Guest Post: Infinite Hedge: On a Long Enough Timeline, the Survival Rate for Everyone Rises to Infinity

Tyler Durden's picture

The last in a series (most recently: The Final Form of Human Government).

Submitted by Free Radical, with a wink, a nod, profound thanks to Tyler, and great appreciation for ZH’s contribution to the cause of human freedom and thus to humanity itself.

Infinite Hedge:
On a Long Enough Timeline,
the Survival Rate for Everyone Rises to Infinity

A man said to the universe,”
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”
        — Stephen Crane

For all his striving, man pales in significance to the cold immensity of the universe. Our sun, after all, is but one of somewhere between 200 billion and 400 billion suns in our galaxy, a stellar disk that is estimated to be around 100,000 light-years across. Even so, it is but one of at least 125 billion galaxies in a universe that is estimated to span 156 billion light-years.

Our universe is also old, upwards of 14 billion years, as is our planet, at roughly 4.5 billion, and life upon it, at around 3.7 billion.

Not so, however, for our species, homo sapiens, which is estimated to have made its appearance less then 200,000 years ago – a mere 54 millionths of the time life has existed on our planet, 44 millionths of the time our planet itself has existed, and 14 millionths of the time our universe has existed.

Moreover, for the vast majority of its time, homo sapiens has survived as a simple hunter-gatherer, not inventing agriculture until around 10,000 years ago and progressing all but imperceptibly from then until the onset of the Scientific Revolution around the middle of the 16th century and the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th.  Yet as a result of this recent quickening, our species is now riding a tide of technological advance that swells on a daily basis.

Before we examine it further, however, let us reconsider our statement above that “man pales in significance to the cold immensity of the universe.”

According to an ancient (originally Latin) apothegm, “There is nothing greater in nature than man, and there is nothing greater in man than mind.” If so, then just how great is man’s mind, at least potentially?

If each human brain had only one synapse – corresponding to a monumental stupidity – we would be capable of only two mental states. If we had two synapses, then 22 = 4 states; three synapses, then 23 = 8, and, in general for N synapses, 2N states. But the human brain is characterized by some 1013 synapses. Thus the number of different states of a human brain is 2 raised to this power – i.e., multi-plied by itself ten trillion times. This is an unimaginably large number, far greater, for example, than the total number of elementary particles (electrons and protons) in the entire universe. … [Therefore] there must be an enormous number of mental configurations that have never been entered or even glimpsed by any human being in the history of mankind.

Indeed there must, “enormous” hardly doing justice to the literally astronomical num-ber of configurations of which the human mind is capable or the creative power that could be contained in any number of those configurations. Surely the greatest minds in human history – Confucius, Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Leonardo, Newton, Beethoven,  Mozart, Einstein, to name an obvious few – would be laughable in comparison to a mind that approximated its true potential, the question being how it would do so. After all, the minds of these men are as rare today as they ever were, and there is scant evidence of vastly more powerful minds suddenly making their appearance.

Or is there? And are we poised instead on the threshold of something akin to the ap-pearance of homo sapiens itself, or even of life itself? With every passing day, after all, the otherwise immovable object of the state is being pushed farther aside by the irresisti-ble force of technology – technology that is today represented most notably by this:

In the internet we see our greatest hope for freedom and for the continual pro-gress of humanity. In the Internet we see the anachronistic and obsolete institu-tions of society being pushed aside for a new dawn of better things. In the Internet we see the key to diminishing the power and status of the state and liberating ourselves from its oppression and deception.

Indeed we do, it being nothing less than the great and growing power of mutual cooperation in the form of social networking, the vast potential of which is only just now being tapped and against which the state will be all but powerless. And insofar as it played a role in the creation of the Internet, the state only helped to create a monster that, unlike itself, is overwhelmingly a force for good, and one that is growing exponentially:

But it is not just the Internet and its networking capability, as other technologies are also empowering homo sapiens as never before, so much so that they are bringing man and machine together in ways that boggle the mind as much as the mind’s own potential does:

An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the commonsense ‘intuitive linear’ view.  So we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate). … Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to … technological change so rapid and profound that it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history.  The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.

However much one might be inclined to dismiss such notions as mere fantasy, the above analysis is based on well-established trend extrapolation, the pivot point being the “knee” of the curve depicted below.  That is, having come full circle from our beginning, the knee is the point at which homo economicus gives way to homo abundus, not only banishing economic scarcity to the ash heap of history but history itself:

But wait.  If man leaves scarcity behind, and thus the need for money, what about our earlier assertion that “Money…is essential to any society that we would call civil”?  If society leaves money behind, won’t it thereby render society uncivil?  Of course not.  For when society succeeds in evolving beyond money, it will merely be doing what it did when it evolved beyond barter, only vastly more so.  That is, society will increase its co-operative powers by orders of magnitude and thereby vastly increase its ability to civilize itself.  No more “Getting and spending,” in other words, that “lay waste our powers.”  Instead, we will be empowered to not only boldly go where no man has gone before but to become what no man has ever been before.

When will this singular event take place and “cascading technological progress” begin?  It will begin when the computing power of a typical laptop today surpasses that of “One Human Brain” – roughly 2030, according to the graph below, which, ironically, is precisely when Keynes (getting virtually everything else wrong) predicted that “the economic problem” will be solved:

If so, then one has to wonder if Stephen Crane didn’t get it backwards and that his poem should therefore read as follows:

The universe said to a man,
“Sir, I exist!”
“And that fact,” replied the man,
“Has created in me
A sense of obligation.”

An obligation to what?  To merely do what comes natural to him, based on his intuitive knowledge that insofar as being is, it is good, and that more being is therefore better, his own being standing at the forefront of a process of becoming that he has barely begun to grasp. Yet having dwelled long enough in that convivium – that “living together” – that he can now look back on whence he came with keen eyes, so too can he look forward, with ever keener eyes, to where he is going.

Will he in fact transcend his earthly nature and suffuse the universe with his ever-expanding intelligence? He does not know. What he does know, or at least is finally beginning to know, is that whatever transformation awaits him, it cannot happen as long as he is shackled in body and mind by the forces of nonbeing – i.e., by that which serves no other purpose than to tie him down, hold him back, and otherwise deprive him of his humanity.

And when he is ready, he will put an end to it.*

* Note to himself: mark 2030 on calendar.


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DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Ray Kurzweil discusses this Singularity in his big fat book:

The Singularity is Near (2005)

StychoKiller's picture

But will the Great Implosion™ happen before the Singularity?  Signs point to yes! :>(

nuinut's picture

The Great Implosion is necessary to facilitate the Singularity.

Quixotic_Not's picture

Even so, it is but one of at least 125 billion galaxies in a universe that is estimated to span 156 billion light-years.

So, once again we have enlightened thinkers trying to put finite borders on the

So, Mr. Wizard, what is beyond the so-called "universe that is estimated to span 156 billion light-years"?

Yen Cross's picture

 It's easy when the markets run "Your Direction"!

      Trading is an art! Just like that (FLUTE0)  you play?  I have aTenor sax that works for me.


                Those F sharps get ya every time.   YeenG F lat.

grekko's picture

No money in the future?  Everyone will work hard for everyone else?  Sounds like Communism.  Works fine in small groups (ask the hippies). Worldwide? Hogwash!  There are always lazy people that will take all they can get without working for it.  Why would I put everything into a job if it did not benefit me and mine?  We need money as a driver in civilization.  Does the writer really believe that without a personal reason to work hard, that I will work hard?  Humans are by nature mostly honest, but also greedy in an effort benefit get ahead, so to speak.  Why else work hard?  Money is important. As I said, it drives people to do better.  I leave you all with just one question to ponder.  Who is John Galt?

mlbs's picture

What makes you believe money drives people to improve the world? Is it because the people with power have told you money is important? It probably does give the people that do meaningless factory jobs a reason to get up every morning. But for everyone that is required to do cognitive tasks on a daily basis, money serves no purpose for motivation.

Solarman's picture

You are funny, substitute money for material possession or power.  No one tells you, you desire that.  You must not have children. LOL

Quixotic_Not's picture

The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions ~ John Locke 1690

Solarman's picture

You are funny, substitute money for material possession or power.  No one tells you, you desire that.  You must not have children. LOL

WeekendAtBernankes's picture

+1, great vid.  However, you seem to have missed a key part of the video.

The video states explicitly that monetary compensation sufficient to alleviate the worker's concerns about money is required.  Only then is the baseline productivity acheived which is enhanced by the techniques described.  For you to suggest otherwise is farcical.  Would you go to work for no pay?

"Is it because the people with power have told you money is important?"  What an incredibly naive statement.  Money is a medium of exchange.  It is natural and necessary to seek reward, monetary or otherwise, for one's labor.  200,000 years of human development have depended on it.  We call it a wage.

Watch the video again.

WeekendAtBernankes's picture

Sorry, this is the truly naive statement:

"But for everyone that is required to do cognitive tasks on a daily basis, money serves no purpose for motivation."

Ya okay, wow, do watch the vid again.  How did I overlook this?

BigJim's picture

Iain M. Banks writes novels about 'The Culture', a future civilisation that has essentially transcended all our current societal problems. They have hyper-intelligent, sentient computers (called Minds) running things, and infinite access to energy and matter.

In The Culture, humans generally just pursue hobbies and self-improvement. They've genetically engineered themselves out of physical aging and disease. The ones who find themselves falling increasingly under the spell of ennui often get involved in 'Contact' and 'Special Circumstances', two somewhat secretive groups that are wheeled out when 'The Culture' engage with other (and almost inevitably) more barbaric, authoritarian civilisations. The Culture prides itself as being a happy, semi-anarchic, freedom-loving, foreign-culture-respecting bunch, but things can get pretty ugly.

I read the books before I developed an interest in money and economics, however. Anyone else remember how they dealt with "the allocation of scarce resources with alternate uses", as Thomas Sowell puts it? As I recall, to all intents and purposes they had no scarcity, so money didn't crop up.

Prometheus418's picture

At this moment, you are 100% correct- people are forced to work to survive, and (at least in theory) the harder they work, the better their lives are.

But that is at this moment, and just now, that's not working out quite as well as we would all hope.  Some have no work to do, and depend on handouts, some work very hard for very little in return, and a select few do very little for huge rewards.

The thing about this singularity, should it come to pass, is that it would free everyone to explore the things which interest them- for many, that will be little beyond pleasure-seeking, at least for a while.  But the funny thing about pleasure-seeking behavior is that it eventually ceases to work, at which point a person must either turn to productivity or perversity.  Those who turn to production will feel better and live longer, and the perverse will die off through their own actions and choices.

The simple elimination of money and provision of basic necessities for all does not eliminate the concept of value and worth, and it does not eliminate the competetive drive.  What would happen is that there would be new standards of value to compete for, probably several based on a person's point of view.

For example, prestige may become a coin of the realm.  Let's say that there is a town of 100 people, and 99 of them sit around watching TV all day, while 1 person works to develop a new 3D tv, and a better massaging chair.  That person will gain prestige and have the first choice when it comes to social interactions and potential mates- not because they can provide essentials that everyone has, but because they are a more interesting diversion.  Others, seeing this, will want that same mystique, and act accordingly.

It's the same system, with a different face- but if the basics are provided to all, it opens up a much wider potential for all.  Imagine if Tesla never had to spend even one minute courting capital to persue his projects....

TerraHertz's picture

Something very few consider, is that the 'singularity' (of technology, in particular computing power, intelligent machines, etc) inevitably has another consequence. One that makes ALL common suppositions about future social structures, money, work, etc irrelevant.

We humans, as with all life on Earth, are cellular machines. Our cells are programmed via the coding of DNA. DNA is software. All software by its fundamental nature can be manipulated - copied, decompiled, edited, hacked, infected, reloaded, and so on.

Once you have the necessary tools, software like all digital data is a fluid.

For genetic engineering of single adult living beings, the necessary tools are a fast DNA reader, an AI/expert system gene decompiler, a recompiler, and a means to edit the resulting code back into all the living cells in the body.

The most significant 'singularity' of human evolution is not the point at which we achieve intelligent machines (there are a whole bunch of mistaken assumptions in most people's thoughts on that topic.) The significant moment is when the first human acquires the tools to perform working re-engineering of their own DNA code. At that point everything changes. The fundamental natures of 'individual', 'species', 'society' and 'mind' all shift dramatically. After that, trying to apply present day preconceptions about the relationship of the individual to society and species, is like trying to continue enforcing copyright in the digital age. A foolish and doomed pursuit to perpetuate obsolete ideas. Flat Earth, Geocentric universe stupidity.

The computing singularity is one prerequisite for that, but there are a few others. All of which are about to occur, or have already occured in isolation.

Prometheus418's picture

+1 for that- you're right, I had not considered it, and it's an interesting concept.

eureka's picture

Doesn't man transcend himself when overcoming obstacles, perceiving a bigger picture than his personal needs and wants, working for the greater good - and thus, how is man supposed to suddenly become a better performer, evolve to higher potentials at the future time when all his basic needs and desires are fulfilled by machine intelligence, for free and without any demand upon man?

The notion that the pleasure & plenty principle, once physically fulfilled, will transcend itself and become mentalally & creatively expressed would have its proof in currently comfortable humans manifesting immensely more all sharing benevolent creativity - and so to verify the grand assumption of this notion - all one has to do is look around for evidence of such mental quantum leaps expressing itself in the priviledged classes.

Well then, who sees it - and where?

dbTX's picture

On a long enough time line...

everything knowable will be known

Manthong's picture

Beyond This Place There Be Dragons.

the tower's picture

Space-time is curved into itself, so there is no beyond. Infinity is a concept that your brain will reject, hence the question "what is beyond". You can at least try to understand by reading some books, I would like to suggest The Complete Idiot's Guide to Theories of the Universe.

Quixotic_Not's picture

Oh, I understand the theories, however quaint they are...

I just think man's imagination is far from able to grasp the reality of what the universe actually is.

Mathematical expressions for known physical traits, but the rest is self-important gobbledigook, at best  ;-)

delacroix's picture

the part, can't comprehend the whole

Reptil's picture

It requires work, investment, and choices that may be irreversible, but there are ways to tap into different states of the human brain-body.

Infinity can be percieved and accepted

It's not for everyone though. It's both terrifying and alluring. I'm not pretending I've been in that place yet, I've only dipped my toe in and then came back. ;-D They're not "pipe dreams" they're a way to look at another part of reality, and insights gained caused significant steps forward, ironically also on the road towards the singularity.

I don't subscribe to the idea as if the body is an empty vessel. Once human beings lose that connection to the natural world, they lose being part of that greater conscious network. We are chemical beings, and that chemical layer of interaction is part of our being, in that it influences our consciousness. This is ignored by a number of the transhumanists. (including Ray Kurzweil) I'm more and more convinced the attack on the natural world stems from the idea that nature is but a shell, a husk that must be discarded. This is very wrong, since that "husk" of the natural world and our development as conscious being is deeply embedded in there.

some information here:

and some forward looking research here:

Without it, we lose the interaction with the natural world, lose the abillity to "travel" and expand our conscious perception in that direction, and will become something very different from what we are now. No wonder all natural plants containing the (naturally occurring) DMT molecule are banned in the Codex Alimentarius. It is, objectively speaking, incorrect, that the pathways used by human beings throughout ALL history are now being blocked, without any clear argumentation.


Please also see the links in my post below?

To me, with my ideas and experiences as a person, the race torwards the singularity, while burning all bridges behind us, starts to feel more and more like a lobster trap. It's important to realise both what's to gain, and what's to lose. It's presented as a choice, but that's not the purpose of this development. AT ALL. I'm not against any bold development, in any direction, but I must reject limits, that are presented as "choice". What I mean is that the part of consciousness that is "modelled" in a computer projection is only ONE OF MULTIPLE forms of consciousness, that are present, or possibillitys in our natural state. If this goes through, the AIs that supercede us will refer to us as the "original creator beings who had it all". :'-)

Optimusprime's picture

"I don't subscribe to the idea as if the body is an empty vessel. Once human beings lose that connection to the natural world, they lose being part of that greater conscious network. We are chemical beings, and that chemical layer of interaction is part of our being, in that it influences our consciousness. This is ignored by a number of the transhumanists. (including Ray Kurzweil) I'm more and more convinced the attack on the natural world stems from the idea that nature is but a shell, a husk that must be discarded. This is very wrong, since that "husk" of the natural world and our development as conscious being is deeply embedded in there."


Very well put--thanks for your post and links.

Kurzweil is it bit of a klutz and charlatan, IMHO.  There is little nature and no spirit in his imaginings, just what is left of a mind when these are deleted.


He represents what Eric Voegelin analyzed as "modern gnosticism".

Reptil's picture

I'll look into that. Thanks!

Sean7k's picture

Well said and if I might add: this whole piece of gibberish is nothing more than another version of man's quest for immortality through the generousity of a new god- technology.

"We are being forced in one direction..." and just who is doing the forcing? From all appearances, they are not attempting to create immortality and nirvana for the masses.

Technology is a tool and so far, it is a tool that cuts two ways. One, it provides methods for the advancement of humanity, but in our inability to understand their consequences, these technologies often do as much harm as good.

The failures of science has been in the uncoupling of the organic from the inorganic. We feel we can create new technology without discovering how the earth and it's inhabitants interact and function. We are intellectually lazy and in a rush to discover. We fail to lay the foundation necessary to understand who and what we are.

It is this tendency to conquer new territory before consolidating what we have absorbed that leads to colossal failures. It is magnified by our unwillingness to admit our mistakes or explore alternative solutions. 

If history is any judge, we will create new technologies that we fail to understand completely or to have considered the consequences of putting our complete trust in them for the sake of an early strike at the possible profits.

To date, it has not resulted in our destruction, although the nuclear bomb was close. The creation of a technology that exceeds our ability to monitor, control or understand the limitation of its' potential raises the possibility of our own demise. Like the possibility of a black hole from the Bern accelerator, we can ignore the implications of a one in a billion event.

As I look around, giving an objective assessment of technology, I fail to see the great advantages it has produced when balanced against the great costs in pollution, toxin contamination, food value destruction, violent warfare, loss of security, debt enslavement, human isolation and social destruction. 

We need to ask ourselves, what is the purpose of my life? How can I best achieve it, will I be allowed the liberty to pursue it? 

Science and technology are a means, not an ends. To the extent they result in benefits without much in the way of negatives, great. This is a slow growth cocktail. However, if we are going to forge ahead, blind to the ramifications of our actions, we risk and encourage our mutual destruction- why would we want this power in the hands of a small minority?



Ranger4564's picture

First, I wanted to say I've read a few things you've posted and I generally like what you write. In this case, I disagree. You're indicting Technology for failure through hubris, when in fact, I would indict Capitalism for placing technology in a position which required the rushed risk taking which results in the devastations you describe.  In a world that is not driven by winning, by being first, by being cost effective, by being amoral, technology becomes a tool that can wait for the right time, be investigated more thoroughly as if there is enough time, can be criticized openly through discussions / forums because there is no secret that must be preserved, and so on.  Don't blame technology for failing humanity, blame capitalism.  Technology did not cause the pollution, people and capitalism did.  Technology did not kill the victims, people and capitalism did.  In many cases, if money wasn't the prime concern, greater precautions could be taken to protect people and the enviroment. In fact, technology would advance more quickly and smoothly if there was no profit motive, because people would share their insights more openly, to advance civilization. We probably would have a viable alternate fuel system by now if we didn't live in a capitalist world. We would probably have a moon base or mission to mars by now, if money / capitalism didn't exist.

Medea's picture

This is cute. Condescending, ignorant and cute.

Popo's picture

What's beyond the edge of the univers?   Duh.  It wraps around.   Clearly you've never played "Asteroids".   

Popo's picture

What's beyond the edge of the universe?   Duh.  It wraps around.   Clearly you've never played "Asteroids".   

francis_sawyer's picture

The back of your head (of you 30 years ago)

francis_sawyer's picture

Then again, sometimes I struggle with Tyler's math questions

Smiddywesson's picture

It all rests upon the back of a big turtle, of course

Libertarian777's picture

It depends if you subscribe to the brane multiverse, or the bubble universe theory. There are a number of others, most of which are pointing to the existence of multiverses. What's 'between' these universes? Again it depends on the theory you subscribe to. It could either be 'nothing' or a higher dimensional 'space' between them.

SMG's picture

Supposedly there are a whole bunch of universe changing technologies being held back by the oligarchy, that will be released after the Great Implosion.  

I look forward to human evolution and the great advancements ahead of us.  

I just can't get over the planned mass murder that is supposedly required for this evolution.  There has to be a better way.

Also the oligarchy has done so much evil so far, why would they stop in the future?


HungrySeagull's picture

There will still need a Dishwasher, a housekeeper or a driver.

Quixotic_Not's picture

And if they're Wall St. Banksters, transvestite prostitutes...

If you think I'm kidding, I'm not.

That's how the Ivy League geeks roll! lol

foofoojin's picture

dishes? you eat the plate too dummy or walk into your back yard grean house and pick your lunch of the vine.

house keeper?  computer will detect your not in a room and uv emmiting paint on the walls. fiber optics in the couch and clear coatings on the furniture will kill everything.  you will have a nano farm break down you garbabe and waist and push it to the green house  or contruct new items for you while you sleep.

and as for a driver. those who have a need to leave there house will know it thousands of time safer to let the computer do the driving.  im sure there will  be diehard that still prefer manual driving. but you know our car insurance will be at least 10 times higher.


RockyRacoon's picture

There is a fly in this transcendental argument and it is inadvertently pointed out in the article: the form of social networking, the vast potential of which is only just now being tapped and against which the state will be all but powerless.

As long at TPTB are not threatened was the missing element in the analysis.  Pulling the plug and plunging us back to the 1950s technologically speaking becomes a very real possibility.

Oracle of Kypseli's picture

The genie is out of the bottle!

Quixotic_Not's picture

TPTB aka TBTF aren't threatened by social networking in the least, au contraire they view it as a safety valve and herding device...

Since the advent, which has been around in various forms since BBS boards in the early 90s, the reality of social networking on the internet has been: Venting frustrations by rants into the seemingly human ether; vegetative social isolation; waste of personal resources/time; splitting of the fabric of tangible society/culture; geeks coming up with new, titilating web pages to attract the herd and get rich.

More or less, social networking has at best been a masturbatory sea of noise, and at worst the dumbing down of humanity by further elevating the least common denominator of ideological hubris (e.g. Karl Denninger, Huffington Report, blogspot, twits r' us, et al).

Does anyone actually think the social networking revolts in the ME are actually a positive development and will end well for the inhabitants of the region, excluding the ME moneyed elite?

Alcoholic Native American's picture

+ 1000

lol @ Karl D and his derpsquad, you nailed it though, at first they came for our TV and cable and now they are coming for the internet with social engineering.  Go to any University computer lab you and will find at least 60% of the students zoning out the facebook which by the way is a NSA front.  We still have the encouraged left right bickering the paid trolls generating page views ( and the societal taboos we see in more traditional news media.

Plus everything is being logged,psychological profiles are being built and thought criminals are being databased.

A recent example of how social networking and online "revolutions" can look on the surface like a good idea but quickly be subverted is the teatard movement, started off as a noble idea but was quickly usurped to be about extending the Bush tax cuts and some kind of ignorance is strength Jesus movement.

RockyRacoon's picture

I guess that explains why they were frantically trying to shut down the smartphones/texting/Internet in Egypt recently.   The authorities were just not prepared enough to close off the "series of interconnecting tubes" fast enough.   In the U. S. we may be very surprised how effectively they shut the whole thing down.   Then what?   CB radio and walkie-talkies?   10-4 Good Buddy.

oldman's picture

Hey there, RR,

We never left the '50's----we have had six decades of the same---I was there and couldn't get out then either.

In fact, the '50,s have taken over the planet, at least from this myopic human context of the zero thing-----I just left SA because all the losers from the US were showing up there with the '50's. It's a sickness---a plague---a pox upon our house

at least gimme a smile, please---we're all mad even though we're not angry

Reptil's picture

You got it. (our level of development still being stuck in the fifties)

The "improved, modern" version of that fifties society (fifties v5.5) might soon come to an end, since it has outlived it's intended purpose. (technological base for further development & destruction of the natural world)