Alastair Reynolds

Are we all doomed?

Alastair Reynolds
Former European Space Agency researcher and science-fiction writer

It's easy to get sucked into a pessimistic mindset, especially when you look around and see the climate going bananas, the ice caps melting and the oil running out. But if you look at the average condition of human beings today, we're much better off than we were 100 or 200 years ago, across measures such as literacy, health and longevity. There will always be catastrophes, but the broad trend is in the right direction. I'm quite open to the idea that, with neuroscience and smart drugs, human beings could become very different in a very short space of time. We could change the way we think - and how we think about ourselves.

As a science-fiction writer, I'm not blind to our downsides as a species but, looking at the next 1,000 years, I see things as a rational optimist. Science is my mantra. I don't have a lot of truck with the argument that we need to go to space to colonise the moon and Mars, so we don't put all our eggs in one basket on earth. But I think exploration taps into something deep in our spirit - a sense of adventure - and that's something I would be sorry to see us lose. As a child, I was convinced that we'd have gone to Mars by now and we haven't - we haven't even gone back to the moon. I still hope we can achieve that within my lifetime.


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This article first appeared in the 06 June 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Are we all doomed?