Lasting Civilization or Flash in the Pan?

Jim Mason
2 min readAug 2, 2022

It’s too soon to tell, but it’s not looking good for us

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

The main thing that modern science has taught us is that the universe consists of an almost endless variety of forms, all built from a small, finite set of fundamental components. That lesson applies not only to the forms of life here on earth, but also to the forms of planets, stars, and galaxies elsewhere in the vastness of time and space.

Judging from that understanding, it seems inconceivable that forms of life, and even what we would call “intelligent” life, do not exist elsewhere. We just do not yet know what variety those forms may take.

Our human experience on this little planet, so far, provides our only basis for estimating what forms life may take in other parts of the universe. But we know even from our limited experience here that life can appear in forms very different from our own. And we can be almost certain that intelligent life elsewhere can be very different from our own, both in details, in size, and in longevity.

As we humans have emerged from our biological ancestry and have begun to construct post-biological successors by learning to create powerful technologies for managing matter and energy, we now face uncertainty about whether we can learn to control our own behavior before we use our technologies, either inadvertently or deliberately, to destroy ourselves.

In the vastness of the universe, there can emerge many intelligent forms of life that persist for a short time before relapsing into less intelligent local forms of life. Are we one of those, or are we one of the probably rare kind that go on to evolve into successors that spread more widely in space and time?



Jim Mason

I study language, cognition, and humans as social animals. You can support me by joining Medium at