About ten years ago, humanity’s plausible future became increasingly obvious to me. I saw our advancing technology leading toward a time of plunging human population to a point where, for example, governments would support citizens during their parenting years. Now, when I travel on freeways, I eerily see a time when they will be half-empty and overgrown. I never expected to see any solid evidence of this future in my lifetime. Then too, I said that back in the mid 1980’s about seeing any impact of global warming in my lifetime.
To my surprise, a documentary (YouTube [Japan: Robot Nation]) supports my forecast for humanity. It addresses the plunging population of Japan. It was especially interesting for me as I spent five years there during the 1970’s. What is happening there, and the reasons why, appear to fit the overall model I predict for our species’ future.
I notice two primal forces at work in the evolution and interaction of social species. One is an attractive, cooperative, pulling force that draws the group together. Counterbalancing that is a repelling, pushing, competitive force that divides groups so that they don’t end up in one global monolithic mass. Such monolithic unity would stress their environment and resources. The idiosyncrasies of human cultures embody these forces in ways uniquely different in each culture, yet similar in underlying effect.
Up until now, evolutionary dynamics like a genetic bottleneck or founder event (1) have played an important role in pushing peoples apart on one hand, and pulling them together on the other. For example, the English settlers in America gradually pulled together as an American people, after pushing away from their ancestral European roots. Going forward, the exponential increase in global interconnection will prevent genetic bottlenecks or founder events from playing out in any meaningful way. It is now impossible for groups of people to become isolated from each other, or from any population mainstream. Yet, the same pressures, the push and pull forces of nature, are certainly still within us. How will they play out without the age-old conditions that normally allow a genetic bottleneck or founder event to occur?
In the midst of endlessly increasing technology, I suspect the only place these forces can play out is internally within each individual. Instead of island groups separated from each other through time and space, humanity will become island individuals separated from each other through a kind of cognitive time and space. Humanity’s greatest challenge has always been seeking the means for physical survival. This gives life visceral meaning. The greatest challenge facing humanity from now onward will be finding life’s meaning when physical survival is less of an issue.
Previously, much of our life meaning came naturally through the social interdependency necessary in our struggle with nature, or in wars between groups. As we either win, or call a truce in these, there is less survival glue to bind us socially. We will truly become free to ‘do our own thing’. Without core survival needs focusing our emotions, it is easier to become increasingly isolated, making neurotic mountains out of molehills in our quest for a meaningful life. (See Introduction: Fear, Need, and the Meaning of Life, p.587.)
Ironically, chapter 80’s Reduce the size and population of the state, will come about, but NOT because people of one state will grow old and die without having had any dealings with those of another.
(1) A genetic bottleneck is a sharp reduction in the size of a population due to environmental events. A founder effect is the loss of genetic variation that occurs when a new population is established by a very small number of individuals from a larger population.