What will we be called in the future?

Consider the general periods of Western civilization (i.e. Neolithic. Bronze, Iron, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Middle, Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, Industrial, Modern). I think it’s safe to assume that our “modern” period will, at some point in the future, be given a different, more appropriate moniker (calling the 21st century “modern” in the 23rd century would be rather silly). When our period is aptly named, a short synopsis of our civilization is sure to be described as well. The future civilization that names and describes our civilization will most likely do so, in large part, by comparison (i.e. our period to theirs). Since we are not privy to the exact nature of future civilizations, our period’s name and description can only be guessed at in a contingent, somewhat logical manner. Despite the shortcomings, lets tap into our prescient 6th sense and post some likely candidates.

Here’s an optimistic, though rather tongue-in-cheek, example:
The Age of Pollution: 1850 – 2050 (some overlap with the Industrial Revolution).
An age of great social upheaval, technological coming-of-age and general untidiness. Science trumps religion for the first time. Rampant celebrity idolatry. Genesis of androgyny. Abhorrence of pollution, though not enough to curtail hedonistic lifestyles. Ignorance considered hip, except for Straight Dopers. People generally friendly, despite growing paranoia. Global immersion of beachfront property, pandemic asthma and the extinction of frogs ultimately gives impetus for the great mid-21st century pan-societal exaltation: hmm, guess it’s time to do something about this mess, thus marking the end of this period.

The Age of Resentment: 2050 - ?

I don’t think anyone will be so condescending or hard on us. Historians will make it clear why such things occurred and people will understand.

My guess is:

The Early Technological Era

The Nuclear Era?

The thing is, there are so many nascent technologies that might come along and take over the world. Obviously, right now the moniker to be used is, “Early Computer Era.” But what nanotech takes off and completely transforms human society? What if some corporate giant finally devices software and optical devices that can drive robotic hands as skillfully and quickly as human hands, and very shortly thereafter much MORE skillfully, quickly and cheaply as human hands, thus destroying the market for almost all forms of manual labor? (This one’s just a question of when, not if.) What if artificial intelligences many times more powerful than hte human mind and able to program themselves to be smarter come into existence? What if the sea levels go up as much and as fast as some climatologists fear due to global warming, inundating many of the world’s major cities? What if Middle Eastern terrorists get their hands on a nuke and try one out in the US or Europe?

It’s likely then that our era will be remembered as the time just before the Big Thing happened, and little else.

The problem is that there’s always a Big Thing just about ready to happen; the stone axe, the wheel and axle, bronze, iron, the printing press, the telegraph, the atom bomb, the digital computer, blah blah blah.

Trying to guess what future historians will call us (or what they’ll think of our actions and consequences) is as much a fool’s errand as any attempt at prognostication but I think something along the lines of “The Digital Information Age” is probably as good a guess as any. I suspect whatever technological innovations we bask in today will be regarded as hideously primitive (“You mean, you actually watched plays broadcasted as electromagnetic signals on vacuum tubes?”), and the appliances they enjoy without a thought will be unimaginable to even our most singular futurologists.

I just hope they don’t lose Johann Sebastian Bach, Louis Armstrong, and Jimi Hendrix on the way.


Poul Anderson called it the Technic Age, I believe.

Well, Bach, Beethoven and Beatles, and I’m with you.

But speaking of Armstrong, I believe Neil Armstrong will be one of the few period people to be remembered (only as a milestone icon) far into the future.

Spellcheck FUBAR: Substitute “exclamation” for “exaltation” in post #1

I vote for the Information Age.

We have increased the volume of information available to everyone in the world just in this last century. I believe “information” and the control of it will be a powerful aspect of our future.

Good input all around, so far. However, I do tend to disagree with the likelihood of names like *”The Digital Information Age” * and the *“Nuclear Era”. * My feeling is that digital information and nuclear power will become more ubiquitous in the future (certainly through the next few civilization periods). Therefore, calling our period the “X” period when the next period is *more * “X”, strikes me as an unlikely scenario. We could use a qualifier (e.g. the Dawn of “X”), but that still doesn’t ring true to me—what would be the line of demarcation?
My half-in-jest example, the Age of Pollution, though admittedly an unlikely candidate for reasons of condescension, does have an air of logicality—at least to me. Optimistically, I foresee mankind soon reaching an era of enlightenment and making a global effort to preserve the earth for future generations. This will be an earth friendly era—an anti-pollution epoch. In this context, our period, by comparison, could certainly be viewed as an age of pollution. And, by extension, the logical name for the next period should be, the *Age of Resentment * (of our period for making them clean up our mess).

Yes, but we still use “Industrial” even though industry is far more wide-spread now than it was in the 1800-1920 era. I vote for “Electrical”.

Yes, but it had the qualifier Industrial “Revolution”.

Ah, good point. OK, then, the Electrical Revolution. :stuck_out_tongue:

So? We still use steel and stone (and occasionally bronze), and yet we continue to use those terms for periods when technology based upon those materials was novel. The hallmark is that the item named is intrinsically involved in the revolutionary change that took place.


The Plastic Age.

Futurama’s historians refer to our period as the “Stupid Ages.” Seems fitting.

The Golden Age?

The Age of Legends?


The Age before Civilization Collapsed with a a Surplus of Garbage and a Shortage of Oil?

The start of modern history.

For the first time in history, storage space is increasing faster than data. From about 1990 onwards, EVERYTHING we produce is being stored for future generations to sift through. Emails, blogs, photos, shopping lists, porn, this post. Looking back over history, there will be a sharp divide over how much we know about pre 1990 history and post 1990 history.

I still gotta disagree—but not vehemently, it’s a gray area.

Certainly, the end of an age/period does not necessarily signify the end of whatever the period was named for. Admittedly, to this day we still use stone and bronze and iron, and we still have remnants of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Medieval… cultures. The classification pattern appears (to me) to name ages and periods not only by comparison to the age preceding it, but also in contradistinction to the one following. Also, I would use a strong term, like “age-defining” as opposed to the more commonplace, “novel”.

The prominence of Bronze tools and weapons after the transition from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age (around 2000BC) could certainly be said to be an age defining factor, as was the prominence of iron implementation post 12th century BC. But let’s now imagine that iron never made it on to the world stage until much later and Bronze implementation continued on, even more prominently through 332BC. Let’s say 1200BC, although not ushering in the age of iron, ushers in a different age-defining factor: everyone begins to wear pointy hats. Although bronze usage continues to be implemented for most tools and weapons, people now use their pointy hats for fashion, carrying things and occasionally to poke enemies in the eye. Pointy hat usage is so ubiquitous and important in this time period, it demands an Age classification: the Age of Pointy Hats. Giving us:
The Stone Age
The Bronze (?) Age
The Age of Pointy Hats: 1200BC to 332BC

My point: I believe the Bronze Age would not have been so named, in my scenario, considering that Bronze usage becomes even more widespread after 1200BC. It makes sense in contrast to the Stone Age, but not in contrast to the Age of Pointy Hats. The “Dawn of Bronze Age” may work, or better still, the “Pre-Hat Age”.

Likewise, I don’t believe our present period will be named the *Digital Information Age * or the *Nuclear Age * if the next age sees Digital Information and Nuclear Power becoming even more prominent. But, then again, I could be wrong. On reflection, I think a more likely classification outcome for the “Pointy Hat” scenario would be:

The Bronze Age: 2000BC to 332BC
>>>The Pre-Hat Period: 2000BC to 1200BC
>>>The Pointy Hat Period: 1200BC to 332BC

And, by extension:
The Digital Information Age
>>>The Pollution Period
>>>The Clean Period
The Quantum Information Age