by Eric Le Roy
Content 13+ As all my friends are aware, I am planning to make a 3000 years-into-the-future journey to Mars next week in my state-of-the-art time machine. Most of them are concerned about my welfare, but I am cautiously optimistic. Moreover, I have been obsessed with embarking on such an epic odyssey for a long time, and it cannot be put off any longer.
Nevertheless, there are many things to consider, most of them from the technological standpoint of course, but there are also some social issues. It is widely predicted by some people now in 2022 that people will be living on the ‘Angry Red Planet’ well before the century is out, and for many that is an inspiring thought, though for others – especially those with a fear of flying – it is a mostly unspoken subject of dread. Maybe they just hope it won’t really happen.
And of course, some lives will be lost along the way. Some space cars will just get cast adrift somewhere out there the way that sailing ships once were blown off course and capsized or were driven against rocks near some shore where they were dashed to bits. One can imagine the panic as these time capsules slip away beyond all means of recovery. Others will incinerate in some fiery gas cloud or other. But such is the price to be paid for blazing (pardon the pun) New Frontiers.
So it may well be that, as Mars is gradually brought in tandem with the necessities for life that we have here on earth: water, oxygen, and the other can’t-do-withouts (the list is well-known), it will become more and more populated, sort of like the American West back in its day, gradually changing from a lawless prairie into corporated towns, then cities, then states – and by 2320 there will be no romance left at all. Maybe there will be cities on Mars like Philadelphia and Istanbul and Beijing. Who knows, maybe they will even have football leagues and the Mars Olympics? If the latter, who knows what exotic new sports might be included? Perhaps they will bear some semblance to the ‘Quidditch’ contests in Harry Potter.
Also, with all the communication devices we already have, they will know our history. They can entertain themselves, not by watching Hollywood nonsense, but by seeing real footage. For us, Julius Caesar is part man, part legend. For the Martians, Elon Musk will be like a regular guy talking to them through interviews. In fact, the future will be so full of documentation and cataloged events that whole editorial staffs will need to be employed to keep track of it all. Of course, if on future Mars there are dictators as on earth, perhaps whole libraries of valuable information will simply be vaporized or cast off into empty space. So despite the advances in hyper-technology, there is nothing to insure us against future cyberspace crime and tyranny from autocrats. On the other hand, we may have learned to encode our DNA into micro-slabs that can be activated, bringing us totally back to life. If that is the case, we will be able to have real and ongoing existence and live conversations with people who ‘died’ hundreds of years ago. I wonder if this will change us, the way we will have found for ‘defeating’ death. And will we be better off for it? Or will we just be bored with our immortal cousins and wish we had left them in their earthen graves?
Maybe by then, we will have learned to print out our own personalities on disks, and so our great-great-great-great-great-great, etc grandchildren can just plug us in, log on, and there we will be – still alive!! What pleasure that will give to some! But I wonder will it be a capital crime like murder if someone deliberately destroys the disk that our preserved personalities are stored on?
Maybe people by then will be able to travel back and forth in time, just as today they fly back and forth between Asia, Europe, and the US. Who knows, maybe people in 2322 will be doing business with people still living in 2122 or 2222. Maybe products can be sent back and forth, and time, as we know it today, will become as manageable as a bus schedule. But how in the world could we do this? People in one millennium will be long dead before another comes along, right? It’s nature’s way. But we can look at it from a different angle. If we can negotiate time in such a way as to travel back and forth as if from one city to another, then, at least theoretically, won’t everyone still, in effect, be alive? All we will need is our trusty time machine and we will be able to catch any age on the planet in its heyday, unfolding minute by minute. The huge question becomes, if we can go sailing back and forth through time, that is, if interstellar time travel is no more than a bus ride, will we be able to change past events, and if so, what will we find should we return to our home back in 2022? For this likelihood of chaos and impossible-to-absorb disruptions is what many conservative observers and thinkers believe; they may insist that we sign contracts ensuring that, as we go backwards and forwards in time we do not tamper with historic events and thus change the course of history. For example, we will need to pass restrictions so that Hitler can not be shown how to win the war and turn the whole planet into Nazis. But on the other hand, sadly such a contract would also forbid us from canceling the Holocaust.
This of course assumes that reality will continue to be thought of in terms of linear logic, a series of space stations connected by time, and will not, instead, have evolved into some other way of connecting space-time, so that we will no longer measure our span of existence in the now traditional way. Perhaps then, time will be seen more as a circle than as an arrow. Perhaps ‘time’ will have been demystified.
The cities on Mars will have names of course. There will be flights from New York to Miursuaet and from Yeuinasest to Shanghai. How will a Martian New Year be celebrated? Will there be war on Mars? Will Martian poets write romantically, wistfully, nostalgically about the earth – long lost place where people fell in love and even got married?
On the basis of further speculation, Elon Musk has proffered the idea that human ‘existence’ is in fact nothing more than someone else’s video game. Try to imagine the enormous mental revision of all philosophy and theology we would need if it were discovered that what we had thought were our thoughts were nothing more than the outspilling of fingered manipulations by platoons of grinning gamers somewhere else? Wasn’t it Shakespeare who wrote: We are to the gods as flies to wanton boys. They kill us for their sport.” ? Human beings have always speculated on the “Does any of this really matter?” side of the question. What if we were nothing else besides choreography, the sinner and the saint merely adventure toys, the hangman and the hanged part of the same electronic conspiracy of simulation after simulation. Then existence is no more than an infinite electronic spider web.
And what if these ultra-dimensional players simply got tired, as teenage gamers do, and switched us off all of a sudden?. Or have we become so sophisticated ourselves that we have made the games interactive and, just as the ancient pagan gods mingled with humans, alternatively, and often according to whim, made love or cast spells and curses, joined them in the ‘hunt’? Maybe what we call human evolution is simply a reflection of our increasing complexity as foils for the real players? Think of it (and you’ll find it easy to do): human history as entertainment, a way of passing otherwise boring eternal afternoons. If we can believe in God or the gods, as we have for so long, maybe we were right: we just didn’t understand the motives: the frivolity behind the apparent agony.
And, as creatures trodding the paths of Whoever’s or Whatever’s history, and as we seem to exist here in 2022, will we represent the ‘Ancient World’ to those people of the future who may have become unrecognizable to us as we see and judge ourselves in the mirrors of our lives in 2022. Just think: long lost 2022. Will we be thought of as the Classical Period or the Dark Ages? Will people of the future rank us the same way that we think of the ancient Greeks and Romans? Will they glorify us, or will they say, “How could they possibly have been that stupid?. When we, in our year 2022, think of Babylon or Byzantium, they are antiquity, and they did things in ways we would never have dreamed of doing as they established their empires. They are the ancient world. I wonder, will we be merely fodder for techno-archeologists in the year 2322?
But at least people who existed in what we call the ancient world, old Mesopotamia or Egypt, for example, looked like us. We know this from the mummies and fossils, and other ways that present day scientists have of dating and reconstructing the past, even without film and photos. Presumably in the future there will be no such problem in dusting off recordings of what was happening ‘back in the day’ of 2022. This has been discussed already. But here is another point to consider. In the past things changed slowly. It took human civilization thousands of years to discover how to use fire, how to construct and roll a wheel and how to do agriculture, the latter which took place about 10,000 years ago. But now change occurs at nano speed and in the future this blur will only accelerate more. Already, our lives intersect with robots; even in many areas, it is we humans who are becoming obsolete in the sense that more efficient AI-directed contraptions have begun to replace us. Surely this trend will continue, as there are no signs that anyone even considers putting the brakes on it, nor that they could if they wanted to. Instead it is the other way around, and it seems only a matter of time before technology takes on a mind of its own, perhaps even to the degree of excluding us from their decisions. Perhaps these machines will develop their own ideas of what is beautiful and ugly, and will decide that we are the latter. So they may go about reshaping themselves in some bold and vast new image. Thus the question arises: would we even recognize ourselves as we will be in 2322.
The possibility for radical change exists at all levels. We can start with life expectancy. Maybe by then, scientists will have ‘conquered’ death so that we no longer have to experience or suffer through the aging process. Maybe we will be able to stay young forever. This doesn’t mean that people won’t die – no doubt there will be accidents and wars, diseases, pandemics, suicides, traffic accidents, etc., but those who sequester themselves away from danger may live beyond the current numbering of time – and, as we discussed earlier, time may itself be obsolete then, no more than the cloud people used to have to live under.
The most critical aspect of our approach to the distant future and our presumed way of eventually connecting with it will be to avoid the horror of culture and future shock. We must always try to remember in the strictest existential sense, that – unless one suddenly jumps out of a box and identifies himself – we will have no help from ‘God’. Indeed, God will have been left behind like some celestial hitchhiker, and will no longer be called upon to save us. There will only be us and that in the form we will have become, and we may not even be recognisable to ourselves by that time. It might be wise therefore that we build bridges into the future, constructing ‘time stations’ along the way much as we have built the space stations that now seem very conventional.
Ultimately, the question becomes, however, not one of technology but of identity. Who will we be then, and will we still find our hearts stirred by music and poetry, and will we still measure the quality of our lives by how much ‘love’ we found along the way? Or will we by then simply have been reconciled to a chemical-based existence in which such emotions as love, passion, and yearning are relics frozen away in defunct laboratories buried in the recesses of the artifice of our ‘minds’ – like the bones of monks in the dents of jagged cliffs and stony caves where they lived, winter and summer in deep imagining of some God that existed solely in their own meditations.
Will we be happy? Will we be lonely? Or will we have forgotten what all those terms meant in the first place?
Well, folks, the mechanics have done their inspections, and it is time for me to go. I want you to know that if anything happens that prevents me from coming back home in the end, I will remember you. I will sit on a porch under a blazing sunset somewhere in 2322 and remember all of you: men I knew, women I loved, 3000 years ago.