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New Philosopher - N15 - 2017

Although the term and precise starting point might be disputed, many anthropologists believe that ‘behavioural modernity’ – when certain traits such as abstract thinking and symbolic behaviour are said to have emerged in humans – started around 50,000 years ago.
Some 500 centuries later, here we stand, a link in a chain of human beings stretching back tens of thousands of years. Looking to the future, one can’t help but wonder: Do we have another 50,000 years as a species? Or are we set to be the architects of our own demise?
Based on our current trajectory, the latter seems more likely: existential threats abound, from malevolent artificial intelligence to runaway climate change. Or perhaps it will end not with a bang, but a whimper, as we lose ourselves in virtual worlds.
Whether the end is nigh, only time will tell, but there’s one thing we know for sure: we are indebted to the 100 billion humans who came before us, and we have a responsibility to those yet to be born. Let us not be the weak link.


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