Related to the Progress and Happiness thread:
In the distant future, our descendants will probably have spread out
across space, and redesigned their minds and bodies to explode
Cambrian-style into a vast space of possible creatures. If they are
free enough to choose where to go and what to become, our distant
descendants will fragment into diverse local economies and cultures.
Given a similar freedom of fertility, most of our distant descendants
will also live near a subsistence level. Per-capita wealth has only
been rising lately because income has grown faster than population.
But if income only doubled every century, in a million years that
would be a factor of 10^3000, which seems impossible to achieve with
only the 10^70 atoms of our galaxy available by then. Yes we have
seen a remarkable demographic transition, wherein richer nations have
fewer kids, but we already see contrarian subgroups like Hutterites,
Hmongs, or Mormons that grow much faster. So unless strong central
controls prevent it, over the long run such groups will easily grow
faster than the economy, making per person income drop to near
subsistence levels. Even so, they will be basically happy in such a
Our distant descendants will also likely have hit diminishing returns
to discovery; by then most everything worth knowing will be known by
many; truly new and important discoveries will be quite rare. Complete
introspection will be feasible, and immortality will be available to
the few who can afford it. Wild nature will be mostly gone, and
universal coordination and destruction will both be far harder than
So what will these distant descendants think of their ancestors? They
will find much in common with our distant hunting ancestors, who also
continued for ages at near subsistence level in a vast fragmented
world with slow growth amid rare slow contact with strange distant
cultures. While those ancestors were quite ignorant about their
world, and immersed in a vast wild nature instead of a vast space of
people, their behavior was still pretty well adapted to the world they
lived in. While they suffered many misconceptions, those illusions
rarely made them much worse off; their behavior was usually adaptive.
When our distant descendants think about our era, however, differences
will loom larger....
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