Beyond the Anthropocene -“A Mere Blink of the Geologic Eye”


Alien Life


The human experience on our Pale Blue Dot “has lasted for less than 10 one-billionths of cosmic history surrounded by vast lifeless space, and yet we are congratulating ourselves on an unearned geological legacy before we’ve proved ourselves capable of escaping the next century with our lives,” says mass-extinction authority, Peter Brannen, author of The Ends of the World. “Human history, though environmentally cataclysmic and sedimentologically interesting, is not usefully described in the terms of a geological epoch on par with a yawning span of time like the Early Cretaceous, an epoch that lasted 600,000 times longer than this newly minted one.”

Not so, says James Lovelock

“We must abandon the politically and psychologically loaded idea that the Anthropocene is a great crime against nature,” says James Lovelock, creator of Gaia theory –Earth-as-superorganism– who argues that the Anthropocene era of human influence over the planet is coming to an end and that an age of superintelligent beings is about to begin. “The truth is that, despite being associated with mechanical things, the Anthropocene is a consequence of life on Earth. It is a product of evolution; it is an expression of nature.”

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Entering the Post-Anthropocene

“I think we’re forging ahead into the post-Anthropocene, into the Novacene,” says Lovelock in an interview with New Scientist. “I think the chemical-physical type of humanity has had its time. We’ve mucked about with the planet and we’re moving towards a systems type of thing, [a future species] running on cybernetics. The great thing is that if you run your systems on electronics or optical devices, they’re up to 10,000 times faster than what we’ve got at the moment, and this opens up enormous possibilities.

“The biological won’t necessarily vanish completely,” he adds, “but it will be of less fundamental importance.”

Capacity for thinking will be 10,000 times faster

“Assuming that the Novacene system comes in, and it may have already started,” Lovelock says, “its capacity for thinking will be 10,000 times, at least, faster than ours. It could be as much as a million times faster. I don’t have doubts about survival. Look what we’ve done by increasing our intelligence. Perhaps I’m slightly religious, but I think the whole of the live part of the universe, which is mostly us and things [on Earth], is working through its existence. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”

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The Gaia hypothesis will save us from a godlike AI, if such can be created, if it escapes the “box” and assumes control of energy grids, transport and weapons, because the machines will realize that they need organic life to keep the planet at a habitable temperature. Even electronic life, he observes, could not survive on an Earth that veered into runaway global warming.

So, Lovelock argues, it will suit the robots to keep humans around, reports The Guardian. “My last word on the Anthropocene,” Lovelock writes, “is a shout of joy, joy at the colossal expansion of our knowledge of the world and the cosmos that this age has produced.”

The Last Word

Harvard’s Naomi Oreskes, a world-renowned geologist and leading voice on the role of science in society and the reality of anthropogenic climate change, wrote in an email to The Daily Galaxy: “One one level, Lovelock is of course correct. To the extent that humans have caused the Anthropocene, then yes, the Anthropocene is a consequence of life on Earth.  But it also threatens life on Earth—especially non-human life. So to the extent that we, as humans, have awareness and agency, it behooves us to try to address the Anthropocene challenge.  After all, one might say that murder is a consequence of life on Earth, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to prevent it.”

Chris Rapley CBE, professor of climate science at University College London told The Daily Galaxy” “Samuel Butler observed that ‘All progress is based upon a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income’. Humanity’s desires, enabled by science and technology and powered by economic globalization and fossil energy, are damaging the biosphere at the planetary scale. Will collective wisdom prevail over folly? History suggests not. Either way, the duration of the Anthropocene will likely be short.”

Avi Shporer, Research Scientist, with the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research via Naomi Oreskes, Cris Rapley, Peter Brannen, The Ends of the World (Kindle Edition),  The Guardian and New Scientist 

Image credit: Shutterstock License

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