Who will still be famous in 10,000 years?
Sam Hammond, a loyal MR reader, asks me:
Who do you think will still be famous in 10,000 years? People from history or now. Shakespeare? Socrates? Hawking?
This requires a theory of 10,000 years from now, but let's say we're a lot richer, not computer uploads (if so, I know the answer to the question), and not in a collapsed dystopia. We still look like human beings and inhabit physical space. If you wish, postulate that not all of those 10,000 years involved strongly positive economic growth.
In that case, I'll go with the major religious leaders (Jesus, Buddha, etc.), Einstein, Turing, Watson and Crick, Hitler, the major classical music composers, Adam Smith, and Neil Armstrong.
My thinking is this. The major religions last for a long time and leave a real mark on history. Path-dependence is critical in that area.
Otherwise, an individual, to stay famous, will have to securely symbolize an entire area, and an area "with legs" at that. The theory of relativity still will be true and it may well become more important. The computer and DNA will not be irrelevant. Hitler will remain a stand-in symbol for pure evil; if he is topped we may not have a future at all. Beethoven and Mozart still will be splendid, but Shakespeare and other wordsmiths will require translation and thus will fade somewhat. The propensity to truck and barter will remain and Smith will keep his role as the symbol of economics. Keynesian economics may someday be less true, as superior biofeedback, combined with markets in self-improvement, ushers in an era of flexible wages, while market-based expected nominal gdp targeting prevents a downward deflationary spiral.
The fame of those individuals will not perish, in part, because the more distant future will produce fewer lasting mega-famous people. Achievement will be more decentralized and more connected to teams. The dominance of Edison and Tesla, in their breakthroughs, will not be repeated. There won't be a mega-Einstein eighty years from now, to make everyone forget the current Einstein, even if (especially if) science goes very well.