This is a fascinating article which I recommend reading. The modeling begins with hypothetical planets having technological civilizations which become overpopulated through the exploitation of natural resources. This eventually stresses the ecological balance of the environment sufficiently to trigger a depopulation event. The civilizations which continued to use high-impact energy sources (e.g. fossil fuels) went extinct. Some of the civilizations which switched to low-impact energy sources (e.g. solar power) survived while others also went extinct.
Scientists recently modeled a range of interactions between energy-intensive civilizations and their planets. The results were sobering.
Remarkably, science has now advanced to point where we can take a first step at answering this question. I know this because my colleagues and I have just published a first study mapping out possible histories of alien planets, the civilizations…
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Intriguing, Robert. I wonder what signs would remain of our civilization and why it collapsed.
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Wooden structures would fall and decompose within a few decades. Roads would be overgrown by vegetation in about the same time. Steel and steel-reinforced concrete structures would corrode and collapse within a century or so. Roman concrete, as used in the Colosseum, could stand for a few more centuries barring major earthquake damage. Stone pyramids in desert regions like Giza could remain recognizable for thousands of years as could rock carvings such as Mount Rushmore. After 10-20 thousand years or more, however, there wouldn’t be much structural evidence left of our modern civilization – at least that which was left out exposed.
But, some less obvious evidence would linger such as elemental isotopes which are only produced through artificial (i.e. technological) means. If another intelligent species could discover evidence of our civilization and ascertain how we met our end would depend on how much time had elapsed as well as their analytical capabilities.
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