Space exploration, technology, and the possible futures of humanity (Part Three)
By Mark Wegierski
It is clear that humanity today is facing a number of major crises and unresolved dilemmas, some of which are indeed related to its divisions into various religious, cultural, and ethnic groupings. Certainly, the varieties of human religions, cultures, and ethnicities are to be cherished, rather than abolished in some mad-scientist-type, universalist, Enlightenment project. However, one of the major aspects of the planet today is a dialectic that may indeed be baneful for the future of humanity. It is the unfortunate sense of massive, ongoing resentment against Western civilization. It cannot be doubted that – for better and for worse – Western civilization has pushed human technological development the farthest. At the same time, its enthusiastic embrace of technology has had the eventual result of massively corroding its own traditional identities.
It is an open question whether (for example) China, India, and Japan, can now lead humanity on the path of technological advancement, or whether the continuing presence of a more robust Western civilization will remain necessary for this to happen.
Perhaps the West today is indeed in a process of terminal, social, political, and cultural decline. Ironically, it is today the opponents of the West who are suffused with the supreme, unshakeable confidence and sense of righteous moral authority that once characterized such groups as the Spanish Conquistadors and British Imperialists. As for the U.S. imperialism of someone like George W. Bush, it could be seen as that of a multiculturalist empire, whose main domestic policy appears to be “to invite the world,” and whose main foreign policy appears to be “to invade the world” (as the paleoconservative columnist Sam Francis acerbically put it).
It is possible that some form of “eternal recurrence” is the destiny of humanity. That is to say, the West will invariably collapse, civilization virtually everywhere around the planet may collapse, and there might indeed be a regression to worldwide barbarism. (A scenario often enough suggested in sci-fi movies like Mad Max and The Road Warrior.) During the 1980s, there was much talk of the dangers of a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union -- which would push humanity to the brink of extinction (the so-called “nuclear winter” theory). A particularly gruesome example of a post-nuclear-holocaust world was shown in Harlan Ellison’s highly transgressive story, “A boy and his dog.”
The use of nuclear weapons (or other horrific weapons) clearly remains a constant danger in the human future. There are many ideas for how the use of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction can be prevented in humanity’s future. They range from ideas of a “hegemonic” power stomping on all smaller, upstart, unstable rivals (while tolerating nuclear arsenals among the stable, so-called Great or Middle Powers), to notions that if almost every country had nuclear weapons, the likelihood of their use will diminish.
It appears that, for the first time in history, human societies have achieved comparatively high levels of technology – reaching some degree of freedom from being at the mercy of the natural elements. Although it should also be remembered that Nature sometimes has a way of “biting back” – such as the increased resistance of insects to pesticides -- at those who take her too much for granted. Certainly, ecology is a hugely important discourse. Insofar as we become increasingly estranged from “the natural”, the texture of our lives may indeed become “inhuman”. It would be utterly hideous to live in a world where Nature had been annihilated – even if, theoretically-speaking, human life could persist in some form.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.