Human extinction  

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"The art of procreation and the members employed therein are so repulsive, that if it were not for the beauty of the faces and the adornments of the actors and the pent-up impulse, nature would lose the human species."--The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Human extinction is the end of the human species. Various scenarios have been discussed in science, popular culture and religion (see End time). The scope of this article is existential risks. Humans are very widespread on the Earth, and live in communities which (whilst interconnected) are capable of some kind of basic survival in isolation. Therefore, pandemic and deliberate killing aside, to achieve human extinction, the entire planet would have to be rendered uninhabitable, with no opportunity provided or possible for humans to establish a foothold beyond earth. This would typically be during a mass extinction event, a precedent of which exists in the Permian–Triassic extinction event among other examples.

In the near future, anthropogenic extinction scenarios exist: global nuclear annihilation, overpopulation or global accidental pandemic; besides natural ones: bolide impact and large scale volcanism or other catastrophic climate change. These natural causes have occurred multiple times in the geologic past although the probability of reoccurence within the human timescale of the near future is infinitesimally small. As technology develops, there is a theoretical possibility that humans may be deliberately destroyed by the actions of a nation state, corporation or individual in a form of global suicide attack. There is also a theoretical possibility that technological advancement may resolve or prevent potential extinction scenarios. The emergence of a pandemic of such virulence and infectiousness that very few humans survive the disease is a credible scenario. While not actually a human extinction event, this may leave only very small, very scattered human populations that would then evolve in isolation. It is important to differentiate between human extinction and the extinction of all life on Earth. Of possible extinction events, only a pandemic is selective enough to eliminate humanity while leaving the rest of complex life on earth relatively unscathed.

In popular culture

The book The World Without Us by Alan Weisman deals with a thought experiment on what would happen to the planet and especially human-made infrastructures if humans suddenly disappeared. The Discovery Channel documentary miniseries The Future Is Wild shows the possible future of evolution on Earth without humans. The History Channel's special Life After People examines the possible future of life on Earth without humans, and was made into a series of the same name. The National Geographic Channel's special Aftermath: Population Zero envisions what the world be like if all humans suddenly disappeared. The British science-fiction drama Primeval also puts forward an alternative view of Earth after the extinction of humans: how other species of animals, such as rodents and insects will evolve to fill niches left by humans.

In fiction

Jean-Baptiste Cousin de Grainville's 1805 Le dernier homme (The Last Man), which depicts human extinction due to infertility, is considered the first modern apocalyptic novel and credited with launching the genre. Other notable early works include Mary Shelley's 1826 The Last Man, depicting human extinction caused by a pandemic, and Olaf Stapledon's 1937 Star Maker, "a comparative study of omnicide".

Some 21st century pop-science works, including The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, pose an artistic thought experiment: what would happen to the rest of the planet if humans suddenly disappeared? A threat of human extinction, such as through a technological singularity (also called an intelligence explosion), drives the plot of innumerable science fiction stories; an influential early example is the 1951 film adaption of When Worlds Collide. Usually the extinction threat is narrowly avoided, but some exceptions exist, such as R.U.R. and Steven Spielberg's A.I.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Human extinction" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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