- Let us assume here that the exchange of information between intelligent and self aware individuals continues on this planet while a biosphere supporting life in any form exists. For the latter, let us assume at least one billion years, forty million generations for current humans. In a deductive exercise let us discuss what follows from this assumption to clarify some conditions of lasting civilizations. The fewer assumptions we make, the more valid our conclusions will be, no matter what such civilizations or individuals will be like.
If a civilization continues for millions of generations...
What would its average rate of population growth be?
How much of the resources can each generation consume?
Where did the waste go to?
Which materials could it use?
How would such civilizations satisfy the need for energy?
How many individuals could there be on earth? How old could they be?
It managed to keep the population from falling below critical limits and from rising above critical limits (if any). What can we learn from that?
What threats did it have to survive? What information can be gained from the fact that it did survive the various threats?
Which threats may exist that are beyond control of any civilization?
How much would its average annual relative economic growth be?
How much could knowledge have increased on average per year?
Natural processes and learning, cognitive intelligence obviously managed to coexist. What links these?
How would it manage to keep increasing its knowledge without giving everyone the power to destroy everything?
How much could entropy rise per generation?
What does sustainable mean for civilizations that continue for millions of generations?
Could different civilizations coexist on this planet for millions of generations? How many sorts of humans are there?
All civilizations must have systematically and securely managed to permanently contain or avoid conflicts that could turn into existential disasters. What can be learned from that?
Could a civilization be replaced by another?
What role (if any) did religion and/or spirituality play in the way to survival of that civilization?
please add questions ...
Let us try to avoid predictions or speculations. The assumption may not allow valid conclusions for certain topics. We should try to find questions where it does and focus exclusively on those. Additional assumptions may be helpful later to answer additional questions. Implicit assumptions are hard to avoid but should be declared when recognized. Keeping the assumptions to a minimum will increase relevance. All this may be difficult and the rules should not hinder progress. Let us try without fear, and improve where we can later.
Let us not (here) think about how (or if) we believe the assumption that civilization(s) continue for millions of generations can or should be reached. Those discussions could come later or take place elsewhere.
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How can there be most happiness? was the question that started milliongenerations. Happiness is difficult, but it requires existence and awareness, so there is the possibility for happiness as long as self aware beings exist. Civilization, reduced to the exchange of information between beings, is believed to be beneficial. Therefore, the assumption of continued existence of civilizations and the question what can be derived in the hope that useful insights will result.
What information may be derived from the assumption that a civilization evolved from today's still exists on planet earth in a billion years? Such information should help us better understand the conditions required for civilization to exist on this planet while the sun provides a suitable environment.
see also milliongeneration's motivation