George Friedman has observed that the entire pattern of traditional life is collapsing and no clear alternative patterns are emerging. This view is appropriate to our times. The human race is in transition. No one; human or artificial intelligence can predict the outcome of our next century. What can be predicted is the evolution of a number of technologies whose inertia makes them unstoppable. Genetic engineering, nanotechnology and robotics are the harbingers of a very different community of intelligent life forms on earth. With the addition of artificial intelligence these four technologies will be the basis for the intelligent life that continues to evolve on Earth and within our solar system.
We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology - Edward O. Wilson, 2012Few people alive today will look on this future with anticipation. I doubt that even Ray Kurzweil will continue to believe in immortal man; even if he does achieve that milestone in this century. The Universe that we know is an environment without an example of immortality. Even stars are in a constant evolution. Stellar evolution starts with a molecular cloud and ends with a planetary nebula restarting the cycle of a stellar life. All levels of the known universe demonstrate a continuous fight for resources. The microcosm of life’s evolution on Earth is no different. The Technology Augmented Bioengineered (TAB) humans emerging from this twenty first century will be competing between themselves; as well as competing with newly emergent forms of non-biological life. An immortal mind derived from Homo sapiens will be a museum piece. It will not have the knowledge, mental capacity or speed of thought to even usefully communicate with the intelligences emerging from this century. Proponents of virtual immortality imagine that they will have augmented brains able to maintain their humanity while ensconced in an artificial brain. This egocentric concept is an outcome from our old lower brain. All of our instincts and emotions evolved over millions of years to create the soul of modern man. These instincts and emotions are not knowledge. They are essentially the same in all humans. As such, they could be replaced by a single identical subsystem in an artificial brain attempting to replicate a human; but why? These instincts and emotions were important for survival in our past evolutionary biology. They will be counterproductive in artificial intelligences, robots, and eventually suppressed or discarded in TAB humans.
Homo sapiens have existed for only the last 500,000 years. In contrast, early protoctist life is 590,000,000 years old. Primates have lived on earth for more than 16 million years. Our anthropocentric optimism about the greatness of human civilization has little to substantiate it. Seen in the perspective of life’s evolution on our planet, Homo sapiens will have one of the shortest life spans of intelligent species. There is little possibility that we will ever reach the mean lifetime of mammal species. Many of these will outlive our species by millions of years.
What should you, I and our children do to prepare for this new world? A tough question. It is easier to identify what not to do. Fighting the forces of change didn’t work for the Luddites and won’t work for modern fundamentalist religions. Having children, raising them, and socialization with neighbors and relatives are the greatest functions of the Amish family. This traditional pattern of family life is collapsing. The Amish, Islam and similar groups will find themselves so isolated from future societies that they will share no common values. This disparity will make it hard to persist the traditional social patterns of rural life. Within a few more generations it will be difficult to see any difference between the Amish and any other aboriginal culture. These sidelined communities will endure, hopefully without persecution. However, they will have given up their option to contribute to the future of humanity. Given that the majority of the world continues to have faith in a creator it is certain that some of these religions will develop beliefs that encompass TAB humanity as part of God’s plan. For those that don’t, the consequences of intolerance of change will inevitably lead to massive social conflict. As I said in the prolog, we are beginning a frightful, rapid and messy evolution into multiple new intelligent species. Conflict is inevitable. As the last few generations of humanity we will constantly be faced with choices for which our evolutionary evolved skills have not prepared us. No choice is left to maintain our old patterns of life. We are on a steep slope sliding towards extinction.