Imagine, Earth, 2120.
A not-so-distant future where we have managed to avoid obliterating ourselves with war, we've managed to reverse manmade climate change, and even created technologies to manipulate simultaneously occurring natural climate change that would be detrimental to our wellbeing. Even the robots didn't rise up to kill us.
Things are far from perfect, but we appear to be on the cusp of a true golden age. The likes of which we've only seen in Star Trek and the most Utopian sci-fi stories. It wasn't easy getting to this point. Nearly 100 years ago, a decades long series of technological advances initiated global paradigm shifts across all levels of society. So many rapid changes from computing, biotech, and DNA discoveries about our distant past, caused conflicts, political upheaval, crashing and booming of markets, and a need to completely reinvent how global society functions. But... we made it through and found the light at the end of the tunnel. Now, a world exists where all costs of maintaining a high quality level of day to day life is almost nil. Biotech allows us to live indefinitely. Space tourism is commonplace and we've even begun to explore the Solar System, setting foot on Mars and even moons of Jupiter. There are experimental craft on the cusp of interstellar travel, but we're not quite there yet. Humans cannot indefinitely live off-planet for medical reasons, but space hotels and stations are able to support life indefinitely thanks to self-sustaining-ecosystems. Houses, organs, furniture, and even some foods are 3D printed. Money barely exists as value is exchanged in an infinite variety of ways on global blockchains and decentralized grids.
However, the ambitious and powerful always find a way to maintain their elite status, and trillionaire pioneers in the mid 21st century made great strides in securing their place amongst the controlling powers of all orbiting space stations, hotels, cruise ships, and latest technological advances.
The things about humanity that have existed for tens of thousands of years haven't changed. People still love and hate. Collaborate and fight. Some inspire and do amazing things. Others are lazy and content. Some extremely intelligent and many ignorant. People are still driven by the need for affection or attention from others. Sex still sells. People still want to escape through alcohol, drugs, and entertainment. Life goes on. But just as the average person in 2020 lives a life even an emperor of 1500 couldn't conceive of, in 2120, even the poorest person has access to luxuries that would make Jeff Bezos feel like a caveman.
It's now Dec 12, 2123, and something disturbing has been discovered by the UN's Hubble 2 detection system. Something so unsettling, it is immediately marked classified and only made known to the highest levels of global government. A comet, 278 miles in diameter, is hurtling towards Earth and at tens of thousand of miles per hour, and projected to hit us in 9 years. The sophistication of our instruments leaves no room for error on this trajectory, and our defenses against cosmic hazards have not yet developed anywhere near what we would need to stop such a monstrosity. We may be able to shrink the oncoming behemoth by blasting bits of it off, and will do everything we can to change its trajectory, but things look bleak.
First, this is kept extremely classified. Assessments are made of our current global infrastructures ability to withstand such an impact. From all currently existing underground military facilities, seed banks, and shelters developed for continuance of government in the event of a global natural disaster. Some facilities even dating back to the 21st century. Then the planning begins. A cascade of contingency plans, each preparing for varying degrees of calamity.
One plan prepares for the best case scenario - we manage to blast the comet into thousands of pieces and only a few smaller fragments hit. But it is still projected to have the impact of a dozen or so nuclear warheads hitting the Earth, with no way to predict where.
The worst case scenario is dire - almost unfathomable. One where, should any sect of humanity hope to live, it will need to spend the next 1,000+ years avoiding the surface of Earth. One path for survival being in underground cities, using self-sustaining technologies as done in space. Another path being a life lived perpetually in orbit, with periodic trips to Earth's underground shelters to spend time in a normal gravitational environment. And a third path, the most extreme, living on Mars or a moon of Jupiter. Priority becomes the ability to survive and carry on the species, and the length of lifespan seems less important.
Of course there's a very likely chance that this is the end. This is dinosaur level extinction all over again.
In the middle are dozens of scenarios of varying degrees of destruction that could occur, and no one will know for sure which one is correct until it happens. Plans are set, incredibly hard choices are made, and the inhabitants of the world prepare for obliteration of everything they've ever known. Of course those with any means to influence their status here do so.
Not surprisingly, the top leaders of government across the world find sanctuary. Some choosing to the underground option, some orbit, and some hoping to mix both. None of them choose the more dire option of entirely off world - only the most desperate find that to be their fate. You may recognize the name of some people, such as the grandchildren of the Bezos and Musk families. The continual descendants of Bushes and the Obamas and various members of royalty. Actually, more people are alive in this time who were born before 2020 than you may believe, thanks to advances in biotech. The most likely people to find a spot for safe haven after that are the extremely wealthy (however wealth is determined in this post-money society), scientists, engineers and doctors, and celebrities who find themselves in the favor of everyone else. Not as many low level workers are needed as one may think, in this world of highly advanced robotics and A.I. But still, many are needed and secretly told about the dire situation. From there, once everything is set into motion, the rest of the world is slowly allowed to know what is happening.
Genuine efforts are made to help as many people as possible survive the impact, but nothing can guarantee anyone's wellbeing. Civil unrest grows and grows, millions adopt a fully nihilistic approach to life. Much of the order of civilization falls apart. However, never underestimate our species' ability to avoid thinking about anything it would rather ignore. Much of life goes on normally, almost bizarrely so. People still get up, go to work, watch sports, celebrate birthdays, and carry on as if nothing is wrong. But collectively, like never before, is an idea that we're in this together.
Massive efforts are made to aid our future selves and our descendants in rebuilding whatever elements of civilization we may lose, and to be done as easily and quickly as possible. This global effort is as simple as storing all the world's knowledge on hard drives, and burying them deep into the Earth, shielded from harm, and on satellites orbiting the Earth, to be extracted later. This is even easier than we may think it would be today in the 21st century, as information can be stored as such as high level, so easily, and in so many innovative ways unfathomable to us now. Even within someone's DNA.
Meanwhile paper documents - miles and miles of bookshelves are housed in vaults and deep within caves and underground facilities.
Some scenarios prep for a world that holds onto its current level of knowledge but loses its technology, and what information would need to be retained to reboot it all. Others have to account for a world that loses the knowledge and ability to rebuild that technology, and focus on retaining as much as possible. Other, worse scenarios must focus on the reality that we may lose all electronic capabilities, the knowledge to rebuild it all, and generations of other scientific knowledge, and fight to conceive of the best ways to ensure we can at least maintain an 1800s level of government and society, and not lose our evolved democratic systems, or worse, spiral into a world once again controlled by demagogues and theocracies.
Somewhere within these scenarios is one of the most dire - that they will be utterly decimated, barely holding onto existence. That everything, literally everything on the surface will be decimated, and by the time their descendants begin to rebuild civilization, not a person alive will have any clue of humans ever having achieved any of this. What then can they do? The only thing they can. Encode knowledge in things guranteed to survive.
But what will survive hundreds, maybe thousands of years? No metal. Not even plastics. Only stone.
Utilizing the most cutting edge 3D printing construction technology, space-age levitational sonic equipment, artificial gravity technology, and molecular composites for stone-like building materials, they create massive, nigh-indestructible architecture. Incomprehensibly large megaliths suited to withstand the worst of impacts. Within them, we encode all levels of knowledge possible - through etchings, through symbolism, through mathematics and engineering. Through codes. If humanity can't guarantee our physical world will survive such a catastrophe on the surface, and all means of storing its knowledge will be lost, we can store knowledge in these places themselves. Then we will only need to teach our descendants how to read them. Teach them the code that they will be able to decipher when they later emerge.
Eventually, D-Day comes. Attempts to reduce the size of the comet into smaller pieces have worked, even throwing as much as a hundred cubic miles of debris out of our path, but still the impact hurtles towards us. All of humanity takes a breath, maybe its last, and waits braces.
It's now May 17, 2159
To be continued...
By Josh Blaylock
This is an area to enjoy and explore the real world mysteries that are the backbone of what inspired my upcoming comic book series, ArkWorld, and what I call "Archeopunk" sci-fi. On a very real level, I follow mounting evidence that the story of human civilization is much, much older that we've previously thought. That ranges from some very hard-fact science and archaeological discoveries all the way to the esoteric and sometimes even silly. Although often what one originally dismisses as nonsense, I've found in my own journey, has ended up having more merit than I first thought.