Posted in Science

Stars and Speedbumps: Humanity’s next evolution and the bumpy ride to get there

Last week I attended a workshop on Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR as the jargon goes. While it was quite an insightful experience, when the topic on climate change and global warming came around, I felt somehow irritated. Irritated not because the speaker’s points were incorrect but rather because the opportunities in such a scenario was never brought forward. So I decided to write about why Climate change is good, how this is on of the fears driving our innovations and why this isn’t what we should really be thinking about.

Carl Sagan 1934-1996

All of you must have heard the phrase “Necessity is the mother of Invention”. Those of you who have watched 2001: A space odyssey might be able to relate with me further. It’s such a beautifully crafted film which explores the progression of terran civilisation. The legendary astrophysicist Carl Sagan was consulted for the project and true to his vision he understood that to showcase a monumental event, the trigger has to be simple, minimalistic but has to come from the primal instinct of survival. Be it the monkey using the bone as a club to reclaim his lost territory or the Von Neumann probe humans found on the moon, the survival instinct resulted in progression of the race. Isn’t the climate change about our survival? Don’t we need to progress or perish? Isn’t this the necessity that will drive the innovation?


Nikolai Kardashev proposed the Kardashev scale in 1964 as a measure of a civilization’s technological progress based on the amount of energy a civilization can directly harness. A type 1 civilization can harness the entire power of its host planet, a type 2 of its host star and a type 3 of its host galaxy. We currently rank about 0.73 on the Kardashev scale and are projected to become a type 1 civilization somewhere in the next 100 years but there are a lots of ifs and the biggest if is “If we can survive the next 100 years”. But what does it take to really become a type 1 civilization.

a) A Global Nation

many-nations-flagsWars are prohibitively expensive. The last 2 world wars have taught us enough economic, social and political lessons that it seems like an extremely inefficient way to go. Consider this, the most expensive project undertaken by humanity is the International space station which in today’s term would peg back the taxpayers by about 100 billion dollars. It took 27 nations to pump in such a large amount and the ISS is just in low earth orbit that’s only 400 Km above us ! If we are to become space faring civilisation and travel trillions of kilometres, it would take trillions of dollars to build the millennium falcons and the enterprise, not counting the vast amount of human intellectual capital that would be required as well. But with oil projected to run out in next 50 years, world population to hit 9 billion by 2050 and constantly depleting water supply how do you get around to convincing the world nations to focus on space exploration. Kevin Spacey eloquently put it ‘The problem with democracy is everyone has a say’. While am not against democracy. A unanimous consensus in democracy is a rare event. Now with 196(including Taiwan) countries in the world with each at different stages of socio-economic development cycle and you can understand how difficult it would be to get a common agreement. You can either have one hyper nation (think more wars) or a block (somewhat like EU) or what I would like to call a “Global Nation”, a confederation which is more global in scope and vision than the EU and lays down common laws and abolishes boundary. We live in a knowledge age and unless this knowledge is allowed to travel and be utilised freely across boundaries, its full potential cannot be realised. After all we cannot hope to do our best if we do not use our best.

b)  A Global Language

Cultural Diversity                                   There are roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world today. As per a study, a Global nation needs to have a maximum of 3-4 languages. The most popular language in the world is Mandarin Chinese. The other three being Spanish, English and Hindi. However these four have a combined base of just 30% of all speakers. Communication is probably the most important facet of humans. We can interact and share ideas, the medium has evolved but for the ideas to be global and have the maximum realisation, it’s reach and understanding needs to be maximised. One can argue for translation but why the wasted effort? In a design philosophy, it’s a wastage and any wastage reduces efficiency. Now multiply that with 7 billion people and you can very well guess the scope of that wastage.
c) A Global Leader
Throughout history we have seen great leaders rise. Alexander, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela. All of these wonderful individuals had the charisma and the ability to unite their people for a common cause and then project their ambitions on a global scale. Think of any science fiction movie and you will have that one guy who looks at the bigger picture, you have that one commander leading the batallion in the war movie, that one pioneer, the visionary, the leader is what is required to deliver the vision. Any good project is only as good as its implementation and the chain of command must be strong enough to direct and realise the ultimate goal. Although we have had an empire whose sun never used to set but the East India Company didn’t rule over the entire world. For a scale this big, the sheer challenges would be unfathomable but humans are inherently competitive and therein lies hope.

One of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century Stephen Hawking, earlier in 2016 speaking to BBC warned that humanity is in danger of destroying itself in the next 100 years as we rapidly progress in the realms of science and technology. Lets hope we aren’t too little too late by then.



Blogger, Travel enthusiast, Now trying to find meaning of life in a Bschool

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