Science Friday filled its New Year's Day show with some greatest hits segments, including an excerpt of an interview that Ira Flatow did with filmmaker Werner Herzog, novelist Cormac McCarthy and physicist Lawrence Krauss in 2011. It's an absorbing 21 minutes, and I'll have to go back now and listen to the longer version.
At one point, Herzog made an observation about the transience of human life on Earth: "It's quite evident that human beings, as a species, will vanish and fairly quickly. When I say quickly, maybe in two or three thousand years, maybe 30,000 years, maybe 300,000, but not much more, because we are much more vulnerable than other species, despite a certain amount of intelligence. It doesn't make me nervous that fairly soon we'll have a planet which doesn't contain human beings."
Herzog explains that while it's a possibility humanity could self-destruct, he's really thinking more about "events … which would instantly wipe us out."
You know -- events like the Dinopocalypse.
Krauss readily agrees that a catastrophe is "likely to happen. That will inevitably happen anyway." He adds that one of the rosier scenarios he sees for our kind is that we'll eventually be superseded by our own creations -- the computers.
Then he offers this takeaway:
"So I think, you know, we may disappear as a species just because we become irrelevant, as well as being destroyed. But I don't think that's a bad thing. That's just - that may be the future. . . . We shouldn't be depressed if we disappear. We should be thrilled that we're here right now. . . . That just means we should make the most of our brief moment in the sun."