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What’s Happening Now That Might Only Make Sense in 1,200 Years?

This morning I mentioned to Jason that I was still thinking about the Mayan calendar/Julian calendar overlap thing — did both cultures really record the same solar eclipse?! — and how mind-blowing it is to even contemplate. We then talked about how crazy it must have been to live back then (in 790 AD) and see the sun just casually disappear, etc.

And then I was wondering: What’s happening now that people living in the year 3200 will pity us for not understanding? “Wow, can you imagine living back then and not knowing exactly how [viruses appear/cancer strikes/the Voynich Manuscript came into existence]? Or precisely what happened at Dyatlov Pass, or on board the Mary Celeste?” (Okay now I’m just googling “mysteries.”) Anyway, I’m not high, I swear. But please chime in if anything comes to mind. “It must have been so weird to not know what dogs were saying.”

Discussion  23 comments


I have been thinking a lot about what LLMs and AI are going to unlock in terms of animal communication. Maybe not dogs, but what about whales and dolphins? Octopus coloration patterns? Feels like a breakthrough is just around the corner. Or I read too much sci-fi.

David Horn

I agree totally. Dolphin 'language' seems totally something that could be fed in to an AI and figured out. How exciting!

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Tim Brown

Anyway, I’m not high, I swear.



"Can you believe how pigs were treated back in the day?"

Danielle NH

"Can you believe they saw all those icebergs braking up and didn't understand how screwed they were?"

Eric M

"Can you believe people stopped masking while an airborne virus with no treatment or understanding of it's long term effects was still happening?"

Andre Torrez

One that I have been thinking about since the eclipse is the "coincidence" that the moon and sun look to be about the same size from earth.

Edith ZimmermanMOD

😯 I hadn’t known about that until Jason posted about it this morning. Insane.

Andre Torrez

Hah! I hadn’t gotten there yet today, but it’s something I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. ALSO that the radius of the Sun is about the distance from the Earth to the Moon. That if the Earth was on the surface of the Sun the moon would be in its center. Coincidence!

Jordan Brock

And that the moon rotates in exactly the same amount of time it takes to orbit the earth, so we only ever see the same side

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Similarly, I wonder about what people in the future will look back at and think that we're uncivilized for believing/doing. And I think they'll be mortified at the ways we think about and treat animals. It seems like we keep learning more and more how they're like us - they use tools, they communicate, they have feelings (physical & emotional)...

Richard Martin

Similarly, the way we treat criminals, and the way that we classify certain people as almost some “other” species that it’s okay to deny basic rights to — people who commit crimes (especially petty crimes), people who are homeless, asylum seekers, etc. etc.

Maybe even the entire concept of “national borders”.

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Phil Wells

There's no way we're going to create and share music the same way then as we do now. Sheet music is going to seem so bizarre. "They used these symbols so anyone could play the same song, the same way they've heard it before." "Why would anyone want that? Just tell mother brain how you feel, get your perfect song, and move on."

Meg Hourihan

Or you know, we could suffer a series of massive societal collapses and future people will be reduced to a state of subsistence and living in an almost prehistoric fashion. If they see everything we have now: the ability to fly from place to place, immunity to countless diseases, food whenever and wherever we want, speaking to friends or family instantly anywhere in the world, they'll think we were gods.

Tom Mason

Dark matter & dark energy!

Jason KottkeMOD

This was going to be my answer. That we don't know what most of the matter in the universe is actually made of is bonkers. It may take a few hundred years to figure it out and it's possible that the way in which we think about how the universe works will completely change. Like maybe augmented humans in 2800 will be able to perceive the cosmos in its true 5 dimensions or whatever. "Can you believe people couldn't see the hyperreality in 2024?"

Tom Mason


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Richard Martin

Consciousness. I’m a pretty hardcore atheist and have faith (hehe) that science will eventually explain every mystery, based on its current exceptional track record in doing so. But I have a hard time with the idea that consciousness is explainable purely in terms of matter, energy, etc.

But that disbelief may well seem totally stupid in a thousand years or so.

Peter Carlton

I agree, and specifically think that most people who think about consciousness will be able to embrace eliminitavism and look at today's qualia-insisters the way we look at vitalists.

Also, probably they'll pity us for not working out how to share the solar system together without resorting to war—at least I hope they will!

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Kelly Mcclain

Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Dimensions. Definitely.

Mike Garrett

It must have been so weird to talk with your mouth. Like, being dishonest was a common trait back then. How did that even happen?

Kevin Miller

If society progresses, then eating animals will seem just as weird to future-humans as other animal behaviour seems to us now. "You ate a chicken? Like you're a wild dog or something?"

Jack Orenstein

There is nothing happening now that will only make sense in 1200 years. Nothing.

Look at any graph of technological progress in the last 10000 years (this one, for example: It's exponential. There are no mysteries anything like the sun disappearing for a few minutes in 790.

Of course there are still mysteries. But even the questions are incomprehensible to laymen. Dark Matter? Yeah, there are a few theories, and when the right one is figured out, it will be below the fold in the NY Times, (if paper newspapers are still a thing), and maybe one person in a thousand will even be able to understand the story at any level of comprehension.

The biggest remaining scientific mystery is consciousness, but I don't think we'll ever figure that one out.

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