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Is Humanity Diverging into two civilizations?


I've written earlier about my musings on Clustered cities vs Suburban Sprawls being the two contrasting futures mankind stares at. I concluded in the 3 part series that the future of humanity, at least until the developing world gets to a median level of development, will be to be present in clustered cities. The other alternative which I envisaged for the longer term was to set up a colony on Mars.

However, since then we've had many developments and Covid-19 impacting the whole world. While Covid-19 has been devastating on economies across the globe, its impact on climate has been benign - fall in economic frenzy has only led to a reduction in carbon emissions, a civilizational realization about the value of boosting natural human immunity and end to wasteful ways of living

The other side of Covid-19 is the realization that the pandemic is also an impact of human activities much like climate change itself. And as Covid-19 rages on forcing people to stay indoors, California faced the worst possible forest fires in history burning 3.1 million acres of forests, 26 times higher than last year (2019). More than 6500 structures were damaged or destroyed - assuming even 50% of them were homes with average 4 residents, we are talking about 13000+ people impacted. 

Notably, forest fires are a major threat to suburban living and not so much for metropolitan clustered cities - suburban living disperses populations far and wide, closer to the forest not only increasing the risk of forest fires but also their impact on human life. Metropolitcan clustered cities instead promote isolation of human populations in urban limits leaving nature to thrive in the hinterland without much intervention.

Amidst all this, are increasing advances being made by cleantech enthusiasts in the areas of sustainable suburban living - whether it is super-efficient HVAC by Tesla or rave reviews of their Powerwall in combination with the original Solar roof. Improvement in battery technologies are also making a lifestyle disconnected from the powergrid possible. Ironical or not, but it is Californians, worried about an insecure energy future, who are increasingly looking to this kind of solution - a powergrid disconnected suburban home which produces its own power using the roof, stores it in a Powerwall which can keep running the house through the year. The economics don’t yet work for every household, but the economics of scale for green-power combo of solar panels plus batteries is slowly building up. Needless to say, the math won't work out for clustered cities where per-capita solar charging space would be a premium.

The Fork

Summarising, it looks like humanity is diverging (or has already diverged?) into two separate civilizations at the moment. 

First, the developed world population which can live off the power grid, work and earn remotely. A typical suburban family, in this part of the world, will have a large house without any need to step out if there's a pandemic out there, they can get contactless food delivery via robots and as much entertainment online on the Internet via Starlink satellites. This civilization will live and work between the developed parts of earth and Martian colonies. They'd travel back and forth between these Martian outposts and earth, plan the future of the human race on the red planet and beyond. 

The other fork to humanity will live in the ever-developing world in clustered cities, live lives more industrial in nature. They will be under constant threat of being impacted by outages, climate change events (pandemics or natural disasters) and their raison-d'être would primarily be producing goods (and services) for the other civilization.

Taking a leaf out of my other post on inequality, this is a future we stare at - a humanity split into two and unequal in not just the quality of life but also in their purpose and stature. This split may not be as visible as Aparthied but it will surely be as evident as Segregation, it may not be as unfair as Colonialism but definitely be based on Neocolonialist tendencies. And hence directionally, this split would be opposed to the liberal thought and libertarian ideals which many of us cherish.

If we believe that inequality is a bane for humanity, we must make all efforts to prevent this fork in the future of human civilisation.



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