Chilling look into our future if we survive another million years: ScienceAlert

Chilling look into our future if we survive another million years: ScienceAlert

Most species are transient. They die out, branch out into new species, or change over time due to random mutations and changes in the environment. It can be expected that a typical mammalian species exists a million years.

modern people, A wise man, have been around for about 300,000 years. So what happens when we make it to a million years?

Science fiction author HG Wells was the first to realize that humans could evolve into something very otherworldly.

In his 1883 essay, Man in the year million, he imagined what has now become a cliché: creatures with big brains and small bodies. He later speculated that humans could also split into two or more new species.

While Wells’s evolutionary models haven’t stood the test of time, the three basic options he considered still hold. We can go extinct, turn into different species or change.

An additional ingredient is that we have biotechnology that could greatly increase the probability of each of them.

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 onto computers), or artificial intelligence (AI) can produce technological forms of new species not found 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 limits.

But it’s my job to explore the possibilities, and I think the most likely case is massive “speciation” – when one species splits into several others.

There are many of us who want to improve the human condition – slowing and ending aging, improving intelligence and mood, and changing bodies – potentially leading to new species.

However, these visions leave many cold.

It is plausible that even if these technologies become as cheap and ubiquitous as mobile phones, some people will refuse them on principle and build their self-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 “posthuman” kind – and a kind of holdouts who call themselves the “real people”.

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

This isn’t just speciation, it’s the abandonment of 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 chance of immortality (by making copies and backups) or easy travel via the internet or radio in space.

Software intelligence also has other benefits. It can be very bad resource efficient – a virtual being only needs energy from sunlight and some rock material to make microchips.

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

Yet it is unlikely that humanity will remain the only intelligent species on Earth.

Artificial intelligence is currently experiencing a rapid advance. While there are major uncertainties and disagreements about when and if it will become sentient, artificial general intelligence (meaning it can understand or learn intellectual problems like a human, rather than specializing in niche tasks) will come to represent a significant portion of the experts think it is possible within this century or earlier.

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

Utopia or dystopia?

In the end, it seems plausible that most ghosts will become software. Research shows that computers will soon become much more energy efficient than they are now.

Software ghosts also don’t need to eat or drink, which are inefficient ways of getting energy, and they can conserve energy by running slower parts of the day.

This means we should be able to get many more artificial spirits per kilogram of matter and watts of solar energy than the human mind in the distant future. And since they can evolve quickly, we should expect them to change dramatically over time from our current way of thinking.

Physical beings are at a distinct disadvantage compared to software beings, who move in the slow, strange world of matter. Yet they are self-contained, unlike the flashy software that will evaporate if their data center is ever disrupted.

“Natural” people can stay in traditional societies, very different from that of software people. This is similar to today’s Amish people, whose modest lifestyles are still enabled (and protected) by the surrounding United States. It is not self-evident that surrounding societies should crush small and primitive societies: we have established human rights and legal protections and something similar could continue to exist for normal people.

Is this a good future? Much depends on your values. A good life can consist of having meaningful relationships with other people and living sustainably in a peaceful and prosperous environment. From that perspective, weird posthumans aren’t necessary; we just need to make sure the quiet village can function (maybe protected by unseen automation).

Some may appreciate “the human project,” an unbroken chain from our Paleolithic ancestors to our future selves, but are open to progress. They would probably think software people and AI are going too far, but are fine with people evolving into strange new forms.

Others would argue that what is important is the freedom of self-expression and following your life goals. They may think we should explore the post-human world in a big way and see what it has to offer.

Others may value luck, thinking, or other qualities that different entities have and want a future that maximizes them. Some may be unsure and argue that we should hedge our bets by walking all paths to some degree.

Dyson sphere?

Here’s a forecast for the year one million. Some people are more or less like us, but they are less numerous than now. A large part of the surface is wilderness and has been turned into a rewilding area because there is much less need for agriculture and cities.

Cultural sites pop up here and there with vastly different ecosystems, carefully preserved by robots for historical or aesthetic reasons.

Under the canopies of silicon in the Sahara, trillions of artificial spirits teem. The huge and hot data centers that power these ghosts once threatened to overheat the planet. Now most of them revolve around the sun and form a growing structure – one Dyson sphere – where every watt of energy drives thoughts, Awarenesscomplexity and other strange things that we don’t have words for yet.

If biological humans go extinct, the most likely reason (aside from the obvious and imminent threats at this point) is a lack of respect, tolerance, and binding contracts with other post-human species. Perhaps a reason for us to start treating our own minorities better.The conversation

Anders SandbergJames Martin Research Fellow, Future of Humanity Institute & Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford

This article has been republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.



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