Science, maths and computers.
After spending over a decade playing the empire-building strategy game, Civilization II, a redditor called Lycerius has possibly gone as far into the future in the game as anyone ever has. What does the world look like in 3991 AD?
It’s not good. He reports that the world has spent over 1700 years locked in a deadly stalemate between the only three remaining nations - the Vikings, Americans and Celts. “The world is a hellish nightmare of suffering and devastation”, he says.
Repeated melting of the icecaps due to nuclear war has rendered all but the highest mountains infertile swampland, irradiated and useless for farming. As a result, there are no large cities and the world’s population is 10% of what it was at its peak around 2000.
A never ending war saps what little resources are left; constant fighting requires all efforts to go into building roads to keep the front lines well supplied. Lycerius, who plays as The Celts, is at odds with how to rebuild the world. Ceasefires don’t last long enough to begin the slow process of improving living conditions.
In Civilization II, the player chooses from 21 different factions and controls every aspect of their empire’s development. Players engage in international diplomacy, scientific advance, and civic improvement in order to advance through the game.
One thing I found interesting was that Lycerius really wanted to keep his nation a democracy, but in the end was forced to become a communist totalitarian state in order to keep up with the theocratic Vikings and Americans:
I wanted to stay a democracy, but the Senate would always over-rule me when I wanted to declare war before the Vikings did. This would delay my attack and render my turn and often my plans useless. And of course the Vikings would then break the cease fire like clockwork the very next turn.
Why is the world locked in such a bitter and hopeless stalemate? Once you (and all the other nations) max-out on technology to develop, there is nowhere else to go and no faction has the advantage. Everything is balanced out and a never-ending war ensues.
Is this a possible hint as to what might be in store for our real future? While this is by no means an exhaustive academic study into the topic it does parallel many ideas already in place in our culture. The three-nation everlasting war scenario is chillingly close to the setting of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, where the three superpowers Oceana, Eurasia and Eastasia battle it out in a causeless eternal war. It also shows how extreme global circumstances can stoke the fires of totalitarianism, where a lack of regard for the welfare of citizens can enable such a state to have the upper hand in a long and drawn out conflict.
Thankfully, humanity prevails and so reddit has already spawned a community of Civilization gamers to share around Lycerius’ savegame file and try to find a solution for peace. Whatever they come up with, maybe we can all learn something from too?