Skipping Ourselves To Death

Apologies to Rod Serling

[We dissolve to a shot looking toward a metal spacecraft, which sits shrouded in darkness. An open door throws out a beam of light from the illuminated interior. Two figures silhouetted against the bright lights appear. We get only a vague feeling of form, but nothing more explicit than that.]

FIGURE TWO: So they were the most advanced civilization in the history of their planet, but now they’re all gone?

FIGURE ONE: Yes. If they had avoided some of the obvious mistakes, they could have ruled the universe, but success always contains within it the seeds of its own destruction.

FIGURE TWO: What happened?

FIGURE ONE: Well, the usual issues that complicate things for a species of this sort… avarice, jealousy, a lack of foresight… They told themselves they were living in a meritocracy, when really the richest amongst them had grabbed control of their political system and convinced many of them to go against their own interests through misguided tribalism and irrational fear. Meanwhile, they engaged in a sustained campaign of planetary destruction even way past the point when it had become clear that the damage they were doing was unsustainable.

FIGURE TWO: Interesting. And they weren’t able to save themselves through technological innovation?

FIGURE ONE: Technological innovation, ironically, is what brought the whole thing down. The rich can only keep their boots on the neck of the poor for so long. Revolutions happen and then society’s wealth is reallocated, for a brief time at least. The bad blood is washed away and a new order exerts itself. They could have survived it. The pillaging of their planet was nearly beyond repair, but they would have eventually come up with some sort of scientific solution, even if it had to be imposed on them after an emergency. This was not a race whose extinction was inevitable by any means.

FIGURE TWO: So… why couldn’t they work together to solve it? Surely they saw what was happening. They had mastered the atom, after all. What made the whole thing fall apart?

FIGURE ONE: Instead of focusing on making their world more equal for everyone or fixing their environmental issues, their best minds came together to ensure that they were no longer subjected to the tyranny of passively enduring sixty seconds or less of theme music while they sat on their couches and had televised content streamed at them hour after hour, hour after hour until they wasted away. Hour after hour… hour after hour… hour after hour…

[The camera slowly moves up for a shot of the starry sky, and over this we hear the Narrator’s voice.]

NARRATOR: The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply [SKIP OUTRO]