We are developing past the merely human stage. We couldn’t stop it if we all really wanted to. Techno-future will be.
The transhumanism crowd has understood what evolution is all about while many other intellectuals still grapple with getting their head around mere old biological evolution. Evolution is true by tautology: Whatever there will be (successful, more numerous, …) in the future, will be there (successful, more numerous, …) in the future. This is the basis of what some call ‘algorithmic evolution’.
Evolution has absolutely no clue about the difference humans like to uphold between human and natural on one hand and technology on the other. Too many do not grasp that. They argue against transhumanism saying “it isn't a matter of letting evolution take its course, instead it is something that is being specifically engineered.” But evolution just lets dominate whatever combination dominates. "Take its course" and "specifically engineered" are indistinguishable as far as algorithmic evolution is concerned.
If you doubt the total convergence of biology and technology, watch the freshly posted TED talk by Paul Root-Wolpe (starts a little slow, but do stay awake until the second half!):
Many who apparently accept evolution still cannot see that it is not something biological. They say things like: “Evolution does not occur with the current generation, but is something that future generations will develop into. Therefore there is an absolute requirement that generations (in any species) are replaced with newer, possibly different, members of the same species”.
This does not any longer hold for humans. Nor did it ever hold for most evolving systems, be it on the pre-biotic stage or on the level of animal societies, sociology, computer viruses, nation states, etc. With transhumanist engineering it is explicitly desired that the current generation is intentionally evolving itself, with the additional requirement that many other forms of evolution must be halted.
The fastest developing evolutionary substrate is cyberspace and nanotechnology. Evolution accelerates exponentially. There are no thousand years anymore for this dinosaur to go extinct. We are finished already, at least in the form that we are now.
Dan Sperber argues that the formal mechanisms that explain cultural evolution are from epidemiology, not population genetics. Ideas spread like contagious diseases, not like genes. The questions that arise from all these insights are daunting to say the least.
There was absolutely nothing whatsoever ants could have done to avoid the evolution of ant colonies. Why should the system called “human” be so special that there is even the slightest chance of changing evolution from how it worked before, from how it always ‘works’?
What if one cannot possibly change the evolved balance of well-being to suffering in co-evolved systems?
What will the android ant colony be like? Will humans be like the ‘happy’ cells of a body, be that body a murderer or tyrant? Will the superstructure lead to total abandonment of individual consciousness in cyberspace?
Some cling to a near biological picture in order to argue for hope. They say something like: “There is a multitude of microorganisms living in our bodies. There are more microorganisms living in us than there are human cells! There is plenty of opportunities to remain a ‘free agent’ inside a complex and highly regulated organization. Relative to the time scale of individuals, the evolution of megaorganisms is slow.”
Sure, if you like to compare yourself with such free, yet low level systems like viruses. However, you may like to compare yourself rather with complex, ‘social’ systems, say with a cortex neuron inhuman brain. Its ‘freedom’ is decoupled from having any undesired effect. And the evolution of the superstructure is precisely not slower! Humans did not evolve much for gazillions of years while society obviously changed like crazy.
The evolution of higher level systems happens precisely because adaptation speeds up through the higher stratum as changes in the environment can be survived better that way. The lower level components' evolution is slowed down. They become so called legacy systems, like the qwerty arrangement of letters on your keyboard.
Evolution proceeds in the direction of greater differentiation and thus diversity accompanied by ever more interdependence and integration. Projecting this trend forward in time suggests that humans will become like cells living in a multicellular organism, the beast (from Robert Pirsig's “Lila”) or megaorganism. But actually, we are already in the megasystem: society.
The actually interesting today is the emergence of a new evolutionary substrate, namely cyberspace, which now starts to evolve orders of magnitude faster than anything evolving before. For the first time, there are suggestions that this layer may behave differently: Some talk about a “singularity”. I talk about an evolution inherent endpoint. Stay tuned.