The end is coming. Let me join the long line of doomsayers who wish to predict the end of the world. The end is coming.
Sometime in the next five billion years the sun, which is the source of all our energy, will expand and envelop and demolish the earth. Imagine, for a moment, every town and city and house, every historical venue and world-wonder, every layer of sediment, ever fossil, every satellite and all the servers that hold all the knowledge that we have ever known, gone. And probably, nothing we can do to stop it. We are about halfway through the story of this planet. The end is coming.
For a moment though, let’s go back to the beginning. At the start of this planet something happened. There is no way to know, yet, if it has happened on other planets or in other galaxies. But we know, by our existence, that it happened here. Something in the gas clouds and cooling magmas, something in the magnetic fields and electrical storms, some combination of events gave rise to consciousness. Sometime in, one would guess, the first billion years of the planet, this world grew to recognize that it, itself, existed. And quite soon after that, perhaps in the second billion years, came to realize that at some point it would no longer exist. And so, consciousness set up to build things, devices, beings.
It would be very difficult for an army of ants to move the mountain on which they have built their colony. It would be difficult for the mass of humanity to move the earth on which it thrives. It would be exceedingly challenging for dinosaurs or whales or redwood forest to move the locales in which they live out of the way of the expanding sun and their eminent destruction. Difficult. But without the bodies that make up these creatures it would be impossible. And consciousness realized this and settled for a rather difficult challenge instead of impossible. We are the machines that are probably about halfway through consciousness’s building.
There are probably, really, three possibilities. One, we could use the earth, the source of all our fuel and being, as a spaceship, find a way to add propulsion to it and ride it out beyond the rim of what our sun will become. The challenges with this solution are two-fold. One, the earth is a really delicate place. A shift on it’s axis or too much of one or the other gases and the whole place topples over into something different. Two, the source of all our heat and light and energy is the sun that we need to outrun. In cold dead space what will we use as fuel? Perhaps the molten core at the center of the earth? Perhaps.
The second possibility is that we build ships, load up everything we can off the earth into metallic boxes and head out into the universe. We still have the question of a fuel source. We have questions about how long to sleep and what is the length of a day when we no longer live on a twisting earth near a vortexing sun. There are a thousand other engineering puzzles that we need to overcome. But, in our mindshare of stories this seems to be our most popular possibility. The caution needed here is that if we are taking everything with us, we need to take everything. It is not enough to simply sustain human life. Human life is just one of the many containers of consciousness, and if we just take these bodies and a few food sources, we will quickly see how little we hold within ourselves, growing mad and thin and lonely.
The third possibility is to care very little about these bodies. After all, before they were flesh, these bodies were ooze, and dirt, and chemicals. We needed them to get off this thing, but they are not consciousness. We could find a way to send consciousness, devoid of flesh, off into the cosmos. It would certainly be lighter and less prone to issues of gravity and death. It would certainly require less maintaining. And haven’t we started this process? Sending radio signals and Voyager out, sending out a record of things. But a record, static and cold, is only the beginning of success. It is not enough to send proof that we existed, snapshots and photographs. We want to send consciousness, intact, in process, out, continuing. This is all of invention, everything we have been doing. Every time we create a tinier device that can hold more information with less power and be more sturdy. Everything from Gutenberg to nano-technology, we continue to ask the same question. How can we sustain consciousness in as little hardware as possible?
As for these bodies, ours, our food’s, viruses. They are very little to worry about. If it takes us another billion years to figure this problem out, the flesh at the time will be something very different we send out. It’s an interesting filter to consider the issues of the day through. Why bother with some people who are living in squalor? Why care that some are hogging all the resources? Why include people of different orientations, mindsets, abilities, histories in the conversation of saving our consciousness? Because we must sift through ideas from everywhere. We must try everything. There is as much chance that success will come from the edges as it will from anywhere in the center. Because an army of ants trying to lift a mountain is damn near impossible. Doing it with some people tied behind your back makes it that much more challenging and completely foolish.
The end is coming. There are forces greater than our consciousness that will destroy us. Here is the call to every scientist to study the nature of consciousness. Try to figure out how it began, and more importantly, how we can transport it out of reach of the red giant our sun will become. To all clergy, look into your divine history. Reread about gardens and arks, about covenants and surrendering to God, about suffering and unity. Teach us what your traditions say about how to get us off this crazy thing. To the power-brokers, your influence means nothing if it is only meant to make your own people safe and comfortable. We will all die in unison if we can’t solve the near impossible.
Oh, and if we do nothing. If we, in this human form, twist the earth on its axis or release too much gas, do not worry. We have come through, we figure, five extinction level events where almost every little consciousness holding device on earth has been destroyed. We can go through another. It just means we need to start over on the puzzle. And, even if that ends up being what happens, we should probably leave some clues behind for the next bodies. After all, isn’t that what fossils and amber are for?
Imagine an impassioned speech here, something from your favorite book or movie. Just place it in your mind in this paragraph. We will either succeed or we will not. We will either work to create an embodiment that can survive the blankness of space, or yet another extinction, or we will not. The quest will go on, the plan laid out in those first billion years. Outrun our own demise. Allow consciousness to survive. Everything else is play time, and distraction, and the work of mortals. Everything we should be doing is to prevent the end of all ends.