Wait, wait, wait: One BILLION Years?

AstroBull has a question about the Numenera setting:
I have a question about the TTON time scale. In a previous AMA response, you mention "the setting of Numenera and Torment is Earth one billion years in the future, known as the Ninth World. A billion years is as far removed from us as we are removed from being single-celled organisms." This brings up questions regarding biological evolution. As far as I am aware, many/most characters in TTON will be recognizably human, though I'm sure with changes both genetic and technological in origin. Still, it would take quite the suspension of disbelief for me to believe that Homo sapiens as we know it would exist in this future, rather than some potentially un-recognizable descendent.

Couldn't the premise of ages of civilizations with vastly advanced tech followed by a dark age work for, say, 20 million years? Will there be some explanation as to why humans still exist in the unfathomable distant future?

You are absolutely right. In one billion years, humans and everything else will have evolved, the continents will have come back together and split apart again, and none of it will matter because the sun will have expanded to the point where life on Earth will be impossible.

Assuming nobody does anything about it.

That's the thing, though. In those billion years, at least eight ultra-powerful civilizations have arisen (or arrived) and then disappeared, each one advanced to incredible power far (FAR FAR) beyond what we are currently capable of. And each one messed with the Earth in substantial ways.

At least one of them had mastered planetary engineering and stellar lifting. At least one could fiddle with the laws of physics the way we play with Legos. At least one explored parallel universes and alternate dimensions. And more than one wasn't human.

So why are there humans at all, or anything even remotely close? The Ninth Worlders don't know the answer to that. Their recorded history only goes back about 900 years, before which humans lived in barbaric tribes and isolated farming villages. No one knows how long it's been since the previous civilization disappeared, nor where Ninth Worlders came from. They have a sense that Earth was once theirs, and then it wasn't, and now it is again, but they have no idea how this could be.

Will there be some explanation for you, the player? Not in Torment, and maybe not in Numenera at all. It's not critical to Torment's story, but more than that, it's part of the mystery of the setting. And mystery is critical to making this setting work.

As for why a billion, instead of some other large-but-sufficient number, Monte Cook has a better answer than I could give.

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2 comments:

Matthew MacNish said...

A billion works for me because it is so far removed it makes ANYTHING possible.

Could 100 million accomplish the same thing? Maybe, but probably not comprising 9 major civilizations whose power and advancement were on not only galactic, but dimensional scale.

Anyway, off to see what Monty had to say.

Surface Rlf said...

Lets hope that this time scale will also mean that human races in the game will not be some sort of hodge-podge melange like some of early followers of the kickstarter thought or wrongly wanted, while not thinking about what one billion years actually mean.

Our diversity as a species is a good thing.