For two decades, there has been growing discourse about the name of the rock strata that will be associated with homo sapiens in future geological records. The present age we live in bears witness to a great tension between humans and nature. Hidden within this conflict is the ominous contradiction between humanity’s dependence on natural resources and neglect and misuse of the Earth’s goods. Even the idea of Earth being something deserving of fair treatment and respect is a hot item for debate. Going forward we are left to wonder if the lens of artificiality may provide insight to the futures of homo sapiens’ relationship with nature. Geologist reckoning has labelled the last approximately 11,650 years as the Holocene epoch. Following what has commonly been referred to as the last ice age, this period has been noted as a time of warmth and glacial retreat. During this period, a burgeoning proliferation of species, notably that of humans, has occurred. Rise of civilisations and technological advance have largely been at the mercy of nature’s will, but more recently, a contemporary debate has questioned how even footed was the fight between humanity and nature. Has humanity’s impact on the globe changed the tide of Earth’s geological progression and is this impact reaching the point of irreversibility? Will the artificial be the final straw in this struggle?
The Anthropocene neologism was popularised after the year 2000 to describe what will follow the Holocene geological era. Human impact on the planet is being deposited in ocean sediments and is recorded in deep ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica. The evidence of our industry and chemistry will be there for aeons of future geologists to uncover, including radioisotopes from nuclear bomb testing, trace metals from early smelting in the Bronze Age, and layers of plastic. The evidence of human use of fossil fuels will be revealed in future rocks. Nature, and her legacy of human detritus, will remain indefinitely intertwined.
The Anthropocene will likely contain a record of our increasingly artificial world, our artificial turf, satellites, breasts, hips, and now artificial intelligence. That is particularly true because even our reality is open to question. Are we living in our solipsistic dreams, in the Matrix, or a nightmare? In modern society we can feel the dissonance between what we think is real, and alternative, or artificial facts and truths that compete with our beliefs. We face a serious crisis when the boundaries between the real and the artificial are deliberately confused and obfuscated. Nevertheless, that trend continues.