What legacy do you think our society is going to leave for future generations to dig up and study? What artefacts do you think they will find interesting? And what, if any remain, buildings from our time do you think will be classed as 'wonders of the ancient world'?
I got to thinking about this after considering how much of a disposable culture we live in. Old technology is chucked, buildings are not built to last and are destroyed when they no longer serve a useful purpose. Even books are disposable these days - I had to give a friend an old-man lecture when he threw a novel in the bin the other day.
So when you think that today we can marvel at the Pyramids, wander around in the castles of Wales, and read carefully-preserved books from bygone years, what do you suppose will remain for future civilisations to judge us, and what do you think that judgement will be?
I think the big things we'll leave for the future are bits of knowledge.
Turing complete computing.
Theoretically informationally secure cryptography.
And the idea of widespread telecommunications linked to general/Turing-complete computers.
We're going to run up to the limits of moore's law fairly quickly, in historical timeframes, and we may get quantum computers or we may not but... two hundred years down the line I expect computer hardware to have stagnated. The effects of those things, and what we do with them in the next hundred years, will shape the world for, arguably, the rest of human history.
I can't imagine those things going away without it being the end of civilisation. Unless we get wiped out back to caveman level, that will be our legacy.
These things, when you put them together, are more important than the invention of the printing press. They're more important than the invention of the internal combustion engine. They're going to have - and have already started to have - profound influences on the way we do business, both as consumers and producers, (I recently posted a video about an aspect of this over in the Chris Taylor thread,) the way in which we interact with our news, the format that likely future political systems take and how we interact with them... information touches every aspect of our lives and we're living in the midst of an information revolution - the effects of which may be as far reaching and profound as those of the industrial revolution, or the move from feudalism to widespread trade.
I find it a matter of supreme irony that Turing, to my mind the man who's done more to influence the shape of the modern world than any other, was denied a genetic legacy and ultimately driven to suicide by a bunch of closed-minded arseholes working off a church law - yet I can't see his work ever becoming irrelevant. In ten thousand years time, I don't imagine Catholicism will be any more widely known than Catharism is today - but Turing is the father of the modern computer, and he will be remembered by everyone with even a passing interest.
What else might we leave? Well one thing we might leave is a hard storage standard. We are developing our information storage abilities fairly rapidly - and just as moore's law runs into a limit so we're going to run into a limit of a certain amount of bits per molecule. And once we're there.... It's all very well to say that all our books will rot, all our photos will get deleted etc etc - no-one will have anything to know what we were by.... but there's more information around about the world today than there has been at any other point in history - we exhaustively document things, to a scary scary level sometimes. And if we end up with a storage standard that's more lasting than books then it's entirely possible that we'll be the generation that leaves the greatest most accessible store of information about our time behind.
I mean you've studied history, you know how hard it can be to find information about a particular time out. Especially when it concerns day to day life. They used to scrape books clean and use them for other stuff just as we wipe hard drives.
What do I think the future will think of us? About as much as we think of people who were alive a few hundred years ago. I hope that the future will be better than the past so they'll have the same sort of outlook on us as we do on the past. There becomes a point when... you just look back at history and see people though. It's like knowing that British soldiers raped French civilians hundreds of years ago - intellectually you think that that's horrible, and you'd probably be horrified if you went back to those times, but emotionally it's all to distant to feel one way or the other about it.
Difficult to say, it probably depends on the kind of event that preserves artefacts for future generations. 2000 years ago there weren't as many people around, which probably had an effect on the survivability of structures and other artefacts, so I'm not sure how survivable anything is with billions of people around and many of them armed with very destructive weapons.
Ugly concrete buildings have a good chance of surviving, as concrete becomes harder over time. The Soviets had an architectural style which involved lots of massive concrete.
Skyscrapers might have a good chance as well. They are built to survive earthquakes and other minor catastrophes and dismantling them might be too expensive.
Nuclear waste is probably also going to be part of our legacy. A lot of that stuff has been lost in accidents at sea or outright dumped by criminal organizations or governments.
For the most part our legacy will probably be in the form of information on durable media, although 99% of that is probably going to be utterly irrelevant to future generations.
The longest lasting parts of our legacy may be the Voyager probes or other remnants of space exploration. Floating around in deep space seems like a good way of conservation.
Environmental damage is going to be one thing. Probably any sort of policies and changes from the current economic crises will have an impact much like those that arose after the Great Depression.
If there is some form of continuity between our current internet networks and what ever exists in the future, there'll be a treasure trove of information as weird as that may sound considering the porn and memes we have on the internet. A lot of historians wound kill for first-hand documents that give a look into the way people lived day-to-day lives in past periods. We're in a unique position here that the internet could serve as a way to archive these things. It's interesting for example for me to look back on places I was at 10 years ago which haven't been shut down or can be accessed through the Internet Archive site to see how my interests have changed and what kinds of things were people talking about then.
In order to discuss the topic of legacy of the world today, we need to believe that the nations today would disappear without a trace in history and that new nations (maybe the same DNA set, but different regions and different names) would would be present in the world.
I mean to say that in order to learn from the past through monuments, scriptures, relics and structures, all links to that past must be lost. For example, we do not learn about the 1700s and 1800s through the relics of that age, but through the written history of that era, because the written history of that time has survived to this date. However, we learn about the ancient Greece, Egypt, Persia, India and China through the relics of those times, because we have no written history of that time to bridge the gap.
The same way, when we talk about the legacy of the era today, we must assume that all ties to our time must have been lost ... which is a bit improbable thing to assume.
Anyhow, if that does happen and all ties to today's world are lost and the imagery of the world today has to be resurrected through relics and monuments, I think these things would define today's world:
Cellphones - I think either the generations of the distant future would be so advanced that the nano-sized communication devices would be integrated to a person's body, or they would be thrown thousands of years back in technology through the third nuclear war. In both cases, the cellphone would be seen as a remarkable and queer thing.
The computers, as they are today. Same as with cellphones.
The weaponry today. Especially tanks, rifles and handguns.
Of the monuments and buildings:
The statue of liberty in America - do I need explain why?
Burj-Al-Arab in Dubai. Due to its unique design.
Eiffel Tower - France. Do I need explain?
The seaways tracks of some intercontinental railways.
Its all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays
And one by one back in the Closet lays
In 100 years people are going to look back at the 2003-2013 time period and remember 3 things
1. Personal computing
2. Social Networking
3. Global warming
Prior to 2006 the cellphone was not considered a computer, but a communication device. Today with smart phones people's pockets have more computing power in their pocket than a person with a $2000 desktop did in 1999. Before 1999 computers changed the world in amazing ways. 14 years later we have the same power in our pockets.
Social networking changes the way we interact with people as much if not more than the phone did 110 years before. The Arab spring, the biggest wave of revolution to hit the world in 175 years, would not have been possible without social networking and cellphones. Social networking will give historians a view of our time that no one has been able to capture before. Social networks are often backed up and stored which means historians in 100 years will be able to tell what you had for breakfast this morning if you posted it on your facebook.
Global warming is going to be our longest lasting and most costly legacy of the last 150 years. This is the key side effect of industrialization that any civilized planet will have to deal with. Looking forward I feel humanity can overcome the side effects and possibly reverse the climate change and destruction we have experienced over the last 100 years.
Things people will remember from this time period
Obama(if nothing other than being the first black president)
And what, if any remain, buildings from our time do you think will be classed as 'wonders of the ancient world'?
Honestly, I don't think any of them would be classed that way, assuming there are any left at that point. Part of the reason that the things we view as "ancient wonders" are viewed the way they are is because we can't be sure how they were built, for the most part. These days we have blueprints, videos, and other such documentation on our buildings, so there's no wonder to it. Of course, this is assuming that the documents will survive, but there's so much of it that it is hard to imagine that none of it would survive.
Honestly, I sincerely hope that future society will look back on this time period and simply marvel at how stupid and petty we all were. I hope we improve so much that we can look at our past and see that. Knowing human nature, though, I doubt that will happen. They will probably just be interested in the dawn of computers in mainstream society, specifically the internet and social networking, if any traces of it still exist by that time.
Disclaimer: Personal opinions are not endorsed by Ryojin.
I suppose this could have been a Colosseum of the future. Today's leaders don't seem to have that megalomaniac architectural fantasies.
I'm quite sceptical about digital information being preserved. HDDs and CDs etc. get unreadable in around 15 years, so it's likely people will soon lose even their personal information. Languages are the oldest monuments of ancient times, linguists can trace all kinds of interesting things from them. With globalisation even more languages will degenerate and go extinct. Indeed, the biggest legacy will be a change in culture. Old values and social structures mean nothing. Organic social evolution is "postmodernized". That's something different in the future, then.
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