When Discoveries Die Out

I recently saw a tweet that described the day, supposedly in the year 3000, when the last scientist on earth writes that there is nothing left to discover and hangs up his white coat for good. Despite this being a fantastic idea for a book it made me think about whether this would ever be a possibility.

Firstly, if this day comes does this mean that there is absolutely nothing left to discover? Will we find all there is to know about every single living species on this planet? It certainly seems to point that way and with the amount of people that dedicate their lives to understanding the natural world this could be a distinct possibility! Either that or most of the species we know today have been wiped out by the reckless force that is the human race!

Surely discovering everything would also mean that we’ll have learnt everything about every micrometre of the human body and therefore how to cure all illnesses as well? Imagine: aging would be stopped in its tracks, cancer would be a distant memory and Alzheimer’s wouldn’t even be included in the dictionary anymore! But the human population would soar if no one was dying which would make todays overcrowding look laughably insignificant!

What about space though? This expansive vacuum is seemingly infinite so wouldn’t it be impossible for us to discover everything about all those distant worlds? It’s good to bear in mind the progress we’ve made in space exploration though, every week people seem to be discovering earth- like planets and solar systems that look like ours with increasingly sophisticated kit! Add to that the remote space probe that is currently diving between Saturn and its rings and it makes the next 900 years look very promising for dis space discoveries. It’s here though that I think we will never know everything, a lot of theories are still floating about and it’s hard to imagine that all of them will be dealt with, even by the year 3000!

Having discovered everything would also mean that we know everything about what happened in the past! Will all the fossils have been dug up, carbon dated and catalogued? Will there be a complete skeleton of every large dinosaur in all major museums? Will we ever reach a point when there is nowhere on earth left to look for remnants of the past? However unlikely this seems, it would perhaps be a great thing to gain all knowledge about the past; people are always interested in what our ancestors did, how we evolved, and the beasts that roamed the earth before we did! Surely there are things that we will never be able to truly know about the past because we weren’t a there and there’s no physical evidence that some things happened! Things like how the earth really came into existence are always going to remain theories which comes back to the wonders of space and the theories that surround it.

So how would knowing everything impact society? There would be lots of people out of a job for a start! Just think about all those scientists that are currently out there discovering the wonders of life and the planet we live on and then think of how unemployment would soar like never before! Maybe people would find other things to do though, like drip feeding all this knowledge to the public which I imagine would take another thousand years to do at least! Science communication would be safe I think, because even if research dies out we still have to tell the public about all this knowledge we’ve accumulated! If you think about it we’re still communicating things to the public that were discovered years ago and it seems to take an awful lot of time for concepts to sink in and be accepted!

In terms of teaching though, the curriculum for schools would never change! Although this would mean that the 201st edition of Brock Biology of Microorganisms is the final edition, it may get a little tedious and boring when what is being taught is all there is to know! Students would finally be able to have all their pressing questions answered but that also means that curiosity would be curbed by the fact that there is no need to be curious anymore; all the knowledge is there for the taking. People would still get degrees and maybe PhDs but there would always be an impenetrable ceiling at the end when you’ve reached the summit of all there is to know about a subject.

I realise that this paints a bit of a bleak future for science when you think about it; part of the thrill of science is that people are making new discoveries every day and when that stops, people could lose all interest in science altogether! It’s a sad thought considering how many people are passionately fighting for science right now! I think that people will still be as passionate about learning everything about a subject as they are now, it will just be a bit easier because all the knowledge will be there for the taking!

I think I’ve written more questions than answers but seeing as I can’t look into the future it will have to stay that way. I’d be really interested to hear any thoughts that readers of this post have on this topic because even though it’s not something that people are concerned about since a common view is that saying you know everything means that you’ve stopped looking. What happens though if we hit a brick wall with discoveries and the rivers of knowledge run dry? What happens if the governments prevent research from taking place and we have to go underground? Yet another set of questions that I can’t answer but here’s to the year 3000 where according to Busted we could be living underwater.

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