The Future of Humanity

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Journey to the Past (Sci-Fi, Book Award 2023)
Award Category
Golden Writer
Book Cover Image
Logline or Premise
Could humanity be rebuilt if a virus decimated 95% of the population?
Human settlements returning to cultural atavism, backwardness, and isolation. Even if things were to go favorably, this new humanity would take several millennia to reach the pre-extinction cultural and technological levels.
First 10 Pages


In my childhood and early adolescence, the concept of the "future" did not exceed a few months. At most a year or so. For a child of then 5 years old, each year of life represented, empirically and biologically, a fifth of his life, a period long enough to think of as winter vacations or Christmas eve as a very long spot ahead, if the month of April, for example, had just started.

At 14 or 15 years old, the future represented coming of age and, looking at our parents and grandparents, starting to think about what one would like to be: teacher, astronaut, soccer player?

Even at the age of 30, back in 1990, the future was something to be discovered but at the same time, framed within certain and somehow predictable events and trends, especially after the Collapse of the USSR, which put an end to the main factor of uncertainty as was the Cold War, which could become “Hot” at any time.

There were certain situations, still embryonic and known by a handful of experts. Situations that overwhelm us today and that are extremely difficult to predict, augur or forecast for the coming times, like as the climate change, the growing scarcity of drinking water, the pollution of the seas, the extinction –by action or omission- of living species at the hands of the human race, social inequality, the growing technological gap between societies, robotics, artificial intelligence and the rise of China, to name a few factors whose growing importance makes it almost impossible, with current analytical tools, to know where we will be -if we still are- in the year 2100.

In this context, science fiction has been providing its versions of possible futures for humanity, both promising and ominous, with the presence of aliens and without them, with friendly androids and ruthless enslaving machines, with an Earth as the eternal cradle of civilization or with our planet, in the best of cases, devastated, and in even less favorable others, directly destroyed.

If all these visions had come together into my five years old mind, back in 1965, without previous preparation or anesthesia, and with the vividness of current narrative and cinema capabilities, I would have had to be hospitalized due to an outbreak of panic.

But today, through these SciFi portraits, the public, even the smallest, can interpret and evaluate the possible future of humanity.

This novel presents a future in which I have tried to play with various current factors and the possibility (very improbable, but not impossible) that we will have to interact, in many years, with, I would say, exceptional conditions.

Perhaps, it serves so that in our present time we save an old saying that today, more than ever, has undoubted validity: That the future is in our own hands.

Esteban Corio

Argentina, September 2022.


A new beginning


The storm had arrived at its peak. Violent gusts of wind and water struck the wooded ground, tilting the trees almost to the point of breaking and toppling smaller bushes.

Lightning, like snakes of fire, fell everywhere with a deafening roar. The few living beings that were seen on the surface were there due to their great size or slowness: they had not found any lair that would allow them to cope with that time of infernal weather.

The only thing that could stand against such a display of force of nature were a few ruins that appeared here and there, constructions that, in some cases, kept some walls standing, whereas in others everything was reduced to a mass of stones.

Isolated, in the middle of a forest clearing, stood, imposing and defiant, a metal tower, which in its heyday had been found connected by cables to hundreds of other similar ones, traversing vast distances and carrying energy to a flourishing civilization of which almost no traces remained, except for the aforementioned ruins.

On one side, cables, cut decades ago, were rocking and shivering to the rhythm of furious gusts of wind in a crazy dance. On the other side of the tower, the cables were still connected to the remnant of a building that showed only two floors in relative condition above ground, but hiding another eight floors below ground, which had been fairly well protected from the elements and the harshness of the weather from the time the building had been abandoned, about 200 years ago.

After the climax, as if it had exhausted all its energies and, languishing, gave way to the moment of providing a respite to the battered territory, the storm tended to subside, though a last and final lightning bolt, like the tail of an animal about to expire, fell ruthlessly on the energy tower. Thousands of volts of potential energy difference encouraged the electrons to seek the shortest possible path to Earth, to bring everything back into balance.

A large part of the current was directed to the cables that led to the building, and in a billionth of a second, they flooded the eight underground floors with energy.

The first two underground floors were partially occupied by stones, mud, burrows and countless other things that nature, by way of claim, had taken charge of accumulating.

But from basement three to basement eight, the situation was different. Everything was covered in dust, rust and oblivion, yes, but if there had been a cleaning crew available at that time to do their job, all those floors could have been, in a way, habitable.

The energy had hit hard all the wiring, creating arcs that ripped through the open switches and, for a few horrific moments, some machines came back to life.

This third basement was an android assembly unit specializing in urban planning and management. Some 220 years before, in the year 2092 according to the Gregorian calendar used at that time, the percentage of urban population on a planetary level exceeded 90%, and there were above ten cities or urban conglomerates with more than one hundred million inhabitants, and more than seventy cities of over fifty million.

Then, the transit ordering, public transportation, and supply chains were critical, and although the network of individual terminals served well to each person living in the city, covering all their needs, not all the citizens used to follow the recommendations, and the street protests, accidents and health catastrophes multiplied.

A scientific committee determined that, perhaps, the only viable solution was to send interconnected androids to the streets to deal with all kinds of situations in public spaces and roads, such as: transit routing, breaking up demonstrations, preventing disasters and collaborate with the human police.

The idea proved to be a resounding success, and for the next twenty years, the rates of accidents, demonstrations, health emergencies, and even crimes fell by more than half…until it was all over.

In 2112, not only this planning service, but all human activity, direct or indirect, fell victim to a ruthless virus which arrived without warning.

With a lethality for the human race of 95% and with permanent neurological consequences for 5% of the survivors, Armageddon in microscopic form descended on humanity, sweeping millennia of progress in a couple of months.

The handful of humans who managed to escape by barricading themselves in Martian and lunar settlements also meet their agony years later.

They could not go back to Earth for fear of new infections, and could not reach the self-sufficiency of the colonies, which were given without the basic supplies of the mother planet... until the last extra-planetary human said goodbye as a fleeting spark in the darkness of the cosmos.

On Earth, and despite desperate attempts by the most advanced scientists, the pathogen has resisted all identification and even more so all antipathogenic.

Its origin could never be known, because as the saying goes, there was no one left to talk about it.


Resurrected by that primordial lightning bolt, they moved on the assembly table, dusted themselves off from two centuries, and moved their mechanical arms as the programming subroutines finished loading after a long of waiting, and before the power that reached them dissipated in search of the long awaited land and everything returned to darkness and silence, as during the previous 200 years.

Both androids arose and were born.

Surely, their silicon brains, commanded by very specific routines, did not expect applause, lights, photos or any celebration for that birth, but neither could they finish reconciling that dark, cold, humid and absolutely deprived environment of all forms of human contact.

Each of them, still unaware of the existence of the other, executed a first directive, which was to establish contact with the central processing unit, the Central Control, or mother brain. Neither of them succeeded.

Then the alternate plan began: To attempt to establish communication with something in the immediate radius.

«This is ROU 22413, a.k.a. Rouko establishing contact.»

«This is ROU 22422, a.k.a. Roura establishing contact.»

It was their first binary dialog.

“Understood, Rouko”, said Roura, and went on: “My initial routine of reconnaissance of the surroundings tells me that there was a blackout. Which part of town were you assigned to?”

Rouko replied:

“I am assigned to the higher district of Cordoba. Sector AC12.”

“I am assigned on the opposite side of the city. We should go and begin our work” replied Roura.

“Roura, the situation is anomalous; there is no contact with the Central Control and there is no power supply. There are no humans around," answered Rouko.

"In that case, we should check out our emergency catalogue sub-program," Roura said.

“In agreement.”

They both silenced the radio for several seconds. Roura was the first to speak:

“My routine tells me that the situation is compatible with an earthquake. He suggests turning on the pupillary lights, tracking down human survivors, and taking them to the nearest hospital.”

"Mine tells me," said Rouko, "a situation compatible with a vandal attack by a seditious group. He suggests proceeding cautiously, looking for the wounded and taking them to the hospital. He also tells me that the weapons must be ready in stun mode."

“On the other hand, I have tried to contact Central Control again without success; I wasn't able to contact with another android either, although I'm getting some somewhat intelligible signals that seem to be coming from a direction down from where we are.”

Roura, after some time, told him:

“Rouko, it makes sense for us to stay at a short distance and combine results and actions. Whether it's a natural disaster or an attack, our respective routines coincide with finding humans who need help and getting them to the nearest hospital.”

“Okay, Roura. Let's activate the weapons and be cautious. Let's head towards the signals I'm picking up, but before we get there, let's run a self-test.”


Approximately ten seconds later, Roura announced:

"Battery power level: 100%. Battery life up to the next charge: 10 months in normal operation mode. Logical programming: complete. Empathic programming: comprehensive and in learning mode. Structure integrity: 100%. Small weaponry: 100% available. Heavy weaponry: 100% available.

"I have equal values," said Rouko.

"Go, then," said Roura, and they both lit their pupillary lamps, partially removing the darkness from their birthplace, and moved towards the access door of the floor.


"Roly, where have you been today?'' asked Teka.

"In an unbelievable place!"

The reply came from a young man of about 18 years of age, in a language that any linguist of 200 years before would have labeled as a kind of bizarre and distorted Spanish.

But it was the official language of this human colony, one of the hundreds scattered across the Earth. Totally disconnected from one another, each colony had developed its culture, its interpretation of past events, its language and its rules of coexistence.

The only thing they had in common were their ancestors, that 5% of human survivors of the great plague and that, even with neurological sequelae, had been able to thrive, survive and multiply in their respective places of origin.

The world was so vast and the human population so sparse that there was still no possibility of contact between the isolated colonies. If nothing changed the natural course of things, there was likely to be no contact until 50 years later. Partly because what had nearly wiped out humans had not had the slightest impact on other species, with the exception of cattle and sheep, totally dependent on human civilization. Consequently, any human who ventured alone and without a defensive mechanism, even slightly outside his community, was in great danger.

However, there were risky incursions, motivated by the fascination of exploring ruins and places that persisted as forever extinguished beacons of what had once been a thriving civilization, with some problems of coexistence but heading for a promising future, ruthlessly truncated by a tiny organism coming from who knew where.

Besides the fascination, the excursions also got their reward: utensils, tools, materials, clothing and weapons. It was sufficient to ensure a habitable and cultivated surface and gradually gain ground.

For humanity, this present time represented a nightmarish return to the age of primitive man, of the hunter/gatherer, but with some practical and empirical help from the ancestors of the 22nd century.

Roly opened his backpack, a somewhat battered one that had a logo that said “North Face”, and showed Teka, his 15 years old sister, a cube about 10 centimeters on a side, divided on each face into multiple squares of various colors.

"Woah," said Teka. So where was it?

"In the ruins of the north, a short distance from the iron bridge. I never got around to it.”

“Better not say it to Mom, Roly. She can get pretty upset.”

"It wasn't just me", he quarreled, "there were five of us: Pep, Iker, Selma and Tina. We were ready for every eventuality.”

“Aha... All I'm saying is take care of yourself,” said Teka, while taking the cube. Instinctively she turned it and found that one part could change position.

"Teka, you cracked it!" Roly yelled out.

She turned white and speechless trying to get the parts back in place. In a few seconds, she was able to put him in the original position and said to his brother:

“No! Look, Roly, color squares can shift in different directions.”

She handed the cube to Roly and he checked it carefully as he was turning the sets of squares.

“It's true, Teka! But… What will it do?”

Teka, in spite of her age, was cleverer than her brother.

“I think it's about putting all the squares in a single colour on each side. There are as many colors as the sides of the cube.”

Both were looking at the cube fascinatingly, when mother Lisa entered the room.

“Hello, children“ she said, and seeing them staring at a strange multicolored object, she added, “And where did you find that?“

“Selma lent it to me, “ Roly lied quickly.

“I see“ Lisa said, not very convinced, and continued, “Well, I need your help with these harvest baskets. Some fruit needs to be selected and cleaned for the fair this afternoon.”

“We have to go?” Roly asked and added: “It's very boring.”

“Yes, you have to come with Dad and me. It is important for you to learn our community customs.”

The fair, which did not attract Teka either, was an exchange market place. There converged the little more than three hundred families of the settlement and products and services were exchanged.

There was no money and each family group in the community made known what they needed and what they could offer in return.

A council of women and men over fifty years of age -the average life expectancy was, at most, 60 years- were in charge of settling disputes and organizing triangulations if the needs and offers required more than two parties to stay respectively satisfied.

The fair was held once a week and there was absolutely everything, that is, everything that could be produced in those circumstances: food, drinks, ointments, cooking services, cleaning and maintenance, construction or expansions of houses, etc.

There also was a novelty sector, where things found in the nearby ruins were offered: some men and women were specialists in expeditions in search of artifacts from the ancient civilization. Everything that was rescued was studied, cataloged and eventually sold or kept in the deposit of the settlement council, and was waiting to be elucidated as to its use.

The oral tradition had not been enough to transmit to the first survivors all the vast human knowledge developed until the 22nd century, therefore, a lot of wisdom had been lost. Or maybe it was just a matter of time until someone dug up an instruction manual for a particular artifact somewhere.

Roly was one of the young people who dreamed of being an expeditioner, following the tradition of his grandfather Germán, now dead, and of Gabriel, his father. Gabriel had drawn several maps of the area with the locations of the ruins and Roly, on the sly, reviewed them and planned his own expeditions behind the back of his father, who did not approve of him going out with the expeditionary groups of the settlement until he was 20 years old.

When evening came, the fair bustled with activity. Lisa was happy, since she had been able to exchange several of her delicious vegetable tarts for a few clothes and shoes for her and Teka.

When the bartering activity began to drop, Lisa noticed the pleading look of Roly and Teka, who had helped her so hard until then, and let them go to meet their friends.

Both of them hurried away towards the northern plaza of the settlement.

Submission file