How to predict the future of humanity

I’m deep into Origin Story by David Christian. It’s subtitled “a big history of everything,” and that’s apt. It traces humanity’s origins from the Big Bang to today.

From Christian’s perspective, humanity’s evolution isn’t discontinuous. All organisms use information to harness energy. Humans are better at it because we can store and share more complex information. This allows us to accumulate knowledge, and then apply it. The history of evolution is a history of storing and acting on information to harness energy. Humans are no exception.

In the book, Christian also shows how the seeds of human development are latent. Take foragers, for example. They had plant knowledge that became useful for agriculture when conditions were right.

When you combine these ideas, it provides a framework to predict humanity’s future. (In broad strokes.) We develop by using information to harness energy. So in future, we’ll need to collect and share more information to harness more energy. The seeds to achieve this are present today, like foragers’ knowledge of plants. The question is: which seeds will bear fruit?

I’ll admit this isn’t a novel insight. Ray Kurzweil, for example, describes evolution as exponential improvement in information processing. But, if true, it’s powerful in its simplicity. We don’t know the exact mechanisms. But in future, we’ll expand our knowledge, and our energy sources. And we’ll use knowledge present today, which may be arcane and hidden, to do it.

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