The inner cynic whispers to me a scenario:
The story is 100 million years from now.
A future species arrives at a level of intelligence great enough to develop self-flattering mythologies, empirical research methodologies, technology, distinct cultural identities and ideologies.
In one geological layer, they find something striking.
It’s littered with the fossilised remnants of artificial origins.
Enough of these fragments point to a bipedal creature previously obtaining an akin level of intelligence, however, it’s impossible to tell whether or not they too were spacefaring.
Ice cores and geological assessment talk of their industries as well as hinted at their capacity to harness the energy in ionising radiation.
“At such a level of sophistication – something much like our own,” these future thinkers ask, “how is it that they disappeared?”
Of course, the answers too, were written in stone.
Climate research points to a radical global shift within a short time span – a few centuries at best – resulting from their burning of carbon fuels.
Species richness prior to the bipedal dominance layer was utterly gone within it. Genetic research likewise points to a bottleneck and later resurgence in species diversity around 90-95 million years ago. The loss of biological resources too would have led the bipeds to global poverty.
Yet the most damning line of evidence is found in the upper limits of the bipedal layer. It showed the strongest evidence of ionising radiation.
It was likely that their last chapter was one of winless war.
Of course, the reality of this story is too horrible to contemplate. For a long time, these future thinkers are cautious in drawing too many parallels. Certainly, the divine literature tell them that the world is theirs to harvest and cannot be over-exploited… but did the bipeds believe the same? Could the sacred texts be wrong?
And then there was the industries of these future thinkers, which likewise emit carbon dioxide. Can this trace compound in such low levels really threaten future prosperity and indeed life itself?
As these future thinkers dig deeper and look ever closer at the bipedal layer of junk and tragedy, the parallels become overwhelming.
The inner cynic asks me whether these future thinkers too would follow the same road to ruin, or is the story of their distant cousins enough of a forewarning?
I can’t answer the cynic. So I pose the question to you.
One thought on “100 Million Years Hence: a thought experiment”
Further archaeological discoveries revealed that the massive release of sequestered organic carbon the previous inhabitants had released had stopped a snowball Earth which might otherwise have prevented the emergence of their own evolutionary line after the genetic bottleneck that had also occurred.
Without the disaster of the Anthropocene, like the asteroid strike 60 million years before it, there might never have been the emergence of their distant ancestors.