Future Essay

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he first question to which I here address myself is that of what chance humankind has of forever escaping such nuclear warfare as might largely foreclose any possibility of a hopeful future. The second is that of what provision our kind might make for the retention of a hopeful future in any case. In the largest perspective it is not implausible that life as a whole, having developed for so long and so hopefully on earth, should nevertheless disappear from it at last, leaving it as lifeless as other planets-or leaving it inhabited only by such primitive forms as bacteria. Our sun is only one of some ten trillion similar stars that we may suppose to be attended by planets of which some millions, at least, must possess the environmental characteristics that led to the development of life on earth. It is statistically implausible that, in such a universe, life has arisen only on the equivalent of one otherwise undistinguished speck among vast clouds of dust-specks extending over distances measured in billions of light-years. In the immensity of the universe as a whole, it may be that the extinction of life on one planet among millions of others that support it would be no more important than the death of one fish in an ocean that contained millions. Although a nuclear war would not in itself suffice for the immediate extinction of all human life, let alone all the forms of life on earth, it might contribute importantly to a progressive deterioration of the environmental circumstances on which the most developed forms of life, at least, depend. What distinguishes us human beings from all the less advanced forms of life on earth is that, having at last become conscious of the challenge of survival, we have consciously undertaken to shape our own future. This requires us to look ahead, even beyond the span of any single generation. II Virtually the sole device

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