Self-Enhancement And The End Of Homo Sapiens

Self-Enhancement And The End Of Homo Sapiens

Why our extinction at the hands of our own creations will constitute a fundamental revolution in life, consciousness, and matter.
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The possibility of the extinction of Homo Sapiens is generally discussed in relation to existential threats such as climate change or asteroid impacts. It is always considered a danger and an outcome to be avoided.

But what if our extinction was part of the evolution of life and even of matter, and purposefully engineered by us?

* * *

Creating something better than us.

This sounds far-fetched, but we may first be confronted with the possibility of such a scenario within a few decades, and at least within a century. The basic idea is that we will be capable of creating a new, better species, which will gradually supplant us.

There are two manners in which this could happen: genetic engineering and artificial intelligence.

Designing a new human.

Genetic engineering is accelerating with leaps and bounds, and as the cover story of The Economist of August 22nd, “Editing Humanity,” clearly explains, the prospect of genetically engineered "designer babies" is not so far off.

Initially, genetic engineering will help us create better Homo Sapiens. But with time, as genetic engineering gains acceptance and becomes more sophisticated, the genetic changes will amount to the creation of an entirely new species of humans, one that thinks and behaves differently from us, and that develops entirely new social structures and political and economic systems.

Extinction, peaceful or not.

This scenario, in the long term, almost certainly leads to the extinction of Homo Sapiens. The new species will be superior to us; if it wasn’t, then we would not create it, or at least we would not propagate it after creation. Thus, by the laws of evolution, it would eventually replace us. However, the manner of this extinction is far from clear.

A peaceful possibility is that the process happens gradually, perhaps even without us realizing it. Homo Sapiens parents will prefer to have their children be genetically enhanced; thus, most new children will be of the new species, and very few children will be Homo Sapiens. Furthermore, the new species will almost certainly live longer, and may even be a-mortal. Thus, gradually, Homo Sapiens will be replaced by the new species.

The process could also turn violent. Homo Sapiens may realize that they have created an entirely new species and are in danger of going extinct, and seek to eliminate the new species. But once the new species is created, it would be almost impossible to completely eliminate it, especially because it will most likely still look like us. Because the new species is superior, natural evolution will assert itself, and even if Homo Sapiens do succeed initially in suppressing the new species, over the long term (that is, across centuries or even millennia), the new species will fully replace us and Homo Sapiens will go extinct.

Artificial Intelligence.

Then there is the other, far more radical, possibility: that we create Artificial Intelligence.

This scenario, too, is rarely seen as positive. Many of the world’s brightest, including Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, have warned that AI poses an existential threat to humanity, which it most certainly does. But few stop to question whether this is necessarily a bad thing.

It certainly could be a disaster, but if we managed to create AI which is "better" than us (better being subjective, of course; more on this later), why would it be such a terrible thing if it replaced us as a species?

AI has the inherent advantage that, because it has no set physical manifestation, it can change itself easily. Who we are as Homo Sapiens is embodied in the physical world, in our bodies and brains; AI lives in virtual software. Thus, any change we make to ourselves requires a physical change, a handicap that AI does not suffer. In this context, if we suppress our emotional attachment to Homo Sapiens as a species, then a transition from Homo Sapiens to Artificial Intelligence as the primary conscious beings would be a positive development.

AI or a better us: does it matter?

Right now, there is a clear division between humans and machines, and the two scenarios I have presented are distinct. But that may not remain so.

A concept called the Singularity states that humans and machines will soon merge and become indistinguishable. Technology will become so integrated into our bodies and minds that we will become, essentially, cyborgs. Estimates for when the Singularity will occur vary widely, but the earliest are no more than 30-40 years.

The general assumption is that when we develop AI, it will be separate from us. But what if AI becomes merely an extension and enhancement of us? What if we become partly AI, as our biological brain plays an ever smaller role in our cognition while technology plays an ever larger role?

In that case, the two scenarios I have presented become one, in which we create not only a new species, but a new type of life and consciousness, one that is neither entirely biological nor fully technological.

* * *

The next step in life? The next step in matter?

Since life first emerged, it has been reliant on chance to evolve, and has been subject to biological constraints. In fact, since the big bang, all matter has been subject to external forces beyond its control. To the best of our knowledge, matter has never had the ability to consciously shape itself.

We are on the verge of transcending that. Whether we genetically enhance ourselves, create AI, or do both in the Singularity, we, as matter, will have consciously shaped ourselves, and purposefully altered not only our physical body but our minds and the fundamental characteristics that define us. We are on the verge of one of the greatest revolutions not only of life but of matter since the big bang. It will be accompanied by our own extinction, yes, but our legacy will continue through whatever new being we create. And in the face of such an incredible achievement, does the continuation of our specific species really matter? I personally do not think so, but this is a moral issue, with no single correct answer. It is one that we will have to grapple with as a species.

The practical implications.

So what are the implications for today’s world? Does anything still matter, if our entire species is going to become extinct?

It most certainly does. We are the ones who will decide the characteristics of the new species, and our social, political, and economic systems will inform at least the first generation of the new species and have a lasting impact. Genetic engineering and the creation of AI are not linear progressions, with only one possible outcome, or with a clearly preferable outcome. It is up to us to decide on what we think is the ideal form of life and consciousness: what characteristics should it have? Are emotions necessary? Do we need genders? To what extent should technology replace biological functions? Do we still want individuals or is a single, collective entity preferable?

These questions have no clear answers, and our response to them will shape the future course not just of human history but also of life and even of the universe.

In his book A Brief History of Humankind, from where I got the basic idea of this essay, Yuval Noah Harari finishes by looking forward to the possibilities of our creating a new species and going extinct. The last sentence of the book is powerful and encapsulates perfectly the only question that really matters: “What do we want to become?”

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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News Flash: 'Building The Wall' Is Still A Dumb Idea And Always Will Be

The government is still partially shutdown because of funding for the wall. Really?

ddrodzx
ddrodzx
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A man who is a strong supporter of building the wall told me this metaphor: If you don't want the wrong people walking into your backyard, you put a fence up. We don't want the wrong people coming to America, so we put a wall up. I respect people's political beliefs, and because of this, I want to share mine.

I believe that President Trump demanding money to build a border wall is dumb.

It's hard to believe so many people really think that this "build a wall" has everything to do about border security. It's just inhumane and wrong.

Literally, the most notorious drug lord of Mexico has shed light about how he smuggles the drug into the U.S. They have brought it through fishing boats, trucks going through the legal point of entry, underground tunnel, but not through unwalled parts. The half of million pounds of narcotics that were secured at the border? They were all al legal points of entry.

I'm saying this because I am a proud daughter of immigrants who crossed the border. The media has portrayed immigrants as these horrible people infiltrating our country. They just want somewhere safe to live to raise their kid.

The conditions of Latin American countries are inexplicable. Communist have risen from the ashes dominating these countries letting people rot on the street starving. There are little to no job opportunities. I haven't seen my family in three years because it is dangerous to go.

The media doesn't tell you this. They don't tell you how many people have gone to the border and returned to Mexico because ICE agents tear gas them.

They tell you that they throw babies over fences to distract border patrol agents. They tell you children are dying because of malnutrition of trekking thousands of miles to get the border. They don't tell you that those same children have been eating unmonitored food with thousands of microorganism some mal some good.

Not all immigrants are not bad people. The notions that all immigrants are criminals is "fake news." It has been a hook, line, and sinker for the Republican Party. There are studies such as one from the journal Criminology showing that places with high undocumented immigrant population does not equal high crime.

Should undocumented citizens attempt to become legal residents of the United States? Absolutely, and that is a problem if they are evading taxes and other legal notions with more consequences.

However, we should not lie to ourselves and act as a wall is to help border security against drugs and crime. It's just a physical quota like 1920s immigration laws. There is a better solution then sacrificing 5.7 billion dollars. Let me translate that: 5,700,000,000 dollars. That is our taxes. As a college student, I rather have those 5.7 billion dollars be translated to scholarship, grants, financial aid, and helping us, the future of this country become the best people we can be. Why build a wall when the future of America, who I personally think is more important can be helped.

I don't come from a rich family, and I don't have the means to afford a college education without loans, so when I hear that the Government can afford to give 5.7 billion dollars for a wall, I have the right to be upset. Tell me I'm wrong, and call me dumb, but this is my unpopular opinion.

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ddrodzx

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