, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 239-261

Forecast for the Next Eon: Applied Cosmology and the Long-Term Fate of Intelligent Beings

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Abstract

Cosmology seems extremely remote from everyday human practice and experience. It is usually taken for granted that cosmological data cannot rationally influence our beliefs about the fate of humanity—and possible other intelligent species—except perhaps in the extremely distant future, when the issue of “heat death” (in an ever-expanding universe) becomes actual. Here, an attempt is made to show that it may become a practical question much sooner, if an intelligent community wishes to maximize its creative potential. We estimate, on the basis of a greatly simplified model, the rate of loss of potentially useful information due to the delay in undertaking the colonization of the largest gravitationally bound structures in an accelerating universe. In addition, we argue for a natural cosmological extension of the classical taxonomy of advanced technological communities given by Kardashev. New developments in the fields of anthropic self-selection and physical eschatology give, for the first time, solid foundations to such results. This may open some new (and possibly urgent) issues in the areas of future policy making and transhumanist studies generally. It may also give us a slightly better perspective on the SETI endeavor.