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人类灭绝史

人类灭绝史
The Leonid Meteor Storm, as seen over North America on the night of 12-13 November 1833. Courtesy Wikimedia

我们翻译这篇文章的理由

启蒙之前的时代,人们的观念里并没有“物种灭绝”这个概念,“所有合理的可能性最终都必将实现”,没有任何物种“能完全消失”。这好像是人类的童年期,对宇宙与世界充满着浪漫的直觉。启蒙是祛魅的,作为集体的人类似乎一夜间长大,意识到了自己是各物种中的普通一员,在宇宙之中的平凡、渺小、脆弱、易逝。启蒙赋予人理性,也斩断了人与世界直接的浪漫联系,也第一次让人承担起对自身的责任。不过我想说,中国传统文化似乎没这么天真,“天地不仁,以万物为刍狗”云云,挺早熟的。这篇文章,我们还是摆到西方的脉络里来看。

——伍豪

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人类灭绝史

作者:THOMASMOYNIHAN

译者:王宇琪& 何翔宇 & 张力文

校对:黄倩霞

策划:何翔宇 &郭嘉宁

The end of us

人类的终结

Only since the Enlightenment have we been able to imagine humans going extinct. Is it a sign of our maturity as a species?

只有在启蒙运动之后,我们才得以想象人类的灭绝。这是我们作为一个物种成熟的标志吗?

In 1844, the Russian prince Vladimir Odoevsky wrote a short story in which a future humanity, stricken with overpopulation and resource-depletion, welcomes a ‘Last Messiah’ who instructs a jaded mankind to commit omnicide by blowing up the planet. Earlier, in 1836, the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi proclaimed that, if the human species were to be extinguished, ‘the Earth’ wouldn’t ‘feel that there is anything missing’. Three decades prior, the Marquis de Sade characteristically decreed that ‘nothing would be more desirable than the total extinction of humankind’. Earlier still, in 1756, the influential French naturalist Comte de Buffon envisioned another lifeform inheriting our crown as apex cogitator should ‘the human species be annihilated’.

1844年,俄罗斯王子弗拉基米尔·奥多耶夫斯基(Vladimir Odoevsky)写了一个短篇故事,讲述未来的人类因为饱受人口过剩和资源枯竭之苦,迎来了“最后的救世主”,他引领着精疲力竭的人类炸毁了地球、走向了灭绝。此前,在1836年,意大利诗人贾科莫·利奥帕尔迪(Giacomo Leopardi)就曾宣称,如果人类灭绝,“地球”并不会“觉得少了什么”。再往前推三十年,萨德侯爵(Marquis de Sade)也以颇具其个人特色的方式宣布:“没有什么比人类的彻底灭绝更令人向往的了。”更早的1756年,颇具影响力的法国博物学家布丰伯爵(Comte de Buffon)也曾设想,如果“人类物种被消灭”,另一种生命形式将继承我们的王冠,成为自然最高的统治者。

As ideas go, human extinction is a comparatively new one. It emerged first during the 18th and 19th centuries. Though understudied, the idea has an important history because it teaches us lessons on what it means to be human in the first place, in the sense of what is demanded of us by such a calling. For to be a rational actor is to be a responsible actor, which involves acknowledging the risks one faces, and this allows us to see today’s growing responsiveness to existential risks as being of a piece with an ongoing and as-yet-unfinished project that we first began to set for ourselves during the Enlightenment. Recollecting the story of how we came to care about our own extinction helps to establish precisely why we must continue to care; and care now, as never before, insofar as the oncoming century is to be the riskiest thus far.

各种观点各异,人类灭绝是一个相对较新的观念。它最早出现在18世纪和19世纪。尽管研究不足,但这一观念仍有着重要的历史意义,因为它教会了我们,作为人类起初意味着什么,在这一意义上,人类的概念对我们的要求又是什么。做一个理性的行动者意味着要做一个负责的行动者,它包括了承认我们面对着的风险——从中我们看到了如今对生存危机日益增长的回应,这是一项持续未完成的工程,早在启蒙运动时我们就为自己设下了。回想起我们是如何开始关心人类灭绝,有助于清晰地确定我们为什么必须继续关心这一问题;同时,我们现在比以往任何时候都要关心自己的灭绝,因为我们即将面对的世纪是迄今为止最危险的世纪。

Indeed, despite the tone of Leopardi’s or Odoevsky’s forecasts, this story is not at all one of doom and gloom. Around the same time that the first mentions of the risk of our extinction began to emerge throughout the 1700s, so too did the first projections of plausible mitigations. These range from Lord Byron’s 1824 vision of humanity averting incoming comets by means of planetary ballistic-defence systems, to Jean-Baptiste Cousin de Grainville’s 1805 notion of gigantic geoengineering ‘machines’ working to extract diminishing nutrition from a collapsing biosphere by levelling mountain ranges and shifting seas, to Benoît de Maillet’s anticipation, as early as the 1720s, of planetary-scale terraforming and irrigation efforts designed to offset the desiccating heat of an expanding Sun and stave off the ‘total Extinction of Mankind’.

事实上,尽管利奥帕尔迪或奥多夫斯基预测时的语气有些悲观,但这个故事一点也不阴郁。大约在同一时期贯穿整个十八世纪,人类灭绝的风险首次被提及,同时第一批貌似合理的解决方法预测也出现了。其范围从拜伦勋爵(Lord Byron)在1824年想象人类通过行星导弹防御系统躲避彗星,到格兰维尔的让-巴蒂斯特·库辛(Jean-Baptiste Cousin)在1805年构想庞大的地质工程“机器”以通过夷平山脉、搬运海洋来从崩溃的生物圈中提取营养,再到伯努瓦·徳·梅耶(Benoît de Maillet)早在1720年代对行星大规模改造和灌溉的预期,以抵消不断膨胀的太阳带来的干热,避免“人类的彻底灭绝”。

The story of the discovery of our species’ precariousness is also the story of humanity’s progressive undertaking of responsibility for itself. One is only responsible for oneself to the extent that one understands the risks one faces and is thereby motivated to mitigate against them. It was the philosopher Immanuel Kant who defined ‘Enlightenment’ itself as humanity’s assumption of self-responsibility. The history of the idea of human extinction is therefore also a history of enlightening. It concerns the modern loss of the ancient conviction that we live in a cosmos inherently imbued with value, and the connected realisation that our human values would not be natural realities independently of our continued championing and guardianship of them.

关于发现人类物种危机的故事,也是关于人类逐步对自己承担责任的故事。只有当一个人了解自己所面临的风险,并因此有动力去降低风险时,他才能对自己负责。哲学家伊曼努尔•康德(Immanuel Kant)将“启蒙”定义为人类承担自我的责任。因此,人类灭绝的观念史也是人类的启蒙史。它关涉的是一种在现代丧失的古老信念,我们生活在一个固有价值的宇宙中,还有一个与之相关的现实,即便我们继续捍卫、守护这些价值观,它们也不会是人类与生俱来的自然现实。

But if human extinction was first spoken about in the 18th century, where was the notion prior to this point? What about the perennial tradition of end-of-the-world scenarios coming from religion? For a start, prophecies concerning religious apocalypse provide us with a final revelation upon the ultimate meaning of time. Prognoses concerning human extinction, instead, provide us with a prediction of the irreversible termination of meaning within time. Where apocalypse secures a sense of an ending, extinction anticipates the ending of sense. They are different in kind – not degree – and therefore different in their origins.

但是,如果人类灭绝在18世纪首次被提及,那么在此之前,人们如何讨论这个概念呢?宗教的世界末日构想这一长久的传统又如何解释呢?首先,关于宗教启示的预言为我们提供了关于时间终极意义的一个最终解释。相反,关于人类灭绝的预言,则为我们提供了一个关于意义在时间内不可逆转的终结的预测。天启带来终结的意义,灭绝则预示着意义的终结。它们在性质上——而非程度上——不同,因此它们的起源也不同。

So, why was human extinction and existential catastrophe not a topic of conversation and speculation prior to the Enlightenment?

那么,为什么在启蒙运动之前,人类灭绝和存在危机不是人们谈论和猜测的主题呢?

In the 1930s, the American historian of ideas Arthur Lovejoy noticed an assumption, which he called the ‘Principle of Plenitude’, spanning Western philosophy from Aristotle to G W Leibniz. Put simply, the Principle holds that all legitimate possibilities must eventually be realised. Formulated slightly differently, there are no unjustifiable absences in existence. There are no things that could be, but simply just are not, without any justification. Accordingly, something as unjustifiable as an extinction (inasmuch as it is an unaccountable gap in nature’s space of realisations) was forbidden. This effectively made the extirpation of any species (whether human or nonhuman) meaningless and temporary, because it entails that the possibility of it returning will, inevitably and eventually, be fulfilled. Even if it is wiped out somewhere, each species will someday re-emerge. This Principle prevented an appreciation of species extinctions from the antiquity to the Enlightenment.

20世纪30年代,美国思想史学家阿瑟•洛夫乔伊(Arthur Lovejoy)注意到了一种涵盖了从亚里士多德到莱布尼茨的西方哲学的假设,他称之为“丰饶原则”(Principle of Plenitude)。简而言之,这一原则认为,所有合理的可能性最终都必将实现。换个说法即是,没有不合理的不存在。没有任何事情可以在没有任何理由的情况下被证明是不可能的。因此,像灭绝这样不可理喻的事情(因为它是自然实现空间中一个不可解释的分歧)是被禁止的。这有效地使任何物种(无论是人类还是非人类)的灭绝都变得毫无意义,而且是暂时的,因为这意味着它们最终将不可避免地复活。每个物种即使在某个地方灭绝了,总有一天会重新出现。这一原则阻止了对从古代到启蒙时期对物种灭绝的认识。

*丰饶原则认为宇宙包含所有可能的存在形式。思想史学家阿瑟·洛夫乔伊是第一个明确地追溯这一哲学上重要原则的历史的人。他区分了两种丰饶原则:一种是静态版本,其中宇宙呈现出恒定的丰富和多样性;另一种是动态版本,其中宇宙的丰富和多样性随着时间的推移而逐渐增加。

Such assumptions led the Roman philosopher Lucretius, during the 1st century BCE, to confidently claim that ‘nothing in creation is the only one’ and, hence, nothing can really die out. Centuries later, in 1686, the French scientist Bernard Le Bouyer de Fontenelle proclaimed with identical conviction that no species ‘can totally perish’ because, even if our planet is destroyed or our Sun dies, a new world will eventually be repopulated somewhere with the exact same species. The 18th-century French philosopher Denis Diderot confirmed that, within the churning cosmic immensity, nothing can ever truly be lost. When asked whether Homo sapiens would one day go extinct, Diderot reportedly answered ‘yes’, but immediately qualified that, during another stellar cycle, and after ‘several hundreds of millions of years of I-don’t-know-whats’, the ‘biped animal who carries the name man’ would re-evolve. Only within such a framework could the poet Alexander Pope’s oft-quoted line ‘And now a bubble burst, and now a world’ be read as a sign of creation’s jubilant magnanimity rather than of its malignancy.

这样的假设导致公元前1世纪的罗马哲学家卢克莱修(Lucretius)自信地宣称:“造物中没有哪样是唯一的”,因此,也没有任何东西可以真正灭绝。几个世纪后的1686年,法国科学家伯纳德·勒·布耶尔·德·方特内尔(Bernard Le Bouyer de Fontenelle)以同样的信念宣布,没有任何物种“能完全消失”,因为即使我们的星球毁灭、我们的太阳熄灭,一个新世界最终也会在某个地方重新繁衍出完全相同的物种。18世纪的法国哲学家丹尼斯·狄德罗(Denis Diderot)确信,在翻腾的宇宙浩瀚之中,没有任何东西可以真正失去。据传闻,当被问及智人是否有一天会灭绝时,狄德罗的回答是“会”,但他立刻断定,在另一个恒星周期中,经过“数亿年我未知的事情”之后,这种“被叫做人类的两足动物”将会重新进化。只有在这样的想法之下,诗人亚历山大•蒲伯(Alexander Pope)常被引用的那句“泡沫破裂,世界新生”,才能被解读为造物慷慨欣荣的象征,而不是其恶毒。

Belief in Plenitude, moreover, provoked the future American president Thomas Jefferson to argue, in 1799, in the face of mounting anatomical evidence to the contrary, that specimens such as the newly unearthed Mammuthus or Megalonyx represented species still extant and populous throughout the unexplored regions of the Americas. Even when scientists could no longer deny that organisms had previously gone extinct, the same set of ideas remained irresistible to the Scottish geologist Charles Lyell, who declared in the 1830s that iguanodons, ichthyosauri and pterodactyls would, in the distant future, return and reclaim the Earth. The disappearance of entire genera, he pronounced, is a mere ‘interval of quiescence’. It was due to similar presumptions, indeed, that we did not even notice the demise of the Mauritian dodo more than a century after it disappeared sometime in the 1690s. We humans have been wiping out other species at a large scale since the Pleistocene, but we only began noticing this during the late 1700s.

此外,对丰饶原则的信念,也促使了未来的美国总统托马斯·杰斐逊(Thomas Jefferson)在1799年面对越来越多的解剖学证据时,仍提出了相反的观点:新出土的猛犸象或巨爪地懒等标本,代表了这些物种仍然大量存在于整个美洲未开发的地区内。即使当科学家们无法再否认有些生物已经灭绝的事实时,同样的想法仍然让苏格兰地质学家查尔斯·莱尔(Charles Lyell)坚持在19世纪30年代宣称,禽龙、鱼龙和翼手龙在遥远的将来会返回地球、重称霸主。他认为整个物种的消失只是一段“平静的间隔”。事实上,正是由于类似的假设,我们甚至在一个多世纪之后才注意到毛里求斯渡渡鸟在1690年代左右就已灭绝。自更新世(Pleistocene)以来,我们人类一直在大规模地导致其他物种的灭亡,但我们直到18世纪末才开始注意到这一点。

Long-standing belief in the ‘Principle of Plenitude’ blocked understanding of the stakes involved in extinction such that it became almost unworthy of observation – let alone forecast or mitigation. Whether human or animal, dying out was, after all, but a mere interval of quiescence.

长期以来,“丰饶原则”让人们对理解灭绝提不起兴趣,人们认为灭绝不值得观察,更不要说预测或减缓灭绝的进程了。无论是人类还是动物的灭绝都不过是个平静的暂停而已。

A related issue obstructed thinking on human extinction. This was the conviction that the cosmos itself is imbued with value and justice. This assumption dates back to the roots of Western philosophy and is, moreover, intimately connected to belief in Plenitude. For believing that ‘all legitimate possibilities are eventually realised’ is the same as believing that ‘reality is as legitimate as it possibly can be’. Or, simply, to be is to be just. Thus, dying out can only be temporary or local.

人们深信宇宙自己本就公平且有价值。这一假设在西方哲学成立之初即存在,且与丰饶原则紧密相关,阻碍了人们对人类灭绝的思考。相信“所有合理性终将实现”与相信“现实有着最大限度的合理性”是一样的。或者简而言之,存在即合理。因此,灭绝只能是暂时的或局域的。

We see this most clearly in Leibniz’s notion that we live in ‘the best of all possible worlds’, but it is long-preceded by the Platonic doctrine of the Idea, which teaches that reality is intelligible precisely because it is essentially intellectual in nature.

莱布尼兹(Leibniz)的看法最能体现这一观点。他认为我们现在的世界是“所有可能世界中最好的世界”,但这一想法远远落后于柏拉图(Plato)的思想框架。柏拉图认为,现实是可被准确理解的,因为它本质上就是富有智慧的。

人类灭绝史
Ichthyosaurs attending a lecture on fossilised human remains. Lithograph by Sir Henry de la Bèche, 1830, after his drawing. Courtesy Wellcome Images

Where ‘being’ is presumed inherently rational, reason cannot itself cease ‘to be’, such that the termination of human rationality can have no real sting. Correlatively, when Aeschylus, Hesiod or Plato long ago recounted Zeus’ plan to ‘destroy this race of mortals’, such a mythic episode is not an ‘extinction scenario’ or ‘existential catastrophe’ in the modern sense because it is not an end of sapient value. Even if humans are smitten by Zeus, human-like value indefinitely lives on in the creator. Presuming the Universe to be inherently judicial trivialises the stakes involved in what we think and do.

当“存在”被假定为生而合理时,理性就不能自动消失,也因此人类的理性不可能真正灭绝。与之有关的,埃斯库罗斯(Aeschylus)、赫西俄德(Hesiod)或柏拉图在很久之前就曾描述宙斯“毁灭人类”的计划,但在现代场景中,这样的虚构片段不是“对灭绝的设想”或“人类生存的灾难”,因为它不是智人的终结。即便是宙斯突然迷恋上了人类,像人类一样的价值也不一定会在创造者这里继续保留下去。假定宇宙本就是公证明断的,就会削弱我们的思想与行动之间的关系。

So, human extinction could become meaningful (and thus a motivating target for enquiry and anticipation) only after value was fully ‘localised’ to the minds of value-mongering creatures. We had to realise that the Universe was not inherently a cradle of justice and morality. ‘Value’ and ‘fact’ had to be disentangled before we truly came to appreciate the potential fact of the end of value. Only through this were we first motivated to forecast, in order to redoubt human justice against an extrajudicial nature. It is such a dynamic that, across modernity, drags our concerns further and further into futurity, and continues to do so.

只有当人类灭绝这一价值观在价值贩卖者们的观念里被“本土化”之后,人类灭绝才可能会变得有意义(因此这也就成了一个激励人们去研究和期盼的目标)。我们被迫意识到,宇宙并不本就是公平和道义的摇篮。在我们真正意识到价值的终结这一可能的事实之前,“价值”和“现实”需要被分离开。只有这样,我们才首次有了动力与额外审判的天性相悖,因敬畏人类正义而去预测。这一动力是如此强大,横贯现代性,将我们的担忧远拉至未来,并进一步拉伸。

The process through which we came to this understanding, though it properly began with the emergence of nominalism in the late-medieval era, culminated in the 18th century. This was due to the consolidation during the Enlightenment of a number of new scientific fields of enquiry: geology, demography and probabilism.

中世纪晚期,虽然在我们开始形成这一理解时,唯名主义也正兴起,但这一过程最终在18世纪达到顶峰。这是因为,启蒙运动让许多新的科学研究领域得以巩固:地质学,人口学和概率论。

Geology saw its beginnings in hypotheses formulated by Royal Society polymaths during the latter decades of the 17th century. The English scientists Robert Hooke and Edmond Halley proposed the first recognisably ‘geohistorical’ conjectures by injecting naturally caused vicissitude and change into their theoretical models of Earth systems. They both produced the first unequivocal endorsements of the idea that previous species had gone extinct. Following this, fossil evidence slowly built up throughout the 18th century until the French palaeontologist Georges Cuvier in 1796 established undeniable evidence for the irreversible disappearance of prehistoric animals (by applying comparative anatomy to mammoth molars).

这种理解始于17世纪后期的地质学界,当时皇家学会的学者们提出了一个假设。英国科学家罗伯特·胡克(Robert Hooke)和爱德蒙·哈雷(Edmond Halley)首次明确提出“地理历史”猜想,即向地球系统的理论模型中引入自然变迁和变化。他们首次明确认可了之前的物种灭绝了这一说法。在此之后的整个18世纪,化石证据逐渐成型。1796年,法国古生物学家乔治·库维尔(Georges Cuvier)为史前动物不可逆转的消失提出了无懈可击的证据(通过用比较解剖学对猛犸臼齿进行分析)。

Cuvier’s overarching theory of Earth history was aptly called ‘catastrophism’ because of its reliance upon pyrotechnic and earth-shuddering disasters. It is telling that its influence can be found in the first literary and imaginative works that engage the topic of human extinction. These come from a circle of Romantic authors and poets: Lord Byron’s poem ‘Darkness’ (1816) extrapolates the sterilisation of our biosphere by way of heat dissipation; Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound (1820) contains a vision of previously extinct fauna, laminated throughout the planet’s crust, and dramatises the threat of humanity joining this fossil pantheon; and Mary Shelley would go on to write Last Man (1826), the first full-length novel depicting the truly global scope of an existential catastrophe. She had, however, already alluded to existential catastrophe in Frankenstein(1818). She invoked the monster’s demographic potential – should Victor Frankenstein make it a female companion – to trigger humanity’s extinction via outbreeding it as a competing species.

居维叶包罗万象的地球历史理论被贴切地称为“灾变说”,因为它依赖于枪火和地球战争灾难。事实上,它影响了第一批涉及人类灭绝主题的浪漫主义文学和虚构作品:拜伦勋爵的诗《黑暗》(Darkness,1816)通过烧成灰烬来推断人类的灭绝; 珀西·比希·雪莱(Percy Bysshe Shelley)的《解放了的普罗米修斯》(Prometheus Unbound,1820)通过早已灭绝了的动物群的视角(这些动物被塑封在整个地球的地壳上),戏剧化地展现了人类面临加入这个化石名人堂的威胁;玛丽·雪莱(Mary Shelley)的《最后的人》(Last Man,1826)本会是首部描绘真正在全球范围内发生的有关人类生存的长篇灾难小说。然而,她已经在《弗兰肯斯坦》(Frankenstein,1818)中影射了关乎人类生存的灾难。她描写了这个怪物在人口方面的潜力 – 如果维克多·弗兰肯斯坦(Victor Frankenstein)给它制造一个女性伴侣,让其作为一个竞争物种去远离人群的地方繁殖,会引发人类的灭绝。

This brings us to the second key context: ‘political arithmetic’ or demography. One of the first texts to engage in demography, written by the French philosopher Baron de Montesquieu, is likewise one of the first to mention the plausibility of the cessation of humanity as a biological species. In his Lettres persanes (1721), or Persian Letters, Montesquieu declares that global population has diminished since antiquity and, having undertaken ‘calculations as exact as possible’, he then proclaims that ‘if this trend continues, within 10 centuries the Earth will be nothing but an uninhabited desert’.

这将我们带入第二个关键背景:“政治算术学”或人口统计学。法国哲学家孟德斯鸠(Baron de Montesquieu)最早在文章中提到人口学以及人类作为一个生物物种而灭绝的合理性。在他的《波斯人信笺》(Lettres persanes,1721)中,孟德斯鸠宣称自古以来全球人口已在减少,他做了尽可能精确的“计算”,并宣称“如果这种趋势持续下去,地球将在10个世纪内变成一个无人居住的沙漠”。

Throughout the next century, the emerging field of population science produced numerous similar extrapolations. Aside from wielding the newfound understanding that numbers can be applied to reality in order to predict its longterm future course, the rise of demography was a crucial factor in growing receptivity to our existential precariousness because demography cemented humanity’s awareness of itself as a biological species. Following the English naturalist John Ray’s work in the 1680s, ‘species’ had become defined as an organic form fixed, across time, by sexual propagation: thus, through focusing attention upon humanity as a reproductive community, political arithmetic inculcated ‘taxonomic self-awareness’. This was consecrated in the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus’s inclusion, in 1758, of the genus Homo in his system of nature. It was during this century that we began referring to ourselves as ‘the human species’. Thinking of ourselves as a species, we became capable of thinking of our dying out as a species.

在整个19世纪,新兴的人口科学领域涌现了许多类似的推断。人们有了新的认识,即数字可以用于预测现实的长期走向,除此之外,因为人口学增强了人类对自身作为生物物种的认识,人口学的兴起也是促使我们接受人类生存的不稳定性的关键因素。在17世纪80年代,英国博物学家约翰·雷(John Ray)的作品发表之后,“物种”开始被定义为一种随着时间的推移、通过性传播而变得稳定的有机形式:因此,通过强调人类是可繁殖的群体,政治算术将“生物分类学上的自我意识”灌输给了社会。1758年,瑞典植物学家卡尔·林奈(Carl Linnaeus)把它纳入自然系统中的早期人类范畴,将其神圣化。本世纪,我们开始将自己称为“人类物种”。把自己看作是物种之一,我们开始能将自己看成是一个会灭绝的物种。

In his Lettres persanes, Montesquieu had already acknowledged a dizzying surfeit of natural disasters that could bring humanity ‘within a hair’s breadth of extinction’. Any number of factors ‘may be at play’ that could decimate us, he warned. We dwell in an ‘uncertain state’. This brings us to the third key context, that of the consolidation of a rigorous and modern notion of risk and uncertainty.

孟德斯鸠在《波斯人信札》一书中坦言,接二连三的自然灾害可能使人类濒临灭绝。他警告任何因素都可能将人类推向深渊。我们处在一种不确定的状态中,这使我们将视线投向第三个因素,即对严格而又现代的风险及不确定性概念的强化。

Political arithmetic had appeared on the scene due to the application of early probability theory to census data. It was during the 17th and 18th centuries that mathematicians, from Blaise Pascal in France to Jacob Bernoulli in Switzerland, first began tackling probabilism and the problem of the numerical measurement of future outcomes. It was not long before probabilities were leveraged to compute the odds of what is now called a ‘global catastrophic risk’.

由于早期概率论在人口普查资料中的应用,政治算术学应运而生。17世纪和18世纪,从法国的布莱斯•帕斯卡(Blaise Pascal)到瑞士的雅各布•伯努利(Jacob Bernoulli),数学家们开始研究概率问题,并对未来结果进行数值预测。不久之后,概率方法被用来计算“全球灾难性风险”的概率。

In 1773, the French astronomer Jérôme Lalande was the first to apply probabilism to the question of existential threat. He predicted the odds of Earth’s intersection with a comet as 1/76,000. Sensationalised reporting of this provoked panic on the streets of Paris. Thereafter, the French scholar Pierre-Simon Laplace proclaimed that, though small, the likelihood of such an encounter would compound over the ages. And, by 1810, the German astronomer Wilhelm Olbers had converted Laplace’s ‘long succession of ages’ into a precise timeframe, computing a stretch of 220 million years per collision. (For comparison, contemporary calculations put extinction-level collisions at once every 500,000 years.)

1773年,法国天文学家杰罗姆·拉兰德(Jerome Lalande)率先将概率论应用于计算威胁人类存在的问题。他预测地球与彗星撞击的概率为1 / 76,000。这一耸人听闻的报道引发了巴黎街头的恐慌。此后,法国学者皮埃尔-西蒙·拉普拉斯(Pierre-Simon Laplace)宣称,地球发生碰撞的可能性虽然很小,但随着时间的推移会慢慢增加。而到了1810年,德国天文学家威廉·奥尔伯斯(Wilhelm Olbers)将拉普拉斯的“漫长的时间段”转变为一个精确的时间表,他计算出每2.2亿年发生一次碰撞。(为了与之比较,当代计算的结果为每50万年就会发生一次灾难级的碰撞。)

And so, given new awareness of the vicissitude of Earth history, of our precarious position within it as a biological species, and of our wider placement within a cosmic backdrop of roaming hazards, we were finally in a position to become receptive to the prospect of human extinction. Yet none of this could truly matter until ‘fact’ was fully separated from ‘value’. Only through full acceptance that the Universe is not itself inherently imbued with value could ‘human extinction’ gain the unique moral stakes that pick it out as a distinctive concept. Alongside descriptions of empirical fact, the discovery of human extinction demanded in-step self-reflections upon the proprieties (and precarities) of axiological value.

因此,通过对地球历史变迁的新认知,了解我们作为物种在地球上的不稳定地位,以及我们在危险漫游的宇宙中所处的位置,我们终于能够意识到到人类灭绝这个概念。然而,在“事实”与“价值”完全分离之前,这一切都无关紧要。只有完全接受宇宙本身不具有价值,“人类的灭绝”才能获得道义上的支撑,并被视为独立的概念。除了对经验事实的描述之外,人类灭绝的发现需要对价值论的适当性(和不变性)进行反思。

This final piece of the puzzle, therefore, came not from empirical science but from critical philosophy. It came from the revolution in philosophy initiated, in the 1780s, by Kant.

因此,这一问题的最后一部分解决方案不是来自经验科学,而是来自批判哲学。它来自18世纪80年代由康德发起的哲学革命。

Kant realised that moral values are a question of self-legislation. They are maxims that we elect to bind ourselves by, and are accordingly constitutively dependent upon this election. Thus, they should not at all be considered part of the furniture of the natural world independently of our championship and upholding of them. And insofar as such values would not therefore be persistent features of the natural world independently of our ongoing stewardship, they thereby also demand our vigilant guardianship. In other words, ‘mind’ is entirely the responsibility of ‘minded agents’. We first realised that what we think and do matters, existentially so. It was this master idea of the Enlightenment that led us to appreciate the stakes involved in thinking.

康德意识到道德价值观是自我规约的问题。它们是我们选择来约束自己的箴言,并从内心依赖于它。因此,这些准则不应脱离我们的支持和拥护,而单独被视为自然世界的一部分。因此,只要这些价值不是自然世界的持久特征,无法离开我们持续的管理,那么它们就需要我们守护。换句话说,“心智”需要“宿主”的照看。我们首先意识到,从存在主义角度,我们的思考和行为很重要。正是这种启蒙运动的思想使我们认识到思考的重要性。

Kant himself became increasingly preoccupied with the prospect of human extinction as he matured. Having once proclaimed that we ought ‘not lament’ the perishing of a world ‘as a real loss of Nature’, due to the age-old assumption that the Universe is maximally populated with moral worth and creatures like us, he slowly came to appreciate the precarity, and preciousness, of sapient values within the Universe. In his late works, the spectre of human extinction appears several times. During an essay on futurology, or what he calls ‘predictive history’, Kant’s projections upon humanity’s perfectibility are interrupted by the plausibility of an ‘epoch of natural revolution which will push aside the human race’. And this should come as no surprise, because Kant himself characteristically defined enlightening as humanity’s undertaking of self-responsibility: and human rationality assumes culpability for itself only to the exact extent that it progressively spells out the stakes involved in its precarious project, and stands steadfast in the face of them. This means that predicting increasingly severe threats is part and parcel of our progressive and historical assumption of accountability to ourselves. Only by articulating the stakes involved in our ignorance were we motivated to reason ever better, inasmuch as we realised that, should we not, we might never reason again.

随着自我的成熟,康德越来越关注人类灭绝。古老的观点认为宇宙充斥着道德价值与类似我们的生物,他曾经宣称我们不应该“哀叹”一个世界的灭亡“作为真正的自然损失”,并慢慢地开始欣赏宇宙中智慧价值的波动性和宝贵性。在他的晚期作品中,人类灭绝多次被提到。在一篇关于未来学(康德称之为“预测性历史”)的文章中,康德对人性完美性的展望被“推翻人类的自然革命时代”的合理性所打破。这也不足为奇,康德本人将启蒙视为人类对自我的负责:人类的理性只会在逐步说明不稳定事物所涉及的利害关系时承担责任,并且会坚定地面对他们。这意味着预测越来越严重的威胁是我们对自我负责的进步历史假设的重要组成部分。只有阐明我们的无知,我们才能更好地思考,因为我们意识到,如果不这样做,我们可能会永远失去这个机会。

In the 1980s, the German historian Reinhart Koselleck specified modernity as the increase in the ‘demands made of the future’, but we now know that it has ever also been the increase in the demands that the future made of us. We just didn’t quite know this yet. By recollecting the drama of how we came to answer this calling, through coming to care about our extinction, we see how today’s initiatives of prediction and mitigation (such as the Future of Humanity Institute in Oxford or the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk in Cambridge) are continuations and inheritors of this tenacious task: a project that we first began to set for ourselves during the Enlightenment. Though solemn, increasing concern with extinction gives us warrant to hope for our future on this planet and, possibly, beyond.

20世纪80年代,德国历史学家莱因哈特·科塞莱克(Reinhart Koselleck)将现代性定义为对未来需求的增加,但我们现在也知道,现代性也意味着未来对我们需求的增加。只是之前我们还没明白。回顾人类对这一问题做出的回应,通过认识到人类灭绝的问题,我们看到人类为这个在启蒙运动时期开始自我思考的问题所做出的预测和缓解措施(例如牛津的人类未来研究所和剑桥的存在主义风险研究中心)一直延绵不断到现在。虽然这是个很严肃的话题,但对物种灭绝越来越多的关注让我们有理由对我们在地球上的未来抱有希望,甚至走得更远。

人类灭绝史

  • 本文原载于 Aeon

  • 原文链接:https://aeon.co/essays/to-imagine-our-own-extinction-is-to-be-able-to-answer-for-it

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