What If Humans Obtained an Infinite Power Source? | Unveiled

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
What if energy wasn't a problem? What if we had INFINITY FUEL? In this video, Unveiled discovers what the world would be like if we could power humanity until infinity. How would society react? And how would the richest and most powerful people behave?

What if Humans Obtained an Infinite Power Source?

Whether we’re cooking food, driving cars, lighting cities, or launching rockets into space, humans need power and energy. And, with every passing year, our energy consumption increases… to the point where supply could soon fail demand. But what would life be like if we never had to worry about resources again?

This is Unveiled, and today we’re answering the extraordinary question; what if humans obtained an infinite power source?

For mathematicians and philosophers, the idea of infinity has been debated for centuries, all the way back to the days of Aristotle. And, actually, we’ve yet to find anything that’s truly infinite in the physical world. Instead, infinity is more a concept existing in the abstract, with the simplest example of it being numbers - because there’s no upper limit on how many there can be, meaning we’ll never reach the end of numbers. With physical things, however, there is always an end; there’s always an upper limit. Even when that limit is so far off and unimaginable, like it can seem with various forms of energy. Think about solar energy; even it will eventually run out when the sun dies in a few billion years. So, when we consider it on a far future timeline, even the power potential of our home star will one day disappear.

Nevertheless, it’s likely that the sun (and the stars in general) will be around for longer than humankind is. So, from our perspective, anything which continuously harvests stellar energy would amount to an infinite source. Or… anything which provides the energy equivalent to a star would feel, to us, like a bottomless supply. But how would power like this actually work?

There are two main ways we could hypothetically achieve it… 1) by creating the nuclear fusion reaction which usually happens inside a star, but here on Earth instead, or 2) by travelling to a star and directly tapping its energy from close quarters. Neither method has much going for it in terms of practicality, however.

We’ve been trying to recreate stellar fusion on the ground for decades now, but without any great success or efficiency… mostly because of the incredible input of energy that’s required to achieve the temperatures and conditions needed to fuse atoms in the first place. Similarly, we have had designs for megastructures we could use to locally siphon power from stars for years - the most famous of which being the Dyson Sphere. But, in reality, we’ve never gotten even close to building one. And, even if we could build one, we’d probably prefer to build it around the next-closest star to us other than the sun, to lessen the risk of turning Earth uninhabitable if it didn’t work. The next-closest sun-like stars are then Alpha Centauri A and B, which are 4.3 lightyears away, and we don’t yet have any idea how to get there. It would take the New Horizons probe, for example - one of the fastest machines ever built - approximately seventy-eight thousand years to make the trip!

All of which places humanity in quite a quandary. We know that, from our perspective as puny human beings, there’s essentially endless energy available in the universe… it’s just that we can’t get to (or use) the very vast majority of it. For some, dark energy could be the answer, if only because it’s abundant in the universe so we wouldn’t have to travel very far to get our hands on some. The only problem is, besides knowing that it’s there and that it’s intrinsically related to cosmic expansion, we understand pretty much nothing else about it. We know a little bit about what it does, but we don’t yet know what it is… which means we’re a long way away from harvesting it for our infinite power needs. Perhaps one day someone will have a Eureka! moment and we’ll understand dark energy in the same way we understand something like gravity… but, as of 2020, it’s still a near-total mystery.

So, right now, the unfortunate truth is that humans aren’t all that likely to discover a truly infinite source of energy anytime soon. Renewables, yes, definitely, we already have them! But truly, indefinitely, bottomless power… it’s just not on the horizon. But what a world it would be if all of the above problems were to somehow be solved. What would actually happen if humanity either lived long enough to develop an infinite power source, or if we were to be, for some reason, gifted one? It would trigger a tech boom and societal change at a rate we’ve never experienced before!

With unlimited energy - let’s call it infinity-fuel - there’d be limitless possibilities. It would be bad news for all existing energy companies without infinity-fuel, because they’d be out of business. And, in an ideal world, it could be that no single group or organisation would ever gain control over infinity-fuel, because its infinite nature would result in it being immediately accessible and on-tap for every individual. There’d be no need for energy companies at all, in this case. Which means no energy bills to pay.

Infinity-fuel would mean the end of fossil fuels on Earth, too. We’d no longer be digging up or drilling through our own planet in the name of industry. And, so long as infinity-fuel itself didn’t require us to drain the Earth in any way, humankind would reset to eke out an eco-friendlier existence by default. On the downside, infinity-fuel would mean substantial job losses in the energy sector… but these would be offset by job openings in things like engineering. With infinite energy available, there’d be no end to what we could plan, build, manufacture and use. In this world, if you can dream it, then you really can do it.

An infinite power source would be invaluable for space exploration, for example. It could lead to a series of science and tech breakthroughs to fast-forward us to the invention of something like the Alcubierre Drive… a theorized warp drive design that would have us travelling at faster-than-light speeds all across the cosmos. Plans to build orbital cities could also be put into action, and humanity’s ambitions would extend far beyond simply Mars or the Moon, and out past the Oort Cloud into whole other star systems. With infinite power just at our disposal we would no longer need to get to Alpha Centauri to build a Dyson Sphere, but we could easily take a trip there just to see the sights. With infinite power, we’d all be intergalactic tourists. And, with infinity-fuel pushing us ever onwards in all other aspects of life, our souped-up species could race through developing things like quantum computers, nanotechnology and failsafe biorobotics.

But, for all the reasons to be optimistic, it could also be that infinite power drives an unbridgeable gap between us. Because would the majority of people really see the benefits of infinity-fuel? In the event that it wasn’t simply free for every individual to use, but was instead controlled by certain companies or governments, all of the endless benefits might only be available to certain people. We already see something a little like this with water. In theory, the water cycle should naturally provide enough water on rotation to go round. But, in reality, not everyone has access to a clean, drinkable source for a number of societal reasons. Were infinity fuel to be regulated by only select groups, then, those groups would have near total control over not just what they could achieve in their own lives, but also over what others couldn’t achieve in theirs.

On a final, happier note, however, it is worth considering again that, from our perspective as humans on Earth, we do already have various forms of essentially infinite energy. Renewables are slowly filling the gap vacated by finite fossil fuels. And these, by their nature, could be used indefinitely on this planet… with some countries on Earth, like Iceland, already generating all electricity from renewable sources. Right now, there’s still a balancing act in the global economy between what’s profitable and what’s sustainable but increasing numbers of governments and businesses and organisations are slowly converting to greener policies. One day, in the far, far future, the sun will still die, and solar power will be no more. Or something could happen to silence the winds, and the wind turbines will fail. But these eventualities are so far off, and possibly even beyond the future timeline of human existence, that we can to some degree say that renewables offer an infinite solution.

It remains to be seen how we will put them to use in the future, and whether they will fast-track humanity to a more advanced level. But, in an alternate world where a universal infinity-fuel is free to use for everyone… where you just turn on a tap and receive unlimited energy… there’d also be no end to what we could achieve. And that’s what would happen if humans obtained an infinite power source.
Hope one day happened
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