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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I'm The Girl Who'd Rather Raise A Family Than A Feminist Protest Sign

You raise your protest picket signs and I’ll raise my white picket fence.
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Social Media feeds are constantly filled with quotes on women's rights, protests with mobs of women, and an array of cleverly worded picket signs.

Good for them, standing up for their beliefs and opinions. Will I be joining my tight-knit family of the same gender?

Nope, no thank you.

Don't get me wrong, I am not going to be oblivious to my history and the advancements that women have fought to achieve. I am aware that the strides made by many women before me have provided us with voting rights, a voice, equality, and equal pay in the workforce.

SEE ALSO: To The Girl Who Would Rather Raise A Family Than A Feminist Protest Sign

For that, I am deeply thankful. But at this day in age, I know more female managers in the workforce than male. I know more women in business than men. I know more female students in STEM programs than male students. So what’s with all the hype? We are girl bosses, we can run the world, we don’t need to fight the system anymore.

Please stop.

Because it is insulting to the rest of us girls who are okay with being homemakers, wives, or stay-at-home moms. It's dividing our sisterhood, and it needs to stop.

All these protests and strong statements make us feel like now we HAVE to obtain a power position in our career. It's our rightful duty to our sisters. And if we do not, we are a disappointment to the gender and it makes us look weak.

Weak to the point where I feel ashamed to say to a friend “I want to be a stay at home mom someday.” Then have them look at me like I must have been brain-washed by a man because that can be the only explanation. I'm tired of feeling belittled for being a traditionalist.

Why?

Because why should I feel bad for wanting to create a comfortable home for my future family, cooking for my husband, being a soccer mom, keeping my house tidy? Because honestly, I cannot wait.

I will have no problem taking my future husband’s last name, and following his lead.

The Bible appoints men to be the head of a family, and for wives to submit to their husbands. (This can be interpreted in so many ways, so don't get your panties in a bunch at the word “submit”). God specifically made women to be gentle and caring, and we should not be afraid to embrace that. God created men to be leaders with the strength to carry the weight of a family.

However, in no way does this mean that the roles cannot be flipped. If you want to take on the responsibility, by all means, you go girl. But for me personally? I'm sensitive, I cry during horror movies, I'm afraid of basements and dark rooms. I, in no way, am strong enough to take on the tasks that men have been appointed to. And I'm okay with that.

So please, let me look forward to baking cookies for bake sales and driving a mom car.

And I'll support you in your endeavors and climb to the top of the corporate ladder. It doesn't matter what side you are on as long as we support each other, because we all need some girl power.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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The Revival Of The Coal Industry Is Unattainable

Clean beautiful coal will never be a reality. President Trump's backing of a declining industry is misguided and will have despairing environmental impacts.

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The coal industry and its workers were placed at the forefront of American politics during the 2016 election cycle. President Trump promised a revival of the coal industry and promised to secure the jobs of coal country. The President, halfway through his first term, has so far taken measures to do just that. Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement, threw out Obama's Clean Power Plan, and did away with an Obama-era regulation that would prevent coal ash from entering streams and other bodies of water.

On one hand, it's quite extraordinary for a politician to do good on his campaign promises. On the other hand, is anyone considering whether or not the President is putting all his eggs into the wrong basket? Coal has been on the decline for about a decade now. Even without environmental regulations, the energy produced by coal is expected to reduce by 20% by 2030. Renewable energy such as wind and solar are replacing coal.


For an election campaign, it's easy to see why a candidate would align with coal. States like West Virginia and Pennsylvania are key when running a national campaign. The votes are there in those counties that support the coal industry. They will vote for any candidate who sides with their industry. But from an environmental standpoint, there's more on the line than just an election. It's about our clean air and water. Climate change is real and the effects of coal will only accelerate the process.

Coal ash that finds its way into water streams can damage that water supply for good. It could also impact the wildlife within the area. Coal also pollutes the air we breathe. Clean coal is a myth. Plain and simple. Coal is anything but clean. Clean coal sounds good in a stump speech, but we all know it's a fallacy.

Mountaintop mining also has a deep environmental impact. The Appalachian mountains have been destroyed from surface mining. West Virginia residents hold their beautiful mountains in high regard. Now, some of them look very different and the destruction is permanent. If the mining continues, the mountains of the Appalachia region will be gone. It would be a shame if you went to West Virginia to admire their mountains, and none were left.

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt passed the American Antiquities Act of 1906. Roosevelt protected 230 million acres of land during his presidency. Roosevelt understood the importance of conservation and preserving our nation's natural beauty. The same natural beauty that God envisioned. We should not take that for granted. We should restore our mountains, forests, and lakes so that our children's children can reside in the richness of our natural environment.

President Roosevelt also ended the coal strike in 1902. The United States was much more dependent on coal in the 20th century than it is now. Roosevelt knew the coal strike had to be resolved because the cold winter would have been fatal. The change of the Republican party over a century later is quite intriguing to ponder. The party went from a strong conservationist in Roosevelt to Trump, who is willing to move mountains for a dying industry.

All of these facts surrounding the coal debate cannot be ignored. The rest of the western world will move on to new forms of renewable energy. While the United States will be stuck in neutral, reviving coal. Renewable energy should be strongly considered if we are to protect our water, air, and lands.

Disclaimer: I understand the risks coal miners make when they show up for work. I know that safety regulations are not always up to par and that coal mining is a very dangerous profession. I also understand the viewpoint of coal miners and their reasoning for disagreeing with me. I know they want to work and provide for their families. That's what we all want to do. As I write this, I wish not to offend coal miners, I only aim to critique the President and his policies about the coal industry.

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