As the dawn of 2013 marks the beginning of another revolution of our planet around the sun, let us draw our attention beyond the sphere of everyday life – beyond individual concerns, national issues, and even global concerns – towards the cosmic scale of affairs. Take this moment to consider the place of humanity in the grand scheme of the universe.
While I certainly agree with the spirit of your essay- that we need to think long-term about the human future and take steps towards it (I think NASA’s Kepler mission to find habitable planets and our slow but steady moves in exploring the solar system are worthy investments in this direction) I am a little leery about us becoming over eager about things that are in all likely hood farther afield in terms of the human future and in the process failing to take our massive current problems- environmental degradation, the decline in agricultural production, inequality, demographic change, and the threat of global pandemics- to name just a few, which threaten what will likely be some time to come an exclusively earth bound existence.
I am especially skeptical about your statement:
“By the end of this century, humanity will have been transformed far in excess of the sum total of changes we have accumulated from the dawn of civilization until now.”
I see no real empirical evidence for this. The technological difference between 2000 and 2013 is large, but can’t really be considered qualitative. Almost everything, technologically speaking, that was around me in 2000 is basically the same now.
I’ve just added a smarter phone, a tablet, and a car with slightly more gas mileage.
I am excited about most of the technological changes on the horizon, but doubt that the world in which I was born (in the 1970s) will be as different for me should I reach the age of 90 than the world in which my grandmother was born (in 1913) before jet planes, rockets, space flight, television, computers is different from the world she lives in now at 90.
Change is more gradual than many who embrace the Singularity realize and that is a good thing, for it is the only pace which human societies can absorb.