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Predictions and Comments About Humanity's Future

"I believe that our species will not last long. It does not seem to be made of the stuff that has allowed the turtle, for example, to continue to exist more or less unchanged for hundreds of millions of years, for hundreds of times longer, that it, than we have even been in existence. We belong to a short-lived genus of species. All of our cousins are already extinct. What’s more, we do damage. The brutal climate and environmental changes which we have triggered are unlikely to spare us. For Earth they may turn out to be a small irrelevant blip, but I do not think that we will outlast them unscathed---especially since public and political opinion prefers to ignore the dangers that we are running, hiding our heads in the sand. We are perhaps the only species on Earth to be conscious of the inevitability of our individual mortality. I fear that soon we shall also have to become the only species that will knowingly watch the coming of its own collective demise, or at least the demise of its civilization."
- Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (Allen Lane, 2015), pp. 77-8.


Why concern ourselves with anything beyond the range of our own time and place? At the present day there is a practical reason for taking a wider view. Within the last five hundred years, the whole face of the globe, together with its air-envelope, has been knit together physically by the amazing advance of technology, but Mankind has not yet been united politically, and we are still strangers to each other in our local ways of life, which we have inherited from the times before the recent 'annihilation of distance'. This is a terribly dangerous situation. The two World Wars and the present worldwide anxiety, frustration, tension, and violence tell the tale. Mankind is surely going to destroy itself unless it succeeds in growing together into something like a single family. ...
“One peculiar feature of our age is the acceleration of the pace of change to an unprecedented degree as a result of ‘the annihilation of distance’ through the extraordinary recent advance of technology.” ...
This book will have served its purpose if it helps its readers to take a comprehensive view of the formidable but fascinating flux of human affairs.
- Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, 1972, p. 13.


There are two processes which we adopt consciously or unconsciously when we try to prophesy. We can seek a period in the past whose conditions resemble as closely as possible those of our day, and presume that the sequel to that period will, save for some minor alterations, be similar. Secondly, we can survey the general course of development in our immediate past, and endeavor to prolong it into the near future. The first is the method the historian; the second that of the scientist. Only the second is open to us now, and this only in a partial sphere. By observing all that science has achieved in modern times, and the knowledge and power now in her possession, we can predict with some assurance the inventions and discoveries which will govern our future. We can but guess, peering through a glass darkly, what reactions these discoveries and their applications will produce upon the habits, the outlook and the spirit of man.
- Winston Churchill, Fifty Years Hence, Popular Mechanics, March 1932


To return to the question posed at the beginning of the piece: How much longer can humanity last? We don't have much to go on here — it's not like we have reams of data on the life spans of other civilization-building species (we don't have any, in fact).

We do, however, know how long humans have been around so far. Gott uses the widely accepted figure of 200,000 years (recent discoveries may eventually push that date back quite a bit, although paleontologists are still debating that question).

Assuming that you and I are not so special as to be born at either the dawn of a very long-lasting human civilization or the twilight years of a short-lived one, we can apply Gott's 95 percent confidence formula to arrive at an estimate of when the human race will go extinct: between 5,100 and 7.8 million years from now.
- Christopher Ingraham, We have a pretty good idea of when humans will go extinct, Washington Post, October 6, 2017


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