Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Cli-Fi Short Story: "the Human Eradication Plan."

With this post, I am continuing the exploration of the narrative approach to understanding the future, in particular about the effects of climate change (see here, and here). Here, I am reproposing a complete Cli-Fi short story that was originally published on this blog in 2012.

(originally published in 2012 on "Resource Crisis")

From: Earth Orbital Outpost
To: Galactic Central Command

Progress report: Human eradication plan
(note: time spans in this report are measured in Earth orbital revolutions. One Earth orbital revolution corresponds to 4e-10 Galactic years)

- Strategic Summary

The Earth Orbital Outpost is pleased to report to Galactic Command that the eradication of the creatures termed "humans" inhabiting the planet known as "Earth" is proceeding according to plans. The rapid warming of the planet obtained by the injection of large amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is expected to wipe out most large vertebrates within 40-50 planetary revolutions around the parent star. The planet will be ready for colonization by our species in a few thousand years; when the ecosystem will have been restored.

- The original (1st level) plan

Planet Earth was the object of several preliminary explorations before being selected as suitable for colonization. Upon reaching this decision, the Earth Orbital Outpost was set up with the purpose of facilitating the colonization task. The Outpost proceeded to study the planet, finding that it is dominated by a species, known as "humans", which has appropriated most of the planetary ecosystem productivity. Individually, humans turned out to be highly intelligent and it was soon clear that the species poses an important obstacle to colonization. A necessary step for colonization was therefore their eradication. The decision was reached also upon the consideration that, if left to themselves, humans were likely to reach a technological level sufficiently high to become a nuisance at the Galactic scale.

Several plans were developed to carry out the eradication program. It soon became clear that sterilization with neutron beams, carried out by the Galactic star fleet, was possible but expensive and, besides, humans were rapidly reaching a technological level sufficient to produce a significant opposition. Instead, it was found that humans could be eradicated at a much lower cost by warming the planet at temperatures high enough to make their survival impossible. That could be accomplished by exploiting the human habit of burning fossil carbon materials in order to obtain energy. According to initial observations carried out about a hundred revolutions ago, just letting humans to themselves would lead them to inject in the atmosphere sufficient amounts of greenhouse gases to cause a warming intense enough to destroy most large vertebrates.

In previous reports, we were pleased to describe that the plan was working. 50 revolutions ago, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere had already picked up a trend of rapid growth and it was calculated that it would lead to the collapse of the ecosystem in less than a hundred revolutions. However, as mentioned earlier on, humans turned out to be remarkably intelligent and the brightest of them were able to identify and understand the ongoing process (that they usually referred to as "global warming.") Humans built up a sophisticated planetary monitoring system and created theoretical models of the atmosphere. At that point, they embarked in a planet-wide effort to stop global warming by curbing fossil carbon burning and deploying non-carbon based energy sources.

Having observed this development, it was necessary to alter the original plan and intervene more directly in the eradication task, although still doing an effort to avoid the enormous costs involved in deploying the Galactic fleet.

-  The 2nd level plan

Stopping humans from taking measures to avoid destroying themselves turned out to require a quite modest effort - completely within the resources available to the Earth Orbital Outpost. This result may be surprising and, indeed, some members of the Galactic Command had expressed doubt on being able to convince humans - individually very intelligent - to continue actting in ways that were leading to their destruction. Nevertheless, we succeeded in accomplishing this task.

The key element of our action has been the study and the exploitation of the human information network, that they call "the Web." It is a sophisticated planet-wide information system that has been fundamental for humans in developing their understanding of climate and diffusing this knowledge with their decision makers. However, we found fundamental flaws in the functioning of this network.

In particular, we found that the network is dominated by "super-nodes" which show a higher level of connectivity than most nodes. These super-nodes are called by humans "media" and sometimes "mainstream media". Surprisingly, we found that the supernodes are managed by humans who are quite unable to understand the basic elements of the functioning of the Earth's ecosphere. Even more surprisingly, we found that the humans in charge of these media nodes make no effort whatsoever to check that the information they diffuse corresponds to physical reality.

We also found that the humans in charge of managing the media supernodes are easily influenced by other groups of humans which are called "lobbies," whose role is not easily understood by us. We believe it has something to do with the abnormal interest of humans in a virtual entity that they have created and that they refer to as "money". Although the characteristics of this entity are obscure to us, it seems that humans (especially males) care about being associated with large amounts of this virtual entity and this, in turn, seems to have something to do with the behavior of human females. In any case, we were able to penetrate the human computing centers which produce this "money" and appropriate large amounts of it for our purposes.

In practice, it was sufficient for the Earth Orbital Outpost to take control of a small numbers of leading human individuals; whom we refer to as "avatars." This task was accomplished mainly by our control of large amounts of the above mentioned "money" entity. Using money, the takeover of these minds turned out to be extremely easy: we found little resistence on their part and no evidence that our operation was detected by other humans. Our avatars carried out several tasks, mainly providing the media super-nodes with fake data that contradicted the results of the previous scientific investigation on the degradation of the ecosystem.

A special operation that turned out to be extremely successful was to break into the database of one of their best scientific organizations (called by humans "climate research unit") and diffusing internal data exchanges all over the network. This operation generated considerable confusion among humans as it highlighted several uncertainties in the research; something typical of scientific investigation but that, apparently, most of them are not familiar with.

Assessment of the present situation

The takeover of the human information system (the "Web") by our human avatars was completely successful and we have been able to turn it into an instrument for our purposes. We are pleased to report that most human leaders have been turned into avatars under our direct control or are completely confused about the issue of global warming. It has been possible to relegate the discussion on this theme to only some minor clusters of the information network. All attempts carried out by humans to diffuse it outside these clusters are met by aggressive denial (humans turn out to be extremely aggressive for reasons that to us appear futile).

As a consequence of our takeover of the information network, all attempts of humans to stop the ecosystem destruction have been halted and appear unlikely to be restarted any time soon. The amount of greenhouse gases being emitted in the Earth's atmosphere keeps increasing. That is creating a rapid rise of temperatures, as confirmed by the recent observation of the near complete melting of the North Pole ice cap, a planetary feature that had been existing for several million years of planetary history.

It is clear that the Earth's system is heading towards a tipping point where rising temperatures will trigger a series of phenomena which will lead to runaway warming and to the total collapse of the ecosystem, even without further human generation of greenhouse gases. We have been monitoring the system evolution using climate modeling programs developed by humans, which turned out to be very sophisticated. According to these models, the tipping point could have been already reached or, in any case, will be reached within a few planetary revolutions. Therefore, we expect that the eradication of the human species could be fully accomplished within a few tens of revolutions.

Recent developments and recommendations for the future

Even though the Earth's climate tipping point is likely to have been reached, humans could still, theoretically, react with various countermeasures, such as restarting with the phasing out of fossil carbon burning, deploying non carbon energy sources, shielding the Earth from solar radiation, and so forth. In order to succeed, however, humans need first to regain control of the planetary information system. Our avatars on the planet report ongoing human efforts in this sense, perhaps triggered by the observation of the melting of the North Pole ice cap.

Given these recent developments, the coming planetary revolutions will be critical for the success of the human eradication plan. The Earth Orbital Outpost will keep the situation under strict and continuous monitoring. We do expect difficulties, in particular with our avatars. Their physical integrity cannot be guaranteed if their role in the eradication plan is discovered by humans not under our control. Nevertheless, they have done their job and their loss will not change the rapid evolution of the Earth's climate system.

Assuming that things continue to move according to plans, planet Earth will soon be free of humans and of most large vertebrates that could be a nuisance for colonization. We shall therefore proceed with the second part of the plan, which consists in cooling down the planet by deploying space mirrors. Subsequently, natural processes will re-absorb greenhouse gases and restore the planetary ecosystem in about one thousand planetary revolutions. At this point, the planet will be ready for colonization by our species. Ships with colonists are expected to arrive in about ten thousand revolutions from now. Then, a new planet will be added to our Galactic civilization!

End Report - The Earth Orbital Outpost 

(note: this storyt was inspired by Isaac Asimov's story "The Gentle Vultures" - 1957)


  1. Very amusing.
    See The Arrival for the film version of this story.

  2. Must be an interesting movie. I just saw the scene when the scorpion kills the woman protagonist..... Ouch!

  3. "The decision was reached also upon the consideration that, if left to themselves, humans were likely to reach a technological level sufficiently high to become a nuisance at the Galactic scale."

    These aliens are no smarter than we. Their decision was reached upon the consideration that, if left to ourselves we would reach a technological level high enough to become a nuisance to them.

    That we are going through resources in an undisciplined and reckless way so quickly a catabolic collapse of our species is certain should have been obvious to them. Taking control of our media was a total unnecessary waste of their resources. All they had to do was look and see next to no alternative energy infrastructure was being developed to replace oil. A failure which will mean no substitutes available when oil depletes. Humanity will then self-destruct.

    Humans will not have any capital left with which to pursue alternatives. Without substitutes for oil or alternative ways of living humans will die unable to meet the maintenance needs of their existing capital or generate any new capital. Everything they have will fall apart.

    All the aliens had to do was wait but they got impatient. Goes to show; sentient beings are the same no matter were you go in the universe.

    1. The story - as I mention at the end - was inspired by Asimov's short story "The Gentle Vultures" and it follows its approach; at least in part. Asimov's story, actually, was way more optimistic and it had the extraterrestrial "vultures" waiting in vain for humans to destroy themselves in a nuclear holocaust. It reflected the optimistic views of the 1950s. Today, we see things much differently but there is at least a chance that humans can be seen as a nuisance at the planetary scale. They are already.

  4. My previous comment made the point that Aliens are no smarter than us. Probably not true but that was my only intent in writing it. Focused on that I neglected to say your story is great as it is.

    Watching the web being controlled by alien avatars is something I'm very familiar with. As a human who detected the eradication plan and who is not under alien control I frequent the minor nodes of the information network and even have a one of my own. Disseminating confusion and --> remaining undetected <-- is how aliens avatars continue to be successful. It is only a matter of time and they will succeed. I only hope to enjoy a few good times before they do.

    A very simple and effective plan they have and it keeps their ministry of colonization fully employed. Full employment is important to them. When I discovered their presence they revealed themselves to me in an attempt to scare me away and I learned much as a result. They flashed documents on my screen showing executive orders from their leader ordering them to fully control our information network. They even offered me money but neglected to actually show any to me so I figured they were pulling my leg. I got the mandatory misinformation about microwaves being beamed at people to agitate them and drive them crazy but was too smart to believe any of it. A trick they have is to feed people who learn to much some crazy information. Their hope is that people will soak it in and repeat it. Then people who learn to much all appear crazy and won't be believed. It is very clever of them.

    And good thing they want full employment. They had a clever employee named Thriptwinklepffftsank in their ministry of colonization who had the idea of simply sending a genetically engineered bacterium down to earth and causing a worldwide pandemic. He was executed because that plan would have put way too many aliens out of work. A good thing for us or we would already be history.

  5. Ugo, bravo bravissimo! I love it. danny bloom via Jim Laughter in Taiwan GO GO GO MORE MORE MORE ciao danny

  6. Now UP on the Diner Blog!

    Also, Cli-Fi Podcast with Ugo and Jim Laughter now at 760 Listens!


  7. Prof. Bardi, IMHO, you should focus your blog in the description of the process of collapse that is going on in Italy. It is extrememly sad, but it could help people elsewhere to prepare for a similar fate. Your vast knowledge, writting talent and scientific training and yours "being at the (sadly) right place at the (sadly) right time" are invaluable. If not you, Prof. Bardi, than who?

    1. Well, thanks for the suggestion. It might be a good idea. I myself learned a lot about collapse from the case of the Soviet Union, as described by Dmitry Orlov. Each country is different, Italy is unlike the Soviet Union in many respects, but very similar in others. So, each case brings a little bit more understanding. But,collapsing we all are anyway!

  8. Wonderful!
    [But, if you do not mind, Professor and all readers, this part onwards seems not that necessary: "In practice, it was sufficient for the Earth Orbital Outpost to take control of a small numbers of leading human individuals; whom we refer to as "avatars." This task was accomplished mainly by our control of large amounts of the above mentioned "money" entity." Because, of things were left to the following quoted entities, they could take care of everything and Galactic Command could save energy and time -- "We also found that the humans in charge of managing the media supernodes are easily influenced by other groups of humans which are called "lobbies," whose role is not easily understood by us. We believe it has something to do with the abnormal interest of humans in a virtual entity that they have created and that they refer to as "money"." Those Supernodes, Lobbies and what the Hitchhikers Guide mention as coloured pieces of papers ... perhaps we can rely on them for the extinction plan, isn't it?]



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)