When will we humans finally disappear? I explain the why's and wherefores of human extinction on the WHY? podcast -- click the link here to find out.
Tuesday, December 19, 2023
In my last book A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth I assumed that Homo sapiens, like all species, would become extinct – one day.
I was, however, rather vague about the timescale, in the end noting that the species would become extinct ‘sooner or later’.
Extinction is the fate of all species, but Homo sapiens is problematic as, pace arguments against human exceptionalism of the kind I put forward in an earlier book, The Accidental Species, Homo sapiens is an exceptional species in many ways, able to modify its circumstances through technology in ways that are unprecedented, as far as we know, in the history of life.
With the possible exception of the bacteria that evolved oxygenic photosynthesis more than two billion years ago, releasing a highly poisonous gas -- oxygen -- into the atmosphere and precipitating the extinction of life that had evolved in its absence, Homo sapiens is a uniquely disruptive species, both to itself and to the environment in which it lives.
This makes predicting human extinction very hard. Humans are simultaneously amazingly creative and wantonly destructive.
I decided, therefore, to look more closely at the factors that might work against the long-term existence of Homo sapiens. The result was an essay in Scientific American entitled ‘Humans are Doomed to Go Extinct’, which was published on 20 November, 2021. This caused consternation in many languages.
After that I felt that I should extend my essay into a book. My agent, Jill Grinberg at Jill Grinberg Literary Management was interested. So was Ravi Mirchandani at Picador, and George Witte at St Martins Press, who'd published my earlier book.
So I set to work.
While I was writing, the indefatigable terriers at PanMac Rights sold translation rights for the still-unfinished book to publishers in Italy, Korea, Japan and Romania.
Just over a year later -- 19 December, 2023 -- I've delivered the manuscript of The Decline and Fall of the Human Empire...