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The first way to look at past civilizations is to compare their longevity. This can Yugioh Adidas Shirt be difficult, because there is no strict definition of civilization, nor an overarching database of their births and deaths. What can this tell us about the future of global modern civilization? Are the lessons of agrarian empires applicable to our post-18th Century period of industrial capitalism?
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In the graphic below, I have compared the lifespan of various civilizations, which I define as a society with agriculture, multiple cities, military dominance in its geographical region and a continuous political structure. Given this definition, all empires are civilizations, but not all civilizations are empires. The data is drawn from two studies on the growth and decline of empires (for 3000-600BC and 600BC-600), and an informal, crowd-sourced survey of ancient civilizations (which I have amended).
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Virtually all past civilizations have faced this fate. Some recovered or transformed, such as the Chinese and Egyptian. Other collapses were permanent, as was the case of Easter Island. Sometimes the cities at the epicenter of collapse are revived, as was the case with Rome. In other cases, such as the Mayan ruins, they are left abandoned as a mausoleum for future tourists.
That’s why researchers, artists, technologists, and philosophers are converging on the idea that short-termism may be the greatest threat our species is facing this century. They include philosophers arguing the moral case for prioritizing our distant descendants; researchers mapping out the long-term path of Homo sapiens; artists creating cultural works that wrestle with time, legacy and the Yugioh Adidas Shirt sublime; and Silicon Valley engineers building a giant clock that will tick for 10,000 years.