When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

The Ultimate Metaphysical Debate: Should We Try To Save The Universe?

It may be billions and billions of years away, but right now the annihilation of the Universe is a foregone conclusion. Should scientists try to do something to change that?

Fate of the Universe in our hands
Fate of the Universe in our hands
Laurent Alexandre

PARIS — Philosophers have always been fascinated by the origin of the Universe. For example, the question posed by German theoretician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: “Why should there be something rather than nothing?” was formulated way back, in 1740.

Very few thinkers, on the other hand, have taken an interest in the Universe’s future. And yet, its fate is necessarily apocalyptic.

The six possible scenarios foreseen by astrophysicists, from the “Big Crunch” (the opposite of the Big Bang) to the “Big Chill” (the dissipation of all energy) all lead to our Universe’s death, and therefore to the disappearance of all traces that we humans ever existed.

And so, just as we are realizing that we need sustainable development for our planet Earth to survive, we discover that the Universe itself is in grave danger.

A young French philosopher, Clément Vidal, managed to summarize in his beautiful book The Beginning and the Endwhat is at stake in this planned demise. Reflecting on the very long-term future can seem a vain undertaking indeed, given the great uncertainty and significant issues of our time: Is it reasonable to contemplate such remote events, while 2 billion of our fellow earthlings have no access to running water? Should we not instead focus our energy on solving problems here and now?

Looking that far into the future is nonetheless useful, as it raises questions about our values. Are Good and Evil relevant notions on the cosmological scale? What is the meaning of our lives if all trace of our civilization is destined to disappear with the Universe? What is science’s ultimate goal?

Googol search

For Clément Vidal, the answer to this last question is crystal clear: Science’s ultimate goal is to fight against the death of the Universe, by artificially creating new ones. After defeating human death, science should focus on keeping the Universe alive. Artificial cosmogony would be the focal point of all human energy for the next few billion years. After achieving regeneration of our ageing bodies thanks to stem cells, cosmological regeneration would make the Universe either immortal or replaceable.

Cosmological urgency, however, is relative. Although we'll need to change solar systems in about four billion years, before our sun becomes a red giant, there still are googol (10 to the 100th power, or 1 followed by 100 zeros) years left before our entire Universe dies.

This reflection on our remote future and the meaning of the human adventure follows the transhumanist vision: Wanting to change the Universe’s fate indeed requires the ability to travel great distances and thus, to be virtually immortal and in possession of extraordinary intellectual capacities. This means developing a dematerialized collective intelligence, detached from our biological bodies, similar to Teilhard de Chardin and Vladimir Vernadsky’s noosphere.

To alter the Universe’s destiny would imply a future human consensus on the absence of God. It is indeed unlikely that believers could agree with such a demiurgic project. Will the human race avoid the ultimate vanity that consists in making the Universe immortal to ensure its own immortality?

This unmistakably leads to a more dizzying hypothesis: If in the future we are able to create universes, then our own might well have been created by a another civilization.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest