“On a planet that increasingly resembles one huge Maximum Security prison, the only intelligent choice is to plan a jail break.” – Robert Anton Wilson

“Despite the campaign rhetoric, the bureaucracies – big business and big government – are here to stay. The centralization effort cannot be checked. but it can be rationally directed towards our species goal: Space Migration, which in turn offers the only way to re-attain individual freedom of space-time and the small-group social structures which obviously best suit our nervous systems. It is another paradox of neuro-genetics that only in space habitats can humanity return to the village life and pastoral style for which we all long.” – Timothy Leary

The human population on Earth has increased tenfold in the last 250 years, from about 750 million in 1750 to almost 7.5 billion people today. In addition to vast increases in wealth, productivity, technology, and health, there has been another massive change in humanity, much of it happening in the last 100 years – the movement of people from rural village communities into cities. 50% of the people in the world now live in cities, and by the end of the century it could be 80% or more!

There are some advantages to living in cities, not the least being opportunities to escape poverty, access to better health care and education, and in some cases physical security. But there are also psychological problems associated with humans trying to develop and maintain relationships in a world that looks increasingly like one big ant colony.

Which might be the reason that humans find it increasingly acceptable to indiscriminately kill other humans, up to and including destroying entire cities of people. It seems that our economic and technological success has raced far ahead of our evolutionary development – we have a hard time feeling any emotional bond, or even any empathy, for more than a few dozens of other human beings. And it is not our fault – our brain, specifically our neocortex, is only big enough to maintain about 150 relationships with other humans.

Which is why for tens of thousands of years the vast majority of humans lived in small groups of around 50-100 people, and of the few people who lived in cities most did so because they were slaves, and the small remainder lived in cities because they were the slave masters.

If you yet haven’t noticed, this is still true today. And because of war, famine, and plague, the populations of these cities were routinely decimated and many were totally destroyed. Just like Hiroshima. And Dresden. And Aleppo (whatever that is).

Is the future of humanity really megalopolises of tens of millions of people, with ten thousand or more living within a single square mile? Or maybe we can live better, and more free, outside the wall? Let’s find out!

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Agora Symposium 2018