Michael ShermerParticipant StatementCRITICAL FACTORS
What are the factors that are most critical to the long-term survival of humanity?
1. Ideas and education. All action springs from thought. Good actions spring from good ideas, bad actions from bad ideas. Thus, the most fundamental thing we can do is educate people with good ideas. But since it is not always clear which are the good ideas and which the bad, even more fundamental is teaching people HOW to think, not WHAT to think. So, teaching people how to think -is at the base of the pyramid.
2. Science is the best method ever devised for understanding causality. Thus, science literacy is the most important tool in teaching people how to think. Science literacy must start in childhood and continue through school and into adulthood. Science as a set of methods about how to think about the world can be taught to anyone, along with a reverence and awe for the world and the cosmos, irrespective of religious or spiritual preferences.
3. Once people are educated on how to think, they must be free to act. Thus, the spread of freedom around the globe, particularly through freedom of speech, freedom to travel, freedom to exchange goods and services (free markets), and freedom to participate in social and democratic decisions that effect all of humanity.What are the current map and trajectory of these factors?
Science education of the youth.
Science literacy for adults.
The spread of freedom and liberty globally.
The trajectory on a yearly or decadal level is slow, but by a measure of centuries or millennium much progress has been made and will continue to be made with our eternal vigilance.What are the problems and opportunities with the factors identified?
1. Science education and critical thinking are popular slogans but few actually practice them and fewer still teach them. Science education of the youth, and science literacy for adults, is one of the primary missions of the Skeptics Society, but it is, admittedly, an uphill battle.
2. Still more difficult hurdles exist for the spread of freedom and free markets, as both suppressive governments and left-leaning academics rail against the evils of capitalism and free markets. Most academics were intellectually raised on Marxism and because very few have ever worked in the real world they have little to no understanding of how the world works. Thus, it is imperative that we educate the upcoming generation of academics on the virtues of capitalism.
3. That said, capitalism and free markets tend to be shortsighted, and their track record on sustainable environmental policies is not good. Thus, it seems clear that some sort of regulation is required, but how this can be implemented without bogging down markets in bureaucratic bunglary and governmental red tape is not clear. All the scientific evidence points to the fact that global warming is real and that it is most likely human caused. Thus, if we are to implement free market solutions they have to be structured to provide short-term gain with long-term consequences.POTENTIAL IN YOUR FIELD
What do you envision as the greatest potential/future in your field in the thousand-year future?
Since I am an historian of science I am accustomed to looking back. But since I am also a social activist in the realm of science and science literacy, I mist look forward. The problem is that the history of forecasting is notoriously inaccurate. Still, the process itself of forecasting is more important than what is actually forecasted, because it gets us thinking about what our immediate next step should he, even if we have not a clue what a hundred steps from now will look like.
If we project from C.E. 1000 to 2000, then 2000 to 3000, certain trend lines can be discerned:
1. The linear trend of greater freedoms for all and the expanding sphere of sentiments that now includes women, children, and non-white peoples.
2. The geometric growth trend (e.g., Moore's Law) of science and technology since the 16th century, and especially over the past several decades, has been nothing short of phenomenal. There is no way to know if Moore's law (real or metaphorical) can continue at this pace unabated, but if it did then the world of the year 3000 will be so unlike the world of today that it is literally unimaginable.
3. The geometric growth trend of environmental destruction and species extinction is equally remarkable and frightening. There is a very real possibility that humanity will not survive to the year 3000 unless sustainable technologies are developed within the next 50 years. In my opinion the next half-century will determine rest of the millenniumDISCUSSION TOPICS/ QUESTIONS
What are two or three topics/questions, critical to the long-term future that you wish to explore in small group settings at Humanity 3000?
1. What I can do tomorrow to actually take action toward achieving the above goals. That is, what ACTION we can take, immediately, that goes beyond talk and rhetoric.
2. What science and technologies are forthcoming that we can help develop to meet these goals?
3. How can we best allow free markets to operate without them leading toward the final destruction of humanity through environmental destruction and species extinction?THOUSAND-YEAR VISION
Please articulate your vision of the thousand-year future in a three-to five-line statement.
Will we be like the Easter Islanders standing there staring at the last palm tree, and say "screw the future, let's cut the damn thing down"? Or will we heed the lessons of history and find a solution to our own Eco-Survival Problem? There is a difference between us and all those who failed to find this solution. We are the first to realize the consequences of our actions in time to do something about them. The question is, what will we do? "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them"