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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17 Empowering Bible Verses For Women

You go, girl.
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We all have those days where we let the negative thoughts that we're "not good enough," "not pretty enough" or "not smart enough" invade our minds. It's easy to lose hope in these situations and to feel like it would be easier to just give up. However, the Bible reminds us that these things that we tell ourselves are not true and it gives us the affirmations that we need. Let these verses give you the power and motivation that you're lacking.

1. Proverbs 31:25

"She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future."

2. Psalm 46:5

"God is within her, she will not fall."

3. Luke 1:45

"Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her."

4. Proverbs 31:17

"She is energetic and strong, a hard worker."

5. Psalm 28:7

"The Lord is my strength and my shield."

6. Proverbs 11:16

"A gracious woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth."

7. Joshua 1:9

"Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

8. Proverbs 31:30

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised."

9. 1 Corinthians 15:10

"By the grace of God, I am what I am."

10. Proverbs 31:26

"When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness."

11. Psalm 139:14

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

12. 1 Peter 3:3-4

"Don't be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God."

13. Colossians 2:10

"And in Christ you have been brought to fullness."

14. 2 Timothy 1:7

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."

15. Jeremiah 29:11

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'"

16. Exodus 14:14

"The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm."

17. Song of Songs 4:7

"You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way."

Next time you're feeling discouraged or weak, come back to these verses and use them to give you the strength and power that you need to conquer your battles.

Cover Image Credit: Julia Waterbury

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A Florida House Committee Is Undermining Your Vote On Amendment 4

Before felons can regain their right to vote, they must pay court fines, fees, and take care of any other "financial obligations." Essentially, this is a poll tax.

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Amendment 4, also known as the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, was added to the Constitution of Florida after being passed this last midterm election on November 6, 2018.

Amendment 4 restored the voting rights of Floridians with prior felony convictions after all terms of their sentence have been met, including parole and probation. This amendment only applies to felons who have not been convicted of murder or sexual offenses.

On January 8, 2019, an estimated 1.4 million ex-felons regained their right to vote. This is monumental. Prior to this amendment, Florida was one of four states that used felony disenfranchisement. Amendment 4 gives voice, and rightfully so, to felons who have served their time. Amendment 4 is also putting to rest, finally, years and years of disenfranchisement and suppression.

Now, only two months after its passage, the House Criminal Justice Committee is trying to water down this piece of legislation. This is a direct violation of the will of the 64% of Floridians who voted for the legislation as is. This amendment was not to be "clarified," as Governor DeSantis put it, but rather to be self-implementing.

However, the House Criminal Justice Committee proposed a bill that would tack on some extra qualifiers in order for felons to be enfranchised. The bill will require court fines, fees, and other "financial obligations" (in addition to fees administered in a judge's sentence) to be paid in full before a felon's voting rights are restored. This seems awfully similar to a poll tax to me. Obviously, this is going to affect people without a lot of resources rather than white-collar criminals who can afford a $500,000 bond.

This new qualifier will prevent felons from voting based on the money that can be coughed up as if they don't have to worry about their finances long after they leave prison.

Some may argue that these felons shouldn't have committed a crime in the first place. However, I would argue that holding a felon's vote hostage on the basis of money is unconstitutional.

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