The Future and After Earth

What if we knew that our planet would be unable to sustain life in 1000 years? How would our priorities change? What would we do differently?

A large part of my work is to help leaders and organizations think about the future.

For today’s imagination expanding exercise, consider three interesting recent “happenings”.


The first is a pop culture piece, the movie, After Earth. This new movie starring the father and son duo, Will Smith and Jaden Smith, takes place after humans have had to evacuate their home planet. I love almost anything that takes place in the future and involves traveling to other planets, and, because it relates to a recent speech made by physicist, Steven Hawkins, it’s useful for this imagination expanding exercise.


A second piece is from the world of academia. Stevan Hawking, respected british physicist and author of A Brief History of time, in a speech in Los Angeles the 71-year-old scientist tried to make a case for further exploration of space.

“We must continue to go into space for humanity. If you understand how the universe operates, you control it in a way,” Professor Hawking said, adding that “we won’t survive another 1,000 years without escaping our fragile planet.”

I would love to better understand Hawkins basis for this comment, but that’s not the point here. What if this were true? What would immediately change, if anything? As a thought exercise, imagine what behaviors would change or what actions might we undertake politically, economically, environmentally, socially, and technologically.


Add to Hawkins statements, the Mars-500 experiment that ended in November of 2011.

“The crew of the international “mission” to Mars has finally “returned” to Earth in Moscow, bringing one of the world’s most grueling scientific experiments to a close.

Six volunteers, including three Russians (Alexey Sitev, Alexandr Smoleevskiy and Sukhrob Kamolov), as well as representatives from Europe (Romain Charles), China (Wang Yue) and South America (Diego Urbina), can now see daylight for the first time in 520 days. That is the exact time they spent isolated in their mock spaceship, simulating a trip to the Red Planet and back.

The men have been sealed in the mock spacecraft for 17 months. But they never left the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow, and could have quit the Mars-500 isolation experiment at any time.”

The approximate costs of this isolation experiment was 500 million dollars. A trip to Mars would be much, much more.  This year, NASA’s planetary science budget, which is seen as crucial to finding habitable planets, was slashed by $300 million.

In light of Hawking’s statement, the Mars-500 experiment (both real world happenings), and the film, After Earth, ask yourselves, How would our perspectives and behaviors shift, if at all, if we knew that our species would “soon” have to leave it’s cradle? What do you think?



2 responses to “The Future and After Earth”

  1. Bil Avatar

    I would like to see our perspectives and behaviors shift in response to the reality that unless we change our planet won’t be able to sustain us. I hope that human life on earth isn’t inherently unsustainable, even if it might be absent such changes.

    1. Alex McManus Avatar

      Thanks for the input, Bill. I think you’re exactly right. Humans have developed over time an instinct to focus on the immediate or short term future. That was necessary for survival. Now, with our planet-changing technologies, we have to develop a new instinct that takes into account the long range impact of our actions. Thanks again.

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