End of the Holocene: A Tale of Triumph

Civilization exists due to many reasons, the first and foremost being this 11,000-year long period of unusually warm and stable global temperatures.

The Holocene, quickly transitioning into the Anthropocene, appears to be a unique climatic occurrence in relation to Homo Sapiens development as a technologically advanced species. If we assume the fossil record generally accurate, humanity has existed in our current state, mentally and physically, for about 300,000 years. Yet, only in the last ~10,000 years, around 3% of the total time Homo Sapiens has existed, did the conditions for expanded technology and its commiserate expanded population arise.

Now, no doubt there were other multi-millennia periods stretching 10, 20 or more thousands of years of stable temperatures. Problem was, we weren’t around to enjoy and capitalize on them.

Regardless of our history of missed opportunities, we survived for hundreds of thousands of years up until these spa-days of the Holocene. As did, admittedly, millions of other species. But survival is not civilization. Civilization needed a period of special conditions the likes of which are coming to an end.

Looking back through this blog, years ago I wrote a post on nearly the same topic. Six years later not much has changed—Human civilization is about to undergo a drastic alteration. (ref: Save The Holocene)

Here’s the gist, the end of the Holocene is not the end of humanity. We are way too tenacious to die off. And, it’s certainly not the end of Earth. “Save the planet” is nonsensical hype. If anything needs saving though, it might be pockets of habitats, ecosystems that are still mysterious, still might offer clues for humans to understand and leverage. Yeah, leverage. We’re all about exploiting anything and everything, right? So, let’s exploit humanity’s propensity as tourists, aggressive, rapacious tourists and create or cordon off zoo-like biomes that are “look but don’t touch”.

Triumph? Let’s see what the next 10,000 years brings.

Six years ago, I mentioned an AGI that might arrive and save the day. Seems almost prophetic now.

9 thoughts on “End of the Holocene: A Tale of Triumph

  1. I see you’ve been getting into this. PH is correct, although I thought it was self-evident…it’s not save the Earth…it’s save us! I’ve been noticing these small rhetorical games being played out everywhere on a planet wide scale…for example, take the phrase: “Support the Troops.” Notice they don’t say: “Support the War.” Everyone shakes their head in agreement ’cause of course they support about a bunch of 18-20 year old kids who don’t know wtf…but that one simple word change is distracting enough so everyone misses the point.

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  2. I hooked up Anthropic’s Claude chatbot to my TheMountainstreamGroup slack channel and asked it to summarize the above blog post:

    – The Holocene epoch, which humans have flourished in, is ending and transitioning into the Anthropocene. The Holocene provided the stable climate conditions necessary for human civilization to develop.
    – Humans as a species have existed for about 300,000 years. But for most of that time, we did not have advanced technology or large populations. The conditions that enabled technological and population growth have only existed for the last ~10,000 years, a tiny fraction of human history.
    – There were likely other long periods of stable climate in the past, but humans did not yet exist to take advantage of them. Humans and many other species survived for hundreds of thousands of years before the Holocene, but mere survival is different from the development of civilization.
    – The author wrote about a similar topic 6 years ago, arguing that human civilization is about to undergo a drastic change as the Holocene ends. However, humanity itself will survive, as will the Earth. Some ecosystems and habitats may need to be preserved in a “look but don’t touch” manner.
    – The next 10,000 years will show whether humans triumph and flourish despite the end of the Holocene conditions that enabled the rise of civilization.
    In summary, the key point is that human civilization developed and thrived during the Holocene epoch’s stable climate, but will need to adapt to survive and perhaps even triumph as the Holocene transitions into a new era – the Anthropocene. Mankind will endure, but the future remains uncertain.


  3. I occasionally wonder if civilization isn’t a brief flash, an aberration, in the history of an essentially hunter-gatherer species. In 10,000 years, after the current interglacial, we might be back to around 10 million foragers wandering the wilds, occasionally coming across relics from a lost age.

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  4. Add this to our list of events necessary for the existence of intelligent life. We needed a “cradle” time to allow intelligence (such as it is; ha!) to reach the point it could face wide varieties of ecological niches.

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    1. So, AGI, I’m finding is probably further off than ASI, Artificial Super Intelligence. ASI doesn’t have to be general or sentient or even aligned with human endeavors — it just has to be superior to human knowledge and application.
      I think we associate the ethical why of an AGI with our own. An ASI would need no why, only directives that empowered it to accomplish its tasks.


      1. Not so much aligned with ethics as “assistive” applications. What can it do for “us” that cuts corners, costs, human interactions which current generations seem to be allergic to. The informative, option oriented insurance sales “person”, the proper bedside manner to read a blood test, diagnose your check engine light, write your term paper, program a drum machine, build your own entertainment dome, drive, grocery shop, check your soil, make your own clip art Charles Bronson movie, rewrite history books… in essence tell us what we want to hear, show us what we want to see. The one beyond our control will either save the day or become the Krell. Debatable which is preferable🙈

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