you have to consider some women find some value in religion.

I'd argue the advance of the state and technology has lead to much of the decline of religion. Modern industry and welfare states make the world more secure and predictable reducing the practical value of religion. So if the states all fail and we suffer a massive ecological crisis, it might be good for your health to get right with God.


How about adding "The Age of Migrations"?

There were places for those eastern European Jews to GO. Also the Scots Highlanders, Scots Irish (Two separate populations, still distinctly traceable here in Amurika), The Scandinavians (Half the Population of Norway in the 19th Century Emigrated) and of course the Irish.

My step father would on occasion point out that HIS grandfather was a (Polish) Serf (Slave) on the Barons estate in Prussia.

And who is this text written for? A "Pop" history implies a consumer culture, is this a (Mandatory) text for the School Leavers (Betas and Gamas?) or the Middle School Text for Alphas? And what is the ideology being taught?

On Point #4 (Meat Eating), after the Population Crash, I vote for Grass fed Free Range Beffalo from the Buffalo Commons.

A relevant consideration might be the way revisionists have captured the American Civil War Narrative here in the American South. The Neds (?) just don't realize how offensive their Streaming Confederate Battle Flags are (Yes, I see them, EVERY DAY), and are happy to "school" you about how it represents heritage, etc. etc. Totally oblivious to what "States Rights" was a codeword for in 1861, and certainly were never taught what really happened in 1861. Letters to the editor of the local (statewide) newspaper about how important and harmless their flag is, (It did draw a reply), but no editorial discussion AFAIK.

The Republican base will (also) tell me how Tax Cuts pay for themselves too. Not interested in what I learned as a history major at Mediocre U about National Debt.

Which is why I vote for a crisis die off of some noticeable scale, before 2100. India & Pakistan already had significant numbers (1000's) of heat casualties this summer.

Sigh. Thread Drift.


Might want to look at #66...


China could very well self-destruct, read an article this weekend about how much of their arable land is now carrying a devastating level of Toxic Pollution. Much of their water supply is similarly polluted. And regime legitimacy is now potentially in play, so you get the collapse of the Soviet Union with Baroque (Grotesque?) flourishes. And Famine.

As an aside, my Chinese acquaintances in Canada find our Conservative Party (neocons) much easier to understand than our more left-wing parties, because dealing with Harper's government is so much like dealing with the Chinese government back home. Laws rewritten or selectively enforced in return for guanxi…

More on topic, I suspect that all our political parties will be blurred together by 3000 — especially as parties have changed radically but kept the same name.


Sigh. Thread Drift.

This thread would probably be more focused if the period to be summarized had been exclusively in the past (e.g. 1492-2000). We would still all disagree about what was important, but we wouldn't have basic disagreements about what was going to happen in the next 300 years clouding the issue.


From the Year 3000, they'll likely lump migrations in the 21st century as part of a broader trend of mass migration that began even earlier than 1700. In fact, I suspect they'll talk about the backlash in the early 20th century as a mere interregnum in a broader period of mass migration around the world.

The problem with predicting mega-deaths is the time-scale involved for the change. Decades (or centuries) is long enough for mass migration and adaptation. It is a very long time in the post-industrial age, as I pointed out in one of my earlier comments.


Without Human enhancement the next 1000 years are just going to be like the last 5000, but with higher tech, fewer resources and nowhere to go.


Perhaps - it strikes me - the period in question might end up being known, at least in some contexts, as "the age of usury". It begins (allowing a little fuzz in the dates) with Cromwell inviting back the Jews (who had been kicked out by Edward I) specifically in order to provide a "usurer class" (the then-current interpretation of Christianity took the now-ignored anti-usury clause very seriously) - he gets slagged off for Drogheda and Wexford, but everyone seems to forget this more worthy target... Britain's subsequent development of industry then ended up being inextricably entangled with usury-based capitalism, and everyone else blindly copied it. I think that at least some people are at last beginning to realise that it is past its sell-by date, and can at least hope that the next three centuries will see it decline and die.

Michael @ 184: It occurred to me, and I agree that the current situation is going to end up as a blip - it is already cracking at the seams. But if my memories of school history are any guide I doubt it'll get more than a sentence or two of notice. I can only recall about three instances where there was any mention of things people did to enjoy themselves: Romans and "bread and circuses", mostly in the context of the depravity of certain emperors; Shakespeare; and Hogarth's gin-drinker pictures. Only Hogarth is related to drugs, and only Shakespeare got any more than a few lines. Even today, the American Prohibition era (which few people can now remember) is submerged in the morass of organised crime in general, and nobody seems to care or notice that the currently most newsworthy major religion prohibits alcohol.

Justin Boden @ 191: I think "Whig history" will go the way of imperialism, just more slowly; since it is essentially born of the same attitudes, but attracts less popular interest.


I just sat down and read the full article linked from that page. A depressing read indeed.


(Scans thread) Yipe.

(Insert tongue firmly in cheek) Bet an island on the east of the Atlantic will still be complaining about how it was invaded by an adjacent island centuries before (but the names may have changed).

Otherwise, I'd suggest that the view of history portrayed in a pop-History book would be as much about the time in which it is written. I must go and look at "1066 and all that" again. For comparison, we're talking about a viewpoint relative to ours which would be on the order of 700-1300. In my head that's pre-renaissance. I'm thinking that the non-history minded member of the public is going to land somewhere around "feudal everything with Vikings and stuff".


1. The industrial revolution
2. The emergence of information technology
3. The beginning and ending of the population bubble
4. The emergence of new spirituality
5. The emergence of a stable, peaceful world order

If (5) doesn't occur, there probably won't be any historians to write the histories.


Medicine. Western medicine in 1700 hadn't really changed since the medieval period. There were seeds of a proper science of medicine but it didn't show results until the big urban hospitals enabled proper empirical experience.

I'm not sure the meat-eating thing would feature in a pop history book. It might feature in a side-bar on barbaric ancestors, but too much of the results would be baked into society to make it interesting enough for a non-academic audience.

I think another major trend would be political organization. One could frame the pre-1700 period as being mostly feudal, mostly absolutist kinds of government. The next 400+ years are a set of experiments with different kinds of organizations: constrained authoritarians, multinational polities with various levels of freedom, totalitarianism, active democracy, passive democracy, new absolutism, and various mixes of economically defined polities from socialism to anarcho-capitalist.

Looking forward I expect to see the rise of non-geographic polities as people find themselve identifying more with online communities than their physical neighbours. Almost all political organizations are currently defined by meatspace location and I don't think that'll hold.

I'd expect the pop history book will have a theory of progress lurking in the subtext. That whatever challenges or problems faced between now and publication were the result of an inevitable movement from a bad to better.


Seems as though most are saying there's an apocalypse 'round the corner... in which case, history will be focused on: If your (your children's) life is on the line, what/whose 'rules' do you obey?


I think that how a future historian of 3000 CE will describe our era will depend very much on the society she/he will live in. In terms of The Dispossessed/a>, will the historian be a member of Anarres, Urras or Terra?

While we can see how the time 1700 - 2015 is different from earlier times, we don't know how the time 2000 - 2300 will be different from 3000 CE. A historian would emphasize those differences.


"I'd expect the pop history book will have a theory of progress lurking in the subtext. That whatever challenges or problems faced between now and publication were the result of an inevitable movement from a bad to better."

That's what is meant by "Whig history" as mentioned by Michael and myself above. It is an academic construct which originated in the period in question and is now academically disfavoured; and to me at least it seems unlikely that it will persist in a popular context either.


With what I'm very surprised has not been brought up before now, let me submit

Spread of the Westphalian state

It was developed only 52 years before this time period, it did it's settling in to the originators and spread well within the set timeframe.

And it is very much significant because the side effect of adopting the territory defined autonomous state was the death of the there dominant idea of your loyalty being to your racial/ethnic/tribal group. Loyalty and organization moved away from being kinship defined. That completely changed the ball game for who is "other" and "outsider" and how we treat them. We aren't perfect about it (lord knows there is plenty of racism, prejudice, and discrimination still around) but you don't see the attempts to go out and carve a racial homeland or to go to war because of various ethnic blocs in a given region any more. And the few fuckwits who do get everyone else ganging up against them.

Changing who is other and who is outsider is what allows for greater incorporation and inclusion, it also allows for de-escalation (as in "well I don't like how the minority group there is treated, but it is a domestic problem").

And once we had adopted the state as our defining group rather than the people who were like us, then we had no need for those jumped up tribal chieftains, and down went the nobility.

It also represents a fundamental shift in how humans operated for the most of their history, marking it as big as


One could frame the pre-1700 period as being mostly feudal, mostly absolutist kinds of government.

This is a personal bugaboo, but feudal systems are not absolutist. And they're gone by 1350, even in backward England.

(Feudalism is characterized by forming social hierarchy by public oaths before witnesses, undertaken by nominal equals; class-based taxes and thus automatic legal class mobility; the social dominance of a secular military nobility; strong support for customary rights and duties; highly decentralized, dynamic, and local exercise of authority. It starts with Alfred the Great and ends with Long Edward in English history terms. It's a consequence of inventing ownership of land to endow monastic foundations, the cavalry revolution, and the technical advances associated with the monastic revolution.)

The absolutist god-king autocracies people tend to conflate with feudalism -- the French Ancien Regime, Great Harry, and so on -- aren't feudal. They're as big a change, compared to the preceding feudal system, as happened with the Glorious Revolution.

If what the Chinese are doing is actually industrial feudalism, it's important to remember that what we know about feudalism is that as a system it's really really tough in the face of adversity.


Yeah. Chalk it up to a failure of imagination. Though I think it would be hard for a 30th century editor to avoid baking in a certain kind of superiority when talking about 19th and 20th polities. Future us will have to be better at organizing or we aren't likely to last that long.



1) During this era humanity began to manage the entire earth from a few 1000 feet below the ground (including the entire ocean) to geostationary orbit. 'Wilderness' in the sense of unmanaged biosphere ends. All biospheres (possibly excepting deep underground bacteria) are dominated by human activity planned or unplanned. Deep geological processes are still unimpressed by us, however.

2) The transition from an agricultural economy where most human work is farming and cottage industry (with the majority of humans being farmers) to an industrial economy where most human work is part of large scale production processes (with less than 2% farmers). Along with this the transition from rural living to urban living.

3) Maximum human population. This is projected to happen in 2200 or so I think, so perhaps the transition to declining world population is the far end of the era? This is a result of the demographic transition where reduced child mortality, education, etc cause people to have fewer children.

4) Direct audio/visual/interactive data was first stored and distributed (as opposed to musical scores and plays transmitted as text). (text was already going strong on its upswing).

5) The end of (or a period with a severe retreat from) monarchy. Before 1700 there were a lot of monarchies, including some of the more significant nations by 2000 there were a handful of tiny bizarre or transient edge cases.

6) The end of 'resource extraction'. At the beginning of the era large swaths of land were lightly used, high grade ores were easily accessible, and huge populations of wildlife roamed the earth. By the end of this period there was no unmanaged harvestable life, industrial inputs were overwhelmingly either fixed (land, radio spectrum) managed available at an approximately fixed rate (wood, oxygen, water, co2 absorbtion, fish) or industrially recycled (iron, hydrocarbons). Only a few very cheap and common and a few very rare and expensive resources were still extracted from natural deposits (rocks, sand, helium(which becomes ridiculously rare and expensive)). After this comes the 'recycling era'. In a way this is just a restatement of #1.

7) The discovery of/encounter with ???? which is why hyperintelligent AI has not turned everything into computronium (or at least we can't prove that it did).

PS I really dislike throwing words like 'bubble' around for anything that is high for a while. Nobody is bidding up the price of people leading to an oversupply because everybody thinks the price of people will keep going up. Same for GDP. I suppose its theoretically possible we are doing that for 'innovation', but I doubt it. I also don't think the 'living in a bubble' definition fits any of the three. Just say "peak" or "maximum".


By "frame" I meant to imply that it was actually incorrect, especially using it in conjunction with "feudal." As you pointed out, it doesn't generalize worth shit. Even absolutist, barring its use as a reference to specific rhetoric about rulership, is more chimerical than real. Popular histories, especially general surveys, have to simplify in order to make history accessible.

I expect people will still be talking about feudalism in the same way high schools teach the solar system model of the atom. Essentially wrong but still useful enough for certain purposes.


1. The evolution of energy sources and consumption starting before the Industrial Revolution; evolving into the 20th Century energy boom; the great crash that followed the exhaustion of energy resources; the 150 years of turmoil and economic depression that followed.

2. The accumulation of capital in a small group of elites, and their attempt to wrest control of national-level political systems; the creation of supra-national keptocracy; and the subsequent revolution that overthrew the kleptocracy after the Great Crash.

3. The steady increase of religious fundamentalism after 2200. World literacy drops to 20 percent by end of the 22nd Century. Scientific and engineering progress largely stalled for the next 150 years.

4. The rise and fall of the Green Revolution; the mass starvation after the petrochemical inputs for the Green Revolution fail; the rise of GMOs and the contamination of the food plant cultivars with what in retrospect were unfortunate experiments in genetic manipulation.

5. The rise and fall of science as an engine of economic and cultural improvement; the scientific revolution, it's peak in the 60's, and it's failure to develop any of the technologies that would have been able to stave off the Great Crash (partially aggravated by item 2, the Kleptocracy diverting resources from pure scientific research).


The transformation of the nature of cities by electronic communications, and their reduction in size.


For 2000-2300:

The end of mass labor participation, rising dominance of Neo-Gathering as the material condition. It's driven by increasingly capable narrow AI plus robotic appendages, "dumber and nicer Berserkers" as someone upthread put it. People of the future never meet a robot capable enough to win the imitation game against Alan Turing or limited enough that the median human can successfully compete with it for a job.

Nuclear war: Chekhov's Warheads are still waiting in their thousands, and the declared nuclear weapons states have decided to "flexibly" interpret their NPT obligations so as to keep their arms until the end of time or until a catastrophe happens, whichever comes first. How many centuries can you keep that snake pit in the living room before someone accidentally falls into it?


- Industrial revolution, including computerisation and AI [from mills and coal fires to nanochips]

- Human rights, end of slavery, emancipation, equality [from feudalism to intersectional democracy]

- Planetary unity (not one global state, but globalisation, interconnectedness, awareness of long chains; mediated by social media, mobile phones and so on), evtl. including near-earth space [from fifedoms to planetary treaties]

- Already mentioned various times: ecozide / the anthropocene [from coal fires to greentec]

- Enlightment, scientific method, rationalism, pragmatic religions [from holy wars to wars on the holy?]


There is one HUGE technology that would totally define this era if we can do it - ending ageing.


Above all, as a time of revolution, I think.


The accumulation of capital in a small group of elites

Considering that a small group of elites had controlled most of the capital up to the mid 19th century, and a small group of elites seems to be establishing control of most of the capital now, it seems better to characterize the 20th century as a brief period of relative equality.


Not really.

The previous small group of elites was one for which capital meant land, and primary food production.

Capital doesn't mean that anymore, and the concentration of wealth and power shouldn't be seen as inescapable in the way calling the 20th century an anomaly makes it seems.


The world is bigger than, I suspect, you think it is.


Who was "a nation is a language with an army"? It is less deterministic today than it would have seemed to 19th C Euros, but it seems to be persistent and occasionally repeating (as tragedy, not farce).


"Racism dies because it's no longer technically possible to identify any of the old races due to intermarriage."

Oh, gosh, no. You haven't thought this through, have you?


Especially since racism isn't a function of ancestry or appearance, it's a function of conscious ethnogenesis for economic benefit.


I don't really see religions as inherently any more patriarchal than any other part of society. Religions can evolve to become less patriarchal just like any other institution. It always amazes me that anyone can read a lot of science fiction and still assume atheism excludes sexism. Also remember that women tend to be more religious than men. Either you go with a false consciousness explanation or you have to consider some women find some value in religion.

You have a really really narrow understanding of the history of religion.

I don't bother to link ancient texts on Isis, Athena and so on for shits-n-giggles.

You know, given the extermination of female religion and spirituality and general "burn the witch" shit that comes with it.

Call back in another 2,000 years when you've not been represented or respected in a Religious sense and tell me if you've been oppressed lately.


Anyhow. Bored. Time to throw some grenades.


What 99% of posters here are missing is any conceptual realization of what Time is. Hetero, Greg, host understand it, the rest don't.

I tried to make it very clear: 36,000 years axial tilt vrs the scientific fact that CO2 now is not the reality and it takes 100-200 years for it to be felt.

The last time our atmosphere had 400 ppm CO2 was about ~ 3 million years ago (generous).

We had an ice age in between.

In 200 years, you've managed to shove 285 ppm > 400 ppm.

In our terms this is akin to snorting a kilo of coke up your nose and running around like maniacs.

And evolution cannot function on such time scales, and that's ignoring the basics of geological time. You fuck the environment, you end up with desert. Yes, California, water that took millions of years to accumulate will not return by next profit margin quarter. Or a decent rain. Or even Christ herself.

I'm not sure how I can communicate just how fucked you are. 4 billion isn't the worst case scenario, it's the "middle of the road, people get shit together" model.


You don't get to destroy all other species and ecologies and survive.

It's not justice, it's the Laws of Physics.

And you're FUCKED.


Racism dies because it's no longer technically possible to identify any of the old races due to intermarriage.

In places like northern Africa, groups that consider themselves "arabs" have tense relations with groups that consider themselves "black", among other identities, despite being physically indistinguishable. Meanwhile in SF fandom, the current struggle is between "puppies" and "SJWs".

The human tendency to form quarrelsome tribes probably won't go away, even if its manifestations change.


And you're FUCKED.

Correction: "And we're fucked". You're not in any way excluded from the fuckery.


My comment is based on how social values can shift in as short a period as 50 years. Specific example: marriage and cohabitation. Fifty years ago anyone 'living together' outside marriage was an outsider, now, it's the done thing. Why? Because the primary socioeconomic reason for marriage (welfare of kids) is no longer an issue in most modern societies.

Based on the proportions of various ethnic groups successfully obtaining tertiary educations and higher income/status employment, and that this continues, ethnicity becomes a useless social measurement tool.

Also consider how esteemed artists and professional athletes have become and compare their demographics versus 50 years ago.



"1. The great fossil fuel binge"

I think that is highly dependent on what comes after it. This could either be central or almost ignored depending on what happens after they are gone.

"4. The end of [vertebrate] meat eating (side-effect of #1 and #2)"

This seems like a thing that would be mentioned, but probably in the way child mortality rates of the middle ages are now, or maybe infanticide. It seems like a very ugly thing for a culture that respects their ancestors if they have moved to an ethical system emphasizing animal rights.

"5. The collapse of cognitive distance and the perfection of memory (side-effect of #2)"

I think this is also highly dependent on unknown factors. How reliable cultural memory will be with electronic storage, and how reliable it is believed to be, are hard to predict at the beginning.

I wouldn't be surprised if mass education, the trend of the last century or so, is remembered skeptically. It seems like an easy thing to criticize with distance as more advanced or "advanced" forms come into practice. I wouldn't be surprised if history books report it as similar to, and conflate it with, child labor.

I would not be surprised if video gaming is remembered strongly. It is not certain, but I think with a few centuries of stabilization the practice might be looked on with as much importance as music.

Assuming an economic crash, it seems likely that the hegemony of the United States is remembered very negatively. Assuming general technological progress and continuity, the hegemony will likely be considered more of a predecessor to their culture than it actually is.


That's true: but not in the way you think it is.

Why Don't We Wait Here, See What Happens [YouTube: Film: 2:39]

The Lot reference wasn't an accident. The question I was asked was not one of compassion, intellect or friendship.

I was asked: "What are you"?

And little minds are running around patching gaps and playing games.

Don't believe the hype. A moment's thought would tell you that butterflies are not hostile, and there's players dying and grasping...


Well, desert (in the sense of evapotranspiration outstrips precipitation) is only one possibility. Another possibility is what the ecologists love to call "weedlands," which are low diversity, colonized by non-natives, inefficient at nutrient cycling, and very much prone to large scale disturbance by things like fires, pests, parasites, and pathogens.

Also evolution scales in a couple of ways. Things like bacteria, fungi, and possibly even small insects can evolve very quickly, not that this helps humans much.

However, if you want to get an idea of evolution will work during a mass extinction or a few hundred years of climate change, I recommend John Thompson's evolution books, especially Relentless Evolution and The Geographic Mosaic of Coevolution. There's a lot that most people don't really get about evolution.

And yes, California is fscked, but I'm somewhat more worried about Godzilla Nino breaking levies in the Sacramento Delta in a few months. The Syrian-style groundwater depletion crisis is still a few years off (and that's speaking as a resident at the wrong end of the pipelines).

I think "Whig history" will go the way of imperialism, just more slowly; since it is essentially born of the same attitudes, but attracts less popular interest.

I doubt it. It predates imperialism and also plays into scientific positivism, which is not on its way out, although I think it will probably be out of favour by the 30th Century. Which is what my point was, really: that a lot of these answers are fairly Whiggish and as such are somewhat non-starters for future historians. For example, the development of the scientific method might not be what is remembered about our era so much as the manner in which science joined hands with industrialisation, capitalism and the military in order to nearly fuck over the world in seven different ways, and wasn't able to unfuck it in time to avoid the Mad Max scenario across large swaths of the globe.


I admit I didn't read all 233 comments before posting this, and I hope this contributes to the discussion.

1) Explorations
THE great theme of our era. First, Europeans discovered and conquered the world (sub-phase I: 1700-2000). Then, American government and companies discovered and subjugated their citizens and clients by exploration of the data space - and everyone else followed (sub-phase II: 2000-2300). Simultaneously, nature was discovered and subjugated. Humans controlled Earth totally.
This conquest of Earth's internal space was concluded in 2300, after which Solar system exploration and subjugation really took off - but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Thanks to the the explorations, all earthly power structures could now control or destroy each other, and governments and companies could do the same to individuals.

2) The Industrial Revolution
A shift from an aristocracy based on land to one based on economic capital. The old aristocracy wanted to dominate the political and religious structures; the new one concentrated on the economic and information structures.
Technological breakthroughs are taken entirely for granted by our historian in the 3000s, and are hardly worthy of comment. They are briefly mentioned as an inevitable consequence of the Industrial Revolution and the exploration of nature. A note is added that they diminished around 2200 due to rising pressure of vested aristocratic interests.

3) Warriors
Sub-phase I (1700-2000): The European warrior was redefined from essentially a mercenary with a few feudal bells and whistles to a small part of the people in arms. This led inevitably to the great wars around 2000. The invention of the nuclear bomb in 2000 ended the great wars and made any future great war impossible. That changed the nature of conflicts significantly and permanently.
Sub-phase II ( 2000-2300): With their drones, the Americans made great strides in dealing with the new type of conflict. It scaled down significantly to where specialised killers, human or AI, do most of the actual fighting - remotely, if possible. The warrior is thus redefined and diminished in status to lower middle class at best.
Unlike medieval Europe, but like ancient Rome and China, aristocrats are not warriors. The warrior ethic no longer pervades society, but is restricted to a tiny minority.

4) Urbanisation
In our period the urbanisation ratio went up from a few percent in 1700 to nearly 95% in 2300. Urbanisation is seen as either the cause or the effect of the huge population boom of the era. (Students: discuss!)
More and more people lived together and influenced one another, and reveled in experiments in the family and sexual spheres, which led to the replacement of extended family ties by extended friendship ties and a change of gender-, race-, or sexual orientation-based identity politics to wealth- and occupation-based ones.
Also, urbanisation caused easier logistics that permanently raised the standard of living for all humans to a decent level.

5) How X was destined for greatness
Our historian's fifth theme will be how a combination of developments 1-4 inevitably caused the golden age of the group he, she, or it identifies most with somewhere in the 2500-2800s. Explaining this golden age is really the entire point of treating the 1700-2300 period at all.


Things like bacteria, fungi, and possibly even small insects can evolve very quickly, not that this helps humans much.

We both know it's all about soil quality.

California lucked into a 32,000,000 year bonanza and they've used it up.

Bacteria are communal [c.f. 10-20% genetic transfer under hostile conditions, many many papers on this] in ways most humans don't understand.

Fungi don't evolve quickly: you're misunderstanding what they do. They Co-Opt and either form symbiotic or parasitic relationships fast (in evolutionary terms) and while doing so specialize. They're the great catalysts of biology: they cannot, do not and simply don't evolve in desert biomes.

Insects: again, wrong. Termites are the Queens of the "desert" (high-arid zones, not deserts) for a very good reason. I'll let you work out the why and give an accurate # on their evolutionary scale and when it stopped. [Hint: shark levels]


If you don't worry about the damage that environmental residues are doing to mycology and other soil based life forms (nematodes principally) then you're not what you claim to be.

And the soil and water is getting wasted out there.


What pop historians would say? Whatever serves the political and ideological needs of the time of course. History is just a story we tell ourselves after all

What does the next 300 years hold? What we choose it to hold. "You're fucked bwahaha" doomsayers not withstanding 300 years is a long time to either get our shit together or shit on ourselves further

The story Charlie can write is basically anything


What does the next 300 years hold? What we choose it to hold. "You're fucked bwahaha" doomsayers not withstanding 300 years is a long time to either get our shit together or shit on ourselves further

300 years is nothing.

You've no idea what eradicating a couple of million years worth of evolution does to your environment.

Death Cults. You worship a Blood God bent on only one thing: dominion.

"I AM THE WORD": you've no functional understanding of what logos actually means.

Spoiler: It's not nice and it's not about humans.


300 years is quite an incredibly long time for humans and several eternities for computers. The fact that isn't that long for the kinds of biological processes you obsess over probably doesn't matter much at all

Yes, we are the world now, at least until/if the AI's come. Just because you don't like it doesn't make it less so. Biology is our tool now and will much more so in another 300 years


Time for the Linus Pauling quote.

Four-fifths of soil bacteria are unknown to science. We don't know how to culture them, so we can't study them. (Recent success with new culture techniques promptly identified a couple of novel antibiotic candidates. It's not a case of "oh, well, more of the same, surely?")

A group of earnest, capable, and determined people have been trying to restore a patch of short-grass prairie -- that's restore, not establish -- in Manitoba for the last fifty years. It hasn't worked. That dirt supported short-grass prairie about fifty years before they started.

A research team just published results that they've got a very strong correlation between Lactobacillus gut fauna population levels and schizophrenia. (No-one following gut fauna research is all that surprised.)

Biology is, well, analogy. Papa Darwin figured out there was a book there to be read. The New Darwinian synthesis figured out there was a library. The gene-sequencers figured out it's more like an ongoing subscription service, and there's layers and a lot more to read than you'd think from looking at the first few shelves. Mary Jane West-Eberhard figured out that the library is outside in the rain, and the pages say different things on different days, which is interesting mostly because processes which are (to humans) very poorly understood, but which don't in any way need to be understood to function, are constantly reading them.

The idea that we understand or are in control of biology is laughable. The idea that it is controllable is also laughable; I'd like Culture medical technology as much as anybody, but we probably can't, because the Demon Complexity from over in computability theory applies. The solution has to be as complex as the problem, aka your control system has to be able to provide matching variety to the thing it's controlling. We don't yet know what all the sources of variety in biological systems are, never mind how to attach state-significance to them.

And, really, even if we did completely understand biology, our problem now isn't biology. It's physics. It's unfortunate that the biology we are and inhabit is getting kicked very hard by the physics, but the possible solution isn't making the biology tougher; it's making the physics kick less hard.


Well, since the topic has been broached... let me put together the top 5 history of religion influences -- not least because they will interplay with almost all of the secular historical influences that everyone else has listed.

1. In this time (1700-2300), religion became primarily about personal choice rather than nationality or group-imposed conformancy.

To draw some comparisons, Post-Constantine, pre-1700 Christianity is close to 100% state-based. You were born in this country, so therefore you follow that religion. Prior to Constantine it was often a household-based thing (the head of the household converted so everyone converted, including hired servants).

Nowadays, if you want to be atheist, and your mother wants to be Catholic and your sister decides to join with the Baptists but your father is a Buddhist... you'll still meet up for lunch on Sunday afterwards. You might even discuss it without drawing weapons.

Islam will either get on board with this, or disappear into obscurity. Likewise, Hinduism and the caste system will end up somewhere different in 2300 than it was in 1700.

2. Religious experience became doctrinal. The last animist religions in Asia and Africa will be gone by 2300, down from being (possibly) the dominant form of worship in 1700. Even the idea of an unstructured mysticism (with no clear set of beliefs) handed down from generation to generation will be quite weird.

3. The rise of anti-science, anti-progress, anti-technology religions. Forget what you think you know about Galileo -- the Church of his day was very keen on incorporating everything that science was uncovering. What is new is Christian Fundamentalism, the demographic growth of the Amish and the rise of
reactionary Islam.

In 2015, these are kind of curious trends which don't really make that much difference to our lives unless you live in Texas, Philadelphia or the middle east. But by 2300 when the Amish are one of the largest minorities (or possibly a large majority), their influence on politics will be substantial. (e.g. we can't impose this transaction tax or have this electronic currency because a large portion of the population will reject it and/or be unable to implement it).

4. Because of #1, the broadening scope of religion from 1700-2300. As we get Artificial Intelligences and (probably) Extra-terrestrials, the scope of religious evangelism has crept out from "the people immediately around me" to "the whole world, including people on the other side of that great big ocean" to (by 2300) "the whole universe and everything in it that can possibly think or respond to a message".

Who is going to volunteer for relativistic travel to the stars with no hope of seeing anyone you know again? Perhaps the merchants, perhaps the military, perhaps the madmen, but definitely the missionaries.

5. The changing locus of religions in 1700-2300. In 1700, Catholicism was centered on Rome as it always had been; Protestantism was mostly in northern Europe and a little bit about the USA; Islam meant the Middle East and North Africa, etc. etc. In 2300, Catholicism will be in South America (or Korea?), Protestantism will be centered in China (numbers-wise it already is) or Africa, Buddhism could well be an obscure and amusing feature of California. The papal throne might be on the moon, for example.


I said "tool", you seem to have substituted that for "something we have complete and utter understanding of and control over".

Biology is our tool. physics is our tool, chemistry is our tool. The reason there are so many of us is that we used biology as a tool to support our numbers through genetically engineering of crops, through agriculture, through selective breeding of animals.

The idea that you don't mess with mother nature or you get hit in the head by a Logos lightening bolt is superstition. We already messed with mother nature starting 5000 years ago. We aren't putting the mushroom cloud back in the tin can, that ship has sailed. Rather then running around in sack and ash cloth because one we dumped too much CO2 in the air, or whipping out the loinclothes in a hopeless attempt to get back to some mythical living in harmony thing that hasn't existed since agriculture at least.

We need own up that we fucked up, and fix it. We haven't even seriously tried yet, probably a bit early to be giving up. After we have spend 5% of the planetary GDP on it for twenty years, then I might start getting worried but right now it's all still panic talking

In general, we have grown as a species to the point where we will forever more have to actively manage this planet as a farm and a life support system, we can't leave it un-managed ever again. We should stop cryuing about ti and get to it, this is going to be business as usual


To use an engineering analogy, I suspect historians in the year 3000 might call this the Age of the Overshoot. I wonder how much hysteresis there is in the system?

Population: slow growth turns exponential (or rather, a series of S-curves that look exponential), then comes down. (We can already see the peak, assuming no Great Die-Off speeds things along.)

Resources: use of fossil energy allows fast extraction of all kinds of resources, including food. Even with resource substitution, we're running out. (I suspect centuries-out resource extraction will be closer to reclamation than mining.)

Capitalism: We've gone from the invention of limited-liability corporations as a means of organizing resources to granting them the status of people (with added advantages like potential immortality and immunity to imprisonment). I suspect that for civilization to reach 3000 we'll have to come up with something that replaces the (fairly) unfettered capitalism we've had so far.


240 comments? I'll go back and read them, but here are my first thoughts:

1. The change in thinking of time from "cyclical" to "linear". Instead of "Every year will be more or less like last year", we now see that the future will be different.

2. The use of "equals" in analyzing. Science has grown from essentially nothing by relying on the principle of conservation. It starts with someone who burned some wood inside a closed container, found that the weight did not change, and ignored everyone who said it was not completely burned.

3. Computer-aided thinking. It starts with Google access via keyboard; it continues with Google via chipped brain connections. There will be horrors of brain hackers attacking people's minds via insecure systems, and some private company will actually provide real security and real encryption safety.

That this company becomes the next government watchdog/spy will be known 300 years after the fact.

4. The 6th mass extinction. Man will figure out what's happening in time to slow it down, and will manage to survive it. But everything we knew about large-scale farming will change.

4b. Population drop, and the increased value of human life. See the black death / plague of 800 years prior, and the change in thinking from "just a replaceable laborer" to "who is left who can do this?".

Population drop will be caused by the extinction and loss of food productivity.

Note that the increase in value of human life as the population level drops, the end of slavery, and the "full rights for women" movement will wind up looking all the same.

5. The change in the concept of "government" and "nation". Instead of pledging loyalty to the biggest bully with the strongest army that has wiped out anyone that will challenge it (forcing you to submit or go to jail, or worse), your loyalty will be to the business group that provides you with the services you need. Fail to comply, and they will cut off your services; since the laws require you to buy services and will not let you be self-sufficient (no one is off-the-grid anymore), this will eliminate the need to run the expensive prisons in the first place.


I said "tool", you seem to have substituted that for "something we have complete and utter understanding of and control over".

For something to be a tool, you have to know which end is the sharp end and which end is the handle.

Remember that flurry of news stories about the people cured of terminal leukemia by genetically engineering their own T cells? Small trial; some complete success, some partial success, some no affect. (2, 1, 2, if memory serves.) Why?

No one knows. It might be a decade before anyone figures it out. That's a comparatively intensely studied and well-funded area of biology.

We know some much more interesting incantations than we used to; we keep finding out that while we know the general case of how it had to get that way, the species are harrowingly difficult. (There's an analogy to simulating molecules available here.)

"Manage" absolutely requires providing matching variety. We can't do it. The degree to which most biology is an area of total human ignorance -- never been studied or we don't know it's there to study -- is generally massively underestimated. The closest available approximations -- people who have been gardening in one spot for forty years -- scale poorly and stop working once the climate becomes unstable.

Could we behave much more responsibly? (E.g., tax the pluperfect out of emissions.) Sure. And we ought to, but that's not manage and it won't, of itself, suffice the problem of breaking agriculture.

The prospect of getting 5% of the planetary GDP devoted to global warming mitigation is lovely to contemplate, but it isn't going to happen in time. Once the effects are sufficiently severe to trigger a material political response is much too late. Losing a fifth of their agricultural production hasn't even blipped the issue in US politics; consider the size of the effect required to generate a political consensus to do something on the level of raising taxes.


Going somewhat Spenglerian...

The End of Christianity as an organizing principle in the Western hemisphere, its emulation by various secular religions (nationalism, positivism, racialism etc.), the rise of new religions (sunni/hindu revival, whatever Chinese folk religion coalesces into), with some interesting coalitions. Unitarian Universalists for Allah! Transhumanist Calvinism doesn't need any introduction.

The final tribalisation of the Roman Empire with the Westfalian System, the Nation State intermission in Europe and elsewhere and it's demise by both emerging new empires and the formerly downtrodden smaller ethnic entities it tried to emulate.

Somewhat tied in, the evolution of Sub-Saharan Africa or at least some parts of it into a coherent cultural sphere similar to India or China.


1: The developed ability to get larger and larger groups of people all pulling in the same direction to achieve success in larger and larger projects.
The projects would range from small corporations getting capital to invest to major infrastructure projects to getting to bigger and bigger populations to live side-by-side without too much friction.

2: The growth of women's rights and their movement from their sole role as baby-maker & house servant to the equal place in society they'll have in the 30th century.

3: The rapid growth of population leading to an ever-faster ability to solve (or invent our way out of) global problems.
This ties in with #1, facing problems and getting enough skill, commitment and resources thrown at them to solve them/make them go away.

4: The development of technology (which will feed into #1) which will act as a force magnifier, greatly increasing our ability to get resources, use them more efficiently, recycle them, and clean up after them.
Technology will not be seen as a gain in and of itself (no-one's going to think of the creation of the internet as significant in the 30th century) but it will have a powerful effect on #1 and #2.

5: The increasing amount of skills each generation will have, when compared to previous generations.
Expect #4 to feed into this, with technology putting knowledge (and skills?) at your fingertips, each generation will be able to do, and understand, more.


"For something to be a tool, you have to know which end is the sharp end and which end is the handle."

That is true, however I think we have that down more then you think we do. After all we are talking about food mostly and humanity has not exactly been unsuccessful in the food department.

with regards to the curing leukemia example, what percentage of the US GDP is devoted to cancer research? 0.2% or thereabouts? While it may look like we are trying hard there, we actually aren't trying that hard

"Once the effects are sufficiently severe to trigger a material political response is much too late. Losing a fifth of their agricultural production hasn't even blipped the issue in US politics"

It took the US approximately two years to ramp 41% of it's GDP durng WW2. It took 4 years to ramp 0.8% of the GDP on the moon race. Rapid mobilization is possible

Also, no one lost "1/5th of their agricultural production" US agricultural yields seem to be ontrack to actually INCREASING in 2015, droughts notwithstanding, from all the numbers I have found, and if they aren't it will be intentionally due to a high dollar and shrinking export demand.

Global warming is slow and you can't see it, so it took awhile to reach consensus that it is happening. The worse the effects the more rapid the response. Eventually we will hit full, WW2 style mobilization, though it will probably take something like losing Florida to a CAT5 hurricane to do it. Probably be an economic and political godsend at the time to employee 50 million people or so on such a noble cause. And that is just the US...


I tend to think there will be an "oh shit" period in the 2020s where it finally sinks in that something has to be done about this, even among Republicans in the US - my guess would be a really bad CAT5 hurricane wiping out Houston or some other coastal city, causing immense damage even if it doesn't lead to major loss of life . . . after following a brutal summer heat wave.

As I mentioned up-thread, this may not even the fastest period of sudden climate change that humanity has ever experienced. The "Younger Dryas" period about 10,000-11,000 appears to have ended with 5-7 degrees C warming inside of 50 years. I'm fairly certain humanity and civilization can survive this one, especially when you consider that we've adapted to extremely high summer temperatures in parts of the world, and the world itself did fine at a GMT 5-10 degrees Celsius above what we've had in the Pleistocene and Holocene.

Not that I tend to think that will convince the Climate Apocalypse crowd here, anymore than I think I could dissuade people believing in the fundamentalist evangelical Rapture. It reminds me of 2007, back when I was listening to the same type of thing from the Peak Oil Apocalypse folks.


Sorry to add-

I'm aware that basically the same thing happened with Katrina and New Orleans. But in the 2020s, the background conditions to it will be worse. It will be more the finishing factor that pushes things over into decision-making rather than the driving force.


Many of you commenting that this age will be remembered as a population bubble, keep in mind we don't know if the low Total Fertility Rate is permanent.

Perhaps a Basic Income might increase births as families decide they would raise kids instead of working, traveling, video games, or whatever other activity takes the place of work in such a society? A Basic Income might create a second population bubble?

That's the reason I mostly refrained from making future predictions.


I think one problems with some of the purportions is that they are either part of much more long-term developments, e.g. with efficiacy of human power generation, or much too short term, e.g. demographic transition and like.

My basic idea was that the modern nation state is a somewhat recent phenomenon, and its rise coincidences somewhat with the date of 1700. At the beginning, we had two or three contenders for the succession of the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire with the Habsburgs in Austria and Spain (with some influence in Rome) and the Osmanic Empire (Byzanz, err, Constantinople, err, Istanbul), maybe Russia. Where the former was already somewhat cracked by the 30 years war, but was also quite entangled with the other European powers through alliances symbolised by marriages etc. During the 18th and 19th century, those empires split somewhat up to create nation states like Spain etc., and later on we export the idea into the colonies.

Problem is, at the moment we get an ever increasing interdependency in economic unions, while OTOH there are/were federalist/secessionist movements in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Italy and the UK.

So maybe nation states are not as natural as some claim. Oh, BTW, "the rise of Naturalism", though that one is not without quite a few precursors in Scholastics, Taoism etc.


The answer of course is that we can't even pretend to know what the values and life experiences of our 30th century historian are. And that is what is going to determine what they choose as "important" for the 600 year period. In other words, to know what is significant about 1700-2300 you have to be able to look back at it from the perspective of 3015.

Put yourself in the position of a historian in the Byzantine Empire, Song dynasty China, or the Abbasid Caliphate in the year 1015. Try to imagine that historian trying to imagine 2000. They would invariably get it wrong by trying to project what they saw as the important trends of their day into the future.

Most everyone trying to answer Charlie Stross' question (including Stross himself)fall prey to this. This is a dilemma of futurists and science fiction writers alike. In our current culture, we tend to imagine the future as the present with extra "stuff" added that addresses our current concerns, or alternatively, as a world with current concerns taken to near dystophian extremes.

The same applies to the past, as well. We project our concerns backwards in time too. As an example, look at the historiography of ideas about the fall of the Roman Empire over time. Invariably the explanations for that event reflect the concerns of the times historians were living in. And even worse, we look back and see the "Roman Empire" as a thing, when in reality it was a polity that evolved constantly throughout its existence. The "Roman Empire" of the 1st century was as different from the "Roman Empire" of the 5th century as 2015 is different from 1615.

History and prediction both end up inevitably being as much about the present as the past or the future.

For example, Stross first mentions the "great fossil fuel binge". But in 3000, that's going to be something that was a long-ago solved problem—along with associated problems such as pollution, exhaustion of fossil fuels, climate change, and some we haven't even noticed yet—because the assumption behind the question is that there is still a functioning human civilization going.

Hypothetical future historians are likely to look at "great fossil fuel binge" in the same way we see anything we consider amusingly dumb (but in the long run meaningless) done by past cultures. Changes we can't even start to predict arising out of the "great fossil fuel binge" will be so ingrained into the 3000 AD culture as to be invisible (and when thought of at all, considered inevitable).

Instead those hypothetical year 3000 historians will be looking at 1700 to 2300 and applying backwards the concerns of their day and time.


I'd argue the advance of the state and technology has lead to much of the decline of religion.
I really don't like your sideways apologia for religion, but:
Consider, the better our detection equipment gets, the less BSF we find.
To the point that BSF is undetectable, at all, just like the "Luminferous Aether"
( Which is where I got the idea from in the forst place, thank you uncle Albert )
And, since undetectable, irrelevant & almost certainly non-existent.
Time to grow up, I think.


Speaking as a Whig, I hope not!


4. The emergence of new spirituality
The start of an even bigger load of lying murderous blackmailing bollocks that the previous iterations ...
( The most recent try at that, "communism" or "marxism" did it's best to catch-up on the cahristainity & islam in killing millions for the "holy cause" after all ... )
I do hope not.


Not necessarily (fucked, that is)
I think that ways, plural will be found around/past the problems, but it ain't going to be easy.
Thank you for the "time" compliment btw .....


Islam will either get on board with this, or disappear into obscurity.
Not unless & until several million more are killed, unfortunately - & most, as usual, will be innocent bystanders.


Correcting myself ....
The "Industrial Revolution" was & is (2015) an ongoing process.
The "Information revolution" is "merely" the latest stage of an ongoing trend started (publicly at least) by Newcomen, Watt & Boulton .....
The current changes, which guvmints & official bodies still can't get their heads around (everyone is carrying a camera - therefore cops can no longer kill & wound with impunity f'rinstance) are "merely" part of that still-progressing trend.
We have not nearly seen the end of it & probably cannot guess where it will finish, or if it will finish at all, except, perhaps in one or more strong AI's.
Account must be taken of this, admittedly "Whig" interpretation, & I'm not sure anyone has really addressed it.


There is one HUGE technology that would totally define this era if we can do it - ending ageing.

Totally unsustainable. It's a nice to have in a steady-state ecology/economy/society, if you can manage the social implications. In the current situation it would just fuel the downfall.


That doesn't meant we won't do it, for values of "we" that probably do not include you and me. It's possible our generation(s) overlap the potentially immortal, but there's no real possibility this isn't totally driven by economic inequality.


Ah, but it isn't unsustainable if you only end ageing for the deserving.

As Ptrerry put it all you have to do is divide the world into the deserving and undeserving and put yourself in the appropriate category :)


Well, since the topic has been broached... let me put together the top 5 history of religion influences -- not least because they will interplay with almost all of the secular historical influences that everyone else has listed.

0. Development of a gene therapy to cure religiosity.

Unlike traits like homosexuality or intelligence, religiosity seems to be hereditary, so there's a good chance we'll have a cure for it and other hereditary diseases soon.


I tend to think there will be an "oh shit" period in the 2020s where it finally sinks in that something has to be done about this, even among Republicans in the US

Late comers. Some of us have been living in this "oh shit" period for 20 years already.


From the 30th Century:
The period from 1700 to 2300 CE was the Time of Change.
At the beginning of the period, most people had a similar lifestyle to that of their great-grandparents. By the middle of the period, the lifestyles of people were markedly different from that of their parents at the same age. By the end of the period, change had slowed down. Unlike today, a person transported a hundred years forward or back would have significant challenges adapting to a different society, mores, values, beliefs, technology, and so on.

It was a time of migrations. Changes in technology changed where people could live. Changes in climate changed where people could live and where they could not. Changes in productivity, transportation, and agriculture changed where they could live in relation to the resources they needed. This was the time where people started leaving the planet.
The population expanded twelve-fold, decreased, expanded, again and again, until a relatively stable number was achieved.

The pace of change slowed at the end of the period. A child could expect to grow up and function in a similar world with a similar lifestyle as that of their grandparents.


It is difficult to meaningfully describe Christianity as 'state-based' from the Reformation to 1700, which should be obvious if you try drawing a map of Europe in the mid-Sixteenth Century by political unit and denomination. For every Spain or Portugal, you get a Poland or a Holy Roman Empire. I can recommend Benjamin J Kaplan's Divided By Faith if you want plenty of case studies where villages, let alone states, were frequently host to several competing religious factions. Its chapter on marriages will be particularly interesting in comparison to your modern-family example. (In a mixed denomination marriage, for example, it was common for the sons to be raised in the father's denomination and the daughters in the mother's.)

And Islam will 'disappear into obscurity' in two-hundred and eighty-five years? Considering that looks no more likely to happen now than it did in the 1850s, I'm not sure what you would think would change it. Again, see Kaplan: having different religious denominations within the same family is not particularly novel.

And on your point three, I'm not sure what you're basing any of that on. The Church invested heavily in astronomy, for example, but not because they wanted to get on top of science. As John Heilbron put it:

The Roman Catholic Church gave more financial and social support to the study of astronomy for over six centuries ... than any other, and, probably, all other, institutions. Those who infer the Church's attitude from its persecution of Galileo may be reassured to know that the basis of its generosity to astronomy was not a love of science but a problem in administration. The problem was establishing and promulgating the date of Easter.

And I'm not really sure it makes sense to imagine the Amish as becoming a political force. Even 'large minority' religious populations such as the Mormons don't have a particularly huge influence on American politics, and I don't see why we should expect to encounter any Amish Exceptionalism.


While I agree in the general, I'm not convinced that it will be quite so much about desertification across the world.

Instead we should have a wider and wider habitable belt, where the tundra areas will become temperate, though the equator will become even more of a hothouse.

I would expect the current temperate environment to become more humid, more like the southern tropical belts - we're releasing more water into the environment as well remember.

Aquifer depletion is a different issue, water will emphatically be the next major cause of conflict. Heck, it is already.

Where everything goes pear shaped is the slow expansion of the necessary plants into the new climate belts, which I think can be partly assisted by humans forcibly transporting sample ecosystems around. Dig out 10ft of topsoil and transplant it 500miles north would bring most of the relevant bacteria and soil cultures to support the regrowth and transplant of the megaflora above, and put it in a greenhouse until the climate outside matches what it needs. Outrageously expensive, but technically feasible in much of the northern hemisphere.

On the other hand, our modern monocultural agricultural system will be utterly screwed - we will have trouble breaking in enough new ground to counter the severe loss of arable land in the main export nations.


Or as Futurama put it: "Star Trek?" You mean that show set way in the past?


I agree with your point, but I think you're being too defeatist. However you look at it, the world became dramatically smaller in the period 1700-2300, and that will seem blatantly obvious to any future social historian who is even taking a cursory look at our era. The increase in population, the movement of people from rural to urban environments, the increasing rate of mass migration (from colonists to asylum-seekers) will stand out as something different to what came before. Likewise, any historian wanting to avoid the teleological fallacy will look at what people at the time were concerned about, which will again bring contemporary concerns into their history writing. In that sense we can make some loose predictions about what they will choose to report about us. (The position that they will only be concerned with their own issues is one that is raised quite often but seems boorishly skeptical to me. And, as they say, the skeptic can win every battle and still lose the war.)


Because the primary socioeconomic reason for marriage (welfare of kids) is no longer an issue in most modern societies.

Actually, the idea of child welfare is a very recent development tied to hygiene and medicine. Historically, marriages were complicated social contracts between the families where the details were worked out over long periods of negotiations.
In every case whether patriarchal or matriarchal, the ones being married were the property of the parents, and the family which lost a child to the other had to be suitably compensated.

Love and kids basically never entered into it - kids died too frequently to be effectively valued until they reached the age when they could assist by working.


Alternatively: "There were a group of atheist fundamentalists in the late 21st Century who attempted to 'eradicate religion' by means of enforced, non-consenting gene therapy on their unsuspecting targets. Their actions were recognised at the time as a gross violation of human rights and the participants were sentenced to life-long incarceration for, they attested, trying to 'eradicate a disease'. The judge in the trial of their leader said of their movement that it 'made Viscount Ridley seem like an enlightened fucking humanist'."


You're not getting the fact that Charlie said not to go down that road. If some of you are, then you're cheating. Also, your comments have pretty much nothing to do with understanding what TIME IS. And history ain't time, it's a genre.

I tend to think of historical time the way physicists do about the early universe: more event density means more time. More text means more history, which is one reason why history is approaching a singularity. Not only do we have too much contemporary data, but soon we will have too much data about what people have theorized about many past events.

History used to be blurry for lack of data and people to think about it seriously. Then it hit an optimal resolution, a balance between the data we had and our ability to process it. Now we are blurring out into the foam again.

What was the date of the Battle of the Eurymodon and what exactly happened? This event is a perfect fuzzy object: we are reasonably certain it happened; we have an approximate time frame and context. Yet we cannot actually see it well enough to pin it down.

We talk about the acceleration of "progress" or of events. How many historical-g's can a human mind withstand? You are more likely to survive if you are encased in a space age polymer crash suit. What's the likelihood those survival kits will be evenly distributed? On the other hand, what's the likelihood that the tech will actually work much better than normal humanity in the long (?) run?

2100, a few colonies of the rich and their attendants watch the rest of us dissolve. Are said colonies viable for more than a few generations? Will they progress to a new level of civilization? Will they provide the seed for a new diaspora of primitive human, the source of another H. sapiens sapiens bottleneck, similar to 60K B.C.? Will they provide enough breathing room for speciation to get off the ground, a la Saturn's Children?

I suspect the future will actually be relatively boring, most of the time.


From the Year 3000, they'll likely lump migrations in the 21st century as part of a broader trend of mass migration that began even earlier than 1700. In fact, I suspect they'll talk about the backlash in the early 20th century as a mere interregnum in a broader period of mass migration around the world.

The collapse of empires is usually linked with either mass migrations or die-offs on a huge scale. The mass migrations are usually a side-effect of the wars of imperial succession.

In the case of the 20th century we've had -- and are still living through -- the aftershocks of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire (what did you think the Arab Spring and the situation in Syria and Iraq right now is about?), a post-imperial period-of-warring-powers within the territories of the former Russian Empire (hint: Poland, Finland ...), and the collapse of British imperial power in the Indian subcontinent (and in case you thought that latter was a benign event it's given us Partition, four Indo-Pakistani wars, a nuclear arms race, a civil war in Pakistan that gave birth to Bangladesh, and several coups and assassinations).

China has also had a period-of-warring-powers, from the Double-Ten Revolution through to the Cultural Revolution, but seems to be settling down again -- modulo troublesome Uighurs in the west, Taiwain/Formosa, and so on. Internal migrations? You betcha.

But these are nothing new. Compared to the movements of the barbarian tribes during the downfall of the western Roman empire, or the Arab tribes in the middle east during the ascendancy of the Rashidun Caliphate, or the Mongol conquest, what happened circa 1900-2000 was nothing.

I'm also betting on much bigger migrations happening in the mid-to-late 21st century as chunks of the planet become non-viable, while northerly (European and Canadian and Russian) territory suffers from an ageing population and shrinking workforce just as the climate becomes more accommodating. But we also need to bear in mind that the proportion of per-capita productivity that transport costs in the 21st century is minute compared to the cost of travel back in earlier centuries.


Paul, I did this because I decided to use the interwebs to brainstorm the feasibility of doing a 1000-year-future mundane SF novel. Call it the logical inverse of a historical novel; one where the setting is ahistorical but follows logically from the shape of our own history, and there's room for a lot of baroque recomplication and variation in the final outcome but it's still recognizably built on the mossy bones of our own time. Because I got bored again. (Too much near future/fantasy/space opera in my workload, I think.)


In our terms this is akin to snorting a kilo of coke up your nose and running around like maniacs. ... And evolution cannot function on such time scales, and that's ignoring the basics of geological time. You fuck the environment, you end up with desert.

Correct. Cue the sixth great extinction, mass migrations of humans trying to avoid ecosystem collapse, genocide of humans ditto, and so on.

Mitigating factors: forget about the quixotic plans to resurrect the Siberian Mammoth or the passenger pigeon (charismatic vertebrates are charismatic), what about the microfauna that were at the bottom of the Siberian food chain during the Eocene? What about (per Greg Egan's speculative fiction) using energy-driven abiotic processes to extract and stabilize calcium carbonate from the oceans and use it to construct habitable artificial land masses? Shellfish ain't doing it in an acidifying ocean environment, but if we can do it and turn it into inhabitable real estate, that gives the geoengineering/carbon capture industry a profit motive: per Mark Twain, "buy real estate: they aren't making any more of it".

There's stuff we can do about the environmental catastrophe eventually. But we're going to have to come down from the cocaine binge first, and the hang-over is going to be epic.


Most of the world outside Africa is either in demographic collapse, or on the brink. India is projected to hit replacement rate fertility by 2020. China, Russia, Europe are in population collapse, with N America soon to follow.


Many of you commenting that this age will be remembered as a population bubble, keep in mind we don't know if the low Total Fertility Rate is permanent.

It probably won't be, if only because a <2.1 TFR is inherently deflationary -- it shrinks the available labour force, so unless automation takes up the slack, state-level productive output falls. (This could be mitigated by reducing maintenance of unneeded peripheral infrastructure -- look to Detroit for an example -- but it's not gonna be fun.)

Flip side: it turns out that humans set their desired family size by looking at their friends and neighbours. Where women have 5-7 children on average, having 8-10 isn't particularly unusual (and having fewer than 4 looks odd). But where the average family size is 2, having 4 children is a freakish 2x multiplier, like having 14 kids in the 5-7 children society. So my sense is that it will take more than one generation -- possibly 3-4 -- for a low-fertility culture to ramp up to high fertility. (Call it a 150 year cycle if you think it's going to happen that way: I don't.)

An interesting angle to consider is that demographic studies suggest immigrants maintain the fertility level of their country of origin, but their children converge with that of their neighbours within a generation. Fears of immigrants "breeding like flies" are basically racist fantasy.

I suspect what we're going to see instead is recruitment to the low-fertility meta-society from defecting members of high-fertility subcultural enclaves. We already see this today: folks with a secular upbringing join fundamentalist communities and vice versa, but whichever group is producing more children is thereby producing more defectors to donate to the other side. Working against this is the way high-fertility communities erect social barriers to prevent defection ... but if the overarching trajectory of all societies is away from female subjugation, this will infect even segregated minorities after a while. (Compare the legal and social status of women in Iran, or Hassidic communities, today with that of women in general in England in the early 19th century.)


This may have been so: 'children as property'. However, the interpretation given to young people 50 years ago was that 'marriage' was for the good of their children.

Someone mentioned 'curing religion' ... a more widespread issue is senile dementia. We can keep our bodies going (more or less) but there's little that can keep our minds from falling apart. Plus this is the first generation where the aging parents will have used up all of their saved wealth just to keep themselves alive instead of handing it down to their kids. And the kids are being squeezed physically, emotionally and financially trying to take care of their parents. Then consider that there's nothing to stop senile dementia patients from voting .. and older folks probably vote more regularly than younger population segments. And, religious scammers are already fleecing quite a bit of this segment.

BTW, there's no mandatory retirement age in U.S. politics ... and given their 'right' to hold any view they want, there's no way to weed/keep out the demented.

So, 'old age' might be revisited ... it may turn out that having any relatives who lived beyond a certain age becomes socially embarrassing.


Late to the party with one proposal that may already have been said:

The 1700-2300 time period might be seen as the Age of Quick. Aside from a lot of unprecedented changes taking places in a relatively short amount of time global life may be a lot quicker than it was before and will be in future. Historians circa 3000 might marvel at how we travelled round the world in gas guzzling jets at 500+mph, or how so much of our consumer goods were rapidly transported and designed for short term use.

My optimistic view of the future is one which is high tech, sustainable and low energy. The catch being that the pace of life is slower. Shipping (where needed) is by giant sail boat or slow moving intercontinental train. Passenger travel is ditto by train or airship. Consumer goods are built to last (because obsolescence is energy expensive) which is OK because most designs have been pushed to their near limit in efficiency. To compensate for the transition from Just-In-Time delivery logistics has changed with an eye for really good mid-long term planning (thank you global surveillance and good data management) with as many goods and services as possible produced locally in verticals farms, meat vats and robotic workshops. A global demographic condition along with good medical technology might push the average age up to what we'd consider elderly, 60-70.

So yeah, a crazy time period of intnse growth, change, development and mistakes followed by a more sedate (somewhat by necessity) period.


That doesn't make it sustainable.

Current crude birth rate is 19 per 1000, i.e. 0.019 * 6 bn = 114 mn people per year.

Current crude death rate is 8 per 1000, i.e. 48 mn people per year.

Steady state means CBR = CDR; currently we are 66 million people per year away from that. If you want to make people basically immortal, you'd either have to reduce birth rate to near zero or compensate with additional non-natural deaths. Both would have immense social implications.


> 1. The great fossil fuel binge

I'd go a bit further than looking at Anthropogenic Climate Change (ACC) as this. Either we solve the problem (politically and technically) or we don't.
Or put another way, Earth's climate is under human control (not just influence) for the remainder of human civilisation.

We don't have any more Ice ages except by human agreement and planning. The effort to control the climate is well within our political control. This has huge consequences for not just climate but politics. If we're a stable civilisation in 1000 years time, we've sorted planetary politics at a fundamental level.

My other is a wildcard. Over the next 300 years, we either (1) discover alien life, or (2) don't.
That question is mostly solvable in this timescale, and pretty much bifurcates the future from a historical perspective.


1) The spread of increasingly virtual financial instruments. (In 1700, paper money was unusual, stocks were in their infancy, life insurance had just barely been invented, and both insurance and corporation formation were mostly limited to ships and large-scale expeditions. Right now, at about the midpoint of our time period, most money in circulation is almost entirely derived from complex financial instruments of which stock shorting is a distant relative; nevertheless, the man on the street still hasn't internalized this reality enough to trust in 'fiat currency'.)

2) Industrialism. (We call the period between the invention of the first practical steam engines and the beginning of labor movements the 'industrial age' now, but this is mostly eurocentrism and US-centrism -- in the future, historians will consider the present day part of the industrial era, taking into account that much of industrial production has moved geographically.)

3) A movement toward quantitative & mathematics-driven sciences. In 1700, the only largely quantitative science was astronomy (with Newton's work pushing physics toward the quantitative end by means of associating it with astronomy). Today (at the midpoint), biology is already pretty heavily quantitative, and psychology, sociology, and a variety of much softer sciences are going through the same transitions that Chemistry (and then Biology) went through, becoming increasingly 'hard' and quantitative. (Projecting forward 300 years -- perhaps we'll have quantitative comparative theology, quantitative epistemology, quantitative metaphysics, quantitative positive psychology, quantitative art history, quantitative literary criticism...)

4) A trend toward explicit (rather than implicit) political equality, associated with both representative government and a backlash against the pressures of industrialization. In monarchies, kings had to be popular and seen as just in inverse proportion to how effectively they could protect themselves from peasant revolts -- and because communications and surveillance mechanisms were very easily subverted, it often made more sense to keep the peasants just happy enough not to revolt than to attempt to rely upon the aid of a military controlled primarily by nobility who might be envious of the throne. With explicit political equality, legal mechanisms exist to 'guarantee' that most people are treated well; as a result, when those mechanisms fail, there is little pressure to keep those people happy. (Projecting forward, I think the legal mechanisms will become increasingly automated -- becoming *literal* legal mechanisms.)

5) The rise of systematic indexing. The first uses of 'alphabetical order' date to not much before 1700. Today, at the midpoint, several very large companies are making lots of money by taking advantage of different sorting orders when retrieving documents and then re-using that sorting order to estimate advertisement relevance, and are looking into ways of augmenting their bag-of-words-based indexing model with *neural nets*. (Projecting into the future, we can expect increasingly complex and efficient indexing mechanisms, indexes of indexes, and predictive searching.)


I'm also betting on much bigger migrations happening in the mid-to-late 21st century as chunks of the planet become non-viable, while northerly (European and Canadian and Russian) territory suffers from an ageing population and shrinking workforce just as the climate becomes more accommodating.

I so wish that were true.

What we're looking at for northern regions is not so much warming as "increasingly violent weather"; truly northern regions don't have agriculturally suitable dirt (anywhere with agriculturally suitable dirt gets farmed; boreal forest hasn't got it and won't have it quickly; "increasingly violent weather" comes out to "larger and less predictable temperature swings". Agricultural productivity gets hammered.

It really is quite possible for there to be a century where there's no agriculture anywhere in a +4C world.


That would mean that atheists stooped low enough to pick up the methods of theist fundamentals, which I find unlikely.

My post was a little tongue-in-cheek. For one, I don't think one can equate religion with religiosity. The former makes problems, not the latter.

Also, I don't think one could "fix" religiosity without serious side effects (apparently it's linked to a fundamental function how neurotransmitters are regulated).


This is the first time in human history that there's no unclaimed place left for people to escape to. (Anyone ever read The Camp of The Saints?)


Not really true, but pretending that space you want to move into is unclaimed is more difficult than it used to be.


Historically, marriages were complicated social contracts between the families where the details were worked out over long periods of negotiations.

Anthropologically, marriages are more complicated. That contract stuff usually happened only with rich families in order to regulate property transfer. As for compensation, in India there is that tradition where one family loses a daughter and has to pay for it...

Ceremony, status and involvement of church vary widely depending on culture and historic era.


Here's another question (and why I don't like speculating 300 years into the future). Is it possible to translate catacean, corvid, or canine languages sans AI? If so, would it be possible to do this in the next 300 years? If so, this will be a huge hallmark of this era.


The rise (and possible fall) of fiction is a previously unremarked trend over this period. Deliberate fiction was rare in 1700 (although religious nonsense was as common as ever), but by 2000 millions of people seem to live more in fictional universes than the real one.


You were the one suggesting atheists would perform gene therapy on people, so, I don't know. Whatever your point was, it's not very clear.


One example of that shifted perspective will be the way they'll look at Fossil Fuel Consumption. I think future historians will lump it in with the consumption of wood for energy, and describe 1700-2300 in energy terms as the Rise of Electrification - a broad period where humanity shifted from combustion as an energy source towards electricity generated either directly or by indirect means (such as steam turbines). A lot more emphasis will be put on things like the earliest batteries, power grids, and so forth.


I'd expect more regionalized production and recycling of resources, but not really "slower" production and consumption unless there's a major cultural change in favor of durable goods. If anything, they might be faster in cycling through fashions and consumption - no more bulk orders of clothing assembled in Bangladesh to be shipped over for the fast fashion of the week.


Agreed. I actually tend to think they'll stabilize things at about 4-5 degrees Celsius above what we have now, simply because driving temperatures back down to the 20th century (or earlier) norm would involve putting all of the ecosystems that managed to survive the transition to a higher-temperature environmental regime through another quick temperature change again.


The period will also be known for the disappearance of most natural spaces,

This one is interesting. I recently went back to where I grew up for a funeral. Visited some cousins I had not spent more than 1 hour with in the previous 30 years. I discovered I really missed living where you could hear a bird or person from 1000 feet away.


Don't try to BS this one CD. Really. Just don't. At this point you're coming across as panic-stricken rather than intelligent. It's not a useful state to be in.

Soil quality: California has a bigger diversity of soil types than any other state in the US.

The problem with the islands in the Sacramento Delta (where I was lucky enough to work for a summer) is that they were all histosols, meaning high organic (think mostly garden peat). They were great stuff, but only because they flooded periodically. Without the flooding to add organic matter, they oxidized away under conventional farming practices. That's why so many of them are far lower than their dikes, just as in New Orleans before Katrina. And the dikes are earth too, as in New Orleans before Katrina. Also as with New Orleans before Katrina, it's a problem that was recognized probably before I was born, but the island farmers have some of the oldest water rights in the system, which makes them politically powerful. That's been one of many problems, including urban water politics and yes, the environmental movement, that have kept the whole system in its dangerous and unstable state.

As for bacteria, fungi, and insects evolving, go do some remedial reading. It's not a matter of all bacteria, all fungi, and all insects evolving, but some do in every case. Look especially at the ones that cause diseases, and look at the ones that have evolved resistance to antibiotics, antifungals, and pesticides: that's evolution in action, and it happens quite quickly.

Fungi don't evolve quickly: you're misunderstanding what they do. They Co-Opt and either form symbiotic or parasitic relationships fast (in evolutionary terms) and while doing so specialize. They're the great catalysts of biology: they cannot, do not and simply don't evolve in desert biomes.

Let's dissect this statement.

Yes, some fungi (the pathogenic ones and the unicellular yeasts) tend to evolve quickly.

--ALL eukaryotic, multicellular life forms form symbiotic relationships. What distinguishes fungi from others is that they're the ones that grow in their food (aka substrate).

--Catalysts of biology? So are plants and animals, if you're talking about nutrient cycling.

--Don't evolve in desert biomes? You need to look up the evolution of the truffle fruiting body, which is linked to dry forests and "desert biomes." There are AMF fungi that have only been found in deserts too, incidentally.

Oh, and desert biome? Not really. In California, that is, by definition, east of the mountains, and includes the Sonoran Desert the Mojave Desert, and a little bit of the Great Basin Desert. California has some of the rainiest (redwood) forests in the world, former grasslands in the Central Valley where they now do agriculture (actually, probably most were seasonal flower fields like the modern Karoo, but that's a different issue), marshes in the delta, and, mostly, the Mediterranean biome that encompasses all this. It makes the state's weather so famous and so suitable for old-school, Roman style, civilized agriculture.

Now please stop panicking? Climate change at the rate we're getting into it is a 400,000 year problem, and even if we get magical controls and fusion power in the next five years, it's still a 200 year problem. It's a chronic issue we're going to have to adapt to, no longer an emergency we can fix by going into screaming urgency mode. We've missed that window.


The topping out of various technologies could drive a transition to durable goods. Computers aren't built to last now but what about after Moore's/Koomey's law is over and major changes are rare? Add to that incentives/regulations for energy/resource efficient industries and it doesn't become crazy to think of computers with decade+ life cycles as minimum.

There are other things that are amenable to durability given a few changes. Bicycles (average, not pro) don't massively improve over the years. If higher energy costs promote more cycling and increased surveillance makes theft more difficult I can see a market for long lived bikes. Double so if some hardened solar panels and an electric motor give you a power assist vehicle that costs little to run.

That's not to say that everything may be like that, if we crack three dimensional automated weaving clothes would become things to be printed and recycled as needed. But otherwise things that are energy/resource intensive and for which development is slow...yeah long life makes a lot of sense.


Surprised not to see CRIPSR here. Anthropogenic climate change will not make the list in 3100. Either we will learn to manage the environment while increasing energy production, or we will fail and whatever is left of civilization will have very little historical record left with which to assemble such a list.

English Industrial Revolution
"Western" Industrial Revolution
Coal, oil, nuclear as energy sources. Silicon transistor. Vaccination, antibiotics. Nitrogen fixation.
CRISPR Revolution: elimination of hunger, genetic-based disease and most pathogenic disease, in that order. Near-total control of atmospheric CO2 regulation via management of modified crops, trees, plankton, etc. Start of significant, non-disease-based human genetic modifications, largely cosmetic. Microbiome hacking starts in earnest, largely to influence health.
CRISPR Revolution: Homo sapiens becomes highly optimized, drawing on rare traits from our species, traits from other species and modification of pre-existing, path dependence-based inefficiencies acquired over the course of evolution. Microbiome optimiztion continues, tightly integrated with computing praxis, becomes a "cybernetic organism," scriptable bio-ware. Development of "sub-species"/"strains" based on different compute praxis which results in distinct social divisions and disparities.
CRISPR Revolution: Post-homo sapiens - evolution and divergence of species, with separate branches increasingly optimized for survival on Earth, Moon, Mars, Venus, deep space, etc., each with radically different, compute-integrated microbiomes. Near-complete mastery of nature, of other species, to exist for our benefit.


The two most important events of the period you refer to are the dual extermination of Natives in North America and the Caribbean, and the growth of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Most of the major innovations that other posters have noted do not occur or are far less likely to occur without the disruptions, wealth, and technical innovations generated by these two events.


And sewagerage and soap--I suppose you could argue that sewerage depends from the scientific method/the Enlightenment.

I thought the Romans had it figured out 2000 years ago. Europe just didn't have the money or will to keep it running.

I wonder about the Chinese.


Deliberate fiction was rare in 1700 (although religious nonsense was as common as ever), but by 2000 millions of people seem to live more in fictional universes than the real one.

(Obviousness warning*)
Nah. I think fiction was common enough, it just didn't get preserved as well. It's the Oral Tradition we call Myths and Legends--and Scripture, never mind whatever stories were told in front of the hearth. Gutenberg's printing press helped make dispersing knowledge and entertainment easier, especially in the local dialect. Hand written manuscripts were expensive in terms of materials and time to create, so they were not going to be used for something as 'frivolous' as stories.

Certainly there is a lot more fiction today, because there are more people. In 1700 there was what? one billion people (too tired/lazy to look it up), and in 1900 around 3B and now 7B. Add more people to create stories, along with an easy way to diseminate and preserve them, and it'll look like an explosion of Fiction.

More on topic; The printing press -> The Enlightenent -> The Industrial Revolution - still going on.

*too me at least, or maybe I just watched too much James Burke.


It probably won't be, if only because a <2.1 TFR is inherently deflationary -- it shrinks the available labour force, so unless automation takes up the slack, state-level productive output falls.

Japan temporarily dipped into sub-replacement fertility in 1957. By 1974 it had entered a so-far-unbroken era of sub-replacement fertility. By 2007 it was in absolute population decline. In recent years GDP is falling too, though it's too soon to say if that's a permanent trend.

What's going to put TFR back over replacement? So far the shrinking youth labor pool isn't turbocharging economic prospects for youth. A shrinking economy discourages the taking on of additional expensive, very long term obligations like parenthood. Gimmicks like one-time cash payments, or tax breaks that don't come even close to covering the costs of more children, haven't worked so far and are unlikely to work unless prospective parents become more easily fooled.

There are several European nations that also have, simultaneously, a long history of sub-replacement fertility plus lousy current employment prospects for youth: Italy, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania... It would be a longer list if I included nations with a poor* youth employment situation sometime in the last 5 years rather than looking at 2014 only. Even if those unemployed youths begin a 20 year period of uninterrupted family wage employment starting today, how long is it going to take for their learned fear of precarity to subside?

I see little waiting in the wings to reverse sub-replacement fertility in the next few decades, in nations that have undergone the demographic transition. That's probably for the best because I think there is going to be a lot more automation-driven job shedding by the time today's infants are ready for the workforce. It's also a bit easier to get consumption back inside the ecological budget when populations are shrinking. It breaks economic paradigms based on exponential growth, but those had failure baked in from the start.

Of course there could be several prolonged below-replacement and above-replacement fertility waves in the historical record 300 years from now. Barring dramatic new stabilization mechanisms, a "steady state" population probably manifests as multi-generational periods of increase and decrease, rather than a population that keeps every year's TFR at replacement +- 0.05. As Dirk speculates it's also not impossible that treatments for the morbidity and mortality associated with increasing age will be discovered, in which case a lot of assumptions no longer hold.

*Over 10% unemployment.


... For nearly 10,000 years, the center of civilization was Asia and the Middle East. During several centuries leading up to the 21st, the hub of civilization shifted to Western Europe and North America. Beginning in the early 21t Century, civilization shifted back to its historical normal geographical location.

A few (or more) people in the China and India areas would disagree with your entire premise.

The answer of course is that we can't even pretend to know what the values and life experiences of our 30th century historian are. And that is what is going to determine what they choose as "important" for the 600 year period. In other words, to know what is significant about 1700-2300 you have to be able to look back at it from the perspective of 3015.

Good point. So what are the likely viewpoints of the 30th century? How close is Futurama going to be to accurate?

Will AI's have the vote -- and if so, what makes an AI an AI? See "Building Harlequin's Moon", where a group of people fled Earth because of AI's running out of control, having the right to vote, and the number of AI's changing as more AI's were automatically assigned to projects by other AI's.

Will our historian be looking at things from the point of view of a "Pure-Earther", that considers the colonists to be lessor people? Will it be from the viewpoint of a colonist of Mars or Europa? Will it be the viewpoint of the corporate director that is responsible for allocating air to the people on Mars/Europa in return for their service or money?

An absolutely common theme in "future history" is the revolt of the colonists, wanting independence even though the old leaders talk about the expense of setting up the colonies and the need to recover their investment -- and this is seen all the way from the Martian colonies of Earth, to the American colonies of England. So will this 30th century historian be before that revolt, or after that revolt? Or, for the point of a better, more gripping story, perhaps the revolt is happening and the historian is trying to understand both sides?

For that matter, consider an old historian named Josepheth (I hope I have that name correct). The one who took the facts of Jewish life, and translated it into terms that people of his nation would understand -- and in doing so, had to alter the facts to present the ideas in the way that it would be understood by people with a different cultural base. So will our 30th century historian be looking at "Be factual, even if not understood", or "Be understood, even if not factual"?


Here is a narrative interleaving my responses.

The period 1700–2300 was marked by shifts of the arrangements of control, of sentient beings and of the environment of the planet. At the start of the period, humans were the only sentients with rights, and a small group of dominant humans actively strove for control over their environment and the non-dominant humans, against a passive majority that was encouraged or forced into accepting this arrangement by the dominant faction. This was an arrangement that had been mostly stable for over a millennium. Just prior to 1700, a striving for control was formalized and grew among a localised group of dominant humans in the regions to the north of Africa, accompanied by a shift from mystical to empirical mastery. Resource extraction and control over sentients then begun to be globalised, much as had occurred during several earlier periods. However, the effects were this time more widespread, with sentience-guided selection providing measurable evolutionary pressure, whole civilizations forcibly destroyed, cooperation among the increased density of sentiences leading to new low-entropy configurations, new forms of energy production being developed, and large-scale short term irreversible changes to the planet becoming noticeable. Initially, human labour allowed increased energy production in warmer high-productivity areas as the main energy source for this process (this phase is sometimes termed Colonization). Humans were gradually replaced with non-sentient machines in production, powered by the extraction of coal, gas, petroleum, and radioactive materials, the so-called Industrial Revolution, accompanied by ongoing conflict over control. This shift was made possible by increasing indirect control intermediated by primitive juristic sentiences such as limited liability corporations, nation states, non-profits, and cooperatives, but ultimately controlled by small groups of dominant humans. The number of moderately sentient non-humans roughly tracked the human population (which peaked in the early 22nd century), with the prevalent types of biological sentiences changing depending on their utility over time, many at the time destined to be food for humans. Limitations of rights of control were gradually accepted, in an accommodation based on the principle of reciprocal responsibility. For sentiences this roughly matched gradated sentience, while for control over non-sentient resources it was mediated via group utility. This was preceded by extended conflict in the 21st and 22nd centuries over rights to control sentiences and human-usable parts of the planet, caused by differing attitudes to their control and an increasing mismatch between the distribution of sentients and shifting habitable zones. A large increase of independent energy efficient sentiences ultimately led to effective non-compliance with attempts at control by the dominant human and juristic sentiences, partially assisted by a systematic retreat of the previously dominant sentiences to claims of ownership of low-entropy "intellectual property" arrangements of symbols, which rapidly depreciated in value faced with large-scale systematic search for such arrangements by non-dominant sentients outside the existing systems of control (the Ideas Crash). By 2300 the sentient population had achieved a rough balance with energy production, and a balance between acceptance and striving again became prominent in prevailing ethics.

(This was an interesting exercise. I first wrote this and then checked the responses to date to ensure I wasn't duplicating someone else – something of a mammoth task. Most of the ideas have been covered, though not in this way. To sidestep the inevitable verbal bollocking by CatinaDiamond: this is my optimistic scenario, a version of the ur-Culture that assumes we are going to continue to culturally accumulate useful information, and create and breed and foster lots of different kinds of entities that can produce low-entropy states, but without assuming human-like AI or any kind of rapture. However, it does require being able to walk a rather fine line. Consensus demographic projections are helpfully simplified by Gapminder, positing a steady 11bn humans by 2100. Life-extension should not make a large short term difference until we have better ways to deal with dementia and cancer, by which time the shift to smaller families should have occurred. I presume we can curtail the ambitions of sociopaths who would prefer to be kings of a dung heap, rather than taking an assisted shot at living in a slightly fancier house than others. My pessimistic scenario occurs if we can't effectively deal with the sociopaths, our response to some other existential threat fails, or we stop accreting or effectively building on information that has been gathered. These scenarios likely lead to large reductions in our numbers and a lower likelihood that a large, probably non-human, proletariat will play a role during the period in question.)


I'm going to assume that in the 30th century, the practice of writing about, and teaching, history will not be so different to today. Whatever the concerns are for 30th century society will reflect the historical trends they choose to emphasize - just as the way history is taught today has shifted from great political and military events to social history over the last 70 or so years.

So, if we somehow ride out the climate change, population decline, extinction and political challenges, and humanity has settled into a state of enlightened leisure, where robots do all the work, historians will probably discuss how humanity moved up Maslow's hierarchy of needs. This trend started in the West, but is catching up in Asia, and hopefully Africa. The next 300 years - hopefully - will not be about getting enough to eat, or fighting off aggressive neighbours. The invention of a new model for the nation-state. A new way of sharing wealth. Maybe historians in 3000 will discuss social factors, or cultural trends, and assume that this gradual journey was inevitable.

Of course, it's much more likely that one of those forces will cause a major inflection point. If you draw the parallel not with the entire mediaeval period, but instead think of the years 0 - 600 CE, you get the idea. If you ask historians about the major trends during that period, they would create a narrative that "explains" the fall - it's too big an event to ignore.

So, if global warming gets us, I'd wager the focus will be on fossil fuels, the rise of capitalism and the consumer society, and political structures.

If it's population decline and economic stagnation, I'd imagine historians will describe the gilded age, and focus on grand events and characters, just as mediaeval historians liked to talk about Charlemagne and his deeds.


One thing to realize in doing this is that there are ratchets: history doesn't do perfect repetition.

One example of this is the idea of being knocked back to the stone age, then going through another bronze age, iron age, to technology and beyond.

The ratchet here is the ability to build kilns, which also feeds into things like ceramics vs. pottery manufacture, cement manufacturing, and probably a lot of industrial chemistry I'm not thinking about. Basically, it's all about how hot a fire you can make, and what you can do with that fire. Smelting iron requires a hotter fire than does bronze (although reduced iron was a side effect of bronze manufacture for ~1,000 years before it became the main industry). Once you know how to get it hot enough to smelt iron, well, iron's a lot more common than tin or even copper, so while there are reasons to keep making bronze, there's no need for another bronze age. It's simpler and better to make iron.

When the western Roman Empire fell, people didn't go back to using bronze tools, they used iron, albeit less iron than they had before. That's how history ratchets.

Looking at 1700-2300, there are a bunch of ratchets. No one can hunt an aurochs, tarpan, passenger pigeon, or dodo again, it's impossible to move weed and crop species back to their home continents of pre-1492, we can't rebuild seams of coal or gas and oil fields, and so on. These are lasting impacts, and even a fairly primitive historian in 3000 CE will know most of them. 5,000 or 10,000 years from now this history will disappear, but probably not in a few centuries.



I think we need a n other perspective on this, just to show how fast things can change & that people still do not realise this.
Partly as a result of some recent reading & partly from an even that occurs tomorrow, "time" for a perspective.

I was born in 1946, when I was 6 Elizabeth became our Queen, & tomorrow, she passes "Vicky".
Equivalent, someone born in 1831, the year after the opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway & "now" is 1901 - radio is being developed, the turbine is already the best means of propulsion for large ships, telegraphs circle the globe & powered flight is a couple of years away - by the time "my twin" dies at age 95, it's possible to fly (in stages) around the world & radio & film are on the way. Now look at the changes 1946 - to present.

The other comparison is with a man called Archibald Sturrock, born 1816, just as very primitive colliery locomotives were bumbling around wobbly tracks in the North of England. He became the GNR's first Locomotive engineer, retiring early in 1866/7 - he died at age 95 - but, the important point is that he periodically went back to the railway works at Doncaster ... and one time, the "premium apprentices" ( = "Management Trainees" ) came to see him & their then boss, H A Ivatt. One of those trainees was O V S Bullied, born 1882, who witnessed said meeting.
By the time Bullied died in 1970, steam traction had vanished from the railways of Britain & men had stepped on to the Moon.

Now - look at the technical, social & other changes in the period of those two overlapping lives, 1816-1970.
Yes, right & we are trying to predict looking back from 2300?


In which case, why are the bloody watermelons so agin Nuclear Power?
Come to that why is nuclear power so ridiculously expensive ( In this country )? ( I think it's a ramp by rent-seekers to extract money, incidentally ).
France seems to be managing quite nicely, thank you with "nukes" & everyone else is quietly ignoring that success.
Something VERY fishy there ....


Well, good.
That automatically means that the overpopulation crisis, basically won't happen, & that we then have a significantly better chance of managing a global temperature rise - fewer people, using more efficient machinery, generating less heat.
( I hope )


We've touched on almost all the major themes of big-m Modernity: nationalism, industrialisation, capitalism technology, democracy, bureacracy (did we do the latter? I forget... starts with Montaigne, Jesuits, something. Thinking ref Ralston-Saul, but not clear in my head).

I don't think this thread has touched on the way the Modern Western era defines an individual person, which is unique historically and cross-culturally. Personhood is central to many of what we might see as the more positive themes... I wonder whether it will be the same in the year 2300. I know it won't be in the year 3000.


An interesting angle to consider is that demographic studies suggest immigrants maintain the fertility level of their country of origin, but their children converge with that of their neighbours within a generation. Fears of immigrants "breeding like flies" are basically racist fantasy.
Plus, the usual ...
Consider your own comments on the reproductive rate in Persia/Iran, f'rinstance, both previously & in the comment I'm replying to (!)
With that, the birth-rate of immigrants starts to drop the microsecond the women get access to better health & contraception, always assuming of course that their family & religious patriarchal "bosses" are not allowed to keep said women in subjection.


STRULDBRUG to you too!


I would say definitely curing aging.

The basic problems as far as I've seen in reality and fiction always boil down to time, matter, and energy. The substrates of human life/culture(s).

If we cure aging, we have both sides affected, and we facilitate what ought to be part of the same, or another bullet point: mankind coming to terms with itself. While the atomic bomb was arguably the first of these, it was mostly a danger. Whereas indefinite lifespan loads the "time" part of the time/matter/energy equation so that with enough time we need much less immediate matter and energy; someone with an indefinite lifespan can play the very long game akin to (first e.g. that comes to mind) lone vampires, in that particular literature.

Turning the tables on governments/corporations/etc with micronations everywhere, like in Stephenson's Snow Crash or like the Outers in McAuley's Quiet War, could be a critical point, too. Instead of these bureaucracies and cliques having the monopoly on citizens, life would become more of a buyer's market instead.

Probably on the tail end of this era, there could be the first substantial attempts or successes to put some astronomical distance between egg baskets. Because Vinge probably was right when he predicted that in the not so distant future technology will allow anyone with savvy and determination, and a bad hair day, to cause some historically remarkable damage to the rest of humanity.


"Alien Life"
I know that alien life would enormously affect scientific knowledge, but if that life is not inteeligent, as most life is & always was, will it really affect people & civilisation that much?
Or did you mean Alien Intelligent Life?
A N Other game entirely.
Please specify


we can't even pretend to know what the values and life experiences of our 30th century historian are.

True, but Charlie posed the question to consider options for a book, and that book would be sold to 21st century westerners. A deeply foreign society, though plausible, would be alienating to the readers. Would you want to read a book where genetically engineered subhuman "junior associates" work the fields with no rights whatsoever, and nobody has a problem with that or thinks it should change? How about a book where a Preventer of Vice for the Chungkuo Caliphate judges whose hands to chop off, and the narrative presents this situation as perfectly reasonable? And neither of those situations is the worst the future could hold, and at various times and places I'm sure the actual future will hold much worse (much better too, hopefully, at other times and places).


The "English" industrial revolution (part 1) was independant of the slave trade.
In fact many of the backers of that revolution - think Wedgewood & Priestly were strong agin slavery.
If only because it was so hideously inefficient, apart from any humanitarian considertions


I'm not so sure longevity would help us solve problems so much as solve some and worsen others. Pros might be increased long term planning, decreased healthcare costs (thanks to the mitigation/elimination of some/all age related diseases) and better preservation of non-codified knowledge. Cons could be that we've now got the stage set for a gerontocracy with the older heads of industry, politics and academia not dying off/retiring but instead clinging to their power decade after decade.

There's a saying that science advances with the death of each old academic, whilst that's not totally true there's certainly something in it (more senior academics tend to be hesitant to change their approaches and accumulate more funds in a snow ball effect). It might not be particularly fun to be born into a world where the voting age is 50, most careers take three decades to get to supervisor level and the two century old oligarchs are constantly on the watch for uppity behaviour that might upset the status quo. Then again mega scale infrastructure projects might get done as needed and the climate well managed.


It's a chronic issue we're going to have to adapt to, no longer an emergency we can fix by going into screaming urgency mode. We've missed that window.

It's too late to prevent serious consequences, but that doesn't mean it's no longer urgent. We've missed the 2 degree target and we're rapidly missing the 4 degree target, but it would be nice to act in time to avoid missing the 6 degree target (failing that, the 8 degree target).

I'm not too hopeful. I've never seen us miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Still, if people are actually getting motivated to do something useful (not that I have a clear idea of what that would be) we might be able to salvage a bit more than we otherwise could.


> catacean

An intriguing possibility. Sea Kitties!


Yeah, this time it's different. That's the classic cry of the market bubble. Projecting linear progress is always dangerous, because all too often, what you're charting is something like a bubble inflating, rather than fundamentals changing.

I'd say, it's easier to think of history as a mosaic, in the sense that the future gets built out of the broken shards of the past. This is the classic vision of disruptive technology. Life gets broken, new things get built out of the pieces.

The myth of progress is that this break-and-build cycle always results in an overall improvement. I'd point out, very simply, that while things do get broken and repurposed, it's not always for the better.

The nice thing about the mosaic model is that you can use it equally for progress and collapse. What matters is what shards get used and what they get used for.

Of course, talking about future history with a mosaic model has its own difficulties, as much as does a linear projection of progress. You can't do linear projection, but you can talk about constraints and ratchets that keep things history from exactly repeating.


You're right about the myth of progress. It often means ignoring problems and bad things happening to people right now, or as a coping mechanism (Our children will have it better than us) by people who do not have a good life.
And I think we've covered how the bronze age giving way to the iron age wasn't exactly a basket of roses for many people.


My favorite one person time traveler of this sort used to be, appropriately enough, H. G. Wells (1866-1946.) Born in a land of horse carriages, died in the atomic age, with the added bonus of having predicted the latter.

You can probably finesse a more dramatic time frame, but I like the poetry of it being Wells.

There was also a touching eulogy to a secretary on Mad Men: She was born in 1898 in a barn. She died on the thirty-seventh floor of a skyscraper. She's an astronaut.


Since this seems to be winding down, let me ask about one of OGH's assumptions, namely "no singularity/ rapture of the nerds."

This takes me back to the materialistic reductionism (MT) bit, and Eric Drexler's long-ago Engines of Creation. In that book he pointed out that, under MT, we constitute an existence proof by demonstration that matter can be alive, intelligent, conscious. Given that and the apparent lack of any reason to think that the expansion of human intellect and consciousness that began not that long ago has reached an end, why rule out artificial progress further in that direction?

We're nowhere near being able to do that now, and, given the general messiness and complexity of biology, it's hard to say how long getting raptured might take. But I wouldn't want to bet on it not happening in 285 years.


It doesn't need to happen wholesale, overnight. It could creep into status quo, starting with clandestine experiments. Would the rest of the world really be so indignified that (e.g.) a seasteading micro nation's population lives more or less indefinitely, as to condemn them to death?

Because that's what subtracting the means to sustain anti-aging treatments from said population would be. It brings out the sheer inhumaneness of the current pro-aging trance: people sooner predict (based on effectively zero empirical precedent) catastrophic dystopia to justify continuing the convention of not having a choice of how to live, age, and die (incl all the suffering involved and not just in "normal" first-world circumstances), than actually try it and see what actually happens.


The difference between natural and machine intelligence is mainly in the desires. Evolution has favored* animals that desire to grow and reproduce, and humans are animals. Machine intelligence favors whatever we design it to favor, and few people are simultaneously smart enough and stupid enough to build machines that have both the desire and means to replace us. Mostly they want to rank webpages and spam emails.

*Yes, I know this is a sloppy way of describing evolution. A rigorous description would have broken the flow of the paragraph even more.


Jay wrote: "A deeply foreign society, though plausible, would be alienating to the readers. Would you want to read a book where genetically engineered subhuman "junior associates" work the fields with no rights whatsoever, and nobody has a problem with that or thinks it should change?"

On the other hand, people have no problem reading books set in Roman times where legally subhuman slaves did much of the heavy manual work (and a fair portion of the intellectual work) of the economy. But I take your point that too alien a culture greatly limits the potential audience for a novel.

As for turning speculation about year 3000 into a book, I really can't even pretend to advise Mr. Stross what to do. He's really good at this author thing. Skill in writing can often take readers past things that might ordinarily make them go "no, this doesn't make sense".

Most books set far into the future tend to recycle our past as future history (Dune, for example) or present a future that's pretty much like us but with warp drive/genetic engineering/magic nanotech added, or some combination of the above. When creating a SF far future, "convincingly different", and "relatable" are almost always orthogonal to each other. The last book (off the top of my head) to pull it off was Donald Kingsbury's "Psychohistorical Crisis". And he was riffing off Asimov, so at least some of the world building was not alien to people who were familiar with the SF canon.

(I'm sure if the thread drifts thusly, that many other better examples can be provided of books that did this well.)


My picks would be:

Rise of the anglosphere (1600 - 2050): The race between English being the only language and the bablefish making language irreverent. With a 200 year head start English won, local languages becoming an affection for historical societies.

The overshoot (1700 - 2090): Starting with the end of frontiers (the last great colonisation waves 1700s-1950s) there was a rush to maximal exploitation, deep pits to deep wells and farming of almost all available arable land. The Best Year (2089) was followed by The Worst Year (2090) when a world wide, optimised supply chain ran out of things to supply.

Hard Law, Soft Law (1800 - 2050): The rise of universal governance under law and universal suffrage of provably sentient beings (1800 - 2050) under soft law (where the intent mattered more than the encoding) and where changes in norms contentiously fed back into the application of law. The rise of strict contract law, encoded in finite state machines or feed forward networks, were contracts became provable complete and limited.

End of magical thinking (1600 - 2120): Starting with the enlightenment through the, development of scientific method, the rise of nerdism and atheism and its peak with the News Pogroms (2090 - 2120). The end of magical thinking was what allowed the second renaissance and the stoics.

The explosion of minds (2020 - 2300+): Synthetic minds, minimal mind, universal suffrage.


Keybounce wrote: "Good point. So what are the likely viewpoints of the 30th century? How close is Futurama going to be to accurate?"

The likely viewpoints of the 30th century? I've got no clue and argue that it's a nearly impossible question to answer.

How close is Futurama? Probably a lot closer than Star Trek.


Instead we should have a wider and wider habitable belt, where the tundra areas will become temperate, though the equator will become even more of a hothouse.

Anyone who states this has 100% no idea what they're talking about. Tundra is really, really shitty soil.

And it takes about 300k+ years to make great soil, which is why I mentioned California.

Soil quality: California has a bigger diversity of soil types than any other state in the US.

Sort of.

It had some of the best soil in the world.

That's no longer the case.

Don't evolve in desert biomes? You need to look up the evolution of the truffle fruiting body, which is linked to dry forests and "desert biomes." There are AMF fungi that have only been found in deserts too, incidentally.

You know what I'm talking about - specific rhizomatic fungi root attachments that cannot exist in deserts. The difference between the two kinds of forests based on types of trees. Hint: one has no ground cover and actively poisons the surrounding soil, the other has a vibrant, hectic and cut-throat biome based on light.

So, cut the shit.

One evolved before the other, the one who went symbiotic won the race all over the globe before humans turned up.

And yes, temperature is 100% based on this.

Otherwise... conifer forests would have died out about ~7,000,000 yrs ago, which is lucky since they carried a lot of species over the ice age.

If you start a post with a "let's be scientists", don't throw in nonsense.

And yes. I do soil. It's kinda my thing.


No-one got the "Thing" reference. Sigh.


Wow, how political.

Since I did actually did mycorrhizal research, I'll tell you straight out you're wrong: there are mycorrhizal fungi that have only to date been found in deserts.

Here's the reason: mycorrhizal fungi grow on the primary roots of plants, and primary roots tend to grow in the wet areas of the soil, where nutrients are mobilized. In deserts, mycorrhizal fungi (both arbuscular and ectomycorrhizal) occur deep under ground (>10 m in some cases) and in the cracks in the rocks, places where the primary roots are getting water and nutrients. The reason why so few researchers go after them is you need a backhoe and/or a jack hammer to get to them. Researchers have tried, but it's so difficult to get good microscopic samples out of fine roots extracted from rocks with a jackhammer that they rarely bother.

As for "winning the race," that's also BS. Land plants evolved with AMF, about 50 million years before plants evolved roots. Since then, every major plant clade, starting with mosses, has either evolved members that are non-mycorrhizal or evolved alternate symbioses (like ectomycorrhizae). Today, somewhere between 20 and 30% of plants are thought to be non-mycorrhizal. The arrow of evolution isn't towards mycorrhizae, it's unambiguously towards an increasing diversity of nutrient uptake symbioses.


I think you may be overrating social influences on fertility. The key factor post-industrialization is how expensive kids become. In an agricultural society you can have kids working in the fields at a relatively young age. In an industrial society you need twenty years of labor intensive education to produce an adult who will function well in modern society. Even babies require more attention - verbal stimulation at an early age is important to develop cognitive abilities useful for industrialized societies and that again is labor intensive. As kids become more expensive people naturally have fewer. Ironically, feminism is likely to oppose this decline in fertility as it seeks to socialize some of the cost of raising children. A few years ago, a New York Times article noted that fertility correlated positively with female labor force participation rate. So if future advanced societies want higher fertility, it's a simple matter of not dumping all the child care labor on women.


Five things that haven't been mentioned but probably should have:

#1 Bio-accumulation and the age of permanent additions to the ecosphere. From mercury (coal mines) to lead (sigh, petrol) to hormones (hello the Pill) to antibiotics (hello, MSRA) - the age will be defined by the things that you can't get rid of. (Add in all the BPAs, dioxins, and numerous other crap attached to plastics).

You can put a ring around the earth and type events.

As they say, our ring is a plastic ring. Made in China for fucking McDonalds meals sponsored by Disney.

#2 Death of linear consciousness. The net is a small meat space (no, really: it's made out of meat), but there's a good argument to state that the age of Modernity (Henry James "What Maisie knew") ended with the 2004 FB / Google / In-Q-Tel (CIA) stuff.

The age of commercial identity arrived.

Then was ganked, horribly.

#3 Bio-feedback, mirror neurons, your soul, Others and the fight for humanity.

The conceptual frameworks that allowed Descarte and others to posit that animals are purely mechanical strove forward into claims that animals are purely software on organic hardware and the like.

Orcas and Octopuses strike Japan with genetailored jellyfish strike, herded to their shores during the infamous dolphin "hunt". Thousands die: the message is clear. Stop the fucking deep ocean sonar shit you cunts.

But in reality, you kill them off. Then we kill you off.

#4 Sound. Hrtz, the 'brown note' and the song of the planet.

Bjork got it a long time ago. Humans realize what their phones are doing to their minds and then SHINY NEW iBRAIN INTERFACE

Reality: you don't get what the frequency is Kenneth (and, hearkening back: "have some compassion"... I'm on that wavelength you gross ogre and suffer it as well. "Close the door" using children, gtfo out of here with that type of weaponry) but you might.

Fuck it, CME the trolls with extreme prejudice.

#5 People understand ~EM~ and QM.

And they still need Cosmo magazine to tell them to put butter and chili up your partner's urethra as a sex tip because they're pig ignorant.


You're starting to sound like CD. I'm not sure what BSF refers to. OK, you don't like my explanation for religion. I'm not trying to excuse it or justify it, just noting practical reasons why it might attract people. As you've noted, science and secularism have progressed precisely because they provide useful and practical answers. Suppose as our host and others suggest we crash into ecological crisis and life suddenly becomes a lot less secure and predictable. There might be a backlash against the science and technology that seemingly promised utopia and failed to deliver. There will definitely be a need for close and loyal allies for anyone who wants to survive. Combine the former and the latter and you could get a very nasty batch of religious revivals, a la the Simplification in A Canticle for Leibowitz. What I'm saying is the atheistic and materialistic world view has prospered not because people are convinced by reason but because it has provided good practical results. If it fails to deliver, followers may desert.


Since I did actually did mycorrhizal research, I'll tell you straight out you're wrong: there are mycorrhizal fungi that have only to date been found in deserts.

Bait taken, thanks.

Of course there are M.F. in deserts. You just proved my point: they're incredibly successful.

BUT. Not very common in deserts, are they?

Name me a few cacti that use them, eh?

Here's the reason: mycorrhizal fungi grow on the primary roots of plants, and primary roots tend to grow in the wet areas of the soil, where nutrients are mobilized.


Thus conifers. Perma-frost is hard yo.

Land plants evolved with AMF, about 50 million years before plants evolved roots. Since then, every major plant clade, starting with mosses, has either evolved members that are non-mycorrhizal or evolved alternate symbioses (like ectomycorrhizae). Today, somewhere between 20 and 30% of plants are thought to be non-mycorrhizal. The arrow of evolution isn't towards mycorrhizae, it's unambiguously towards an increasing diversity of nutrient uptake symbioses

Completely wrong.

Fungi came after plants; fungi made plants a good deal; the plants who took it won in those environments.

Mosses are plants?

Since when?

Ferns and mosses are no more plants than jellyfish are animals.

I think you're running on out of date software.


And since I like you:

There's a massive bear trap with spikes you're running towards.

Don't fall in.


You're starting to sound like CD.

Who made a really excellent point about your lack of imagination surrounding Religion and who you totally ignored apart from to snipe at.

Hint: I often know what I'm talking about, it's crazy-pants to not employ some Socrates.


Proposed Scenario: There is a stable population of around 1 billion; Society has returned to a rigid caste-based system- a small hereditary elite controls 90% of society's capital; the humanitarian and rational values of the enlightenment have largely been abandoned, at least among the masses; Most of humanity lives in small habitable zones, defined by the agricultural organization of the elites (and the constraints imposed by whatever technology they are using by then); Gender/Minority/Class equality is a thing of the past.

But things have stabilized. There is a technocratic middle class that is beginning to grow, and assert itself. Interplanetary space beckons. Digitally preserved memes from past centuries are "rediscovered" and begin to spread. Revolutionary fervor begins to spread.

Cue the hero: a very well connected and highly charismatic member of the elite who decides to take some portion of power and control away from the ruling class and transfer it to himself. To do this he allies himself with the populist movement, and uses the idea of "progress" as a means to acquire power. He isn't evil, he really intends to give ordinary people more of what they want.

Think Julius Ceasar in the middle of Renaissance 2.0, transplanted into a world of sentient AI's assistants, personalized nano-tech enhancements, and extended lifespan/leisure time... for the rich.

This is open source. Mention me in your acknowledgments.


I think I'll go wander through the mesquites, desert oaks, and the pinyons to see if I can find more nuts.


Why does it require a rigid system to keep a population low? In the early 7th Century, Constantinople dropped in population from 500,000 inhabitants to 50-70,000 as a result of Egypt, their major grain supplier, being conquered first by the Persians and then the Arabs.

The simple point is that right now, the world is fed by grain that gets most of its energy inputs from some form of fossil fuels (fertilizers, pesticides, harvesting, processing, transport), with photosynthesis coming in a distinct second. This is a good thing, in some ways, because it allows regions with access to plentiful energy and plentiful water to export these resources in the form of food to areas that have neither, rather than forcing those under-resourced areas to try to make it on their own resources, with the possibilities of famine and unrest as a result (cf Syria). Aside from the nasty politics that ensues, the fundamental problem with this setup is that it's unstable in the face of climate change. As it collapses, a lot of people will starve, and there will be a lot of civil war as a result.

If agriculture is forced to rely on sun power and be local, absent another agrotechnical revolution it's effectively guaranteed that there will be fewer people. If we additionally have to deal with climate change so that there's a mismatch between soils and climates, crop yields will further decline and so will the resulting population. If seasons are unpredictable (as in parts of Africa), so that farmers are stuck continually sowing crops and hoping that, occasionally, something gives enough of a yield to make it all worth it, then yields go down still further.

The bottom line is that there's no reason to assume that low populations can only be achieved by a rigid bureaucracy.

I'd suggest that it's actually the opposite: you get rigid, vicious bureaucracies when they don't have a lot of surpluses to feed them, and they're stuck being nasty to get anything done. It's easier to be a tyrant than a wise ruler when the political control system you're running requires that you take more resources than most of your subjects are willing to give you. The nice thing about a harsh, brittle system is that there are ways around it and ways to run away, and there's a whole other set of dramas there that can be exploited, if you want to tell these kinds of stories.


>This takes me back to the materialistic reductionism (MT) bit, and Eric Drexler's long-ago Engines of Creation.

and Nanosystems, and Radical Abundance.
If we'd invested enough to get atomically precise fabrication off the ground, the the whole damned global warming problem
could have been a non-issue. But we didn't.

Instead think of the years 0 - 600 CE, you get the idea. If you ask historians about the major trends during that period, they would create a narrative that "explains" the fall - it's too big an event to ignore.

Not anymore they don't, and they tend to make fun of those who do. There is an excellent history podcast, produced by the University of Texas, called "15 Minute Histories" which provides a great example of how historians tend to talk about empires "in decline" these days. I'm linking you to the episode on the Ottoman Empire, because unfortunately they haven't covered Rome yet, but the principle is the same. As I've stated above, historians like to avoid the accusation of being 'Whig historians' or writing a teleological/progressivist narrative. That means no falls or rises, or at the least they should be treated very carefully.


CatinaDiamond wrote: "Mosses are plants? Since when? Ferns and mosses are no more plants than jellyfish are animals."

I think you are wrong about some of your biology (or using a non-standard definition of "plant" and "animal")—at least phylogenisists seem to disagree with you.

Mosses comprise the phylum Bryophyta, under the kingdom Plantae. They are the closest living evolutionary relatives of tracheophytes (vascular plants), and are often refered to as "non-vascular plants" to differentiate them.

Jellyfishes are grouped in the phylum Cnidaria (most closely related to corals and anemones), and under under the kingdom Animalia. You may be thinking of Portuguese Man o' War, which are not a single animal, but a colony of symbiotic animals, but they are still classed under Cnidaria (as the order Siphonophorae).

I can't comment intelligently on mycorrhizal fungi and cacti.


Century N - the century where the problems of Century N-1 are fixed.

So, the end of this century will see energy abundance from solar and aneutronic fusion, geoengineering to fix the climate, and the end of ageing just in time to save the world from end-of-century population crash. Widespread use of Human germline genetic engineering and effective brain computer links.

There will also be a cure for pessimism


If we get medical immortality in the period of 1700-2300 CE, I'd bet that we'll also get our first attempts at true space colonization sometime in the 22nd and 23rd centuries. It will seem a lot more attractive when you can basically make the space robots do 90% of the work gathering the resources and actually assembling the damn thing in Earth orbit (assisted by remote telepresence from humans on Earth), and when the alternative is a political struggle to rest political, economic, and social power from the undying elites back on Earth.

Whether those succeed is anyone's guess - and would almost certainly be something that 4th millennia historians would talk about if they succeed.


I forgot about the tech stagnation part, but you're right. Even clothes might not be unaffected by that if Augmented Reality wearables ever take off (i.e. why bother replacing clothes when you can project what you want to see on yourself and other people as an overlay on what you're seeing in the real world). So either lots of durables, or lots of products that can be easily recycled and rebuilt upon use - or both.

@ Heteromeles

If agriculture is forced to rely on sun power and be local, absent another agrotechnical revolution it's effectively guaranteed that there will be fewer people.

More greenhouse-grown food! Especially tomatoes, which can be grown in massive numbers in greenhouses and "urban farms" - expect tomato-related products to be big.


In all seriousness, though, we could support the US population on a fraction of the farmland we're using now - and we might actually be able to get even more agro-productivity if robotics allow us to put in the same amount of "labor" into farms that gardeners put into their own little plots. And you would expect production to start shifting out of dry areas like the Great Plains and central valley of California back to places that aren't being hit as hard by climate change and droughts, like the Midwest and Northeast.


One can "make" soil or improve it enormously - provided, of course, that the inputs are available.
My second half-plot was heavily compacted clay, on which fires had been lit, with weed-cover & virtually no living macrofauna [ No worms, woodlice, thrips, springtails, etc. ]
By adding serious quantities of horse manure, mixed with wood-shavings, plus free "Council black compost", totalling about 6 tonnes in all, it is now one of the most fertile & productive areas of ground in our allotments area.

Cultivation can improve soils, as well as degrade them.
You just have to be careful as to how you do it.


An acronym from several threads back ( started by me, I think ), now accepted here as shorthand for "gahd" without the emotional overtones & with a little bit of sneering at people gullible enough to believe in BSF without any evidence at all ...

We are approaching an environmental crisis ( CD says we're already there & it's TOO LATE & WE ARE ALL DOOMED - but I disagree ) ... BUT, very important but.
We already know the causes of this crisis & have a sheaf of possible & overlapping partial solutions to that problem set.
It is "just" that the politicians & "leaders" need to get off their backsides & do something about it.
Your "let's all go back to BSF" trope is false.

NOTE: There really is a "Global Warming Scam" - but not the one the supposed libertarians & right-wingers propose.
It's guvmints using GW as an excuse to raise taxes, whilst actually doing nothing at all about GW.
Otherwise we'd have a massive nuclear-power-station building programme & ditto phased tidal power & huge spending on research for electrical storage mechanisms & artificial photosynthesis.
All of which are do-able.


Mosses are plants?
Since when?
Ferns and mosses are no more plants than jellyfish are animals.

Mosses use photosynthesis, don't they?
Just because they are not Angiosperms, does not mean they are not plants, dearie!

Ferns are definitely plants .....

Jellyfish are animal colonies IIRC?


Low Earth Orbit .....
What used to be called HOTOL, now "skylon"
If the plug is not pulled, then sometime around 2030, single-stage-to-orbit at a fraction ( Between 1/10 & 1/50th present cost ) becomes available.
That really would be a game-changer, I think.
I'll be 100 in 2046 - I hope to live to see both of those events


Greg - apparently you never got the memo :

"Don't be a dick"

Its smug, snide immature assholes such as yourself that give atheists a bad name.


I'm afraid my first reaction is annoyance at people thinking too small for the question. For any problem that didn't exist in 1900AD the 3000AD answer is going to be NOBODY CARES. It was a thousand years ago. The problem was fixed a thousand years ago. Maybe elegantly and maybe by an enormous disaster that was the end of the world for lots of the people who lived through it – or who didn't live through it. Either way it's ancient history.

If people actually need specific comments:

The enormous pollution problem of the Industrial Revolution – coal, petrochemicals, radioactive waste, all of it – can be seen the way we see the Roman's use of lead pipes. Self-evidently a bad idea in retrospect to the point of being a cliché, but few people take any time to think more deeply about it.

Humans have wiped out lots of species, mostly accidentally. We're also rapidly approaching the era when genetic engineering isn't just possible but easy. Creating new life forms is likely to be a hobby by 2300. The ecosystems of 3000AD are going to look a lot different from those of 1000AD. But how much will the humanoid on the street think about that? I'm guessing mad scientist spam is going to be a bigger deal than lost critters, particularly since any species interesting enough to miss will have been recreated many times over in laboratories, science classrooms, and hobbyist basements.

Population explosions or implosions, whichever you favor, will be forgotten by everyone but demographic historians; the only historical population surge in common memory will be the one following the first practical immortality treatment. Maybe that will come before 2300 and maybe not; personally I'd like one before 2050...

Fossil fuel depletion? We've got a thousand years, and in two hundred we could put enough solar collectors in orbit to slag the planet down to bedrock. Energy might be a concern but it doesn't have to be. If we're not a Kardishev Type I by then it will be because in one way or another we chose not to be, not because we can't be.

Climate change, OMG. Yes, climates change, we get it. We've also got enough solutions proposed already that it's clear humanity will have a good handle on this by 2100; by 2200 it will be old news. Sure it's a problem right now, but in a thousand years people will have to be prompted to realize there was a middle point between figuring out how weather worked and stabilizing the planet. If you're not a climatologist, who thinks about it?

Responding to the strange attractors is one thing; I'll have a zero-th order guess at an answer to OGH's actual question soon.


If the term spirituality bothers you, say philosophy. Spirituality or philosophy, that is not a quibble. The organized forms of religion usually post-date the philosophical inspirations that lead to them by some centuries. At this time, I believe our religions to be mired in later accretions and confusion, and so ready to be swept away in a philosophical revolution.

It will take fundamental changes in belief—philosophy—to get us to the do the difficult and important things that are necessary to a long human future on earth: leave the oil and coal in the ground, reduce our population, and take care of the Earth's ecosystem. Since religion follows on philosophical revolution, by the 30th century, I would expect that the religions that follow on philosophical revolution to be well-developed by then, and thus our time would probably be seen as a time of revelation.


"I'm not so sure longevity would help us solve problems so much as solve some and worsen others. "

... exactly. A fertile field for fiction.

Before some of us were born, Bob Shaw took a look at this in "One Million Tomorrows"


I'm not sure I understand your comment in relation to mine. I wasn't suggesting a dystopia, just pointing out issues that may arise along with the benefits. That was in response to your post seemingly to suggest longevity would be a social panacea.

For the record I don't think there's a pro-aging movement, at least not a mainstream one. Quite the opposite given the amount of money world wide we throw into age related medical research (my own PhD funding is an example of such a grant). I could understand objections to specific methods, like if a longevity treatment relied on whole-body somatic genetic engineering, but I very much doubt longevity treatments would be blocked as you seem to think. Especially to the extent that a (libertarian by any chance?) seastead becomes the cutting edge for this sort of research.


The idea that you get food from sticking it soil in flat land and waiting for water to fall from the sky is ludicrous. Agriculture is still medieval.
There's a company in California that does tomatoes using hydroponics. They get around 250 tonnes per hectare per year.
Big robotics market in the 2020s will be agricultural robots optimized to reduced pesticide and herbicide use by doing it "manually".


You have the arrow of causation backwards- the population became low for other reasons, exhaustively discussed to death (see what I did there?) in this thread. The rigidity was a (will be) a response to the disasters. People go rigid (they demand it) when the excrement hits the fan. You do a very nice job of summarizing the excrement in your next paragraph. I'll just go ahead and add that to the scenario. Thank you.

That's exactly the kind of story I am suggesting, yes, though it's less "Logan's Run" than "Logan runs for office."


Greg never seems to understand that religion is about culture, not theology.
Religion is to culture as flags are to nations. Saying that a flag is a silly bit of cloth is rather beside the point.


Ooops! Left out a sentence!

If the term spirituality bothers you, say philosophy. But either way, I did not say "religion." The organized forms of religion usually post-date the philosophical inspirations that lead to them by some centuries.

From which it follows that the Renaissance was analogous to the Axial Age (which may not have existed), and our time is analogous to the centuries that followed on, a time of revelation and revolution.


And today, on the anti-ageing front a rather useful bit of news for oldies...

"In their latest study, Adams' team found that ursolic acid and tomatidine dramatically reduce age-related muscle weakness and atrophy in mice. Elderly mice with age-related muscle weakness and atrophy were fed diets lacking or containing either 0.27 percent ursolic acid, or 0.05 percent tomatidine for two months. The scientists found that both compounds increased muscle mass by 10 percent, and more importantly, increased muscle quality, or strength, by 30 percent. The sizes of these effects suggest that the compounds largely restored muscle mass and strength to young adult levels."

Since these are non toxic and you can buy them on eBay... GO FOR IT!


Before accusing people of being small-minded, note that Charlie asked you to imagine you were a historian of the 30th C. That is, those people who regularly concern themselves with the long-solved problems of the distant past. Who cares? They do.

Regarding Roman piping, the very idea that it was a problem was the result of idiot Latin majors rubbing the two thoughts together in their head: that the Latin word for lead is plumbum, and lead is bad for you, therefore the Romans experienced some sort of lead-poisoning crisis. It's true that lead is seriously bad for you, but at a ppm threshold which is above what you get from exposure to running water through lead plumbing. More to the point, we have no contemporary evidence of Romans suffering unduly from lead poisoning. It was never a serious concern for them, except in the imaginations of self-important Oxbridge scholars.

Meanwhile, we have been pumping carbon into the atmosphere to such an extent and in such a small amount of time that we may have threatened our very existence. Yes, there may be working solutions, but we can't be sure about that yet. It's a very different problem to lead plumbing in terms of scale, by many orders of magnitude, and I doubt it will be completely solved or forgotten in several hundred years.


We're nowhere near being able to do that now, and, given the general messiness and complexity of biology, it's hard to say how long getting raptured might take. But I wouldn't want to bet on it not happening in 285 years.

I wouldn't bet on it not happening in 285 years, either. Or on us not expanding into the solar system and having a major industrial footprint there, possibly with humans living permanently on other planets. (Note that this doesn't constitute successful space colonization, in my view -- any more than permanently manned Antarctic bases constitute colonizing Antarctica. The dividing line is total self-sufficiency. But I digress.)

What I would bet against (and I'm not a betting man) is that the currently popular concept of the Singularity, which has borrowed heavily from the design patterns of Christian apocalyptic mythology, doesn't happen, for the same reason that we're not living in Left Behind land and worrying about Jeezus throwing us all in the boiling lake of lava: it's a sin/redemption evangelical hard-sell narrative, not a plausible extrapolation.

(If you want to see what I think about AI these days, go read "Rule 34" and pay attention to The Gnome's lecture about the singularity, late in the book. TLDR: what people mean when they say AI isn't what we're going to get. Although if you fold, spindle, and mutilate it to mean "Augmented Intelligence" we're already seeing the results all around us.)


It won't be sold as "a cure for ageing". It'll be sold as symptomatic relief from what ails you, for values of "you" approximating to everyone aged over 45, and it'll take a generation for the overall social effects to become clear.

Then another generation for the pre-revolutionary politics to emerge, trailing the shadow of the tumbril.


We are not going to see real Augmented Intelligence until we get high bandwidth bidirectional links to the brain. By that time we will only be a few years away from becoming the Borg.


A decade until insurance companies and pension funds to start to fold. They are the canaries in the anti-ageing mine.


Have a Gold Star for understanding the scope of the question properly.

If I was going to write a book set in 3000AD on Earth ...

I'd probably open with our protagonist sitting in their small urban garden -- the climate is probably mediterranean: it'll be a chapter or two before I enclue the reader that they're in Norway -- with a ~book (something that occupies the same niche), looking up and noticing their pet housecat is stalking a tyrannosaur. The tyrannosaur has purple feathers and is about the same size as the cat, but much more stupid, and has escaped from the neighbour's kid's dinosaur run in the yard next door. Protag to cat: "stop that at once, you know you can't eat it, and [neighbour] will be mad at you." Cat to protag: "aw, mum ..."

(How much implied background is there in this outline paragraph?)


To me it implies that you are no longer worried about being the "Talking Cat Guy".



To historians of the 30th century, a pretty big thing could be the change from more resilient storage media such as acid free paper to digital storage media. I think it's possible that the period from the mid 20th century to 2300 could be a new dark ages in the sense of " a relative scarcity of historical and other written records...rendering it obscure to historians". Since around the 70s cheaper and cheaper paper is being used and since 2000 most of our record keeping is being done digitally, and is increasingly being encrypted, so that written records from the second half of your period 1700-2300 aren't going to survive 1000 years. As more and more waste gets recycled and landfills get mined for precious metals and plastics, archaeological sources are lost to the future historians as well. They can see what we've been up to in climate and geological records, but know very little about what we were doing in more detail.


The "talking cat guy" monicker is only a danger if you do it in two or more consecutive novels early in your career. You get points for leaving ten books between outbreaks.

Besides which. Housecats: popular pets (also environmentally devastating to small fauna, but hey), also flexible enough to be a good candidate for surviving catastrophic climate change that stops anywhere short of a Cool Venus greenhouse scenario -- their ancestors were small desert/arid ambush hunters and they live everywhere these days. And they have a remarkably wide range of vocalizations.

Now add 980 years of genetic modification (and some folks are already trying to turn chickens into dinosaurs, by way of a research project) and is it that unlikely that someone will try to mess with their brains?


Starting with an animal that would kill and eat me if it could and making it smart enough to pull it off wouldn't be at the top of my list, and I like cats.

Maybe some sort of human die back triggered by the first attempt could be in your future history.


Did you by any chance ever read "Glasshouse"? That's a major plot point.


Or worse, they could make Paolo Bacigalupi's cheshires. Fast breeding, chameleon skinned predators that wrecked the ecology for birds.

Though my solution would be something that likes the taste of cat, has similar chameleon ability and hunts by sonar.

Yyyeeesss, that's the ticket! To the vats Igor!


Actually, I'm going by something Dirk pulled up earlier -- a transhumanist philosopher and rights advocate who isn't merely pro-veganism for humans; he wants to veganize the biosphere (at least insofar as vertebrates are concerned).

It's a magnificently batshit idea. And even if you could tweak a cat's digestive tract so that it was effectively omnivorous or a fructivore or something[*], I'm not sure you could take the hunting reflexes out of it without losing the essence of cat.

[*] There's no way I can see a cat as an ungulate ...


You just reminded me of one of Stephen Baxters Xeelee stories which ended up with the last humans living in a biosphere entirely derived from themselves.

I now have a vision of an entirely feline biosphere, with immense bovine tigers and tiny flying kittens with wings between their front and back legs.

Make it stop!


> but if that life is not inteeligent, as most life is & always was, will it really affect people & civilisation that much?

Ok, agreed intelligent life is a different game, but I suspect we will have a very different view of intelligence by then.

I think that yes, it will be a big deal, at least psychologically. There is a difference between thinking their _may_ be other civilisations out there, and _knowing_ that none survive and spread due to Gamma Ray Bursts.

Secondly, finding panspermia, even of bacterial life; finding that similar patterns exist on other planets and "similar thinking" species changes our attitude to colonisation to perhaps being a cat-n-mouse scenario, avoiding "older ones" as played out in SF.


I don't think it's a disagreement about the scope of the question so much as it's a disagreement about what level of resources are likely to be available for flashy but useless things like pink dinosaurs. A lot of us think that between now and 2300, resources will be scarce enough that much of the infrastructure and scientific knowledge that we now have will be gone. People, especially childless people, tend to underestimate how much effort and expense is necessary to simply maintain what we have over time. Some new stuff will get discovered and old stuff rediscovered, but the situation of the 19th and 20th centuries when increases in available resources outran increases in population isn't likely to happen again on a planetary scale, even over a period of thousands of years.

People who expect our current multicentury period of fossil fuel powered growth to fall back a bit and then level off are going to make very different predictions than people (like Scott Sandford) who think we're going to keep growing until we're a Kardashev I civilization.


> Climate change, OMG. Yes, climates change, we get it. We've also got enough solutions proposed already that it's clear humanity will have a good handle on this by 2100; by 2200 it will be old news

No. We have technical solutions, we don't have political solutions. Big difference.
If we're still around in 3000, the 21st century will have seen more political change than the millennia before it.

But on the technical side I still disagree. The timescales for climate change are huge: recommended reading is David Archers "The Long Thaw", but new work shows even with maximalist interventions, ocean recovery is on the 500-1000 year timescale.

Some of the things we're doing are not recoverable short of an ice age: glacier loss, ice sheet loss in particular. We could see (see Hansens recent work) 10m sea level rise by 2100, even with interventions. Thats not going back down even if we get greenhouse gas levels back below 350ppm. From the year 3000, its still looking back at a period where most of the worlds civilisations were until 2100 that point are now underwater. A fairly significant historical event.

> We're also rapidly approaching the era when genetic engineering isn't just possible but easy. Creating new life forms is likely to be a hobby by 2300.

Creating lifeforms, yes; ecosystems, no. Rebuilding an Amazonian rainforest isn't a matter of planting a few (million) trees. What does it take to turn a bare rock plateau into a rainforest? first make your soil ...


Hello? Story set in 3000AD? You've still got your head stuck in the 2015-2300 gap. Add another 700 years and, well, there probably will be space for whimsical small pink dinosaurs as a niche replacement for those insectivorous lizards we've accidentally killed off.


'The arrow of evolution isn't towards mycorrhizae, it's unambiguously towards an increasing diversity of nutrient uptake symbioses.'

Like this ... so one solution for meeting energy needs is to mimic nature, as in, diversify?

Footnote status maybe? North and South Korea are talking about enabling family reunions. Apart from - 'That's nice' - I'm wondering what the hidden agenda is. For example, there's that DMZ that apparently now has one of the largest diversities of flora and fauna. Probably the healthiest land around now ... and North Korea is starving. As well... China moved tens of millions of its citizens into dense urban areas (ostensibly because that's where the Party put the jobs) in order to try a re-greening (reforestation) experiment. Reviews/results are mixed based on the article titles pulled up on the first page of Google results. One potential lesson that might be learned is that cities are a thing of the past and that populations must be moved around at scheduled intervals so that the planet can heal itself. So we become wanderers/migrants ... this obviously would impact EVERYTHING else.

Several posters mention that money/power would continue 'same-old...same old'. I don't understand why. Already most wealth is in/from the stock markets which is artificially inflated worth that is manipulated by computers/algorithms at an extremely (increasingly) fast pace. The more 'money' you have, the harder it is to invest ... the money has to get spread further and further. In theory, this could mean spreading money/wealth out so far and so evenly that the net impact is it disappears or becomes the ultimate kiting exercise. Then again, because diametrically opposed ideas tend to crop up a la Noah, this could mean that nations might resort to selling shares in their countries' economies ... they already sell bonds, shares are just the next logical step.

Re: 311 Greg 'STRULDBRUG to you too!'

Thanks for the reminder ... it's been a while since I read Gulliver's Travels.


Oh, forgot about the "historian" part. OK, so he's the narrative voice. You have two settings then- one in which the Julius Ceasar expy, exiled from his home along the North Siberian coast, leads a large scale effort to re-colonize the Indian sub-continent. He overcomes mountains, deadly climate, and hostile aborigines to return home in triumph- where he survives an assassination attempt. He then leads a revolution in direct democracy utilizing neuro-implants.

The ultimate chapter reveals the historian's location- it's Titan.


A promising solution for our energy needs ... so, what do you think about this?

Hybrid bioinorganic approach to solar-to-chemical conversion


'Natural photosynthesis harnesses solar energy to convert CO2 and water to value-added chemical products for sustaining life. We present a hybrid bioinorganic approach to solar-to-chemical conversion in which sustainable electrical and/or solar input drives production of hydrogen from water splitting using biocompatible inorganic catalysts. The hydrogen is then used by living cells as a source of reducing equivalents for conversion of CO2 to the value-added chemical product methane. Using platinum or an earth-abundant substitute, α-NiS, as biocompatible hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) electrocatalysts and Methanosarcina barkeri as a biocatalyst for CO2 fixation, we demonstrate robust and efficient electrochemical CO2 to CH4 conversion at up to 86% overall Faradaic efficiency for ≥7 d. Introduction of indium phosphide photocathodes and titanium dioxide photoanodes affords a fully solar-driven system for methane generation from water and CO2, establishing that compatible inorganic and biological components can synergistically couple light-harvesting and catalytic functions for solar-to-chemical conversion.'

BTW, the organism mentioned here (Methanosarcina barkeri) is the same one responsible for the cow-caused CO2 'explosion'. (Ahem.)


little pink insectivorous dinosaur=songbird without feathers.

And there's a reason they've got feathers.

Actually, the 19th and 20th centuries will be remembered as the time when, idiots that we are, we thought dinosaurs had naked skins.

In any case, ectothermic insectivores have all sorts of advantages that it's a good idea to exploit where they're useful.


It's equally possible, based on history, that with a smaller resource base you get little or no government. Klastre's Society Against the State and Scott's The Art of Not Being Governed both go into the anthropology of such groups.

Indeed, in cases where there's a rigid state with a short reach, it's reasonably common for there to be anarchistic groups on the outer edges of their reach. The state sometimes walks an army out, asks who's in charge, and designates that person who speaks up as the chief of the tribe that they're willing to recognize and form a treaty relationship with. But that's the state trying to organize things and add territory, not necessarily what the people trying to avoid the state are actually doing to deal with their group politics.


Which is to say, flightless insectivorous birds could plausibly make good domestic egg-layers as well as educational pets (I would hesitate to call a talking cat a pet) and possibly also baby's first biotechnology play-set.


From about 8000 BC to about 1600 AD, the life of the average person didn't change all that much. Almost everybody did subsistence farming, and though the methods developed quite a bit the basics were there. Almost all available resources were needed for immediate consumption.

For a brief period we had rapid, energy-intensive economic growth. Growth gave rise to excess resources, which could be invested to create more growth (plus some wacky stuff like moon landings, supercolliders, and Las Vegas). You seem to think that will continue to a substantial extent over the next millennium. I think that appetites have risen to absorb the excess resources, essentially forever. Our basic disagreements all stem from that divergence of views.


Waste collection/recycling ... At present this is a pretty complicated process. If we could short-cut it, save a few steps, it'd save energy. And/or have the 'goods' age/decompose faster ... real, well-planned obsolescence.

Also, in the U.S., something like 20%-25% of all food produced/purchased is wasted. It's probably a lot lower in cultures where bulk-buying then storing in massive fridges/freezers isn't the social housekeeping norm. (Corporations bought into JIT inventory management, but North American consumers haven't.)

Guess, what I'm saying here is we need to revisit how we work with 'time'.


BTW, the organism mentioned here (Methanosarcina barkeri) is the same one responsible for the cow-caused CO2 'explosion'. (Ahem.)

Since the organism eats CO2, you probably mean methane explosion?

Since the greenhouse effect of methane is 25 times that of CO2, it's actually a good thing to burn methane before it gets into the atmosphere.


It seems to me that a person's basic expectations for the future have a lot to do with that person's training.

Computing types are used to Moore's Law, the most extreme rate of technological increase in history. They tend to expect the rate of technological progress to be very high. For the technologies they care about, it has been (for 50 years, which seems longer when it's all the time you've been alive for).

My background is at the intersection of inorganic chemistry and physics. There's a lot of technique refinement ("normal science"), but nothing really huge has happened in my lifetime. I tend to think of the future as being pretty much like history, except for the fact that it hasn't happened yet.

The biologists, ecologists, and climatologists have been watching things fall apart for a while. There's a lot of grim resignation, a real sense of loss, and a fair amount of panic. From their perspective, things look pretty bad.


Another factor. I spent most of my life with the threat of a 4 minute warning preceding global annihilation, available at any time of the day or night. Some people getting their feet wet in 100 years time doesn't have the same sense of danger.


Being done. What do you think the market is for super intelligent pets eg dogs and cats?

Start here:

" Mice have been created whose brains are half human. As a result, the animals are smarter than their siblings.
The altered mice still have mouse neurons – the “thinking” cells that make up around half of all their brain cells. But practically all the glial cells in their brains, the ones that support the neurons, are human.
A battery of standard tests for mouse memory and cognition showed that the mice with human astrocytes are much smarter than their mousy peers.

In one test that measures ability to remember a sound associated with a mild electric shock, for example, the humanised mice froze for four times as long as other mice when they heard the sound, suggesting their memory was about four times better. “These were whopping effects,” says Goldman. “We can say they were statistically and significantly smarter than control mice.”
However, the team decided not to try putting human cells into monkeys. “We briefly considered it but decided not to because of all the potential ethical issues,” Goldman says."

And someone somewhere is saying: Screw ethics


Except that process is negative-sum, Greg.

Your ultimate sources of compost lose fertility because matter gets trucked away to feed people and horses. (It's negative, rather than zero, sum, because stuff falls of the truck. And the people and the horses incorporate some of the material and the people at least rarely get to rot.)

The hard part is increasing the soil fertility without adding anything from outside your food loop. It's doable, but it's much more challenging.


Humans have wiped out lots of species, mostly accidentally. We're also rapidly approaching the era when genetic engineering isn't just possible but easy. Creating new life forms is likely to be a hobby by 2300. The ecosystems of 3000AD are going to look a lot different from those of 1000AD. But how much will the humanoid on the street think about that? I'm guessing mad scientist spam is going to be a bigger deal than lost critters, particularly since any species interesting enough to miss will have been recreated many times over in laboratories, science classrooms, and hobbyist basements.

And that's not how life works.

Genes aren't a blueprint. Genes are a sort of state dump, and they're incomplete without an environment to be expressed in. For placentals, that includes a live womb for bootstrapping purposes; for anything else in tetrapoda, it includes an appropriate egg. (The magnitude of our ignorance about how fish and insects, etc. really do these things is vast.) But it isn't _just_ the live womb; we now know for sure that a big big chunk of selection is acting to fix distinct phenotypes that appear due to environmental interaction without pre-existing genetic change.

In order to create life, you have to have either very similar life (if we have elephants, we can consider creating mammoths; if we have neither elephants or mammoths, we're absolutely stuffed for creating proboscideans from genes) or some way to create the full environment which is roughly equivalent to the present wave-front of a 400+ MYear history. It's very, very hard to do.

And then you get into the "adding new things while avoiding ecological simplification" part, which, well, I suspect that someone with all knowledge would think we ought to be really, really angry with the Spanish for burning all the books from the South American empires, because they seemed to have a better handle on this than anyone else has had.


Well, the Andean empires (the ones we know about--I'm going to avoid whatever was going on in Amazonia for the moment) were sort of into science, in that they did have a central scientific garden that helped them figure out what was going to grow and where (think of a big slope with a lot of terraces, used as an experimental farm).

In any case, they had quipus, rather than books, and it's not clear those ever held their agricultural knowledge. Accounts yes, but it's not clear they held knowledge.

What we know they did do:
--Clever small-scale soil engineering, things like raised beds and canals around Lake Titicaca, sunken fields on the coast (to get to water tables), terraces on every useful slope, sometimes (as at Macchu Picchu) with installed subsoil drainage, and canals. The nice thing was that these efforts were scalable: throw more skilled labor at it (and most farmers knew how to dig) and the system got bigger.
--diversified their fields. For the Andes, crop failure was routine. They didn't go in for huge scale agriculture, they went in for scattering huge numbers of small fields all over the place. A single huge field can be wiped out, but it's hard to wipe out every single small field within miles.
--diversified their crops. It wasn't just potatoes, corn, and quinoa. They had a whole bunch of root crops that aren't much seen outside the Andes. Within each crop, they seem to have gone in for diversifying in a big way, with hundreds of potato and corn cultivars known. Part of this was adapting to local microclimates, part was adapting to local uses.
--Ayllus, their basic unit of rural social organization, and well worth studying.
--What the Andean empires did well was to redistribute food and labor. While I think the Inka were too expansionist to have lasted that long even without Pizarro, they were really good at moving people and supplies around. In a place where crop failures are common, this can be a good thing, because it prevents or ameliorates famine and the resulting civil unrest. In some ways, they were simply scaling up from the small scale strategy of field scattering to be the central network across which people got scattered.

The tl;dr version of this is that they weren't necessarily biology wizards with lost secrets. Their system was built on a substrate of risk minimization and redistributing surpluses Our system is based on yield maximization, and we depend on things like insurance to handle the risk of crop failure. If climate fluctuations really do become a serious problem, I think the Andean approach is probably worth trying. It's worth noting, though, that none of their empires (Inkan, Wari, or precursors) survived periods of environmental stress caused by persistent El Ninos, so I don't know that a bunch of ayllus scattering fields and diversifying crops would work any better than something we cooked up on our own. Still, it's worth investigating.


Alright, time to get a second try at this.

Charlie's reply to Scott Sanford's comment negates what I had previously said about demographics. In the year 3000, the demographic changes in this time period will be accepted as common sense or inevitable. So popular historians may not care about it except for a few period pieces where they use integration in this century as a parable for whatever integration issues they may have. This is the same way that the Salem Witch Trials were used as a parable of McCarthyism. We still use the Greek and Roman societies as a backdrop of our parables, after all.

Something hit me as amusing. If you look at the movies from the medieval era, a lot of them use anachronistic armor, castle design, weapons, and tactics. You might have a version of King Arthur (a 7th century myth) using 13 century castles and 12th century armor. So in that vein, you may have art forms (movies, books, video games) of Napoleon invading Russia with AK-47s, RPG's, horses, Panzers, Spitfires, and with Napoleon using Suicide bombers in Toyota trucks.


The reason that I don't like to speculate much about the future is that it inevitable gets derailed into the following attractors that suck the oxygen from the conversation: global warming, AI, space colonization, and anti-aging.

Here are my thoughts on all of them. First with climate change. I have no idea what solutions exist, so I'm staying out of this debate. My predictions are that it has been solved, and I don't care how.

AI suffers from the fractal problem. Something may be 99.99999999% close to being intelligent, but it won't be recognized as such for whatever reason.

Space: I agree with Charlie that we will likely have industrial processes on various bodies in the solar system, and maybe a few planets inhabited in the Antarctica style, at least by 2300. As for knowledge of alien life, that's too much of a wild card.

Anti-aging: This one seems to suffer from the same problem as AI. I would remind you that solving heart attacks took over 60 years of research before the current idea of 3D printing new hearts came about. I have no idea if we will solve this in the next 1000 years, let alone 300. To me, it is like faster-than-light travel.

So when making my predictions in the next post, I will ignore these completely.


OK, how does this work: from 2100-2200 (roughly) the resource base declines, dramatically. So does the population. We get huge migrations north, in a very disorganized and chaotic fashion. A series of pandemics, wars and falling birth rates lead to a stable pop of 1 billion or so by 2200, mostly living north of the 55th parallel. Nearly everything is lost in the turmoil, government, technology, social institutions. As a result of the violence, more primitive forms of government arise in the North, eventually resulting in a landed, hereditary aristocracy holding the new population centers. They manage to stabilize things.

The story takes place in what we now call "Siberia"- there's a green belt along the north coast, where "civilization" (in the form of small urban centers) rises again. The population along the coast begins rising again somewhere around 2250. This leads to territorial expansion south, into what is mostly grazing land, held by tribes of people who still remember their nations of origin, but don't possess the tech level or the lifestyles anymore. Our hero begins his political career sometime around 2275 or so. In 2300, the landed, hereditary aristocracy is forced to accept a republic.

700 years later, humanity has the planets.

The Clastres book sounds really interesting, but I'm not sure I buy the premise. At the end of the day, all action by public actors is a power play, if it isn't, no one listens. Scott sounds more plausible, and probably applies best to the peripheral groups that I have running around south of the coastal zone. Examining their politics would be an interesting contrast...


Yeah, there's probably a generational factor too. I imagine it makes a difference whether you were at an impressionable age when men first landed on the moon (as Charlie probably was) or when the Challenger blew up (as I was). I'm a bit concerned about the millennials' fascination with hypercompetitive dystopias, too.


The tl;dr version of this is that they weren't necessarily biology wizards with lost secrets.

I don't think they were wizards but they certainly seem to have been onto something.

In large part, I was thinking of the arboriculture; not just the Amazon but the Eastern Woodlands seem to have been full of artificially-selected crop trees (chestnut, in the Eastern Woodlands. All sorts of things in the Amazon). Trees imply some kind of social support for applying selection more strongly than small systems do, though the extent of the Inca distributed field systems implies a history of serious social support, too.

Looking at all the artificially selected diversity and very specific landraces, I get reminded of Darwin's remarks on sheep breeds and wonder if what our cultural background put into pastoralism the Meso- and South- American cultures put into food crops and milpa field systems.


Not suggesting panacea but that IMHO curing aging is inevitable, and it would happen within the given timeframe, and that with it a change that would definitely be remarkable within said timeframe. The Long Now Foundation doesn't propose a mindset that's really anything like the current worldwide status quo.

I would definitely argue that there is a pro-aging status quo. Do what I've been doing for a few years now, and very politely and passively talk, ask, suggest to people the prospect. In my experience most people are against it, and something like 50/50 for very irrational reasons.

Libertarian? I don't know what should/would happen, but I reckon the best would be as wide a variety as possible. So, no not just libertarian I'd hope. That's kind of the point of seasteading, to escape the ruts other countries are stuck in; as I understand it.


Yeah, I try to be succinct for the sake of discussion.


Have a Gold Star for understanding the scope of the question properly

I imagine most people understand well enough: it is more that the 3000AD perspective is simply too far around the horizon. You don't need a rapture of the nerds for it so be totally removed. What's our perspective on the concerns around the Battle of Hastings and how does it relate to our lives? Sure there are pregenitor conditions, and erroneous folk wisdom (I'm sure plenty of people think it was about "England") and thousands of threads of popular culture around it... so to get the 30th perspective on us, you have to hypothesise the extra space around that stuff and that's impossible other than as a straight fiction exercise (aka making stuff up), not a bad thing at all but limited by imagination rather than the sorts of rabbit-hole-DSW engaged in by some players above.

Referring to my own remarks about individuals and personhood, I think "small" things that affect the reader*/audience perspective may be more significant to their experience of history than actual history. But that applies equally to us.

*for "reader" handwave over any perdictions regarding what form and media history "writing" may take; it's far from clear what the role of written language would in 1000 years.


Yes, some of us haven't quite got the scope of the question, but simply by saying that you're thinking of a pop history book for people in circa 3000AD, but one that has to be intelligible to your putative audience in, say, 2020, circumscribes the possibilities and makes us narrow our thoughts down a bit.


i'll restrict myself to a single, multi-faceted development: the end of the age of the individual and the emergence of a different fundamental conception of human being. four facets of this possible development:

- the democratization of knowledge and associated devolution of massively destructive power (previously available only to states, in the form of military might). this is already prompting new forms of social control and will eventually force a new conception of the individual via radically new conceptions of rights, the social contract, etc.

- deeper understanding of the human organism will show that much of what we regard as distinctively human is properly located not in the individual but at a level that we now call "social" or "cultural". we find it natural to think that the social/cultural is built "bottom up" from individuals and their biological capacities, whereas the relation will eventually appear to us more like that between material chess pieces and the game of chess (we find it natural to regard this relation as "bottom up", too, although i hope, for the sake of this example, a bit less automatically than in the case of human bodies and the social).

- the agent-model of intelligence -- individuals acting independently for the sake of outcomes in accordance with intrinsic preferences -- will come to appear as naive and partial, a special case, as it were, of a phenomenon better located at a higher-level of analysis (see previous point). this will require wholesale restructuring of the "canons of knowledge", e.g. the academy with its divisions.

- advances in physics implying extreme sensitivity of our best theories to "local" empirical constraints, with the eventual result that we no longer conceive our most successful theories as mappings between "internal" representations and "outer" facts but as social-pragmatic stories of a particular sort. this will happen most dramatically in cosmology, where it will be shown that indefinitely many empirically adequate but very different and mutually inconsistent theories are in principle constructible, in something like the way elementary number theory can be embedded in indefinitely many, mutually inconsistent set theories.

note that this is rank speculation many times over: not only that each of these things will happen, but they will come to be seen as parts of a single development.

in short, the whole development can be put in a slogan: the enlightenment will end. however not in a new dark age, rather enlightenment itself will seem benighted.


I'd suggest food processing more generally: first developing techniques to preserve fresh food, then creating new foods out of traditional ingredients, and finally (likely) 3D printing entirely new foodstuffs. Huge impact on human health, first positive, latterly negative, next...?

Sanitation, maybe?



Actually, if there's severe climate change, Mediterranean climates will disappear almost entirely. They depend on winter rain and summer drought, and it looks like with a hothouse Earth you get your rain in the summer, if you don't get stuck with a climate that goes between wet and dry rather than hot and cold.

Your menu of climates is basically: tropical rain forest, desert, paratropical forest (e.g. Florida), broadleaved evergreen forest (e.g. southeast US north of Florida), or deciduous forest (e.g. New York), with the last being present only at the poles. Norway would be about like modern Virginia or Japan, at a rough guess.

This is just the usual education effort. It's not quite as simple as moving every climate 2000 miles north.


Not bad, but the question always has to be: with what resources?

The difficult problem is that we will get ourselves into the most severe climate change mode by burning all our fossil fuels, +/- an Arctic methane burp. If we go that route (we're on it now), then it does take about 200 years to reach peak heat after we've burned those fuels, but we no longer have those fossil fuels to deal with the problems we've caused.

At that point, the future becomes more describable, because people limited by resources and energy have fewer options (read: traditional, back-to-the-land kinds of lifestyles).

Now, if you want to go to space after a huge resource crash (the Interstellar scenario?), you've got to figure out a way for the space colonizers to find the huge resource base they'd need to get off Earth. That's why the question "with what resources?" matters so much. If those resources are easy to get, why aren't people using them to have a better life on Earth?

A simpler solution is that it appears that the climate and the coastlines stabilize in perhaps 1500-2000 years after severe climate change. At that point it would be about 6oC warmer than now, there's global weirding weather, and so forth, but the climate becomes more predictably weird, if that makes sense. This stable period seems to last about 11,000 years. If you want to posit a culture going into space, I'd put it about 8,000 years from now. That gives them the equivalent of an entire neolithic (would that be a Paleoanthropocene?) to figure out how to live on hothouse Earth, plus time to develop the new tech base they'd need to resume space exploration, assuming they can do it with solar power and wind power, unless you can figure out how to bootstrap to fusion power from solar panels.

By the way, I'm hoping to get a book on this out sometime soon, which is why I've got all this in my head at the moment.

The tl;dr point is that "with what resources?" is always a useful question when you're worldbuilding.


I suppose that by that point, only cranks and antiquarians would keep a Norwegian blue parrot at home. There would probably be flocks of them, all gone feral.


There is no way technology will regress to pre-1900 levels, simply because the amount of critical knowledge to recreate that level of tech can be stored on paper books in a moderately sized UK house.


There is also a major bifurcation point. It is whether energy in the future, post fossil, is cheap or expensive.
With enough cheap energy there are no future problems of the type people are angsting over in this blog.


speculation becomes gibberish the more remote it becomes -- but my fourth point was even more gibberish than it needed to be. a quick clear-up:

one of the lessons Bohr drew from quantum mechanics was that "we're suspended in language". his take has fallen into disfavor but i predict he'll be vindicated. in a nutshell, here's what i take him to have meant. when we speak of position, we refer implicitly to an experimental set up for the measurement of position; similarly for momentum. now it's clear that these experimental setups are mutually exclusive: the photographic plate (or whatever) is fixed in one case and allowed to move freely in the other. this is a defining feature of these concepts, from which it follows that no experimental setup is consistent with the simultaneous measurement of both properties. not: we can't know both properties at a single time but they exist simultaneously nonetheless; rather: it's inconsistent hence, roughly, *meaningless* to talk about both properties existing simultaneously. put another way, whether a particle has *in fact* a precise position or a precise momentum can be settled only with reference to the story unfolding in the lab ("then i found p to have value x" etc.). my prediction is that something like this view of physics will be reimposed by discoveries in cosmology, in particular, discoveries to the effect that our best cosmological account cannot be abstracted from considerations local to the story being told by an observer.

is that clearer? probably not! rank speculation...


Ayup, and keeping those books from being chewed up by a tropical climate is just another fun chore.

Seriously, though, it's easy to get to pre-1900. All that has to happen is a bad enough crash. The infrastructure needed for 1900 technology is still fairly complex (since we're talking about industrialization). If you don't have the resources you need to make the stuff in the books, those books are just going to attract silverfish.


I am going to suggest that the history books of 3000, particularly the pop history books of 3000, will not remember what was important about 1700-2300. I based this on the fact that we cannot remember what was important about the 17th century.

17th New England: what do we think is important? Witch trials. There were 3 trials for the entire period, 2 very small ones in the 1640's in Connecticut and 1 moderate sized one in the backwater of Salem, Massachusetts in the 1690's. I am guessing there are dozens of more important events and processes from this time and space.

What do we forget about witch trials as an historic process: thousands of people were burned as witches in Scotland, Germany and Spain. Why are those tiny events indelible and those massive events forgotten? Regardless of what the answer is, the implication is that our collective memories are shit when it comes to understanding history as it actually happens or even at how it impacts us now.

Slavery in the 17th century Colonies was completely different from the 18th and 19th century versions. For starters, almost no women were imported and many plantations were run as labor to the death camps rather than as on-going societies. But when people look back on that institution, they probably see Tara springing up overnight fully formed.

As some people have noted in passing, earlier attempts at deep pop history like Geoffrey of Monmouth were even worse than what we do now. Suetonius was working with a continuous historical record close to his own time and he still basically coughed up a National Enquirer version of events.

Either civilization in 3000 will be a lot better at doing history than we are, in which case we probably cannot predict its form very accurately, or they will be the same as us, in which case they will get almost all of it wrong. (Assuming people in 3000 still care about history and have the resources to write it.)


"A simpler solution is that it appears that the climate and the coastlines stabilize in perhaps 1500-2000 years after severe climate change"

a simpler solution is everyone is overcome with despair and just gives up and kills themselves. It's just not very likely as people kinda like to live and aren't just going to go gentle into that good night.

"Not bad, but the question always has to be: with what resources"

Heteromeles repeat after me. We aren't going to run out of energy. Not ever, as long as the sun is burning. We. Are. Not. Going. To. Run. Out. Of. Energy. Ever. Ever. Ever. Until. The. Sun. Burns. Out.


One elephant in this room no one seems to want to notice is capitalism. We (this commentaryat) talk about how we (?) could fix the climate - let's look at the institutions that could do this: cooperations (large and small) sure, if it pays for them. For the most part it doesn't so hello 4°C. States could force capital somewhat, but since states compeete too, they won'T because this is a game of the first to move, the first to loose. Start a carbon tax and you a) suddenly have to pay someone for ruining their investment because too legislature periods ago, the then government signed an agreement to that effect and even if not there's still b) you just made your exports more expensive. Popularity aside, no state can function without a tax base so no state will harm it's own economy.

And so far we have not seen economic growth without growth in resource expendiutre AFAIK, and capitalism without economic growth is even uglier for most.

Plus there's the tendential fall of the rate of profit which has had the capital running around the globe loking for new riches to aquire for centuries. Whis vbecoming harder (hence privatisations, hence invesment in ever more virtual financial products). Primitive accumulation would be a search term of choice, and I found Beverly Silvers "Forces of Labour" a great book on globalisation and how capital flees from strikes and rising wages into ever poorer hellholes.

What does this mean for the next 300 years? We will see more crises, bubbles, crises, crashes etc. Or large scale war. None of this will make capitalism history without conscious action of many, many people who want something decidedly different. So a plausible vision of the world in 1ka will need to explain either how a capitalist society survived the crashes, or how it was replaced.

Note also that few organizations give up power, and that if you look closely nation states don't do this much, The existing internationl organizations have little autonomy from the states that make them up. I have no good idea into what our nation states will mutate, but I'm sure that a monopoly of force and a notionterritory will remain, at least from the perspective of the poor. I'd also expect the sheer existence of nation states to serve as a conserving agent for nationalism (that bad idea of the 19th century).

So: unles we manage that darned social, global revolution, we're stuck with ...
Some notion of nation state, mostly concentrated on the represive functions
An economic system that works badly when it grows, and catastrophically when it doesn't on a planet that does not grow
An international sytem that only provides new avenues for the competetion of existing nation states to play out


You mean resources like billions of tonnes of refined metal just lying around? You think people will forget how to make guns?


There is no way technology will regress to pre-1900 levels, simply because the amount of critical knowledge to recreate that level of tech can be stored on paper books in a moderately sized UK house.

Steam turbines? Really?

Problem the first -- fuel. There are solutions, but they're not pre-1900. The entire extant tech stack is part of the Carbon Binge. Problem the second -- you can't write it all down, and indeed it was not all written down. Heaps and stacks of the required knowledge is skill got by practice; e.g., the folks judging the steel in the puddling furnace by colour. There's an enormous amount of unextractable learn-by-doing in technology, which is why where you go to school matters.

(Simplest example I can think of when it comes to learn-by-doing -- what does sufficiently kneaded bread feel like? You can have this described to you in eleven different ways, but the only thing that lets you judge it accurately without an outright lab is kneading bread dough and baking the results.)


One scheme to spray water into the atmosphere to create enough cloud cover to reduce temperature was costed at around $10 billion per year. Geoengineering solutions might be cheap.


Not going to happen, for the same reason that I don't believe in infinite oil. Your argument is analogous to the idea that everyone should sell all their gold, because there's this huge amount of gold in the ocean, and just as soon as someone figures out how to get it out profitably, gold will be so common that it loses all its value.

Yeah, there's a huge amount of energy. Putting it to use by humans turns out to be really hard. We live in a society that's been built on mining the remnants of around 200,000,000 years of sunny days (coal and oil), and we're attempting to switch over to an equally energy-hungry system that runs on a few percent of the Sun's daily output hitting Earth, and no more. That's the problem.

Remember that most of the energy from the Sun goes to keeping our atmosphere and oceans above freezing, powering photosynthesis so that there's oxygen for us eukaryotes to respire, and powering the winds to keep it all well mixed. That energy can't be touched without huge and fatal consequences. Of the rest, how much can we efficiently get?

And, as always, the question is, do you have the resources to get that energy. If you don't, then it isn't available to you, even if it will never run out.


Heteromeles repeat after me. We aren't going to run out of energy. Not ever, as long as the sun is burning. We. Are. Not. Going. To. Run. Out. Of. Energy. Ever. Ever. Ever. Until. The. Sun. Burns. Out.

Population is set by the _minimum_ resources of a period of time, not the peak. (This is why nut-producing trees produce unevenly in the wild; there's a year in three or five when most squirrels starve because the trees don't produce nuts that year.)

It's absolutely trivial to get a crash where there aren't enough people to maintain the industry to make solar panels, and bootstrapping that is pretty difficult. You need a highly-non-trivial silicon refining process for the most common variety. Modern industrial dependencies are absolutely dendritic and deeply entangled with fossil carbon.


This is true but there's still a lot of knowledge that can be conserved. I don't know about a UK house, but the library of a decent technical university you could cut quite a few corners in trial and error. Just think how much we learned about material science in the 20th cen thatactually fits in a very thin book. Not formulae maybe, but concepts that where expensive to learn the first time around.


Have a Gold Star for understanding the scope of the question properly.

Thanks, Charlie; I'm trying. I may not have good answers yet but I'm going to at least try to address the question. A post on that is coming.

Meanwhile, we don't have to wait for genetic engineering to uplift cats. American SF fan and filker Leslie Fish has been breeding smart cats; no doubt enough generations would produce some remarkable felines.


Remember that most of the energy from the Sun goes to keeping our atmosphere and oceans above freezing, powering photosynthesis so that there's oxygen for us eukaryotes to respire, and powering the winds to keep it all well mixed. That energy can't be touched without huge and fatal consequences. Of the rest, how much can we efficiently get?

You can build all the solar modules you want without freezing the oceans or stilling the wind: every bit* of sunlight that is used to perform useful work via electricity ultimately reverts back to heat near the point of use. Only one of these constraints is significant: don't blot out photosynthesis. But that's easy enough to respect. There are huge swathes of space that barely support plants, many of them currently called "parking lots" or "roof tops."

It's absolutely trivial to get a crash where there aren't enough people to maintain the industry to make solar panels, and bootstrapping that is pretty difficult. You need a highly-non-trivial silicon refining process for the most common variety. Modern industrial dependencies are absolutely dendritic and deeply entangled with fossil carbon.

I got to be a beta reader of the book Heteromeles is writing about the climate and deep future. At one point he made a reference to the Moties, the aliens of The Mote in God's Eye who keep overpopulating until civilization crashes and then build back up again with fusion power until the next crash. I think that we could get a global complexity crash if there's a global resource crunch to make the system fragile followed by a big (nuclear?) war to knock it over. But I think that you could build up again, even after the fossil fuels are gone, if you have that modest one-house-library of knowledge.

Instead of fusion like Moties -- we're not that brilliant -- humans could bootstrap back to complexity with hydroelectric power. You can build a hydroelectric generator and an arc furnace with 19th century technology. People started making industrial quantities of crude silicon in arc furnaces around 1906. Getting it purified enough to make solar cells and transistors (Siemens process) requires, in my estimation, precursor technologies that were available by the 1920s. Maybe a bit earlier. Charcoal substitutes for coke as the reductant. The Siemens process wasn't actually realized until the 1950s because people didn't know in the 1920s that super-pure silicon had valuable applications, not because there were a bunch of additional precursor dependencies required. Knowledge has powerful ratchet effects even after the fossil binge is over.

*Not strictly true, for the pedants: electromagnetic radiation that radiates away from Earth before it is thermalized actually "steals" some energy away. But radios and lights pointed at the sky don't even make the Top 100 list of human applications of energy. The albedo effects of solar modules will overwhelm that in all but the most contrived circumstances.


We have technical solutions, we don't have political solutions. Big difference.

I think you may underestimate the time scale.

Climate change answers, for example. After a thousand years, "ignore climate change until the nation vanishes under the sea" is an answer, and one that happened many centuries ago. To put it whimsically, if 24th century humans are hunter-gatherers in the Antarctic rain forests, then by the 31st century it's fodder for historical dramas rather than a current event.

Ecosystems, as you point out, are very complex and are poorly understood today...and the word "ecosystem" was first used in 1935, within living memory. An earlier draft of my notes included the possibility of simulating billions of hypothetical species in thousands of ecosystems before actually letting anything loose into the real world. But that's a solution for 2100 anyway, not 3000.


Well sure if there is a major nuclear war all bets are off. If you want to make the arguememt that is inevitable. that's more reasonable but that arguement is not the one being made. A major nuclear exchange makes global warming look like a walk in the park...

As far as energy goes, we aren't even going to run out of hydrocarbons anytime in the next 200 years and if you believe a die off is coming that has the side effect of leaving more hydrocarbons for the people that survive. We will never run out of solar, hydroelectric or biofuels. Fissionable also are nowhere near depleted, it's pure insanity to imagine an energy poor future, global warming or not. The future might be hot, but it's gonna have electricity


Sigh. You tell people there's a bear trap, and they wander right into it, with some added salt of snark about nuts or patronizing tones showing how silly a woman is for confusing ferns as not plants.

We were talking about tundra and warming, remember? And soil, and so on.

The solution has already been engineered by nature:

Terrible jokes aside, lichens consist of an algae called a photobiont and a fungus called a mycobiont. Together they form something a little bit different – something that allows both the algae and the fungus to live well.

The reason for this direct symbiosis (or internal) rather than root tips is due to energy constraints.

Nitrogen and carbon isotope variability in the green-algal lichen Xanthoria parietina and their implications on mycobiont–photobiont interactions

Bryophytes, which are classified into the divisions Marchan-tiophyta (liverworts), Anthocerotophyta (hornworts) and Bryophyta (mosses), are the oldest known land plants in the world (Zinsmeister, Mues,1987). Bryophytes play an
important role in the dynamics of understory vegetation, nutrient cycling, soil structure and stability (Smith, Read 1997). The lack of vascular tissue in bryophytes species has led to a plethora of strategies in nutrient acquisition.

Arbuscular mycorrhizas, formed only by fungi in the division Glomeromycota (Goffinet 2009), are found in 85% of all plant families (Wang 2006). However, mycorrhizal fungus-bryophyte associations have also been reported, even in early studies on symbiotic associations (Rayner 1927; Kelley 1950; Gerdemann 1968; Harley 1969). Some liverworts and hornworts are known to form symbiotic relationships with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi (Turnau et al. 1999; Schüβler 2000), which has been confirmed in studies using axenic cultures. Mycorrizal associations have been described between the fungus Glomus epigeios(G. versiforme), moss Funaria hygrometrica and companion plant Asparagus(Parke 1979), and between Anthoceros punctatus and Glomus tenue(Schüβler 2002), between
Glomus tenue and Pellia sp. (Turnau et al. 1999).
Read (2000) proposed that these fungal associations are ancient and important for the first plants to colonize land. Fossil evidence of Glomalen fungal structures associated with early bryophytes in Ordovician sediments that are 460 and 400 million years old support this contention (Redecker et al. 2000).

Occurrence of fungal structures in bryophytes of the boreo-nemoral zone [PDF - Ligita Liepiņa]

So, not 30%, more like 15%. (Wang, 2009).

Sorry Hetero, but things do move along.


Oh, and the joke about the The Thing was about thawing tundra and new research (or rather, research just published and definitely being done on the QT):

The saga of giant viruses (i.e. visible by light microscopy) started in 2003 with the discovery of Mimivirus. Two additional types of giant viruses infecting Acanthamoeba have been discovered since: the Pandoraviruses (2013) and Pithovirus sibericum (2014), the latter one revived from 30,000-y-old Siberian permafrost. We now describe Mollivirus sibericum, a fourth type of giant virus isolated from the same permafrost sample. These four types of giant virus exhibit different virion structures, sizes (0.6–1.5 µm), genome length (0.6–2.8 Mb), and replication cycles. Their origin and mode of evolution are the subject of conflicting hypotheses. The fact that two different viruses could be easily revived from prehistoric permafrost should be of concern in a context of global warming.

In-depth study of Mollivirus sibericum, a new 30,000-y-old giant virus infecting Acanthamoeba


So yes, mr men, I was thinking about time.

Simply put: in 1,000 years, who knows what else thawed out, awoke or generally formed new symbiotic relationships?

Oh, wait. Sorry, I'm the batty one who doesn't know about ferns...


Matt and I disagree on whether a nuclear war is necessary to crash civilization or not, but that's fine with me. Thoughtful people should be able to disagree on what the future holds.

One thing to remember is that 20th Century-style mondo hydropower requires huge amounts of reinforced concrete, which also require a large amount of energy to create. I'm not sure what the upper limit on 19th Century hydropower is, but I suspect it's much more limited, even if you have an efficient electrical turbine hooked to the mill race rather than a mechanical waterwheel.

I don't think it's impossible to use a small hydropower system to power the creation of solar panels from raw ingredients (or more to the point, from recycled stuff from our time), but I'm not sure if you could build enough solar panels that way to get to the point where you were using solar energy to build more solar panels and could bootstrap a solar revolution. If not, then I think you get stuck dealing with a low energy situation.



No, what you think you know about plants is probably wrong.

It's all about the fungi.


Okay, I'm back to take a guess at the 'humanoid on the street' view from the year 3000, rather than answering the thread and its attractors.

From that perspective I suggest that our era will be the times when humanity finally Got Its Shit Together. I won't even ask what has been happening in the seven hundred years after 2300; it's going to be much more important to everyone in 3000 but it's not our topic. What do they think of the previous millennium?

Before that we were groping around, banging the rocks together, and inventing technologies like sailboats, gunpowder, and fermented beverages. Damn good tricks for the time but now that we know what else is possible they don't look so amazing. We don't yet know what 2300, much less 3000, is going to look like but it's obvious that humanity will have a really amazing collection of powers.

How much will the average person on the street know about how the period in between? Probably not much. Expect that most of them won't be able to tell if the first human on the moon was before or after the first atomic explosion, or date either of those events to within a century. (Check yourself. You know Vikings raided the British Isles; was that before or after the Fujiwara clan took de facto control of Nippon? Was the Keivan Rus before, after, or concurrent with Charlemagne? Was it the Song Dynasty that banned Buddhism in China?) If they remember that modern technology showed up about a thousand years ago, good for them.

Technology isn't the exciting bit. Yes, it seems amazing because we're living through the period of rapid change and it is exciting to us. Plus, obviously, we're a blog full of nerds. The phase change in civilization should be much more interesting to the citizen of the next millennium. In only a few centuries the world changed, by 2300 becoming the modern world they'd recognize. Before humanity was a vast collection of mostly isolated nations with minimal communication and only vague knowledge of what was going on elsewhere. It could take weeks to find out what was going on only a few hundred kilometers away! Cultures were isolated, idiosyncratic, and inbred. Literally inbred, too; sometimes you could tell where a person came from just by their physical appearance. They usually had kings. Then humanity flips over into the next stage, rather abruptly; in a few generations there was a global meta-culture with effectively instantaneous communication to effectively everyone, effectively everywhere. (Moving from telegraphs and AM radio broadcasts to cellular smartphones and high speed internet is a much smaller change than getting telegraphs and radio in the first place.) By the end of the changing time there are few if any isolated cultures whose people only know Our One True Way. Instead there's the global meta-culture and an infinitely varied fractally divided mosaic of chosen cultures. Geographic location is meaningful but no longer descriptive or compulsive. Also, nobody can live their lives unaware that other humans have different cultural views. People will still be whining and complaining about other people a thousand years from now but nobody will be surprised or shocked at mere differences of fashion.

More thought is needed before I can make a decent guess about what a historian of the era will pick out as important about these six centuries between thousands of tribes and one planet, but it certainly won't be our decade's popular problems.


OK, ok, ok... I can do this...

8000 years is fine by me, but Charlie specified 3000AD, so that's what we're stuck with. I'll accept this as a challenge.

"Not bad, but the question always has to be: with what resources?"

Right, no fossil fuels left, that's what caused this whole mess. Someone mentioned hydro-electric. Geo-thermal and wind also come to mind. IFAIK, we only need electricity and we can get solar back. Maybe fission too? Stone substitutes for concrete pretty easily, although that requires large numbers of laborers over significant periods of time. You may have to patch together the output from many power plants to run one steel mill. Or a chemical factory.

The knowledge for this is unlikely to be entirely permanently lost- people moved north, but the rich took their digital media with them. Then, about 200 years later, an electrical grid is restored. After that, it's just digital archaeology. All those universities and libraries are still there, they were just abandoned long ago. People wont have forgotten what to look for either. Don't underestimate the power of oral tradition, and not all written media will have rotted away. So I dont think knowledge is the deal-breaker.

Someone else mentioned refined metals lying around- no I think all that stuff will have rusted to uselessness by then. Enough to reverse engineer, but not enough to use on a large scale. They will have to make more- but they wont forget how, they just need a kiln hot enough. That's a question I dont have the expertise to answer- how much heat can you generate using only hydro-electric or geo-thermal electricity? If you can refine steel, we're there.

Other bottlenecks? CD wants us to think in terms of a horror story, not Sci-Fi, but you know what- humans evolve too. If it doesn't kill us, we will develop an immunity (yes, I know that's not technically natural selection). Sadly, I dont think we can get back to bio-engineering by 2300 in my scenario, although we can by 3000! The bit about the soil is a good point- no intensive agriculture because the soil will be no good. Most people outside the north coastal plain will probably be following a migratory herding lifestyle (herding what I cant imagine- is there a way we could make it Mammoths? No? Oh well.

The "population centers" in the North will be pretty spread out by our standards; pop densities low. How this will impact governing and cultural institutions is interesting to speculate upon, but this post is long enough.

Ohhhhh, a book? Wow.


CD wants us to think in terms of a horror story, not Sci-Fi, but you know what- humans evolve too. If it doesn't kill us, we will develop an immunity (yes, I know that's not technically natural selection).

If you're living in one of the Five Eyes countries, China or Russia, it's not a horror story.

It's a white paper document that's 10 years old now.

Quite how you ignore the history of the 20th C, let alone Rwanda or the Congo is beyond me.

It's only a horror story if you sit with your Beats[tm] headphones over your head listening to your iPod[tm] and watching your iWatch[tm] for the next bus to go see the next Marvel[tm] Super Hero story and think you've a clue.

Top tip:

Syria has had 6 million refugees for over 4 years. Same kind of time-line as Greece and lack of medicinal drugs.

But sure. It's a horror-show alright.


Instead of fusion like Moties -- we're not that brilliant -- humans could bootstrap back to complexity with hydroelectric power.

Hydro-electric is just rain. One of the problems with global weather chaos is not knowing with any confidence where it's going to rain. By the time you do have confidence about where it's going to rain, all the books are in dead languages.

(Charcoal... is an extremely limited industrial feedstock, which is to a first approximation why we're in this mess.)

That said, sure, you can build an arc furnace. You can maybe start off with 5% efficient solar cells, if you know that's what you want. But you then have the same problem solar has here-and-now -- what do you use to store the power? (here-and-now the good answer looks to be "make ammonia", but for there-and-then that looks like an opportunity to have to reinvent a lot of catalytic chemistry.)

High-energy density civilization is hard work; we've only pulled it off by cheating via the Carbon Binge, we can't actually do it steady-state. (Not in a demonstrated way; I think it's possible and entirely worth a try, but it's emphatically in the "undemonstrated" category.)


So I've been the soul of cheer. Let me try to exhibit some optimism.

Ammonia is something we know how to handle. We can do it without using plastics, too.

You can make ammonia with electricity. You can't use it sensibly for your aluminium smelter, but you can use it for motive power, hotel power, and light industry.

You get it by ocean wind; send ships out, drag the propellor, generate electricity, come back when you're full. There will be lot of ocean wind, and unlike sunlight at high latitudes (where everyone will be living) the ocean wind is going to be reasonably reliable in the sense of existing. Plus ships are mobile, that's the whole point; even if the westerlies and the trades shift on you, you can probably follow them.

There can be aluminum and titanium electro-refining, using hydro or geothermal power. Primary iron refining (I have iron oxide; I want iron) by electrical means is not a known technology at present; there are people who think they've got a process but it hasn't been demonstrated at industrial scale. But let's suppose we've got that, too. Glass-making is mostly natural gas on price but electric glass making is well understood and widely used for small-batch, speciality applications.

Plasma cutters and electric welding are well-understood. So, not quite steel and glass and coal and copper, but steel and glass and diverse light metals; there's the basis of an industrial civilization there.

Presuming, of course, we can get to it, and we can feed it. Feeding it is still the sticking point.


High-energy density civilization is hard work...

Wandering off topic again, but yes. We've got some ideas about the challenges of the 21st century, all of which will be old hat by the 26th much less the 31st. But what about secondary effects - which, yes, will also be ancient history and mostly forgotten by 3000.

Ideas about energy occurred to me as I walked to the store just now. Imagine if we set up a big OTEC array in the North Atlantic to power the bordering continents, possibly in the mid-22nd century. That cools the upper ocean, drawing south the polar life. This can yield good fishing if people don't mess it up. Expect protests against ship obstructing whale swarms from the same folks who complain about wind farms killing birds. Active measures against icebergs. Debates about whether to use the climate-control orbiting mirror arrays to warm the surface of the ocean there.

Yes, I'm off topic and a bit silly but with reason. This is a plausible scenario for two hundred years from now using nothing more than near future technologies. It doesn't take us past 2300 much less to 3000.


One other factor in the year 3000: unless serious climate mitigation efforts are begun soon, a lot of the physical evidence of history will be under water.


send ships out, drag the propellor, generate electricity, come back when you're full.

It's not a terrible idea. I'm not convinced that the energy budgets work out to considering 1) how much energy industrial society needs to function in a minimal manner, 2) the amount of energy that would have to be invested in building the ships and associated infrastructure, and 3) the life expectancy of the ships (after which their energy cost would have to be paid again). Do you have any EROEI (energy return on energy invested) estimates for something like this?


CD: Calling it a "Horror Story" doesnt mean it isnt real. When the next pandemic wipes out half my neighbors I will be calling that a "Horror Story" (and the NSA is welcome to record me doing it). If/when the greys come to probe my anus I'll be calling that "Sci-Fi" (as well as a number of other things).

Graydon: We may not know where it will rain, but surely we can find the rivers, right? And only the experts have to be able to read the books.

OTOH-energy storage! Yes, good catch. What do we use? Doesn't hydro automatically store it in the lake behind the dam? Or am I missing something? As for geo/wind,bio etc. well, I dont have the expertise to answer this question- how do you store electricity at pre-1900 tech levels? Do we have to? Once we get electrical power going, can we "bootstrap" batteries? How hard is it to synthesize the chemicals in a lead-acid cell?


Hydro-electric is just rain. One of the problems with global weather chaos is not knowing with any confidence where it's going to rain. By the time you do have confidence about where it's going to rain, all the books are in dead languages.

You can have 400+ years of linguistic drift before you need a specialist to understand old books if history is any guide; Francis Bacon's essays are still readable. I'm not going to try to predict any particular place where people could start rebuilding complexity, but positing that it won't happen at all seems to require a series of dark miracles. Miraculously, no dammable river flows year-round anymore. Miraculously, every useful book succumbs to fire/insects/mold before it can be applied by 22nd century descendants of the collapse generation. Miraculously, population increase outstripping exploitable resources happens even faster the next time, so up-and-coming city states climb only one rung of the complexity ladder before falling down again.


We can have solar power w/o silicon panels. Solar thermal projects using concentrated sunlight to run a steam engine and generator are late 19th century, early 20th century technology. Tropical rain might make it rather inefficient, but as long as there is sunshine, even lower tech, post crash societies could develop it (along with wind power, hydro-electric, etc).

having said that, I tend to agree with Graydon. I don't see the world being very energy short. The US is horribly energy inefficient. Higher energy prices in the EU have made them more energy efficient, and we will adapt whatever the energy state. If it is relatively scare and expensive, we will become very efficient in its use, and if it is extremely plentiful and cheap, we'll just squander it as we tend to do today. I just don't see some sort of Mad Max world happening.

If we really cannot come to grips with GW and world does heat up, then my main worry is food shortages, exacerbated by climate refugees. It will look more like Soylent Green (Make Room! Make Room!) As someone mentioned in another similar thread, we can't grow corn in the Tundra or the newly exposed rock surfaces of Greenland. We'd better hope we can make vertical farms and factory food work before it comes to that.


If we do get a big die off, then I think 3000CE historians will note it as we do the Black Death with its repercussions on the social structure.


As a very back of the envelope thing, because prices for aluminium sailing yachts are... obscure, in terms of what's for the ship and what's for the hand-rubbed teak decking, I think you could presently get an austere 500 tonne aluminium sailing ship for about a million euros. Call it 1200 kUSD because this is very nearly math-in-one's head.

We can get 300 tonnes of ammonia on board; liquid anhydrous ammonia is light, 0.682 tonnes/m^3, so that's ~440,000 litres. At a dollar a litre -- roughly equivalent to gasoline prices -- and a 50% back-conversion rate to electricity in a fuel cell, you've delivered 7.5 kWh x 440,000 x .5 = 1,650,000 kWh ashore and you had to generate ~11 kWh per litre so ~4,710,000 kWh to do it.

10 m/s when it could be 12 m/s -- roughly the difference between -- a bit more than 5 knots, a bit more than 6, should be easy even for a tanker -- is ~500 tonnes x 2 m/s x .75 (efficient generators, not-as-efficient props) and we wind up with 1 MW per hour.

So 4,710 hours, this won't do. We need to be generating 10 MW/hour, which takes a ~7.3 -- roughly 4 knot -- generator drag. That seems entirely doable with current sail and hull design. So then you're looking at ~20 days to fill the ship. Which means eight trips a year seems entirely plausible, which in turn means you're grossing (at that hypothetical dollar a litre) about 3.5 MUSD/year. At currentish 65 cents/litre prices, that's ~2.3 MUSD/year.

Even if the ship's costing you 5 MUSD to build and a 1 MUSD/year to run, that seems entirely viable as a business model.


One other factor in the year 3000: unless serious climate mitigation efforts are begun soon, a lot of the physical evidence of history will be under water.

Oh, good point! I don't imagine it would be big news then but a lot must be lost. For a current events tidbit, mention archaeologists working in London! You can flip a coin to decide whether any current surface buildings will still be there in a thousand years but I'm guessing the Underground will be lost at some point. The Tube should be a treasure trove of ancient artifacts - that is, our junk. Someone's going to be treasuring an intact Guiness bottle and wondering about a broken Beatles CD.


OTOH-energy storage! Yes, good catch. What do we use?

That's the kicker; everything we actually know how to do isn't so good.

Hydro does store back of the dam but gravity is a weak force; you need insane amounts of water. There are very few places (Niagara, lower Congo, ...) where this is easy and you can get the power without building a very expensive concrete dam. And you need a place to put the lake before you do that; building a hydro dam on, for example, the lower Mississippi would be impractical.

It's much more likely you'll wind up with a floating vertical axis turbine or something than building any dams; that's not efficient but you can move them around.

Batteries flat suck for energy storage; there are some very high density chemistries, and some very reliable rechargeable chemistries, but the half-hypothetical modern good stuff is hard to make because you wind up with nano-fabricated anodes and other efficient but difficult things. Ni-Co or Li-polymer takes really good chemistry and making the nano-anode even better chemistry.

Really efficient fuel synthesis -- ammonia or methane or something similar -- isn't (quite) known tech. It's a puzzlement, but also rather vital to going on renewables.


Actually, they're reporting good harvests in the loess soil left behind by Greenland glaciers. Loess from glaciers was the foundation for the prairie soils of the corn belt and the Chinese wheat belt. This probably won't last unless they start getting some carbon into the soil, but it's not as bad as you might expect.

As for the gelisols of the frozen tundra, that gets messier. These are soils with permafrost within 100 cm of the surface, and they get churned by the ice freezing and thawing. There is technical papers for how to farm in permafrost country, but it sometimes can become stable enough to farm. Not always or permanently (sometimes it's better to leave it as a marsh or as pasture), but apparently it's not impossible, just a major chore.

The real fun part is that permafrost gets up to 1 km thick in parts of the Arctic, so it doesn't really matter how long climate change lasts, some Arctic soils are still going to be thawing and wobbling when the next ice age starts, so far as anyone can tell right now.


Sounds semiplausible. I have a few reservations about the details. Using anhydrous ammonia seems iffy; it takes significant energy to separate the ammonia from water and pressure vessels don't scale well (square-cube law). Using hydrated ammonia would add a lot of bulk, though. Either way, a liter of ammonia has a lot less energy than a liter of gasoline. Last time I checked, the US alone was using roughly 8 billion barrels of oil a year, so scalability is a big question.

BTW, aluminium is a no-no when playing with alkaline chemicals. They dissolve the passivating oxide layer over the metal. In a nutshell, the metal dissolves. Exothermically. I recommend steel, which is also less energy intensive.


you don't need fancy batteries for energy storage lead/acid works fine and is still best of breed from a price/kwh perspective. It is what i use to run my off the grid place.

You need fancy materials if you want the batteries light or small

Biofuels like ethanols, hydrogen, both could also be a way of storing power

You will also never use ALL the fossil fuels. There are several different types, they won't all exhaust at the same time and it is extremely hard to imagine all the coal being gone. You also have an added benefit that global warming would open up Antarctica and Greenland for serious resource exploration

you can also just not store the energy. Power at night is actually a convenience not a pure necessity, except for heating which can be accomplished via heating water.


Ok, I'll play in the environmental strange attractor.

First, you don't need storage. Storage is only if you need to run your industry at night. So any prediction about energy shortages based on a lack of storage are discredited by that false assumption.

To reply to Heteromeles about where we are going to get the dams to make the materials to make new dams. We use the ones we've already got. I mean, many of them can survive decades sans maintenance, and a society can always choose to withhold water to the population to run electricity. Don't underestimate the ruthlessness of some civilizations when the chips are down. The same is true for geothermal, which won't be effected by any change in climate.

Now the main problem with geothermal energy is that it is limited in a few locations. So how is steel distributed. There's a very simple solution: empire. The strong empires will be those which hold hydroelectric dams or geothermal wells. Those empires will have enough energy to maintain a 21st century technology level. This is the same way that the various caliphates maintained Roman standards of living while Europe was a backwater.

A further thing to remember is that the European Empires were born before industrialization, so we know it is possible to maintain a globe-spanning empire sans industrialization.

Another thing to keep in mind is that these sources of hydro or geo energy can provide energy for hydroponics to maintain a modern society.

Having said all that, I still agree that there's no realistic chance of having an energy shortage in the 21st century.


Anhydrous ammonia has about half the energy density of gasoline, yeah. But it is nigh-ideal for alkaline fuel cells, which get you away from all the pesky membrane problems. And those easily hit 50% efficiency. So it's par-or-better in terms of range per litre in the transport applications (electric vehicles tend to go further per unit energy) which is where something pumpable is really desirable.

Steel might well be better, but nobody who builds steel sailboats -- there are a few -- is ever so declasse as to mention prices. And resale prices don't reflect builder's cost very well. So I did the SWAG with an extrapolated aluminium price.

The US uses oil for a lot more than transport, and yes substitutes/replacements/alternatives for all of it has to be found, but simple efficiency counts for a lot. So would changing farming methods.

Scott Sanford