Posts like this are fundamentally moronic (but about what I’d expect of Crooked Timber), not because I disagree with Quiggin in the short term but because the long term is very long indeed and “never” is even longer.
More than 500 years out we have no idea of what will occur. The greatest prognosticator does not. Algorithms do not. And Quiggin — who does not rise even to the level of a frowzy fortune-teller — surely does not.
There is progress and there are plateaus, and one can be on a plateau for a very long time indeed before a new, viable climb appears. For instance, humans used stone tools only for somewhere between 500,000 and a million years — that’s from 100 to 200 times as long as the entirety of recorded human history.
There is nothing magical needed to undertake interstellar travel; merely many advances. How likely are those advances? I don’t know. There is not enough data to have any valid statistical basis for saying, despite Quiggin’s claims. If it doesn’t violate the laws of physics, I wouldn’t count out someone doing it in the long stretch of time, though.
This is why I hate Crooked Timber, and the people who think that way. Their imaginations are so tiny and their intellectual prowess so bounded. Someone told them they were bright, they got “educated,” but they don’t really know a fucking thing.
In the long vast sweep of time, many things will occur that people like Quiggin are certain will not. I don’t know what those are. No one does. But Quiggin’s certitude is that of a be-furred fool hooting that the copper ore is useless, and to throw it out, because it has no possible value since we already have all these nice rocks just laying about.
I think it most likely that in 5-50,000 years, if we manage to survive, we’ll find ways to significantly alter our bodies and to increase our lifespans, and with some advances in energy production, interstellar travel becomes a lot more feasible. Again, none of this is magic. It’s just things — like making a steel cooking pot in 10,000 BC — that we don’t yet know how to do.
Crooker Timber is terrible. I have a hard time understanding why I keep going back there but I can’t seem to stop. Such a bunch of tottering intellectual nitwits.