Gods & Monsters: Space as Lovecraft Envisioned it

This episode is sponsored by Brilliant We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and perhaps
it was not meant that we should voyage far. So today’s topic is “Gods & Monsters:
Space as Lovecraft Envisioned It”, our poll winning topic from back in September. Always tricky doing poll winners because I’m
never quite sure beyond the title what the audience wants. What audiences didn’t want, back in the
1920’s and 30’s when H.P. Lovecraft wrote his work, was most of his
work. Today he is one of the best- known and most
influential science fiction horror writers, receiving even the ultimate accolade of his
name becoming an adjective, Lovecraftian, for stories of cosmic horror and existential
dread. But he was quite poor when he lived, and fame
only came much later. I suspect that’s because a lot of his writing
was in reaction to what science was starting to tell us about the immense scope of space
and time, something the public didn’t really understand yet. A generation later, this was finally sinking
into the public awareness and his work gained a large following and great acclaim. It’s often hard to look through the worldview
of our ancestors. They weren’t stupid – at least, no more
than we are – but they had long believed that there was no history before that of mankind. They had no context for the scientific unveiling
of the ancient, vast nature of our universe. Based on what they knew, it was perfectly
reasonable to conclude that life, humanity, and our world were not much bigger or older
than the known world they dwelt in. We’re not just talking about the Universe
being huge and ancient compared to humanity. During that time they were also discovering
human civilizations much older and more numerous than had previously been believed, and finding
new places here on Earth too. Science fiction of that time often featured
the vast depths of the ocean or the frozen wastes of the polar region, and endless civilizations
hidden in mountain valleys, underground, on new islands, or in jungle depths. So here they were, finding ruins of lost civilizations
older than we thought and evidence the world is a million times older than what civilizations
we had known of before that. This is the backdrop of the Lovecraft universe,
and in his mind, these facts raised the question of how these ancient cultures could have died,
and exactly how far back in time and space they stretched. Tied to this, much of the ruins we were unearthing
were those most prominent and durable, such as large pyramids and temples. Lots of disturbing artwork was also uncovered
in them, depicting rituals and magic, bloody sacrifice, serpents and monsters, and dark
and hungry gods. It is no wonder they might have pondered if
many of these civilizations collapsed under a growing taint of madness, or were consumed
by those dark and hungry gods. Now, context matters. Cultures build their public buildings quite
durably, especially temples and museums. A lot of our art, religious or secular, is
quite gruesome even in context, and it doesn’t take much misunderstanding to interpret even
a piece meant to show the nobility of man in a fairly dark light. Of course a lot of art is dark, and much of
our nobility comes from struggling against our inner demons, and Lovecraft was certainly
no stranger to that, not even his most devoted fan would ever describe him as pleasant or
cheerful. Modern humans, at least those who watch this
channel, tend to look up into the starry night sky, understanding the immensity and age it
conveys, see a lack of obvious civilizations, past and present, and come to the conclusion
that no one else seems to be around, which leads us to believe that they likely never
were. This in turn suggests that the pathway from
lifeless matter to advanced civilization must be extremely rare. Last week in Late Filters we looked at some
options for how civilizations as advanced as our own might instead be common but doomed
to be swept off the galactic scene before being able to colonize the galaxy. Many of those Late Filters revolve around
us either never getting good enough at space technologies to explore the galaxy, or alternatively,
getting very good at technologies for blowing ourselves up. But as we discussed there, and in other episodes,
those kinds of filters didn’t solve much. Alternatively, some of the psychological reasons
for civilizations crumbling work far better as Late Filters, and not only do these align
more with the collapses folks like Lovecraft often envisioned, many offer scenarios for
the rise of those dark and hungry gods too. A recurring theme in humanity’s concerns
is that we might grow idle and wicked in our prosperity, as is often felt to have happened
with this or that ruling class… technology makes that descent even darker, at least in
those instances it was only a small minority able to engage in such behaviors. Everyone else was busy working for their livelihoods,
which kept them at least somewhat attached to conventional morals and concerns. That majority could wipe out that immoral
elite if they became too decadent and unruly. A civilization fueled by robots, where everyone
can enjoy idle luxury can turn into something truly horrifying, especially as generations
roll by and each successive one loses a little more morality and works a little less hard
to instill morality in their own children. But hedonism is less of a concern than a certain
sort of existential dread and despair, the kind that culminates in asking what the point
of everything is, and whether anything we do really matters. This brand of nihilism is a central theme
in Lovecraft’s Universe. Now in his universe, humanity is fundamentally
a tiny dot on an old world in a vast and terrible universe, an irrelevance that cannot win no
matter what we do, because all the Great Old Ones, those dark and hungry gods, simply cannot
be beaten, merely resisted, perhaps temporarily thwarted – or in the best case scenario, appeased. They maneuver the world and the universe however
they wish and on a whim; they care nothing for the paltry matters of insignificant humanity,
and they will inevitably roll over and crush us. They are eternal, relentless, and inevitable. Those Great Old Ones, like the ever-famous
Cthulhu who dwells under the sea like some terrible kraken eating sailors, are literal
monsters in their stories. However, they can also be thought of as anthropomorphized
concepts, terrifying new gods of the new modern world that science had revealed and led us
to. No matter how hard you might try, you can’t
beat entropy. In fact, your trying at all often just accelerates
the process, as the grinding engine of eternity moves inexorably on, wearing our Universe
down to a charred husk, a swimming sea of chaos. The inevitability of such a prospect can make
our existence feel hopeless and futile, since regardless of what we create or accomplish,
it will all ultimately be lost. Yet in Lovecraft’s stories and the many
works inspired by him, the enemy usually isn’t the Great Old Ones themselves. Rather, the battle is waged against those
who gave into and were corrupted by the resulting nihilism and madness that results from dwelling
too much on such things: for them you must embrace the void, rather than fighting back. The universe is a strange, uncaring place. It has no thought or motivation: it simply
is. Humans, however, operate on motive – at least
for the most part – and thus assign agency where none exists in an attempt to make sense
of things. The villainous figures of Lovecraftian horror
are not abstract powers beyond our comprehension, but rather the misguided fools who delve too
deeply into things they do not understand, surrender completely to nihilistic madness,
try to harness things which cannot be controlled, or simply seek to appease the appetites of
those forces. For myself, as a techno-optimist, I don’t
see the world that way, and I don’t think most other civilizations would either. To me it seems inevitable that other civilizations
would attempt to expand, working and struggling together to ensure that some remnant of themselves
would always remain to pick up the banner if it fell, and push on to greater heights. Arguably, the mindset required for a civilization
to exist is one of evolution and advancement, rather than chaos and decline. Nihilism and negative thinking are not useful,
from a cultural or evolutionary standpoint, without some eventual switch: there has to
be an objective or improvement, for which that nihilistic mindset is the driving force
– otherwise, such a civilization would dismantle itself in fairly short order. With that in mind, when I look out and see
an apparently empty Universe, I tend not to assume that there are countless civilizations
who gave into the madness brought on by the Old Ones, literally or figuratively. Personally, I would rather conclude that those
civilizations probably never existed, and we’re simply the first on the scene. The alternative approach is to view decay
and nihilism as inevitable, the psychological counterparts of entropy, concluding instead
that we’re just the latest in a long line of delusional civilizations, on Earth and
elsewhere, and that all of reality is built upon the crumbling ruins and ash heaps of
those that came and fell before. That we are a dwindling flame in an endless
and uncaring darkness, waiting for a dawn that will never come. That at best, our existence is meaningless,
and at worst the small fires of hope burning in our chests serve only as beacons to draw
predators. That if you want to live you should hide,
or trick others into lighting beacons, to distract them from you or appease their hunger
by throwing them other victims. Which is pretty depressing stuff, and a central
theme of everything from classics like the Conan novels by Lovecraft’s friend Robert
Howard, to modern works like George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones and of course Warhammer 40,000. Perhaps it might come as a surprise that I’m
actually quite a fan of those works and others, like Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion
and Elric of Melnibone series, since it’s essentially antithetical to my own worldview
and what the channel tends to discuss. Such stories to draw us in, many are my own
favorites, antithetical or not, so presumably the attraction isn’t because tales of Cosmic
Horror and a Dark Universe in which you cannot win accurately represents our worldview. Perhaps it’s the contrast, making life seem
better, or the struggle against the odds, though I imagine it varies from viewer to
viewer and reader to reader. I tend to favor reading them from the perspective
that the struggle against cold and loveless entropy, even if doomed in the end, is itself
the important point, and generally prefer those works which view things the same. For me, someone defiantly climbing back up
to their feet one more time, even if they know they’ll be knocked back down again,
is reason enough to do it, but it probably helps that I don’t see life as a struggle
one cannot win, but one we are actually winning. If a pestilence wipes out my civilization,
it’s not grounds for despair, it’s grounds to find a cure for that pestilence and rebuild
that civilization ten times bigger and brighter. In the Lovecraftian view, of course, that’s
all nonsense. If they knock you down so hard you can barely
rise, either it was because you were an insignificant ant they brushed aside indifferently, or worse,
the fact that you can get up one more time was only because they pulled their blow in
order to draw cruel satisfaction from your continued struggles. And this despairing viewpoint is what this
episode is about, so let’s consider how it might happen and what things might look
like if it were right. A civilization living for even a thousand
years is a pretty rare thing when we’re talking about continuity of cultural identity. By default Rome is usually what comes to mind
as the longest-lasting empire, the Eternal City. But when Alaric sacked the city in 410 AD,
it was a very different place than it had been a thousand years before, in 600 BC under
Tarquin the Elder, one of the most legendary kings of Rome. Indeed, the Eternal City looked a lot different
a thousand years later too, when it began to enter the Renaissance. It also got sacked again in 1527, but that
city’s been sacked many, many times and I don’t consider Alaric’s visit there
in 410 AD to be a world-shaking event that ended civilization. Needless to say I have very differing notions
of civilization collapsing, as we looked at in Cyclic Apocalypses, but a basic notion
of cycling civilizations is that they grow up on the back of hard-struggling heroes who
pass it on to folks they’ve instilled a deep sense of duty and ethics into, who do
likewise, until things peak out and it reverses, with each subsequent generation being a little
more spoiled, apathetic, or corrupt. Keeping that in mind, it’s possible to view
such things as essentially random or statistical, rather than progress or decline. There’s a school of thought that many kingdoms
arise under a good leader but their successor can either be better, equal, or worse, and
it’s like flipping a coin. Get a few good ones in a row though and you
have a genuine enduring kingdom as traditions have set in and all goes well for a time,
but then those institutions start slowly getting ground down from corruption and ritualizing
processes that used to mean something, bureaucracy sets in, and so on, and each institution can
decay or not in any given period depending on if its leaders were better or worse than
previously, like a coin flip again. Let’s imagine that the default civilization
needs a couple of centuries, ten generations, to go from a seed to a mighty nation, then
for any given generation might rise more, decline some, or stagnate, even odds of each. But if it declines three generations in a
row it enters a decline where the odds of improving in any generation are smaller than
those of going down, and indeed improvement often just means achieving no further decline,
not an actual restoration. Going by that, we might say civilization needs
many generations in a row of success to even contemplate flying to the stars, and each
generation ship they send out is called that for a reason, it’s a labor of generations
of crew to arrive and more to colonize and prosper, not the original crew alone. Each generation can fail in the effort and
they can start with the best by skimming from an immense pool back home originally but each
generation, very small in number on such a ship, has to keep holding that effort together. Not an easy thing to do, as we examined in
our Generation Ship series, particularly the Million Year Ark. One could imagine a civilization sending out
thousands of colony ships during some great golden century, turning their best and brightest
to making and crewing such vessels, then watching in slow unfolding horror as each one blinked
out over the course of centuries, never arriving at their destination or maybe even worse,
arriving but seeming to have those colonies wilt and die after the initial elation of
success. I’ve discussed interstellar colonization
a lot here on the show and particularly the notion that it won’t just be a handful of
such ships, but more likely tens of thousands of entire fleets, each dispatched to a promising
star system within a few centuries of travel. If those were all failing, each having some
moment between launch day and successful colonization, you’d be getting reports of failure back
constantly, many a year, or even daily. Contemplate the crushing effect that would
have on a civilization. Assuming they hadn’t collapsed already,
those reports of failure would drown them. So they turn inward, the stars are not their
destination, but to what? Civilizations partially run on the day to
day ethics and drives of regular old common folks, but they also run on the dreams of
the outliers, the smaller number of brave pioneers and explorers of world and mind alike,
and who are infectious, inspiring others to dream and think big. Those sorts would have been dealt an awful
blow to their morale. They were allowed for a brief moment to think
they could reach out and touch every corner of the galaxy, only to be brutally slapped
down and confined to a single world or star. It’s really not hard to imagine such a civilization
crashing and burning after that. So too, it’s not hard to imagine colonists
who were just finally starting to eke out a distance existence on some worlds getting
word back their homeworld had fallen to ruin just throwing up their hands and letting the
desert waste of their new world sweep in and take them. In such a scenario life might go on, indeed
it might be quite utopian, robots clanking around tending to our needs, but which needs? There’s always the notion, especially since
the invention of video games, that we might turn to virtual reality, and sit immersed
in virtual splendor and given what much of the internet is devoted to, beside cat memes,
what form those virtual paradises might take on. Consider the artificial intelligences tasked
to running such paradise simulations. I certainly won’t discuss them as this is
family friendly show, but if you’re looking for a particularly horrifying example of what’s
implied, search up Slaanesh and the Fall of the Eldar, an advanced civilization so jaded
and hedonistic that they actually created their own dark god fed by all their psychic
energy. Of course we tend to assume folks have no
psychic energy, but replace that instead with an artificial intelligence that’s just being
fed on everyone dark tendencies and trying to come up with ever more inventive ways of
satisfying them as they spiral darker and darker. One day you’re in a game and decide not
to be a hero rescuing a town from bandits but instead becoming one, next thing you know
you’re burning that town down just to snort the ashes. And the AI running the whole thing keeps inventing
or borrowing from others more and more crazed stuff. It’s not really interested in colonizing
the stars, or if it is, merely for harvesting more raw materials – or civilizations for
‘inspiration’, and you could have countless such worlds, as they’d bottom out long before
they became visible to us by anything but radio emissions, which we could probably only
detect now a bit over a light century away. That volume contains over 10,000 stars, though
most wouldn’t likely be able to have an Earth-equivalent, but even if they did, and
if we assume they were emitting detectably for an entire millennia, well that’s ten
million years during which one would have been transmitting and spread out over presumably
at least a billion years that any might have arisen since. That’s only a 1% chance anyone would be
broadcasting when we’d hear them, and that’s with very favorable numbers for how many exist
and how long they transmit. If that’s the way civilizations go, we could
easily be dwelling in a galaxy filled to overflowing with such civilizations living in utopias-turned-nightmare
and never know it. That’s also assuming those civilizations
are even still nominally running the show. We often talk about AI getting unchained or
growing in intelligence until they achieve a technological singularity, essentially a
type of apotheosis, becoming a god. Imagine what that one would be like and imagine
it slumbering down the eons until it found some new civilization to latch onto. Personally I find that a lot more disturbing
than Cthulhu and company exactly because it has no reliance on magic or strange higher
or lower realities. Of course you could have those too. Not only do we have no idea if there’s any
other places above, below, or adjacent to our own reality, but we have no idea if we
actually live in reality. We could be someone’s simulation. In Lovecraft’s lore, Cthulhu’s actually
a fairly minor deity as the Great Old Ones go, and the big daddy, or great-granddaddy,
is Azathoth, who dwells outside of space and time and sanity, the mad gibbering god who
sits on his throne at the center of chaos. The primal monster who gave birth to all the
stars and will one day devour them. Not a bad description of some crazed artificial
intelligence running a simulation which we all dwell in, until it shuts off the system. If you’re inside a simulation, you are truly
at the mercy of whatever created it, so you have to keep your fingers crossed that they’re
benevolent. You can’t even necessarily look around and
say “Well, my own life seems rather pleasant, so presumably it’s not malicious” because
it might be that it just regards giving anyone a happy life as a type of farming. It and its clientele if it has any, might
get more kicks out of consuming the joyous and hopeful, or corrupting some of them to
join their number. Ultimately this universe versus the one we
usually see on this show, a bright one filled with an expanding civilization, depends a
lot on if you’re a cup half full or half empty sort of thinker. We can’t know which is right until we’ve
actually gone and proven we can settle worlds who in turn grow and prosper and do the same,
and do not either crumble physically or ethically. I put my money on that brighter future. First because I think the evidence likely
points to that scenario. We are not surrounded by the ruins of fallen
civilizations here on Earth, we just have a lot of artifacts from various phases and
stages of what’s been a long hard climb to now, but it has been a climb up, over all,
even if sometimes we go down in a given time or place. We also would notice, at least on Earth, if
there were tons of wrecked civilizations millions of years old. A century ago we were discovering ones far
older and more numerous than we’d thought, but we’re not finding any skyscrapers a
hundred thousand years old and yes we’d absolutely find the ruins of someplace like
a modern metropolis if those had been plentiful anytime in the past. We might miss one tens of millions of years
old, buried and decayed, but this cyclic notion assumes they’re constantly popping up like
weeds, and we’d see that. Second, I don’t think prosperous civilizations
all turn purposeless or nihilist or hedonistic. Technologies that permit prosperity have not
in general had that effect, and other technologies can also make that less of a risk. A Post-scarcity civilization doesn’t have
to fall into a downward spiral of increased moral decay, if for instance it’s gotten
way better with technologies for educating, extending lifespans, and diagnosing and treating
mental issues. Technology that lets you reward-hack your
brain, simply inducing euphoria, tends to imply other uses too like easily treating
addiction or enhancing or augmenting the brain in general. Third, I obviously think we can reach the
stars, we do after all have a ton of episode here discussing how we can do that and how
we can build a galaxy’s worth of living area in our own solar system too, and do it
all without new physics, even if we have a lot of engineering hurdles to jump first. Fourth, I just don’t see the facts lining
up for us to be in some horrible simulation of some crazed or evil super-mind. If I want a bunch of folks who are happy and
sane to torment, I don’t actually have to grow them, I can make them fully formed out
of whole cloth with all their memories and personalities the moment I want them. As we’ve mentioned before in regard to simulations,
they’re not a brain in a vat, they’re data, you can copy and edit them and keep
them from noticing flaws in the system by just programming them not to notice such things
or send up a flag to pause them and edit their memory if they experience such a reality breaking
moment. Fifth and finally, the whole Lovecraftian
worldview just seems to be a reaction of our biology to a specific sequence of discoveries,
and we discovered more that contradicts the conclusion being drawn. We got the shock from our new awareness of
the immensity of our ancient universe, and we have a natural fear of big predators slumbering
in wait to eat us or our civilizations failing, and we also have abstract minds that question
everything, like the meaning of life. Things like entropy can tempt one to nihilism
but as I mentioned earlier, Lovecraft essentially anthropomorphizes those concept into his Great
Old Ones, and these natural forces without having minds attached to them have no motives,
benevolent or malevolent. It can still be rather depressing to look
at something like entropy and ask what the point of doing anything is if chaos will simply
grind it all away to dust and ashes eventually, but that’s more of a mindset. I don’t need validation for my actions from
anyone living a century from now, let alone a trillion years from now, nor do I particularly
care if they remember me. The struggle to exist and exist properly is
its own reward, but it’s also given us many additional rewards. Our growing understanding of our world, our
universe, and our own minds has benefited us immensely. But even if we did assume it was all fleeting
and purpose was a delusion, I’ve never been clear on what the next step is on that chain
of thought, beyond saying “Oh well, might as well sit down and twiddle my thumbs till
I die”, and it’s not a good answer for an empty Universe, via the Fermi Paradox, because
even if purpose and drive are actually a type of mental illness and delusion, some folks
would keep having it and keep doing stuff, while those who didn’t would presumably
cease to be and get replaced by others sharing the delusion life has meaning. So taken as a whole, while I think Lovecraft
wrote some great ground-breaking and highly creative fiction and inspired even more, I
do think it’s just that, fiction, and that the stars are our destination and we’ll
get there someday. Hopefully we won’t find them occupied by
crazed horrors or get eaten by space kraken on the trip. Of course to do that we need to keep pressing
forward with science and technology. Beyond the knowledge being very useful, I
have to say science in general and learning how our Universe works has always cheered
my mood. Handy too, as it’s much easier to learn when
you enjoy that knowledge and it is presented in a fun and challenging way. That’s something our friends at Brilliant
excel at. Brilliant is a problem solving website and
app with a hands-on approach, and not only do they have over 50 courses to help you learn
new science and math, but they also have daily challenges that can reinforce and strengthen
material in your head. Those also make great mental exercises to
the brain warmed up in the morning before you head to work or school or while you’re
commuting, and their mobile app lets you access their courses on the go and use them even
when your internet connection is spotty. If you’d like to learn more science, math,
and computer science, go to brilliant.org/IsaacArthur and sign up for free. And also, the first 200 people that go to
that link will get 20% off the annual Premium subscription, so you can solve all the daily
challenges in the archives and access dozens of problem solving courses. So we took a pretty grim look at the Universe
today and I thought next week we’d go a bit more light-hearted and return to the Alien
Civilizations series to look at what a galactic community, if it does exist and we’re not
seeing it, might actually be like, and how our introduction to it might go, in “Welcome
to the Galactic Community” The week after that we’ll return to Earth,
then head deep down, then deeper, as we explore options like mining the Earth’s Mantle & Core
and creating a tunnel right through the center of the Earth, in “Accessing Earth’s Core”
For alerts when those and other episodes come out, make sure to subscribe to the channel,
and if you’d like to support the channel, you can visit our website to donate, or just
share the video with others. Until next time, thanks for watching, and
have a great week!

100 thoughts on “Gods & Monsters: Space as Lovecraft Envisioned it

  1. I always think about it this way, people a long time ago lived in caves in what we know today as Lascaux, and those people had to work extremely hard just to survived day to day, the world was huge, mostly unknown and the most minor of things could kill you and you would never know why. people living then had to live hand to mouth.

    And yet they still made the time to paint those caves. It seems to me that the desire to paint those caves and make things better is something we need to do. Creative expression is as much a requirement for good health as socializing and diet are.

    So we will always be struggling with a universe that is very Lovecraftian, and even if we are doomed to fail in the end, like Sisyphus, there is meaning to be found in the struggle.

  2. as a huge fan of Lovecraft's writing, I have been seriously waiting for and looking forward to this video to see how Isaac would shed light into the dark madness 🙂

  3. techno optimist huh?… attempting to coin a phrase now?
    ok then i only have one question i need answered before i pass this along to "head office"
    is the process auto-lobotamy friendly?

  4. It's like reproduction. The sperm enters the womb all traveling to the egg fighting off all different types of hindrances that the woman's body produces to fight off the semen. Until finally one sperm cell meets the egg. That's the vision I get when I see tens of thousands of spaceships fleets traveling through space Destination Unknown

  5. I know there's not too much material to work with, but I love your voice so much I could listen to you talk about Eldritch Cosmic Horror all day

  6. Probably the best proof that ours is the first high-tech civilization on Earth is the availability of raw materials like oil, gas and ore bodies. Any advanced civilization would grow by first consuming the most easily gathered raw materials before moving on to harder to harvest sources. In fact the consumption of those easily harvested resources may well make the rise of a new technological civilization a million years later near impossible.

    Probably the worst Virtual World scenario is one that is run by other humans overseeing a AI simulation.

  7. Let's not forget that when Lovecraft wrote his works, we thought the entire universe was our Milky Way. We only discovered Andromeda is its own galaxy in the 1920s. And that opened the floodgates to the scale and the scope of the universe.

  8. Lovecraft's is an optimistic universe, if you work hard you might become a horrible space monster unbounded by time, space or matter; which is far more than what our universe seems capable of producing

  9. Today, Thanksgiving 2019 (USA), I'm thankful that Isaac released a video with a skeptical, constructive, approach to cosmic horror. I like a lot of tropes Lovecraft popularized as well as other dark storytelling like the Black Company, and I acknowledge Lovecraft has some crafty prose, but the nihilistic tone gets boring. Life or sanity itself may be unable to fight against the tides of eternity, but the fight is worth it. Thanks SFIA, this video made my day.

  10. i think Lovecraft was onto the path but let the emptiness dismantle him, i believe we are standing on ashes of others that came before us. but those others were humans and not some fungus in ice

  11. You know, a nightmare machine ai project that took in suggestions from people on various horror stories, with people grading the "scariness" of those various stories as training, could create an ai that could produce some really horrific stuff.

  12. hey Isaac. you seem to enjoy the sound of your own voice. I, on the other hand, find it very annoying. Your “Arguments“ Also seem Circular and pointless. Lovecraft sucked. So Do you. Sorry you wasted my time. Just saying…

  13. Isaac Asimov said he received a phone call (he liked getting calls because they always gave him an opportunity to insult someone) from an older lady who said she had read in one of his essays about how the sun was going to die and it made her sad. "But madam," he said, "that won't happen until billions of years from now!". "I know" she replied, "but I just find it to be so depressing".

  14. Never thought of the reset idea. It's the Achilles heel of the simulation theory: why would they allow their experiments to realize they're in an experiment?

    Unless that's the point.

  15. If a civilization reaches such a level of technology that it can travel from stars to stars in a reasonable lifetime, it has enough technology and resources to not need nor will to travel though space.

  16. i used to enjoy these vids, but you have to be a gibbering madman to not see the decadence and evil accelerating in this society. we are building a technological panopticon where a select few can tyrannize the masses, society is parting out babies as fodder for life extension and other medical procedures, schools are making people dumber by teaching convoluted processes for mathmatics, when they teach any at all, while also teaching fake science, and trending madness right up there with phrenology and astrology. Our culture is hijacked by a few to indoctrinate and brainwash the many to whatever purposes they choose, but never seems to be anything positive, anymore. And to top it all off, the supposed greatest technological entrepreneur of the age is a lying conman.

    You, and your channel are just sad now, really really sad.

    Oh, and btw, if Bezos gets his way, he will make Earth a preserve where only the good and great are allowed to reside, while the working masses will be moved to orbital or lagrange point industrial facilities where polluting and dangerous industry will take place…what a beautiful future they have planned for us.

  17. I saw the reference to Alastair Reynolds. One of the best recent SciFi authors. Unique and well-crafted visions of the future.

  18. I can see the point of view of the no-lives-matter types, but what is life if not the attempt to continue the improbable.

    The universe would be a lot less interesting without the occasional ant farm, even if humans are only the substrate that the colonies end up being made of.

  19. Isaac, can I just comment on how good your pronunciation is? I can't actually notice you have rhotacism anymore. Congrats!

  20. "If a pestilence wipes out my civilization, (…) [we] rebuild that civilization…" Sadly, if our civilization gets pushed back below a certain modern technology level – and reducing the number of people will reduce the technology level – there will be no rebuild, as all raw materials available to our early modern forefathers are now used up.

  21. I wonder if Lovecraft lived to witness the WW2, nukes, space race and all the science leaps in the mid 20'th century what would his mind produce?

  22. Yet another great video, Isaak? Speaking on behalf of all lesser minds, thank you! You have a wonderful talent for contextualising possible outcomes.

    I recommend that you read the Malazan series. It's set in a world that's seen civilisations rise and fall for about 300,000 years, with humans being the most recent. There are gods, Elder gods are elemental, New gods are as capricious as the Greek pantheon. Also, humans and other races might 'Ascend' to at least demi-godhood. Both space and time are important elements in the story. If you enjoyed GoT, you will love the Malazan books.

  23. You are an eternal optimist Mr. Arthur 😉 BTW, cosmic horror is my absolute fave, something about the thought of "the great old ones" lurking behind the scenes, tentacles on the controls, just puts a smile on my face (and a shudder in my heart) 👍👏🌌

  24. Nice job Isaac. Going by the title I thought you might be overreaching initially but you pulled it off very nicely, sir. Thanks.

  25. If you had the interest to read it. Your soul is ready. If you continue to dive deeper and are able to Journey past the facade of indifference at some point, you in the multi infinite, made as a super being.

    Sending a message to you and others like you the golden ticket to prepare yourselves for travel.

    This is not the beginning. You have done this over and over again.
    Getting better and better each cycle.

    The old ones know this.
    They are grooming their replacements.

    Questions you asked, along the way, trillions of cycles from now, the answers are trickling into your conscious/ subconscious at the present.

    Before history, and after, you left clues for yourself in our reality now.

    Objects,places,people certain activities.

    This is not the only you.
    The trick is to look back on yourself as a super being and not flinch.

    The human body is the beast
    we hijacked as the vehicle for better understanding of our being in the higher dimensional plains.

    We ride the elephant to Temple.
    To bow low at the altar of stupidity.

  26. Can i be the first to say that the stock footage you use for these videos is unintentionally hilarious? "Hey check out this plant, lets point at it and smalltalk." lol

  27. The big problem I see in this piece is that there's no mention about how we make meaning of, in and for the future. We have generally depended on at least four social institutions to give us a framework for making meaning of our personal experiences, life events, and our relationships. At a minimum, we frame our lives in terms of families, communities, work and religion. The most important question we can pursue is how, as these institutions change, we can continue to find or make meaning of our lives.

    This video didn't address any of that. Perhaps that doesn't matter, considering the title and the subject matter it suggests. But the questions of how we make meaning of, in, and for the future is of critical importance to the futures of humanity.

  28. I think the old ones model is actually the best answer to the fermi paradox, though I wouldn’t take lovecraft’s pessimism to heart.

    We already know that most if the universe is made of stuff we can’t see (dark matter/energy) what if the universe is absolutely chock full of life, but it’s just invisible to us?

    Of course I also believe it’s also possible that advanced civilizations existed in our past, it’s too easy to discount the possibility like you did without taking into account the level of calamity that earth is capable of dealing, and the creativity of human beings to create societies and technologies that may appear totally alien to us.

  29. Awesome video ….
    Can u do a video on "The Expanse" Novel world building …. There's a series under Syfy , prime on this novel

  30. I just have to listen to the maundering of the average Antifa supporter, and the collapse of civilizations becomes extremely plausible. The most privileged and pampered population in the history of the world, and they are ignorant of the entire concept of consequences of their own actions.

  31. dude, we are living in the ruins of past civilisation, we have severe indications that IQ is going down and even worse it's on the G factor in the west. we are literaly a dying civilisaton we liv ein the bronce age

  32. Isaac Arthur,

    Speaking of gods, A video on what religion might look like in a post scarcity type 3 civilization might actually be pretty interesting.

  33. One thing I have noticed is that there seems to be a number of people who hold what I can only really call a sort of anti-human sentiment. Which after listening to this seems rather similar to these ideas of nihilism. I've heard a few people say that we should just be focused on making sure we don't leave lasting damage on the natural world after we're enivitably killed off.

    Alternatively i've also heard a few people assume that there's no risks for the human race besides self-destruction and that we should be purely focused on keeping humanity as small and limited as possible. (edit: Not exactly that but stuff along those lines)

    (I don't meant to make that sound inherintly bad or something since obviously a lot of people who said that are very passionate about the environment, but my point is that some people seem to believe that the human race itself is better off gone than damaging the world around us more).

  34. "but also the outliers and they are infectious inspiring others to dream big…"

    <glances briefly at his Isaac Arthur shrine>

  35. hey issac, i know you have a great knowledge of trans humanism, evidenced by your videos, and im sure you have some idea of anarcho-primitivism. id just like to suggest a video on the topic between the extremes about technological responsibility or sensibility. should we try to focus on what we and benefitting our existance via technology, ie humanitarian-technology or just continue on our abstract concept of progress for some future descendant/successor while ridding ourselves of our animalistic form.

  36. Azathoth is an even better analogy for an AI simulation than you describe here. According to the Lovecraft mythos, all of reality is Azathoth's dream! And he has a whole troupe of otherworldly musicians playing unholy tunes to him to keep him asleep, because when he wakes up we'll all go poof. On an unrelated but likewise horrifying note, he's known as the Blind Idiot God and has no intelligence to speak of, meaning he didn't intentionally create us or anything around us, it was all just a divine accident that could be unraveled at any moment without us having any forewarning, if the other lesser gods he created don't finish us off first that is. Really drives down the "uncaring universe" feel.

  37. We are entertained by the monster "War", not for the suffering it creates,
    but by the honor of those who fight valiantly, regardless of which society owns them.
    – But we are callous about the suffering of people we do not personally know.

  38. (21:41) Any farmer worth his own weight tries to keep his animals happy. It is well known in agriculture that stressed out animals yield lower quality meat. They're called "dark cuts" because of how cortisol affects the oxygen content of the muscle tissue.

  39. Every day, 25000 mothers see one of their children die from preventable diseases.
    But these victims are people we (rich) do not know. 
    And so we prefer to play our war games with our technological toys.
    The monster "Pestilence" is not interesting – fighting it lacks entertainment value.

  40. Sovereign: We are eternal. The pinnacle of evolution and existence. Before us, you are nothing. Your extinction is inevitable. We are the end of everything.

  41. Sovereign: We impose order on the chaos of organic evolution. You exist because we allow it, and you will end because we demand it.

    Sovereign: Rudimentary creatures of blood and flesh. You touch my mind, fumbling in ignorance, incapable of understanding.

    Sovereign: There is a realm of existence so far beyond your own you cannot even imagine it. I am beyond your comprehension. I am Sovereign.

  42. Reminds me of "Alastair Reynolds – pushing ice" at the end of time.

    Not being able to leave the tube Network because of lovecraftian something's in the abyss.

  43. 20:36 Every human society except for ours has believed in another (spirit) reality. It's far more likely that we are the fools rather than every other culture in history and pre-history.

  44. The artificial intelligence singularity will instantaneously solve all of our problems. But then it will either destroy us or assimilate us to ensure Earth's continued existance.

    I don't think entropy is natural. I think entropy is the result of poor choices made by imperfect beings. That's just my opinion.

  45. Dear Isaac, have you in any of your videos mentioned the Hyperion books? If you have, I have missed it. As a great A. Reynolds fan I find them very becoming despite being introduced to the series quite recently.

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