posted on Jun, 19 2004 @ 08:42 PM
For some time now I’ve been of the mind that further human evolution of may be greatly influenced by 4 predominant branches of science and technology:
genetic engineering, robotics, nano-technology and quantum computing. They are all currently advancing at astonishing rates, and given just a bit more
time, application of these technologies could profoundly effect the manner in which our species evolves. It’s not hard to envision our kind reaching a
cross roads up ahead, and regardless of the path we choose to follow, our destiny will then be written in stone. This will be a critical time in the
history of our species, and depending on the choices we make at this juncture, we will either continue to move forward and evolve in strange,
wonderful and mysterious ways, or we will become the victim of our own folly and will rightfully self-destruct, restoring balance once again to the
natural order, without anyone, anywhere ever knowing we even existed at all.
Looking on the bright side, assuming we somehow avoid extinction by our own hand, or by some dreadful bug or parasite, and that we are not the victim
of a global extinction brought about by some colossal chain of natural events, or by a visiting astroid, comet or some other demon of cosmic origin, I
believe that in the near term (over the next 1,000 – 5,000 years, perhaps?) our species will branch into a variety of sub-species by our own design.
With the power of genetic engineering at our disposal, we will begin the process of creating different strains of our own species, specialized for
specific tasks. It will begin slowly, but over time will manifest itself in distinctly separate, recognizeable groups of beings. For instance, as the
colonization of the solar system gets underway, a branch of “humans” will be created that will be suited to the task of working and surviving in the
harsh environment of deep space; beings who do not breath oxygen, who can withstand extremes in temperature, who are immune to the lethal effects of
radiation exposure, who’s muscles and bones do not deteriorate in zero-gravity and who can survive quite nicely on a diet radically different from our
own. Mind you, at this point colonization of the other planets/moons in the solar system is not considered a steppingstone to the exploration of
interstellar space. We will learn methods of navigating the vast distances in the Universe via wormholes or superluminal space bubbles and the like.
Similarly, time travel, or more accurately navigating the Multiverse, will be possible from the comfort of our own homes. Big metal ships spewing
explosive propellants will become passe and only seen in exhibits in museums. The motivation behind colonizing the solar system will be due to the
overpopulation of Earth, lucrative business opportunities through the exploitation of extraterrestrial mineral resources, and the simple desire for a
change of scenery and/or life style.
While all this is taking place, we will also begin to appreciate the advantages of artificial limbs, organs and other body parts over the
old-fashioned frail and fleshy type. Advancements in robotics will introduce mechanical counterparts to our major body components that are far
superior, more durable and easily replaced when newer models come out. Additional accessory components may also be designed that our bodies never
developed through natural evolution; additional limbs (just think what you could do to please your mate if you had 4 arms, or 2 whatchamacallits),
eyes capable of seeing in the infrared and ultraviolet ends of the spectrum, an extra leg for better balance, etc. Over time, it’s not hard to imagine
that we will gradually “evolve” into a part-human, part-machine race. Cyborgs will not only become common-place, but may be the preferred platform on
which to exist.
All the above will, of course, be under the control of nanoscale, biomolecular, infinitely parallel processing, quantum-switched computers implanted,
or should I say integrated, into our very own indestructible plastic body frames. We will become the thinking machines of today’s science fiction,
endowed with a sense of self, capable of emotions, able to feel and reason and determine right from wrong, and last but not least, able to perform a
googol ( 10100 ) calculations per second in our own synthetically fabricated heads. Natural selection will gradually phase out the flesh and blood
type humans that once existed for a much fitter, smarter, more adaptable race of thinking machines. It’s a matter of survival of the fittest.
And in some far distant future (10,000 – 20,000 years?), the human species, as we know it, will surely vanish altogether, as we ourselves become the
aliens that once haunted our dreams and filled the pages of our ancient literature.
Of course, the above is mere speculation. There are many other possible scenarios. It’s like trying to make a long term prediction, based on
approximate initial conditions. If you put any credance in the laws/principles of chaos (Chaos Theory), then you know that a chaotic system's
evolution is virtually impossible to predict.
Some may argue that what I’ve described is not “natural” evolution. My reply to that would be, “Explain what you mean by ‘natural’”. To my thinking,
EVERYTHING is natural. Be it good, bad or indifferent. To say that because something is produced only by human beings it is, therefore, not natural,
implies to me that human activity is somehow separate and apart from all other activity in the natural world or universe. And to that I would
disagree. Humans are merely a part of the nautural world, as is everything else we observe in it. And so no matter what we do or produce, be it
hydrogen bombs, synthetic organs, thinking computers or MacDonald’s hamburgers, it’s just as natural as anything else. Bees make honey. Is honey
natural? I think so.