The advance of genetic engineering makes it quite conceivable that we will begin to design our own evolutionary progress.
Courtesy: Daily Galaxy
Cornell University researchers in New York recently revealed that they had produced the world’s first genetically altered human embryo. The GM
embryos created would have become the world’s first genetically altered man or woman
with staggering implications for the human race!
Unfortunately, it was destroyed after five days due to ethical and public interest issues. The Cornell team did not get permission to keep the embryo
alive. But what if they were allowed to do so?
It is even thought possible to so drastically alter human genomes that a type of superhuman species could emerge. The fear with germline
engineering is that since it is inheritable, offspring and all succeeding generations would carry the modified traits. This is one reason why this
type of engineering is currently banned- it could lead to irreversible alteration of the entire human species.
John Harris, Professor of Bioethics at Manchester University says that having the ability to improve our species by eliminating diseases such as
cystic fibrosis, hemophilia and even cancer with the help of such technology but refusing to do so, makes little sense and cannot understand why some
people are so insistent that we shouldn’t try to improve upon human evolution. “Can you imagine our ape ancestors getting together and saying,
‘this is pretty good, guys. Let’s stop it right here!’
That’s the equivalent of what people say today.”
Nearly every day now we are inundated with new genetic discoveries. Scientists can now pinpoint many specific genes including being lean, living a
long life, improved self-healing, thrill seeking behavior, and having an improved memory among many other incredible traits. These genes can be
manipulated in ordinary humans, in effect creating Super-Mutants.
Theoretically, options are nearly limitless. Even a gene that exists in another species could be brought over to a human cell. Imagine some of the
incredible traits of the animal kingdom that some humans don’t possess such as night vision, amazing agility, or the ability to breathe
So are we on the road to producing Frankenstein monsters or making a benign super human race with extraordinary traits including super brains that use
80 to 90% instead of the present 10%? Needless to say, the implications are mind-boggling! With technology that borders on the magic with our present
understanding of science, we could then probably make the great leap into a Type I or II civilization within a short span of time which otherwise
would perhaps have taken thousands of years! And that would mean reaching for the stars as a truly galactic civilization!
I’m of the firm belief that we would be there before the middle of the next century!
Looking Farther Into The Future
Perhaps advanced alien civilizations have gone much farther and graduated into post biological entities, even beyond Type 3 civilizations, which,
according to Dr Michio Kaku, may have reached a technological level high enough to travel through and between multiverses as a matter of course! (We
are still Type 0!)
The Post Biological Universe
The possibility exists that cultural evolution over the long time scales of the universe has resulted in something beyond biology, namely,
artificial intelligence (AI). Such a post biological universe cannot mean a universe devoid of biological intelligence, since humans are an obvious
counterexample. Nor does it mean a universe devoid of lower forms of life. Rather, the post biological universe is one in which the majority of
intelligent life has evolved beyond flesh and blood intelligence, in proportion to its longevity.
Is it possible that very advanced intelligent life exists where biology has morphed into post biological machines? The motivating factor is the
inherent desire to improve mental capacity. Is it possible that highly developed alien beings have already reached a point in their evolution where,
having reached the peak capacity of their biological brains, have taken the next logical step and opted for robotic brains equipped with artificial
According to Steven Dick, NASA Chief Historian
(as told to Ker Than in Popular Science):
This brain swap may not be as far off for humans as one might think. In only a few decades, the computer revolution here on Earth has produced
supercomputers capable of performing more than a quadrillion calculations per second. (According to research by Hans Moravec, an artificial
intelligence expert at Carnegie Mellon University, that trumps the human brain's estimated top speed of 100 trillion calculations per second.)
Some scientists speculate that in a few decades, an event called the technological singularity will occur, and machines armed with computer
brains will become sentient and surpass human intelligence.
Civilizations equipped with technology light-years ahead of our own could have already experienced the singularity thousands or even millions of
What is the likelihood that such advanced robotic races exist? Given the limitations of biology as we know it, the force of cultural evolution, and
the imperative to improve intelligence, it could very much be in the realms of possibility. This is perhaps our destiny!
James Gardner, author of The Intelligent Universe: AI, ET, and the Emerging Mind of the Cosmos
answers an interesting question by
: (His first book, Biocosm
, suggests that intelligence doesn't emerge in a series of Darwinian accidents, but is
hard-wired into the cycle of cosmic creation).
: You often cite Ray Kurzweil's ideas of our trans-human or post-biological future. As a writer, what do you think the role of
writing -- or more generally, of culture -- will be in a post-biological society? Does the singularity necessarily imply an end to creativity and the
arts as we know them, or simply a huge shift?
: I believe that culture and art will continue to flourish in a post-biological future. That future will build on what has gone before.
Indeed, it will represent a fusion of the human and the trans-human. (As you saw in the last part of my book, I disagree with the pessimistic views of
Arthur C. Clarke in Childhood’s End.) Because it will vastly expand the realm of intellectual possibilities and the sheer size of available cultural
space, the onset of the Singularity should facilitate an immense burst of creativity and give birth to new artistic genres that we can only dimly
Beyond the future!
So if we ever come in contact with an ET race, we could well be interacting with post biological entities – sentient machines of mind boggling
complexity! Or something even beyond that? Looking far, far into the future, could post biological entities have no form, but exist only as pure
forms of energy?
Is this our final destiny, millions of years in the future?
Image credit: Roger Johnston.
[edit on 29-3-2009 by mikesingh]