Thursday, 6 August 2015

We may have peaked as a species…

Words written c33500
Stories completed 4
Rejections 66
Acceptances 1

We’re all realists, aren’t we?

I mean, on the outside we range from clown on-duty to clown off-duty, but through our own eyes we’re all pretty much mid-spectrum.  I see myself as a cynic and a sceptic, but balanced between pessimism and optimism; a balance made harder to shift by an adherence to the viewpoint of Mackay.  Me?  I’m a realist.

However, recently, I’ve detected a slight doomsayer tendency.  In the last post I repeated my rejection of a teleological view of (future) history and the possibility that we are sleepwalking towards a new Great War-style slaughter.

Well, add to that a belief that we’re living in a golden age, a mere blink of the eye in the span of human history, during which antibiotics are anything more than placebos.

Then there’s global warming and the rate at which we’re using and abusing the planet’s resources.  What we need won’t be around forever.  Unlike, say, waste plastic.  We’re a species heading for a cliff-edge.

But watching BBC’s Horizon: The Trouble With Space Junk has opened up a whole new dystopian playground of the mind.

You see, space has more rubbish than the verge of a dual-carriageway.  And whereas on Earth a crisp packet blowin’ in the wind has all the impact of a protest song, in space a fleck of paint acts much like a round from Dirty Harry’s Magnum.  And each impact begets a dozen other flecks, at least.  Someone say ‘geometric progression’?  And that’s before we consider all the stuff that’s bigger than, say, your toenail.

The only thing that keeps space from being like Indiana Jones’ last few steps before grabbing the artefact is its size.  But extrapolation of the sea of space junk (the fact that America is tracking all the objects Sputnik-size and upwards is itself jaw-dropping) shows it spreading and that before too long we’ll have created a cloud of dust with the chances of lethal impact being a small but too-large-to-risk one in four hundred.

And that means every satellite and space station pretty quickly ends up as a pretty fiery ball.

So, what happens then?  Well, I think we all know that GPS relies on satellites.  Stop to think and we’d add the emergency services, mobile phones, the internet, and cashpoint machines to the list.  The stock markets depend on space technology plus any business geographically dispersed like farms.  Not that many businesses are still up and running.

Plus some less-obvious examples, like hedge funds using spy satellite technology to assess the state of investments, at least ones like construction projects that can be seen from space.  You may be more sanguine about this last loss but, remember, you probably won’t get to hear about their problems.

All these ‘advances’ may be impossible in a matter of decades.  We may have peaked as a species…

I did consider submitting a story for the Gernsback Writing Contest’s last round, the theme of which was the solar system 250 years in the future.  I couldn‘t find a story that fitted so didn’t; maybe I should have penned something with semaphore and corsets and slow journeys by horse and map…

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