Monday, 15 June 2015


To speculate about life in a time different from ours is an engaging, amazing activity. To me, it certainly explains why we love going back to the trope of medieval style dramas, and why we visualise in painstaking detail our interpretation of life in the world(s) of the future.

This begs the thought: if the workings of every age, era or epoch other than ours fascinate us so, is not our time today going to be an endless source of fascination for those who come after us? We know how the generations before us thought of the lives of us millenials, and we've given them a mixed bag in return. Outdone some of their expectations, matched up to some and fallen short on some others. But what of the generations that will succeed us in the running of this little blue orb suspended in the heavens?

Granted, the technological advancements of our day give us the power to transmit a huge, huge proportion of our lived history to our successors. But try as we might, there is a limit to how much the intended vision of our history is taken at face value by the people to come, for who can correctly predict the backward-looking glances of those people to whom this amazing digital age of ours will be shockingly primitive? 

While we are at the threshold of a fossil-fuel free civilisation, they might build a future of a technological proficiency unforeseen even by the greatest scientists and science fiction writers of our time. They will also see, through our popular culture, what we thought of the lives that would be lived hundreds or thousands of years after our time. How much of it will prove mere fancy, and in what things will our expectations be entirely outdone? After all, we've not done too bad. Look at your handheld touchscreen phones. In our childhood, the fact that they would be a reality, as well as cheap and accessible, would have seem far-fetched. So would the vision of Mars, which thanks to our efforts today is a planet exclusively inhabited by robots, one of whom tweeted about its entry into the planet's orbit.

We have, like those before us, built impressive symbols of our time. Buildings. Machines. Vehicles. Weapons. But it is an unstable world, prone even in this more civilised time to unprecedented upheaval. To say nothing of calamities caused by nature. Time and again we have and will prove ourselves capable of horrors that will be as much a part of our history as all the beautiful things we leave behind. What we want to leave behind may not exactly be what the future inherits. Plane graveyards may survive while great statues are razed to the ground. Old nuclear reactors may live on as abandoned hulks while little sign may remain of great palaces and tombs and towers. The possibilities are many. Data banks with more "relevant" details may be wiped out, while stray time capsules with more personal recollections and pop-culture references may somehow survive. Now, wouldn't that be amazing.

Time, however, has a great way of showing us how little we matter. We know, for example, that the few thousand years of our dominion over the earth are a mere blip in the exponentially longer history of the known universe. Astronomical differences in time may reduce our millions of advancements, made over centuries and centuries, to just a footnote in the histories of what might eventually end up to be an interstellar society. 

Given the odds we have surmounted to reach where we are, in the face of all logic and common sense, who knows how far we may yet reach, and the extent to which we push the bounds of that which is possible? And one day, tens of thousands of years into the future, if and when the descendants of our race, or one as yet undiscovered, do come across our history, will our time and our stories be only a short footnote? "Mostly harmless?" Or perhaps a faded memory of Old Earth and no more. 

Will a hard disk with all episodes of Game of Thrones be all that lives, or a docket of state secrets, or a definitive book of physics, religion or literature? Of the many, many things that form each a cell of our varied, many-layered, ever-evolving civilisation, what will survive? And what will those who look back at us make of it? That is something I'd give anything to know. 

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