Since the release of the game-changing science classic The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin in 1859, the theory of evolution has become sacrosanct in the scientific community, thereby, every other form of modulation, transformation or adjustment in biological life is measured against the paradigm of Darwinian Theory of Evolution.
As a thinker, one could at times be tempted to doubt this theory, but advancements in science and technology in contemporary times seem to give more credence to this theory, rather than denigrate its authenticity.
In line with this prevalent scientific mindset, I have reflected unceasingly, on the fate of humanity in the nearest future, in the light of recent events and happenings that have to do with our existence as humans on this planet.
Toeing the arguments of Charles Darwin, I am of the opinion that recent events in our age and time seem to be throwing up signs that the age of Homo Sapiens is at its threshold and that we are entering into another stage of evolution in human history.
Of the retinue of probable catalysts to spur this next stage of evolution, the phenomena of Global Warming and Artificial Intelligence (AI) hold a strong place in my mind. In this next stage of evolution, I do not portend a total annihilation of the Homo Sapiens species, but a form of evolutionary dialectic – some destruction, readjustment and the birthing of a new species.
As regards the phenomenon of global warming, common discourse is that the earth must not exceed the 1.5°C benchmark set for it to control the level of radiation from the sun, as exceeding that benchmark could spell doom for the earth’s biological life.
Already, we are gravitating around that benchmark and the effects are already obvious to all – rising sea levels due to melting of the ice caps in the Antarctic region, increased warming rate of the earth’s atmosphere due to the concentration of greenhouse gases caused by burning of coal, fossil fuel, gas flaring, waste mismanagement among a host of others.
If this trend goes unabated, I foresee the advent of a cataclysmic event on the scale of the dinosaur age that eventually brought their blossoming existence to an abrupt end. In this write-up, however, I wish to concentrate more on the latter – the phenomenon of Artificial Intelligence.
The upsurge of advancements in AI in recent times has spurred my mind towards the implications of this technology in the future. Coupled with this, my perusal of Dan Brown’s novel Origin, a man famed for mixing fiction with reality, and my acquaintance with some writings of philosophers and scientists associated with the Transhumanist Movement (H+) have further buoyed my thinking towards this area.
In Dan Brown’s Origin, the protagonist, Edmond Kirch was able to invent a supercomputer named “E-wave” that successfully carried out a simulation that predicted the future of humanity and the world at large. It was able to conclude that the future would birth a new classification in the well-known classes of living things we are already acquainted with. For the sake of some recapitulation, the common classes of living things are – Animalia, Plantae, Protista, Eubacteria, Archaebacteria and Fungi.
The E-wave predicted a new entrant into these classes which it termed Technium. It was believed that technium was the emergence of technology that would eventually become self-conscious in such a way as not to subvert Homo Sapiens, but co-exist symbiotically with it. Though, the book is meant as a work of fiction, reflecting on it for me provides some insight into the future of human evolution.
The second aspect, Transhumanism, is a movement whose goals and objectives seem to correlate with the conclusion of Dan Brown in Origin. The movement is traced to Julian Huxley, a British Philosopher who in 1957, opined that society and culture have replaced the biological evolutionary process of improving the human condition.
Since then, a part of the intellectual and scientific community has gone into a frenzy, with the thought of improving the human condition with the aid of science and technology in areas such as gene editing, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence, among others. In the early 90s, a movement within Transhumanism itself was also popularized by the likes of British philosopher, Max More and American Lawyer, Tom W. Bell called Extropianism.
This set of thinkers, in a more radical manner, advocated for the use of technology to facilitate the achievement of things like human immortality, space colonization, creation of humans with superpowers to tackle the limitations posed by diseases and environmental constraints.
With the advent of these phenomena in human history, one is inspired to conclude that the next stage of human evolution is already at our behest, especially with the upsurge in artificial intelligence.
Consequently, I propose an evolutionary hypothesis and mental imagery which the next form of human evolution may look like. There are already palpable fears of what a misused and uncontrolled AI could do to us – it is obvious that AI, bereft of adequate regulations, is a danger to Homo Sapiens itself.
The like of Aldous Huxley in his 1937 classic A Brave New World had already bemoaned a future of overreliance on technologies which would compromise human intelligence. The major Trojan horse which scientists have already inserted into AI technologies without knowing it is the algorithm of ‘self-learning’ which have been programmed into the machines.
The implication of this is that AI technologies can absorb data beyond the scope of their original programming. Hence, they can learn even what we would ordinarily not want them to learn, including compromising data.
Succinctly put, the evolutionary dialectic I initially mentioned may be spurred when AI eventually goes rogue. One could imagine or predict that a time would come when the control of AI would spiral out of control and the external solution to the problem may seem impossible. This would culminate in a situation where humans themselves would have to synchronize with AI, become part of it and think like it, in order to re-exercise control.
In addition to this would be the normalization of human-machine mergers; the installation of micro-chips and Nano technological brain implants to boost human capabilities. The Age of the Cyborgs, in my opinion, maybe the next stage of human evolution and therefore, my hypothetical projection of the future of humanity.
In line with the basic premise of Darwin “the survival of species is not based on the strongest or toughest, but those more disposed to change.”, it is expected that not all of humanity would find acceptable, the idea of synchronizing with machines, this would create both a material and sociological gap between the cyborgs and normal humans.
Cyborgs will have more sociological privileges in terms of resource allocation. These include jobs, healthcare, access to infrastructure among others, while normal humans will face extinction as a result of this sociological isolationism.
The likes of Francis Fukuyama in 2004, have already pointed to the possible dangers of Transhumanism if implemented in full bloom, leading to situations like large economic disparities, claiming of superior rights by the technologically advanced humans over the non-technologically advanced.
In all, new events come with new challenges and moral problems. As to the validation of this hypothesis, only time will tell. However, I must reiterate, it remains a hypothesis, as there are infinite permutations as to how the future of human evolution could look like.