Imagine a satellite being launched into orbit, but its controls aren't working too well.
If the trajectory gets too steep, it will break through earth's gravity field and soar into outer space.
If it accelerates too rapidly, atmospheric resistance will cause it to come crashing down in a fiery ball.
Only if everything is managed with great care will the satellite achieve a stable orbit.
The trajectory of our civilization is a lot like that satellite.
At the accelerating rate of technological innovation, artificial intelligence may soon transcend our own, and human DNA might be re-engineered to produce a genetically enhanced species – like the satellite leaving its home planet forever.
On the other hand, the rate at which we’re exploiting the earth’s resources is unsustainable: in addition to climate change, there’s a rapidly accumulating list of equally daunting crises, such as capacity limits in crucial resources, deforestation, and a massive extinction of species. If the convergence of these multiple threats becomes too much to handle, our global civilization could face a total collapse – like the satellite hitting too much resistance and crashing down.
To me, and perhaps to you too, neither of these scenarios is attractive. But is it possible for our civilization to manage its trajectory capably enough to reach a stable orbit? What would it take to achieve that?