We, the Homo Sapiens, are a young species. We’ve existed for a fraction of time in the greater cosmos. Our scientific theories are young and are mostly just guesses. We have little data from the bigger mysteries of the universe like black holes. We don’t understand why our universe was created. Different theories leave people fighting and dying over them, like the Crusades. It’s because we’re afraid we won’t like the answer. That it will turn out we’re not unique, or important. That the universe isn’t FOR us or BY us. We just happen to inhabit it.
So with that in mind, let’s have a look at how humanity could expand.
The Near Future
Lets say this is one hundred thousand years out. Not so far in the cosmic spectrum. Untold generations of humans have lived and died in that span. We’ve likely evolved to become something unrecognizable to us today. We’re not Homo Sapiens anymore, but we are intelligent and we’re still us. The galaxy is a self-regulating system of a hundred billion stars. It’s barely noticed the change. The same ways stars die and reform new stars, so to do galaxies. All those humans, and the universe has barely moved. However humanity has advanced untold distances. Innovation is exponential, meaning each new invented technology makes later inventions easier.
Hard Fought Progress
By this point we’ve probably gotten the hang of exploiting all the energy our sun can offer. We may have begun dramatically expanding. Perhaps by sending out probes which land and begin the terraforming process. Or genetic augmentation may have gotten to a point where death by age is impossible and people can cryosleep their way around the universe. It’s entirely possible the Milky Way Galaxy is a fully human one. But we probably haven’t gotten beyond that.
The superclusters and other galaxies are beyond us still. We probably haven’t found a way of breaching the universal speed limit and thus other galaxies are expanding away from us faster than we can get to them. At this rate without change, it will soon appear that there are no other galaxies and our human one is all that’s ever existed. But this is the age where we begin to unravel black holes and the causes of the universe’s expansion, where we begin to finally figure out not WHY we’re here, but HOW.
The Farther Along Future
We’re now seventy-five million years past today. Life is no longer recognizable as being human. But they are, they’re us. The same way we’re the dinosaurs and the organisms of the far past. It all stems from the same Earthly source, we today are just a dot on the evolutionary map. At this point we’ve mastered star farming. A galactic scale life support system. We’re managing the galaxies evolution. Like an insect wandering the human ruins of today we have no way of recognizing any artificial systems. We have no idea if there are vastly more intelligent life forms out there that our civilization composes a mere fraction of. At this point we still don’t know. But there are no signs so far, so we continue assuming we’re all there is.
The biosphere, that is life, is still expanding. We’ve probably conquered our galactic superclusters by now, through some deeper understanding of the universal fabric that to us today is inconceivable. If intelligence is seen as a staircase, we’re not very high up on it. We’re a few steps above insects, one or two above monkeys and chimps. But the humans of this age are many steps beyond us. In the same way an ant can’t conceive of the things we can, so to is this future inconceivable to us.
The Far Future
We’re about a hundred thousand billion years downstream now. By this time the Milky Way is dying. The sun died 70 billion years ago. It reformed along with other interstellar medium into a new glorious star. Which then died as well. Even the longest lived red dwarfs die and that’s happening now. The supermassive black hole at our galaxies center has grown immense.
These are feeding into our galactic superclusters black hole creating a maw of gravity that’s swallowing everything. This process is going on in all the galaxies we inhabit; Andromeda, the Goldilocks galaxy. The Pillars of Creation have been swallowed. But humans are here and surviving. Through careful husbandry we’re keeping what remains alive. We’re eking out more life by managing the consumption of the stars and using the power that remains to support civilization.
The Far, Far Future
One hundred thousand billion years away. The temperature of this place is fractionally above absolute zero. The universe has expanded to such a degree that the energy is too spread out. It’s a cold place to be. Life couldn’t evolve here. But it already has. We remain. The gardeners of the galaxy. Creating small, long-lasting stars out of the interstellar waste. Letting no energy escape. Times weight is oppressive. The things created during the birth of the universe and its initial chaos now grow old. Meteors are thick blankets of dust, comets unstable and unravelling. The last fires aren’t fading yet. But in the cosmic timescale, the end seems nye. Life as we understand it today, with one stable sun, an unchanging cosmic landscape and seemingly unending variety in life has no meaning. Everything is controlled, for the chaos of today would mean a swift heat-death.
We’ve arrived. In “The Last Question” this is when the last human node of consciousness blinks out and the supercomputer weaved into the universes fabric begins to construct its theory of reversing entropy. Of repeating the Big Bang. But that’s fiction to these humans. They have no escape, but the mindlessness of non-existence. They never discovered other universes, or ventured into the multiverse. They’ve mastered their domain but haven’t pushed for new ones. In their stable dominance of the cosmos, they failed. The people of today exist by coalescing black holes and harvesting the released gravitational energy.
We’re a trillion trillion years from today. The lifespan of the universe. This time compared to our lives of today is like us today compared to the first three hours of the big bang. Today we’re just fledglings. To us it all may seem pointless. The universe is doomed, why bother expanding when the human race is doomed to a gradual death by cold. Endurance, the push for intelligence to exist SOMEWHERE in the universe may seem worthwhile to some. To others perhaps not.
The Farther End
In this state life has kept persisting. We’re now a hundred thousand trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion years beyond life today. The humans of today don’t understand us. They’re as far from us as we are from single cell bacterium. And they’re approaching the end. They’ve lived stable lives for untold generations. We can only imagine at how they spend their days. What their lifespans could be, what they individually or collectively are capable of. This is the pinnacle of our race. Humanity has reached its manhood.
The humans of this age now mine the superclusters black holes, the largest in existence for gravitational energy. Proton decay has set in and solids now begin to flow like thick liquids. The universe is melting. What’s important is consciousness, mind, still dominates the fate of universe. This is the eventual fate of current expansion plans. The philosophy of off world colonization ends here, with this. With humanity left to freeze. We’ve challenged eternity and ended up losing.
Eventually the last humans will peacefully perish, lost to the enormity of time. It’s possible mind will still exist. In the form of a closed system. Energy in computation is mainly expended by discarding data. In this lossless consciousness the same information is available until the end of time. Nothing new will ever be known. Only more richness in understanding of current data. We’re doomed to a cyclical existence. Never to have a new experience again. Minds at this point could be unimaginably vast, spanning entire galaxies. Eventually this stage ends as well. The minute energy still needed for lossless computation drains the last of humanity. Or the universe finally reaches its tipping point and contracts to a Big Crunch.
What’s next is a mystery. Perhaps the universe is breathing. In and out. Contraction and expansion forever. With humanity just a phase in the outward flow of energy. Whatever the case, these humans never find out. Entropy overwhelms them and they perish. Perhaps we exist in a multiverse. With each universe a fresh escape, from the ravages of the old. But the multiverse to, cannot span infinity. Everything MUST end eventually, even if that ending occurs on timescales so vast they lose all meaning to the infants in the afterglow of the Big Bang we are today. Humanity can’t capture eternity, nor can we escape it.
It’s About Humanities Present
This article isn’t about humanities end however. It’s about its present. It’s intended to help you understand just how young we are. We’re birds who haven’t left our Earthly nest yet. Our wings are just beginning to spread. We’re like a virus that’s just spread to encompass a single cell. Soon we’ll spread to other cells and the process will escalate. That’s not a judgement, simply a comparison. To become prosperous guardians of the future. We need to change. We’re the bird who pecks apart his nest and then doesn’t understand why he’s so cold at night. We may never fly at this rate, but if we change our ways, if we become BETTER then the universe could be ours.
Three Insights From This
- We’re small. Look up at the stars, watch animals move through nature. APPRECIATE the vastness of time and how truly young and minute we are. Our lives are small and only have meaning because we see scarcity in non-existence instead of the richness of being part of all existence.
- Live for something. The eventual end of the universe only seems bleak because we feel like we’re not finished. Perhaps humanity goes out like the old man whose content with the life he’s lived and those he’s touched and is welcoming of the dark. If each of the people who lived those untold lives lived for something beyond themselves then it was all worthwhile. Death in and of itself isn’t scary. It’s an end without meaning that’s truly terrifying.
- Eternity is composed of moments. By making those moments count, we capture eternity in each one. Even our scant 80 years of life, has a seemingly infinite amount of moments. Make those count. Live like each one is that eternity. Make it carry the same weight and in your actions you can live forever. That’s how we escape non-existence, by marrying our actions with the tidal swell of the universe and beyond.
The rough timeline of this article originates from the book Manifold: Time by Stephen Baxter.
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