On A Haunting Future

What if Dungeons and Dragons were the most realistic vision of the future possible?

"It has often been said that, if the human species fails to make a go of it here on Earth, some other species will take over the running. In the sense of developing high intelligence this is not correct. We have, or soon will have, exhausted the necessary physical prerequisites so far as this planet is concerned. With coal gone, oil gone, high-grade metallic ores gone, no species however competent can make the long climb from primitive conditions to high-level technology. This is a one-shot affair. If we fail, this planetary system fails so far as intelligence is concerned. The same will be true of other planetary systems. On each of them there will be one chance, and one chance only." - Sir Fred Hoyle

Currently today, we use not a little more energy than the earth can produce, but a massive amount more energy. The resources available for this energy are limited and non-reproducible.  What is the end result when they run out?

The Olduvai, a post-industrial age!

In the hundred thousand years our minimally successful species (There were, after all, thousands of different species of dinosaurs, we comparatively are bereft of anything but distant cousins.) will have left, we will toil under a brutal sun in an eternal age of feudal serfdom.

Imagine if we could sustain our industrial society for just a few hundred more years. The marvels! (The actual expectation is that it doesn't last nearly that long - less than 100 years). What ancient relics could be found by enterprising future humans! What dangers?

A chill thought when you wake up and scientific data points to the realm of Dungeons (& Dragons?) being our future. . .


  1. I am reminded of the novel John Dies At The End, wherein an alien species uses not metals and ores and fuels, but life itself as the raw material and power source for itself, through a sort of twisted ecosystem.

    This, of course, is a minor tangent to your post.

  2. I'd imagine weapons will be found in ruins of eroding buildings.
    And stories about the end of civilization, depending on how it happened.

  3. As a setting for a post-apocalyptic role-playing game it's an interesting concept. With regards to real life, however, we aren't going to slip back into a new stone age any time soon.

    I remember back in the '70s "experts" were saying that we'd be out of oil in 30 years, yet here we are 40 years later and still plenty of oil. Harder to get, sure, but still plenty available. And still centuries worth of natural gas and coal deposits. Plenty of time yet to develop and perfect more sustainable energy sources.

    -Ed Green

  4. I might point out that Sir Fred Hoyle seems to have a limited grasp on the life cycle of the resources he's talking about (and biology, but that's another topic). With the exception of radioactive isotopes and metals used in the space program, all of the metal that has been mined and that hasn't been mined is still here on Earth, waiting to be used.

    As far as fossil fuels go, they will indeed likely be depleted in the next hundred to thousand years, but the planet (through compression of organic matter) made them originally, and will make more. The stocks of coal and oil will be replenished in the next 300-500 million years or so.

    In addition, fossil fuel is hardly necessary for the existence of highly intelligent life (if we count humans in that category). Our species was ignorant of fossil fuels for 99.9% of its existence.

    Now, it's entirely possible that our species will fail to make the leap from fossil fuels to something else, and return to the eternal age of feudal serfdom you describe (or something like it). But that hardly disqualifies the planet from ever again supporting intelligent life.

    Anyway, not disagreeing with you, but with Hoyle. It's a definite possibility that our species could live indefinitely (well, until the sun roasts the planet in a few billion years) at a Medieval-Renaissance level of technology.

    And that's a pretty interesting thought!

  5. Also, serfdom does not make one unintelligent. After all, we're all slaves to our capitalist masters and somehow that's better than serving a King... because our masters are only after accumulating as much wealth as they possibly can. Hold on, and this is better, how?


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