Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Stephen Hawking Asks The Internet a Question 1171

Posted by Zonk
from the what-is-your-name dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Dr. Stephen Hawking received about 15000 answers to a question he posted 2 days ago on Yahoo Answers. His question was 'How can the human race survive the next hundred years?'." I imagine you can do better than 'It Can't.' How would you answer Dr. Hawking's question?
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Stephen Hawking Asks The Internet a Question

Comments Filter:
  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:28PM (#15676936) Homepage Journal

    'How can the human race survive the next hundred years?'

    Birthcontrol, ween of dependence on high energy consumption and colonise the solar system, because we sure aren't going to get along forever on this rock alone.

    • by Jaysyn (203771)
      Slaughter lawyers & politicians to fight world hunger? Maybe not, but it would be a "Good Start".

      Jaysyn
    • by Mantorp (142371) *
      Since birthrates are already too low to sustain growth in the countries with the most wealth it seems that if we spread the wealth we kill two birds with one stone.
      • by hackstraw (262471) *
        Since birthrates are already too low to sustain growth in the countries with the most wealth it seems that if we spread the wealth we kill two birds with one stone.

        Do you have better data than these?

        http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/peo_pop_gro_rat- people-population-growth-rate [nationmaster.com]

        Its basically the former Soviet Union people that are decreasing in population because they drink too much, and the women are wise enough to not want to fuck them anymore. Aside from that, we are growing!

        Supposedly, human po
        • by IAmTheDave (746256) <basenamedave-sd AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday July 07, 2006 @01:10PM (#15677535) Homepage Journal
          stabilize in 50 or so years with something like 10-14 billion people

          Brutal honesty in my opinions here, but one can only assume that of that 10-14b, anywhere from 5-7b will be Muslim, 8-9b will live in countries currently engaged in either international or civil war, hundreds of millions will die each year of famine or genocide, global consumption of natural resources will more than double the levels they are now, wars will be fought over clean water (on top of other natural resources) and the distribution of wealth will be equally unevenly distributed as it is now - if not more.

          To boot, major population areas will sustain the majority of growth, leaving sparsley populated areas still sparsely populated. Realization of the down-side of peak oil will have long hit, we will have seen poverty strike hard due to a crash in the international economy, etc., etc.

          It's a grim outlook for sure. Certain populations aren't sustaining because quality of life is increasing, and people are not doing their part having their 2.5 children to sustain growth. Poverty usually sees upticks in populations (as do post-war times).

          But with an acknowledgement of global warming but no plan to combat it, no centralized focus on greener technologies including renewable energy, increasing poverty, stupidly fast industrialization of nations that sustain world-majority populations, and wars still being fought based on religion - where can anyone expect to be in 50 years?

          I certainly hope for a better future than this. But I live in the wealthy, greedy, oil-hungry 300m-person United States. My country accounts for shitloads of wealth with less than 1/12 of the population of the earth. I'm sure I'll be better off than anyone living in the middle east, China, India, etc.

          On top of that, the following things will come to pass: realization and fighting over natural resources as we can only sustain growth in China and India for so long; a conflict and resolution concerning North Korea, and so on.

          Oh, and the US may lose it's position as the world market leader... but that seems inevitable at this point in time too.

          • by srussell (39342)

            To boot, major population areas will sustain the majority of growth, leaving sparsley populated areas still sparsely populated. Realization of the down-side of peak oil will have long hit, we will have seen poverty strike hard due to a crash in the international economy, etc., etc.

            I submit that these are two contradictory proposals. Urban concentrations will be the hardest hit by a severe oil shortage. No oil, for urban areas, means no heating and no food. If you live in a rural area, you'll have more

          • by IdahoEv (195056) on Friday July 07, 2006 @04:10PM (#15679356) Homepage
            I am not worried about the human race *surviving*.

            Wars today are no more frequent than they have been at any point in history, and I expect them to decrease (among developed nations only, because of economic interdependency). Even the worst environmental crisis wouldn't kill *everybody*.

            In the worst-case scenarios I see, a pair of world wars* kill millions and melting ice caps displace 1.5 billion living on the worlds seacoasts as we move towards the end of the 21st century. I don't think both are necessarily going to happen, but even if they did that's a far cry from wiping out the species.

            Even in the case of a full-on nuclear exchange, places like New Zealand and Madagascar are both low population and not particularly strategically located. Both could become reasonably self sufficient and survive with a fairly large population.

            * Two world wars: US-Taiwan-India vs. China and Western Christian nations + Israel vs. Islam. They could happen simultaneously if the India/Pakistan conflict pushes the islamic world into an alliance with China.

            A far more relevant question is how can the human race prosper and continue to grow? The fact is, I think it will.

            Yes, we are running out of oil. But as the price goes up (and it will), other technologies will become competitive. Coal Gasification is frankly not that far away in economic competitiveness, and it can produce enough petrolem for a couple hundred years. We'll switch to it around the time US gas prices hit $6 or $7 per gallon. That will give us plenty of time for fusion and orbital solar power to become developed. We won't run out of energy.

            Global warming will probably screw the 25% of humanity living near the seacoasts. Developed nations will build garganutan coastal dikes, and a billion southeast asians will have to move late in the 21st century. That will suck, but it won't significantly affect the global population.

            I frankly doubt major world wars between developed nations. The world economy is far more interdependent than it was in 1936. China and the US can't afford to war with each other because both economies would collapse.

            The USA will become the 3rd-largest economy, falling behind China and India both in productivity and in science. Much depends on whether or not America can accept this new position without deciding it needs to kill people over it.

            Malthusian disaster scenarios are *always* counterbalanced by market forces. When a resource runs scarce its' price goes up, making alternatives viable and spurring research into alternatives. This will be true of everything from energy to food. The poor will get stuck with the short end of the stick, but that's not exactly new or news.

            I think there will probably be some nasty terrorist incidents as nuclear and biological technology becomes cheaper and more widespread. Those will be bad, but they won't threaten the existence of the species as a whole.

            People have chanted "doom" for centuries. Instead, life has always been nasty, messy, and full of tragedy, but goes on nonetheless. The 21st century will be no different on average, the nastiness will just manifest itself in different ways. But it won't wipe out the species.

            The ONLY threat I see truly wiping out all of humanity is an asteroid impact. And that's no more likely in the 21st than at any other point in history. Maybe less, because now we are reaching the point where we could contemplate doing something about it.

      • by zuzulo (136299) on Friday July 07, 2006 @01:32PM (#15677844) Homepage
        Most of the issues and coping strategies folks have been bringing up are reasonable, albeit relatively short term concerns. It appears to me, however, that these concerns miss the point - a 100 year timeframe is much different than a 20 year one.

        I suggest that the human race will survive the next 25 years or so by muddling along in its time honored traditions barring, of course, some unforseen global catastrophe. Problems like overpopulation, environmental degredation, warfare, disease, global warming - these are serious problems but problems the human race has shown itself to be capable of dealing with as long as one is not overly concerned about collateral damage. And when looking at something like the survival of the human race, a few billion here or there kind of falls into the noise.

        Considering the longer term (25-75 years out) future of the human raises some more interesting concerns ...

        One of the questions I find compelling is how human social, cultural, political, and economic networks will survive and behave in a post-scarcity economy. For about 15 years the inflation adjusted costs of manufactured goods has continued to decrease. Just in time manufacturing, custom fabrication, these trends all point toward a transition to an economy based on 'how to do/build things' rather than 'things' alone. I have yet to see any cogent model of how human networks will adapt to this transition, and I therefore belive that this transition has the potential to be quite disruptive.

        Another consideration is how the definition of 'human' may change as a result of technological progress and environmental demands. If anything, I suspect that the answer to the question 'how will the human race survive the next 100 years?' is, in the long term, quite simple.

        Change what it means to be human.

        Terrifying, and extraordinarily difficult to predict, but in the long run the *only* way species survive is by changing - and the potential for that change to be mediated by technology in humans drastically accellerates the potential timeframe. Some relatively simple changes are already filtering into human culture almost invisibly - laser eye surgery, fairly serious cosmetic modifications, cochlear implants, hair transplants, hair removal, sex reassignment, prosthetics, longterm drug therapies, gene therapy; I could go on and on.

        Sometimes the only way to solve an intractable problem is my changing the terms of the problem itself. Just as Alexander the Great trumped generations of philosophers by cutting the Gordian Knot in half instead of untangling it, it may be that the only way to truly insure the long term survival of the human race is by changing what it means to be human.
        • Post-scarcity (Score:3, Interesting)

          by booch (4157)
          Excellent post.

          One problem with your post-scarcity theory: it won't last. The world population is expected to double over the next 100 years. I'm not sure technology will be able to deal with the scarcity issues that quickly. Especially for things like clean water, oil, and land. I expect there to at least be some serious wars as these resources become more scarce.

          I'd also like to mention humanity's penchant for powerful people to create scarcity in order to increase their power. While technology has helped
        • by kalirion (728907)
          Terrifying, and extraordinarily difficult to predict, but in the long run the *only* way species survive is by changing

          Just how "long" a run are we talking here? 100 years is not all that long as far as evolutions is concerned, barring sudden epidemics and the like. Some species have been pretty much the same for millions of years, and they don't even have access to technology to help them along. I'm sure that future scientific achievements would very likely lead to changing the definition of what it m
    • I don't thin there is any way we will be living in space in the next 100 years. Also, I don't think moving is the solution to our problems. It's like the drug addict who thinks that moving away from the city will solve their drug addiction. The problems we have aren't a result of where we live, but how we live.
      • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:47PM (#15677190) Homepage Journal

        I don't thin there is any way we will be living in space in the next 100 years. Also, I don't think moving is the solution to our problems.

        I don't see us all moving to other planets, moons and space communinities, I just see an extension and survival of Man through that avenue. This planet will be exhausted at the rate of consumption.

        It's like the drug addict who thinks that moving away from the city will solve their drug addiction. The problems we have aren't a result of where we live, but how we live.

        And it's energy, per capita, which is mostly How We Live. It isn't just the SUV guzzling gas, but the appliances at home and all the goods we purchase which require energy to manufacture, package and distribute. The USA is consuming commodities at a blazing rate, but China with it's vast population will match that in short order. Economics will play a part, as China and India consume more goods and energy the costs (as they are already doing in most goods) will rise and reduce consumption simply because people won't be able to have it all anymore, but choose from fewer things which are important to them. The big adjustment is going to be when petroleum runs scarce. Everything will change as the cost of petrol increases. Sadly, there will also be increased competition for land as is expected much low lying lands will flood thanks to the warmer climate.

        Be wary. Wars are waged more over competition for resources than any other reason.

        • This planet will be exhausted at the rate of consumption.
          And when our resources are exhausted the planet will blow up? No, we will still be here, and when it gets closer to resource being exhausted things will happen. It is not an optimal situation to do it last minute, but when we are truly almost "out" of oil the cost of recycling tires and leeching shale will be financially viable (just 2 examples). It is just going to get more expensive and people will start demanding that our corporate overlords
      • by guaigean (867316)
        It's basic strategy though. Don't put all your resources (in this case people) in one point of failure. If anything were to happen to Earth (nuclear war, rogue asteroid, etc.) then the entire species would be wiped out in one fell swoop. The benefit of spreading out is that humanity would still survive, even if one planet didn't. Within 100 years? Who knows... Horse & Buggy to Space Travel was quite a leap for 100 years. Space Travel to Space Colonization doesn't seem to be any bigger.
    • Obviously. So that excludes many /. readers.

      Oh my god talk about hyperbole and idiotic moderators. The human race isn't going to die out. I mean come on. There may well be a few billion deaths, but there are billions more humans on the planet so lets face it, we're not facing a global extinction event...

      The question you should be asking is how do I make sure that my family are the survivors in the coming tough times... Make sure the genes continue.

       
    • You're addressing our current problems. This question posed by Hawking is so vague that you have to predict future problems to come up with an answer.

      A few of them are:
      What happens when/if we massively extend lifespans using nanotechnology/genetic engineering? That is somewhat covered under birth control but not exactly. You eventually run into the question of WHO you want to reproduce. Maybe not in the next 100 years though.

      I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned populating the ocean yet, it se
  • Educate the World (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:28PM (#15676939) Journal
    In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?
    I'd like to think that education would cure all three of those issues. But it's a rather naïve view. Either way, I'll have my official answer be better education throughout the entire world about everything. That's our best strategy for making it through the next 100 years. Bank on the children. If you raise a child, it's your duty to make sure that they become far smarter than you are. I think it was around high school when I became much more intelligent than my father but I don't fault him for it. I only thank him for ensuring that his son and daughters were well educated even though he wasn't.

    Given those three issues, it seems probable that we may not make it another hundred years without severe loss of life. I don't think the loss of life will be complete with the death of all humans but I think there is a high probability for a large loss of our populations in one country or another. I don't mean thousands like natural disasters but I mean a hundred million or more.

    We'll survive, just not at a luxury like we've known. Honestly, if a lot of major religions and their leaders could start coming to terms with each other. You know, make it so that it's not like a death sentence when you don't believe in God or Allah? You could also reveal to everyone that our leaders should be more like Gandhi and less like Hitler. That would probably help with those first two problems. In every country, to be a successful politician you need a lot of financial support. Unfortunately, the ideal people leading us are those with no interest in padding their own pockets.

    As for the third problem you listed, we're screwed. We're screwed because our numbers are reaching epic proportions that the earth cannot sustain and there's really no way around it aside from birth control. I don't support enforced birth control as far as the Chinese have taken it but you have to admit it certainly curbed their population growth rate. If nature fails us or vice versa, things will be pretty bad though I doubt we would become extinct entirely.

    Of course, there are an infinite number of universes and I'm sure there exists one which doesn't have any of those three problems ....

    *loads a bullet into the chamber of his handgun*

    ...which is why I suggest you get to work on the machine that allows yourself, ten beautiful women and I a way to cross over to that parallel universe, Mr. Hawking.
  • simplicity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jaydonnell (648194) * on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:29PM (#15676948) Homepage
    We have to stop being a desposable consumerist society. I.e. we have to live more simply. Now I'm not saying that we all need to be organic gardeners who tailor their own clothes and live directly off the land. I'm very much a metropolitan technologist, but I think that consumption purely for the sake of consumption is our biggest problem. The real question is if the market can correct this or if the market will dig such a deep hole that it doesn't react until the shit hits the fan.
    • but I think that consumption purely for the sake of consumption is our biggest problem.

      I vehemently disagree. Messes are a problem, not consumption. Why do we have this new puritanism taking over in certain places? I don't want conservation. I want to live in a Utopia of plentiful abundance, and there is no intrinsic reason why we can't have it.

      The solution to all our problems is more technology, not less. You claim to be a "metropolitan technologist", but you appear to be a "guilty metropolitan technologist". Well, I say we shed the guilt and embrace civilization. We just need to make being less messy a higher priority.

      • Re:simplicity (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jaydonnell (648194) *
        "I want to live in a Utopia of plentiful abundance, and there is no intrinsic reason why we can't have it."

        The intrinsic reason we can't is that the universe as far as we can tell is finite. However, I think we agree more than we disagree. Our biggest problem is that it's cheaper to be wastefull than to handle it properly.
        • by zippthorne (748122) on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:57PM (#15677363) Journal
          Wait.. are you suggesting we should live a more spartan lifestyle to stave off the HEAT DEATH of the universe?
        • As long as it really IS cheaper to be wasteful, then that's exactly what people will continue to do! And that also illustrates the fact that things aren't nearly as "dire" as some of the environmentalists and promoters of "less technology/simpler lifestyle" want you to believe.

          At some point, our tendencies to embrace the disposable, short lifespan consomer goods will lead us to a situation where they're no longer the cheaper option and *that* is when you'll see change come about.

          It's fine to preach about h
      • Re:simplicity (Score:4, Insightful)

        by hackstraw (262471) * on Friday July 07, 2006 @01:00PM (#15677399)
        I want to live in a Utopia of plentiful abundance

        What is that?

        Plentiful food, a place to stay, and little to no threat of death?

        Take a look around. Plenty of housed, fat, old people, and getting fatter and older!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:29PM (#15676957)
    next hundred years?

    By installing Linux of course!
  • Simple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by toupsie (88295) on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:31PM (#15676977) Homepage
    Keep on doing what we have been doing for the last 100,000 or so years. Eating, pooping, fornicating, killing each other and creating stuff. Stick to the basics and we will do just fine. Don't believe the doomsday predictions Stevie, there is always going to be a guy with a sign that says, "The end of the world is nigh".
    • by damacus (827187) on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:51PM (#15677253) Homepage

      100,000 years ago up until the 1930s, there were no nuclear bombs. We only had technology to inflict localized damage on our fellow man and planet. Now there are enough nukes to wreck the planet, advancement in biology such that we now have the capability to create biological weapons on a wide scale. Also, in the last 200 and 300 years, industrial society has exploded and we've seen rapid deforestation and ecological carelessness on a massively wide scale.

      The situation is vastly different, and failing to acknowledge that is naive.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)
        You mean like the deforestation of the British Isles? Wiped pretty much every tree off of them, and they used to be covered with them! Why, Scotland only has about 1% of it's original forests remaining -- truly a tragedy of the modern world. Wait... that happened a thousand years ago.

        Okay, well my country, Canada, is a major world exporter of wood and wood products. Forestry is an incredibly important industry. We must be deforesting our country at an unbelievable rate! Let's see... save the rainfores
  • Pandemic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:32PM (#15676987)
    Whether intentional or not, a huge reduction in population
    would do the trick.
  • Just one... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheRequiem13 (978749) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `meiuqereht'> on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:32PM (#15676996)
    good ol' pandemic. A real nasty beast of a bug.

    Kill off a couple billion, and we'll be good to go for a while.
  • A little Cold War, depending on technology to overcome our shortcomings, and a fair amount of luck.
  • The answer (Score:3, Funny)

    by mapkinase (958129) on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:33PM (#15677008) Homepage Journal
    The answer is spirituality, establishment of a world where materialism will be subdued by the spiritual matters. The establishment of the society where consumerism will be frowned at. The answer is walk, not race, think more than act.

    Once the world government becomes reality it will immediately transform the economic system from highly internationally competitive firmly capitalistic to more reasonable more socially oriented system.
  • It is a given that we will not change, and that will wipe a lot of us out in the next 100 years, but not all of humanity. We are not on the brink of extinction. There may not be 6 billion people on earth in 2106, but there will be people.
  • One Day at a Time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PackMan97 (244419) on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:35PM (#15677026) Homepage
    As silly as it sounds...we will survive just like we always have. One day at a time.

    There have been plenty of forecasters of doom saying that the earth would run out of space, food, energy and whatnot and the population continues to expand.

    We'll muddle our way through the next 100 years just like we have the few thousand prior to this one.
  • Change (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bakadan (987312) on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:36PM (#15677037)
    Humans are like cockroaches. We've infected every corner of the globe, and we're not going away. However, if we are to survive and prosper for the next century and hopefully longer, there's going to be some big changes. My boyfriend and I were talking, and following the depletion of oil resources (and not before), we'll see a massive centralization of cities, mostly on coasts, and a move towards renewable energy sources. Cars will never go away; they have too much momentum (no pun intended). But when this happens, we'll see much more of a community feel, as everyone will be in much closer quarters. The massive towers in Dubai and Kuala Lampur (sp?) are good examples of this, and will propogate into the next century as we won't have the finances to get around. Cities like Los Angeles will become a thing of the past, as it will no longer be feasible to have your suburban house with a white picket fence. With this, we'll see a lot of changes. Society will be permanently altered. But as Gloria Gaynor said, "we will survive". If we want to extend ourselves to Mars and the moons of the gas giants, we'll need to perfect the biodome, to be able to live independently. Interstellar travel is out of the question, and always will be. We should give up on it and focus on going to Mars, Europa, and some of the other moons. -sigh-
    • Re:Change (Score:3, Interesting)

      by patrixmyth (167599)
      You see centralization as the outcome of depletion of oil reservers? I'd say just the opposite is more likely. I moved from California to my 20 acres in Texas, and I'm on my way to becoming virtually self-sufficient. A windmill and an ethanol plant away from it, actually. The lack of gasoline wouldn't pull me back to the cities. Not saying I would enjoy having to grow cotton for clothes and slaughtering my own steaks, but it would be possible and would sure beat waiting for the city to allocate my rati
  • Small Scale (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zabbey (985424) on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:37PM (#15677051)
    Any one trying to answer this question seriously is breaking out the 50 cent words. Did he say 100 years? In the past 100 years there's been two world wars, super bombs have been invented, a cold war, etc. Real question should be: "How did we survive the last 100 Years?" If we survived through all that we'll survive the next 100 years just fine.
    • Re:Small Scale (Score:4, Informative)

      by cvd6262 (180823) on Friday July 07, 2006 @01:14PM (#15677567)
      There are about three good comments in this discussion that are along these lines, but yours is the best.

      It seems Hawkings question is really, how do we keep our "world" (planet, society, etc.) as stable/stagnant as possible. That won't happen. It never has.

      We may well face some drastic climate changes in the next 100 years (many are certain about that), but the human race has faced that before and survived by wearing mammoth hide or migrating. We may face ravaging disease, but we've seen that too. War? Yep. Will the population decrease at some point in the next century? Probably. We've been due for a correction for some time now.

      About the only forseeable event we haven't already survived is global radioactive contamination. However, the odds of that happening - and leaving no habitable corner of the world where humans can survive long enough to reproduce - are slim.

      Will you or I survive the next hundred years? Most likely not. Will our children? Most likely. Will some human? Almost definitely.
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gma i l . c om> on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:38PM (#15677055) Homepage Journal
    Answer: By shear force of will

    If he wants a more detailed answer than that, he should ask a more detailed question. As any historian can tell you, the "social, political, and environmental chaos" he refers to is absolutely nothing new. The only difference between then and now is that our toys are bigger and shinier.

    Pick any period in human history, and I think you'll find that it's easy to define "social, political, and environmental chaos" that worked against the residents of the period. In fact, the conditions that humans have found acceptable in past periods of history are regularly referred to as "squalor" in this day and age. Yet there are precious few examples of civilizations that were wiped out by such conditions.

    Yes, the human race makes a lot of messes. Sometimes we stumble across messes that aren't our own doing. Any way you cut it, though, humans will always react to a problem before it reaches the level of self-destruction. Our instict for survival is too strong to do otherwise.
    • The only difference between then and now is that our toys are bigger and shinier.

      Agreed, but this is a rather important difference in regards to Hawking's question. Our big shiny toys put unprecedented powers of destruction in the hands of very few people. We are quite capable of destroying ourselves now in a way that would not have been easy in the past.

      Take that situation, and add in the gradual ending of cultural isolation (is there any culture in the world that is isolated any more?) -- we m
    • by Morrigu (29432) on Friday July 07, 2006 @01:10PM (#15677526) Homepage Journal
      and you'll find a huge disparity between the 5-10% or so at the top of the comfort scale, and the rest. Right now the Western world (most of the US + Canada, Western Europe, Japan, South Korea and the Commonwealth) comprises that 5-10%. Guess what? It won't stay that way for too long, it never does. The best you can hope for is a good five hundred to thousand year run, and I think Western civilization might be nearing the end of its spectacular five-century sprint.

      Pick any period in human history, and you'll also find a large number of people actively working to cause the end of their particular civilization.

      Why is Iraq's fabled "land between the two rivers" a dry dusty desert?

      Why is North Africa, the ancient Mediterranean's breadbasket and father of great cities, hardly able to grow enough food to feed its own populations?

      Why did the Chacoans up and suddenly disappear after claiming so much of the harsh American Southwest for their cities and farms?

      Why did the ancient Mayans leave their cities that required so much labor to construct in the middle of a jungle?

      Humans can have an amazing impact on their environment, but it's easy to forget that while we appear to be the masters of Nature. But the two work on completely different timescales.
    • the "social, political, and environmental chaos" he refers to is absolutely nothing new. The only difference between then and now is that our toys are bigger and shinier.

      Nope - there's one other enormous difference. In the past, there was always someplace for advancing technology to revolutionize. Technological advancements occured locally, lead to population growth, and the overpopulated colony spread to relatively inefficiently used lands, applied their new technology, and took over (or failed in many cas
  • by couch_warrior (718752) on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:40PM (#15677092)
    The best way to survive the next 100 years is to stop running from the imaginary boogeymen of the LAST 100 years. We have this suicidal fascination with birth control and population reduction. In reality, birth rates are plumetting all over the world. An if it wasn't for immigration, the population of most propserous nations would be in rapid decline. In the U.S. the average couple has only 1.4 children. Without immigration from third world countries, the U.S. would be depopulating at a rate of 30% every 25 years.
    Exacerbating this is the profile of who is reproducing. In our welfare state, we pay the least functional and arguably least intelligent segments of our population (this is not racist - 75% of welfare recipients are not african americans) to sit around and breed. The only part of the population demographic that is growing is the poor and dependent.
    The crisis of the next 100 years will not be global warming or toxic waste or nuclear fallout. It will be vast armies of stupid belligerent parasites with their hands out demanding to be fed and clothed by a shrinking pool of intelligent functional human beings.
    The next world crisis is the crisis of de-evolution!
    To survive, we must institute emergency programs of tax relief and education to encourage intelligent people to BREED, for the sake of humanity.
  • It can't. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:41PM (#15677119) Homepage Journal
    >> I imagine you can do better than 'It Can't.'

    Sometimes the correct answer is really boring.
  • My answer.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tpjunkie (911544) on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:42PM (#15677134) Journal
    From Yahoo answers, my personal answer:

    Humanity has shown itself capable of adapting to an incredible variety of situations, conditions, and hardships. One way or another, I am quite confident that humanity will endure through the next one hundred years.

    That being said, the circumstances of this continued survival may be quite different or unpleasant compared to what many people experience today. I believe that humanity needs to come together in a constructive manner and really address some of the many problems we as a species face, from global climate change to the vast poverty, hunger, and disease suffered by much of the world. Until a truly unified approach is taken by all the world's nations, any progress will be piecemeal and incremental.

    Alternatively, as you yourself suggested, human colonization of extra-terrestrial worlds by a subset of humanity is an option, however under today's socio-political climate, such an endeavor would likely be limited to a few of the world's more wealthy nations.
  • by Dr. Eggman (932300) on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:48PM (#15677198)
    Never ever say "That's something we don't want/need to know." Investigate and study everything.

    I think in the coming century, we'll continue to see the world's population increase. It will come in a different kind of environmental revolution; we won't just be changing the environment around us anymore, we'll start changing the environment in us. We'll become more resilient, self-relient, and broaden the conditions in which we can exist in an enviroment and when that happens, we'll be able to inhabit new places on the globe and start to move beyond.
  • by kensai (139597) on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:48PM (#15677210) Homepage
    with a STFU n00b! Like OMGWTFBBQ!
  • by spiffery (987500) on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:49PM (#15677235)
    I think the pattern is that humans follow a path of least resistance until a need arises. It is understandable to look at humankind and say that we are headed for a crisis, and there will most likely be one. But what happens at that crisis period is a matter of debate. When global warming becomes an obvious crisis to nearly every human on the planet there will be change. Once the need for unification becomes apparent, it will happen. Whether circumstances will allow reversal is a question beyond my ken, but my feeling is that humans will continue doing what we're doing until we hit a critical point. Then people will change, as needed, until the next crisis. Populations will grow, people will die, and problems will be dealt with locally until it is necessary for things to change. And I don't have any particular faith in humanity, except that we do what is necessary when problems arise.
  • by syntap (242090) on Friday July 07, 2006 @12:51PM (#15677251)
    would have been to answer him as soon as possible with "First post!"

  • by Smurf (7981) on Friday July 07, 2006 @01:22PM (#15677689)
    This is a trick question.

    The human race has evolved in such a way that now we are capable of really fucking up the planet and eventually extinguishing all life on it. But let's see what mechanisms we have for that.

    On one hand, we have nuclear weapons of gargantuan power. If we start a nuclear war, we can easily kill half of the population and make life incredibly miserable for those who survive... but wait, that implies that billions of people will actually survive, so the race isn't really eliminated.

    We have also produced technology that is capable of affecting the planet in a serious, perhaps irreversible way. The effect that mostly concerns us now is global warming. Because of our actions the weather may go really wacky, potentially causing the death of millions. The ice caps may melt, slowly sinking a very significant portion of the land, precisely where most of the population lives. But that process will take many, many decades, and even though millions may die, most people will have time to move away. This will cause the overpopulation of the current high lands, with enormously devastating effects. Furthermore, eventually the climate changes may make the planet completely inhabitable (at least by humans), but that will take several centuries to take place. Meanwhile, the human race will survive.

    We can go on and on, analysing the different ways that we may fuck up. But we will always find the same answer: in order to actually eliminate the human race we have to make all our habitats inhabitable, and we still can't do that within 100 years from now. We need something like a giant meteor striking the planet or the sun exploding, or some other phenomena out of our control.

    My point is: Stephen Hawking is a very smart guy, but this time he managed to make a question that is wrongly formulated:

    How can the human race survive the next hundred years?

    Duh, how can the human race not survive the next hundred years?
  • by deuterium (96874) on Friday July 07, 2006 @01:44PM (#15678011)
    Why is he suddenly getting so philosophical? Has he just gotten too old to make any advances in physics and decided to move on to metaphysics? First his urgent call for space colonies, now this. It reminds me of actors who give political speeches. It's not their field of expertise, but people listen to them anyway. It also reminds me of the late career wanderings of other greats like Linus Pauling or Cary Mullis or Issac Newton. idk, I guess he's entitled to muse about whatever he wants, but it's weird to hear him waxing about humanity like a college girl.
  • In a word... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by csoto (220540) on Friday July 07, 2006 @02:01PM (#15678218)
    SOYLENT!

    Enjoy Soylent Physicist, now with anti-oxidants!
  • by epine (68316) on Friday July 07, 2006 @02:27PM (#15678485)

    If the first fifty posts here constitutes our "best and brightest" the human race is doomed for certain. Majority of the posts mention "population". Haven't our attitudes toward population created the majority of our present mess in the first place? And what lever do we have to influence population (and global distribution of wealth), over such a short time window (four generations), that doesn't light more fires than it puts out? Certainly population must be *understood* to formulate any useful ideas, but that's about as far as wisdom dictates.

    What I believe must happen is that we come up with many thousands of small ideas that do more to put out fires than start them. Even if you chase a non-convergent series across the x-axis, it isn't going to stay put long enough to matter.

    The real thinking involves determining which kinds of interventions are convergent (on average, to a best guess, or with good prospects surrounding constuctive failure--the mine fields of good intentions abound) and which interventions are not (and not necessarily through any fault of their own, but with full acceptance of how "each of us is smarter than all of us" and all that poster-slogan implies).

    If I were to reason by analogy to the manifest failures of the human condition that lead us to this point in time, I would guess that the easy redemption slips through our fingers as it always does. We'll end up in the situation where the solution or its mechanisms are fully understood, but the news of the solution is perpetually one step behind the shock front it could have mitigated.

    I see this shaping up as a foot race between human resourcefulness and ingenuity and the resonating stress fronts: resources, politics, environment.

    My view is that we should be focussing our attention on running the best foot race we can possibly run when it comes to crunch time. What are the mechanisms that aid or impinge on this vital capacity?

    I'm still contemplating this problem. I have one certain item on my list thus far: the patent system. As the patent system stands, we have routed one of our most potent weapons--our technical ingenuity--across the Manitoba marsh lands (read about the Great Canadian Railway). All the smart people will have constructive ideas, and all of the constructive ideas will be hung up in the patent system, which is bad enough, and the truly reprehensible litigation environment that surrounds it. Did anyone see that remark yesterday that certain personal awards were upheld in the tabacco verdict, while one was overturned because the statute of limitations had expired as the legal system spun its wheels with great precedent and determination into the soft wet sand?

    The usual human response is to fix an institution such as our patent and legal system only *after* its liabilities have culminated in catastrophe. The problem is that we can already the future setting up such that the prime catastrophe is the world around us, and the bloody-mindedness of our legal system is just the *secondary* catastrophe that we will soon have the pleasure of addressing after the berms are breached.

    That's the kind of circumstance that stretches human resourcefulness to the breaking point at the exact moment in time the human race can least afford it.

    In my view, it's a clear failure of the American constitution that the American legal system was not constitutionally mandated to achieve *proactive* self-reform.

    And worst of all, the American legal system is being globalized following exactly the same model as the American power grid. Only Quebec had the good sense to DC couple their grid to that horrible mass of wires and dominoes (and do not fail to observe the contributions of the regulatory and legal environment in shaping the engineering decisions and sand-sucking ostrich behaviours).

    Presently, through the global treaty process, American legal process is being aggressively exported using the club of economic integration with the world's most consumeristic popu
  • by Peter Trepan (572016) on Friday July 07, 2006 @02:29PM (#15678505)

    How to solve the population problem:

    1. Require that all the men of the world teach kindergarten for five years.
    2. Provide free birth control pills to them after this five-year period.
    3. If the pope says anything about it, kick his pointy-headed ass.
  • by ahkbarr (259594) on Friday July 07, 2006 @02:32PM (#15678528)
    Dear Mr Hawking,

    I cannot understand why war, overpopulation, global warming and other doomsday theories dominate your views on social science. The fact is that intelligence does not make you an authority on anything requiring knowledge outside your sphere.

    War
    War is, to me, the only thing likely to be the end of civilization besides an extinction level planetary impact, as over time, advances in science increasingly enable us to affect our environment and control energy using the levers of natural law, but whether this can be universalized over time to the extent that a country like North Korea could destroy the usefulness of the entire world to humans and counter attempts by all the others wanting to detect and thwart those efforts is yet to be seen. Getting back to reality, each country has a somewhat static threshold for war which is governed by a combination of roughly three things from the top of my head:
      -The resources at hand to fight the war
      -The collective will of the populace, as expressed by the sum of all its knowledge, ignorance, logic and insanity
      -The will of the leadership, as expressed by the knowledge, ignorance, logic and insanity of the leadership

    Sooner or later, however you see it, enough of all of those things erode to the point of being unwilling to continue with war, someone surrenders or is obliterated, and then the population continues to survive despite whatever costs are incurred.

    The fact is that civilizations will continue to decide that someone else shouldn't have the freedoms they have, shouldn't exist, or should exist under their rule, and those who would be subject to those whims SHOULD fight! Anyone who says that there should never be war either thinks that fascist countries should always get their way, or thinks that there obviously are no countries that would destroy or take over a peaceful nation. That's just utopian bullshit.

    Overpopulation
    It is a fact that as a civilization becomes more advanced and established that the birthrate shrinks. We in the united states require immigration even to keep our population growth even with our death rate. How does a 1.5 children per two adults equal population growth? China and Japan are heading towards massive population shrinkage, even to the point of crisis.

    Global Warming
    I guess I'd rather not go into global warming, but there is debate as to man's level of involvement on that front. Further, the effect is along the lines of lots of death in third world countries, massive shifts in land values leading to lots of bankruptcy in more developed countries, and possibly other natural disasters. There are some theories about how the flora and fauna would be affected, but the earth's mammalian population seems well suited to survive ice ages and climate shift as evidenced by the past.

    Fabric of the universe? Sure, go for it. Cause-headed ignorance and feel-good statements only good for warm fuzzies? Leave it to the idiots with the super-short memories.
  • Mu (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sootman (158191) on Friday July 07, 2006 @02:37PM (#15678574) Homepage Journal
    This question makes it sound like it's a foregone conclusion that we *won't* survive the next hundred years, and what can we do to change that.

    What will we do to survive the next hundred years? My answer: we'll keep doing what we've been doing: make new stuff, cure some diseases, find new ways and reasons to kill each other, and overall, everything will more or less balance out, and we'll survive the next 100 years without trying, in any particular way, to survive. I mean, as long as people keep eating and fucking, we'll probably be around.

    My personal plan is to keep eating fast food, use the bathroom as needed, enjoy the benefits of modern medicine, and live another ~40 years. I imagine my descendants will do the same, and after a couple rounds of that, we'll be at the 100 year mark, safe and sound.

    At a micro level, all humans, individually, will eat food, drink lots of fluids when we get sick, treat injuries, etc.--in other words, do all that human-nature stuff which, almost by definition, living beings do on an individual basis to survive. On a macro level... I don't know, maybe I'll raise my kids and pay some taxes.

    As for the question "What can I, J. Random Slashdot User, do to prevent Bush from nuking the world and ending human existence," the answer is "absofuckinglutely nothing." So what's the point of this question again?
  • wrong question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by l3v1 (787564) on Friday July 07, 2006 @03:12PM (#15678909)
    I don't think survival is the important part of the question, especially for such a short time (well, 100 years is only one generation), and we are good survivors. The important part is the "how", i.e. what circumstances, life quality, political and economical climate, human rights, energy situation will our grandchildren have. And honestly, I'm not optimistic. All I can think of, is really not good. Still, hundred years can be a relatively long time, just think back what was here a hundred years ago, and we just might not be able to even concieve the level of changes these hundred years could bring us. I just hope we (well, not we as persons but we as a population) will live to see it without many epidemics, religious or political wars, energy crises and Earth turning into a semi-Arrakis (i.e. desert planet without spice). Then we'll do fine.

  • by the_REAL_sam (670858) on Friday July 07, 2006 @03:45PM (#15679173) Journal
    I know!! I know!!

    Man who prays and asks the LORD for help can righteously overcome ANY obstacle. (famine, disease, pollution, exctinction, overcrowding, crime, you name it)

    Ask and ye shall receive.
    Knock and it will be opened to you.
    Faith can move mountains.
    With God all things are possible.

    Combine those things with OPTIMISM, and remember that Jesus Christ said ALWAYS forgive, NEVER retaliate; BLESS and PRAY for your enemy. LOVE your neighbor as yourself, LOVE your enemy, LOVE the LORD.

    When you forgive, it results in YOUR being forgiven. When YOU give, YOU receive. WHEN YOU BLESS YOUR ENEMY, YOU YOURSELF ARE ALSO BLESSED!

    And remember that Christ said that the love of money is the root of all evil. That means be wary of valuing money more than the welfare of your fellow man, or the planet that he lives on. Be prepared and willing to sacrifice of your own time, money and resources in order to make the world a better place.

    Jesus also said keep the 10 Commandments. If we all kept the 10 Commandments we'd be in good shape, (but that's not enough.) Don't worship false gods, don't commit idolatry, work 6 days and keep the sabbath day holy (7th day = _saturday!_ Look, JESUS WAS A JEW. Jews keep the saturday sabbath! No excuses.), don't take the LORD's name in vain, don't kill or steal or commit adultery, don't bear false witniss, don't covet your neighbor's wife or possessions or servants, honor your parents.

    AND don't have sex outside of marriage. That would keep std's in check and reduce the expansion of things like hiv.

    Don't use witchcraft or sorcery, don't use omens or divination.

    Learn to recognize when you're being tempted to sin, and pray for the strength to resist!

    The most important virtue is love.

    I've seen a heavenly sign. I saw a double rainbow, 360 degrees, 2 concentric rainbows ALL THE WAY AROUND THE SUN in San Francisco at high noon when there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Others witnissed the very same event. That was around 2001.

    You want man to survive? Seek and ye shall find. Seek the LORD. Have FAITH!!!

    God Bless You, Stephen Hawking!

  • by jeffsenter (95083) on Friday July 07, 2006 @05:20PM (#15679870) Homepage
    Female literacy is one of the key factors in determining birth rates.

    Increased female literacy allows women greater access to information on birth control and also higher statuts in society leading to greater control over reproductive decisions. To reduce population growth teach girls to read. This is an abstract of a study [nih.gov] discussing factors impacting birth rates such as female literacy. Here is a little bit more info. [overpopulation.org]
  • by Egonis (155154) on Friday July 07, 2006 @05:33PM (#15679970)
    If the human race is to survive: social, financial, and physical elements must be equalized.

    Why?

    Ever notice how quickly poor and undernourished people reproduce? As an instinct for survival of their genes.

    By equalizing Social Elements, racism and separation of social elements will dwindle, thus providing people with a positive existence, and resulting in more commonalities such as knowledge sharing, and working toward common goals.
    By equalizing Financial Elements, the human existence will focus heavier upon the right to live, the right to exist, and will therefore work toward a common goal.
    By equalizing physical elements such as starvation and poor water supplies (resulting from the above) -- people will survive, and will reproduce less.

    Humanity will work towards common goals, and will lessen outright demented war efforts and we will find ways to solve our common problems such as the environment, and our reaching out into space.

If mathematically you end up with the wrong answer, try multiplying by the page number.

Working...