A chilling look at our future if we survive another million years: ScienceAlert

A chilling look at our future if we survive another million years: ScienceAlert

Most species are transient. They become extinct, branch into new species, or change over time due to random mutations and changes in the environment. A typical mammal species might be expected to exist million years.

modern people Wise man, have been around for about 300,000 years. So what if we get to a million years?

Science fiction author H.G. Wells was the first to realize that humans could become something very alien.

In his 1883 essay A person in a million years, he envisioned what has now become a cliché: creatures with big brains and tiny bodies. He later speculated that humans might also split into two or more new species.

Although Wells’s evolutionary models have not stood the test of time, the three main options he considered are still valid. We can disappear, transform into several species, or change.

An additional ingredient is that we have biotechnology that can greatly increase the likelihood of each of these.

Foreseeable future technologies such as human enhancement (making ourselves smarter, stronger, or otherwise better using drugs, microchips, genetics, or other technology), brain emulation (uploading our brains into computers), or AI (AI) can produce technological forms of new species not seen in biology.

Software intelligence and AI

It is impossible to predict the future perfectly. It depends on fundamentally random factors: ideas and actions, as well as currently unknown technological and biological constraints.

But it’s my job to explore the possibilities, and I think the most likely case is a huge ‘speciation’ – where one species splits into several others.

There are many among us who want to improve the human condition—slowing and reversing aging, improving intelligence and mood, and altering the body—potentially leading to new species.

However, these visions leave many cold.

It is likely that even if these technologies become as cheap and ubiquitous as cell phones, some people will reject them on principle and build their image of “normal” people.

In the long run, we should expect the most advanced humans, generation after generation (or upgrade after upgrade), to become one or more fundamentally different “post-human” species – and a kind of renegades who claim to be “the real people”.

Through brain emulationspeculative technology where one scans a brain at the cellular level and then reconstructs an equivalent neural network in a computer to create “software intelligence,” we can go even further.

This is not just speciation, but leaving the animal kingdom for the mineral or rather software kingdom.

There are many reasons why some would want to do this, such as increasing the chances of immortality (by creating copies and backups) or easy internet or radio travel in space.

Software intelligence has other benefits. It can be a lot efficient use of resources – a virtual being only needs energy from sunlight and some rock material to make microchips.

It can also think and change on computational timescales, possibly millions of times faster than biological minds. It can evolve in new ways – it just needs a software update.

Yet humanity is unlikely to remain the only intelligent species on the planet.

Artificial intelligence is advancing rapidly at the moment. Although there are deep uncertainties and disagreements about when and if it will become conscious, artificial general intelligence (meaning it can understand or learn any intellectual problems like a human, rather than specializing in niche tasks) will emerge, a significant part of the experts think it possible in this century or earlier.

If it can happen, it probably will. At some point, we are likely to have a planet where humans are largely replaced by software intelligence or AI – or some combination of the two.

Utopia or dystopia?

After all, it seems plausible that most minds will turn into software. Research shows that computers will soon become much more energy efficient than they are now.

Software minds also won’t need to eat or drink, which are inefficient ways of getting energy, and they can conserve energy by working more slowly during parts of the day.

That means we should be able to get many more artificial minds per kilogram of matter and watts of solar power than human minds in the distant future. And since they can evolve rapidly, we should expect them to change significantly over time from our current thinking style.

Physical beings have an obvious disadvantage compared to software beings moving in the sluggish, strange world of matter. Still, they’re self-contained, unlike fly-by-night software that will evaporate if their data center is disrupted.

“Natural” humans may remain in traditional societies very different from those of software humans. This is not unlike the Amish today, whose humble way of life is still made possible (and protected) by the surrounding United States. It is not thought that surrounding societies should crush small and primitive societies: we have established human rights and legal protection, and something like that can continue for normal people.

Is this a good future? A lot depends on your values. A good life can include having meaningful relationships with other people and living sustainably in a peaceful and prosperous environment. From this perspective, no strange posthumans are needed; we just need to ensure that the quiet little village can function (perhaps protected by invisible automation).

Some may value the “human project,” an unbroken chain from our Paleolithic ancestors to our future selves, but be open to progress. They’d probably think software and AI people are going too far, but it’s okay for people to evolve into strange new forms.

Others would say that what matters is the freedom of self-expression and following your life goals. They might think that we should explore the posthuman world widely and see what it has to offer.

Others may value happiness, thinking, or other qualities possessed by various entities and want a future that maximizes them. Some may be insecure, arguing that we should hedge our bets by going all the way to some extent.

A Dyson Sphere?

Here is a prediction for the year one million. Some people look more or less like us – but they are less than they are now. Much of the surface is desert, converted into a rewilding area because there is much less need for agriculture and cities.

Cultural sites with very different ecosystems appear here and there, carefully preserved by robots for historical or aesthetic reasons.

Trillions of artificial minds teem under the silicon canopies of the Sahara. The huge and hot data centers that power these minds once threatened to overheat the planet. Now most orbit the Sun, forming a growing structure – ​​a Dyson Sphere – where every watt of energy feeds thought, consciousnesscomplexity and other weird things we don’t have words for yet.

If biological humans disappear, the most likely reason (besides the obvious and immediate threats at the moment) is a lack of respect, tolerance, and binding contracts with other posthuman species. Maybe a reason to start treating our own minorities better.

Anders SandbergJames Martin Research Fellow, Institute for the Future of Humanity and Oxford Martin School, Oxford University

This article was republished by The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read on original article.

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