The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Spyglass Entertainment, 2005
From 3 Quarks Daily:
In The Hitchhiker’s Guide, Earth is demolished suddenly and unceremoniously by aliens called Vogons, who are clearing a path for a hyperspace bypass. Our real-life future may not hold a Vogon constructor fleet, but it definitely holds our demise. Eventually the human race will be wiped out, whether through war, or a virus, or some environmental disaster like an asteroid of the sort that did in the dinosaurs. Even if we manage to escape all those risks on Earth, eventually our Sun is going to expand, boiling away all of our oceans and atmosphere, and probably swallowing us up. And even if we manage to escape our solar system, eventually the universe will expand until it rips apart all of our individual molecules.
For many people, the fact that the world is going to end someday invalidates everything that happens up to that point. When Ford Prefect accidentally teleports two million years back in time to prehistoric Earth, he says as much to the people living there. “I’ve seen your future,” he tells them. “It doesn’t matter a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys what you all choose to do from now on… Two million years you’ve got, and that’s it.”
It’s a common attitude. I’ve met many people who have argued that life is pointless since we’re all going to be dead someday. And you might remember the iconic scene at the beginning of Annie Hall in which Woody Allen’s character, as a young boy, has just found out that the universe is expanding. (“He won’t do his homework!” his mother shrieks, beside herself. “What’s the point?” little Woody glumly replies.)
In several ways, however, it’s an odd position to take. The assumption seems to be that if all paths lead to the same endpoint then it doesn’t matter what happens along the way. But why should we place all the importance on the endpoint of our story and none on the rest of it? Does it really not matter to people whether humanity has a long and glorious existence, or a short and miserable existence, as long as both end in our destruction?