Countless works of fiction, or enlightened speculation, have been written in which modern civilization (call it Western, for the sake of historical simplicity, although it now extends to all continents) falls apart and fades into the past - just as the Egyptian, Classical and Mesoamerican civilizations did.
The best book I've read on this theme is Michael John Greer's The Ecotechnic Future. Greer predicts that the end of cheap fossil fuel energy, coupled with climatic and ecological shifts resulting in huge crop failures, will force a stepwise drawdown of economic activity, population shrinkage, universal political turmoil, gradual disintegration of established nations and massive human migrations. He speculates, among other things, that the hungry population of Japan will disperse around the Pacific rim by boat; that much of the current USA will be overrun by Latin American migrants, and comparatively few of its future inhabitants will speak English; that modern skyscraper cities will become immense scrapyards, with the countless steel beams providing raw material for generations of village blacksmiths. The next millenium or 2 will be a messy transition from a declining Western civilization, through a neo-primitive "Age of Salvage," to emergent "Ecotechnic" civilizations based on renewable and sustainable energy sources; the three stages will overlap each other to a great extent, happening at different times in different lands. The future ecotechnic successor cultures will see our modern world much as we see ancient Rome or Moghul India. Much of our artistic, musical, literary and scientific legacy will inevitably be lost, despite the best efforts of dedicated cultural conservers.
I tend to agree with him, though I still think that new energy sources and industrialisation of outer space may yet save Western civilization from crumbling. Also, I'd say that at least some of us should be able to achieve an ecotechnic-type society without going through the salvage age first.
Of course, there are far more familiar fictional scenarios in which Western civilization is wiped about abruptly by global disaster - such as nuclear war, a mutant super virus pandemic, or a comet impact. As our numbers and technology continue to grow, some would say the chances that a single catastrophe could overwhelm us are diminishing. Others might say that our own dependence on technology and competition for resources are making us more vunerable.
What do the rest of you think?
Edited by Tumaini12, 16 May 2012 - 05:18 PM.