Between utopian and dystopian extremes: humanity as a candle in the dark

Philosophy as a Way of Life
8 min readJan 21, 2022
[image: candle in the dark, freeimages.com]

We live in troubled times. Though an argument can be made that humanity has never gone through times that were not troubled, at least in one place or another. The current wave of problems, however, seem to be planetary in scale.

There is, of course, an ongoing pan-demic. And there is the increasingly undeniable horror of climate change unfolding under our very eyes, day by day. There are also plenty of political crises: chances are the United States will descend into semi-authoritarian rule with the 2024 elections; Russia may invade Ukraine tomorrow; and China may do the same thing to Taiwan, after having gingerly wreaked havoc with Hong Kong. And that’s without mentioning migrant crises the world over, the debacle in Afghanistan, the other debacle in Syria. And that buffoon of Boris Johnson.

Simplifying a bit, there are essentially three major classes of reactions to this state of affairs: apathy, utopianism, and dystopianism. I suspect apathy affects, eventually, the overwhelming majority of people. When things seem to be completely outside of our control we just shrug and adopt a “que sera sera” attitude, if nothing else for the sake of our ow psychological welfare.

Here I want to talk a bit about the other two, more extreme and diametrically opposite, responses. And the excuse is given to me by a long and very thoughtful article by Paul Fidalgo in Free Inquiry magazine. He writes about his experiences with the techno-optimists who comprise the Transhumanist movement as well as with the techno-pessimists who identify with the Dark Mountain movement.

There are different versions of both approaches, of course. Still, broadly speaking, Transhumanists can be fairly described as generally optimistic about the future, whether they believe that we will soon achieve immortality by uploading ourselves onto an AI, a la Google-based Ray Kurzweil, or, more modestly, that medicine and technology will allow us to change our very biological nature and radically enhance and extend our life.

Painting with an equally broad brush, Dark Mountaineers are definitely pessimistic about the future of humanity, thinking that climate change will trigger an ecosystem collapse that will either wipe out humanity or very greatly…

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Philosophy as a Way of Life

by Massimo Pigliucci. Practical philosophy, science, pseudoscience & good reasoning. Complete index of articles at https://massimopigliucci.org/essays/