Most science fictional and futurist visions of the future tend towards the negative — and for good reason. Our environment is a mess, we have a nasty tendency to misuse technologies, and we’re becoming increasingly capable of destroying ourselves. But civilizational demise is by no means guaranteed. Should we find a way to manage the risks and avoid dystopic outcomes, our far future looks astonishingly bright. Here are seven best-case scenarios for the future of humanity.
Before we get started it’s worth noting that many of the scenarios listed here are not mutually exclusive. If things go really well, our civilization will continue to evolve and diversify, leading to many different types of futures.
1. Status quo
While this is hardly the most exciting outcome for humanity, it is still an outcome. Given the dire warnings of Sir Martin Rees,Nick Bostrom, Stephen Hawking, and many others, we may not be around to see the next century. Our ongoing survival — even if it’s under our current state of technological development — could be considered a positive outcome. Many have suggested that we’ve already reached our pinnacle as a species.
Back in 1992, political scientist Francis Fukuyama wrote The End of History and the Last Manin which he argued that our current political, technological, and economic mode was the final stop on our journey. He was wrong, of course; Fukuyama’s book will forever be remembered as a neoconservative’s wet dream written in reaction to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the so-called New World Order. More realistically, however, the call for a kind of self-imposedstatus quo has been articulated by Sun Microsystems cofounder Bill Joy. Writing in his seminal 2004 article, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us,” Joy warned of the catastrophic potential for 21st century technologies like robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotech. Subsequently, he called for technological relinquishment — a kind of neo-Luddism intended to prevent dystopic outcomes and outright human extinction. The prudent thing to do now, argued Joy, is to make due with what we have in hopes of ensuring a long and prosperous future.