Previous | Next

The Far Future

Arkady - art by Michael Whelan
The young heroine Arkady stands on the edge of a high metallic ruin, a remnant of the long lost Empire, which rises to form an archway leading to a new bright future. From the cover of Second Foundation, by Isaac Asimov - Artwork by Michael Whelan

This page presents the future five thousand years are the counterpart of Recorded history, ramping up the scale to fifty thousand gives the counterpart to Prehistory,

Three scenarios are presented here: Posthumanity, Space Opera, The Long Decline (medium term), or Singularity (listed under the Far Future because imho unlikely in the medium or near future, imho). This is the time span of epic science fiction.

Posthumanity. Assuming continued technological progress and avoiding the Long Decline scenario, some form of Posthumanity will certainly define the future. This would be the evolution of a new posthuman "kingdom" (or many such kingdoms), whether A.I., human-AI hybrid, or something else, transcending current humanity.

Space Opera:. Space Opera is a subgenre of science fiction that typically features a large-scale, epic story set in space, with elements of adventure, romance, and conflict between opposing factions. Space operas often involve interstellar travel, alien species, futuristic technology, and battles between good and evil. Most Space Opera universes are set in medium future period of the next five centuries, although some examples like Asimov’s Foundation and Frank Herbert’s Dune are set in the far future (tens of thousands of years).

However, and contrary to popular opinion, science fiction has nothing to do with actual prediction or futurism, and indeed most attempts at predicting the future quickly become future rust, The cyberpunk classic Blade Runner, for example, made in 1982, was set in 2019, and features humanoid replicants, flying cars, and off-world colonies. Back to the Future II, made in 1989, was set in 2015. (see also this comprehensive this essay). Space Opera stories are pure fantasy, especially the humanoid aliens, faster than light travel, and artificial gravity generators of many space operas. A few, like The Expanse are at least midway on the “Mohs Scale of Hardness” (scientific realism) of science fiction. However, all of them qualify as entertainment rather than actual futurology.

Also, there is a difference between storytelling, which is modern mythopoesis or myth-making, and actual futurism. However, this far in the future, actual prediction becomes almost impossible. Space Opera does however assume continued technological advancement, which could be utopian, dystopian, or anything in between. Here therefore are a few space operas set in the imaginal future, as inspirations, but not predictions, for the best case scenario that will certainly involve posthuman evolution incomparably more radical and incomprehensible than anything mentioned here.

The long decline: in the medium term is the continuation of the the Long Decline much further into the future. As the millennia continue, humanity never establishes a sustainable relation with the biosphere or the planet. Gradually, resources are depleted, the environment degraded, technology fails, humans eke out a miserable living from an exhausted Earth.


Previous | Next

Home | Big History

Page by M Alan Kazlev, 2023