This week’s Ask a Scienceblogger question is “will the “human” race still be around in 100 years?”
The short answer is yes.
The slightly longer answer is this: we could face a number of catastrophes, including a pandemic, massive global warming, nuclear war, or all of the above. Our numbers could be reduced to a tiny fraction of what they are today. But we will most certainly still exist.
From a cognitive science perspective, there are a couple other interesting possibilities. What if, within the next 100 years, we succeeded in creating artificial intelligence that appeared to match human intelligence? What if we could create a robot that, externally at least, appeared to be “human”? Would we consider such a thing to be a part of the human race? If we couldn’t distinguish it from other humans based on behavior and external appearance, then why shouldn’t we consider it to be a human being, with human rights?
If so, then arguably the human race would be fundamentally different from what it is today, and so in that sense you might say that the human race no longer exists.
If this can’t happen in 100 years, then certainly in 1,000 it might.
What’s more, in 1,000 years, we may have discovered the secret of aging, and it might be possible for people to live infinitely long lives. Would such a creature be human? Isn’t mortality part of what makes us who we are? Assuming some catastrophe doesn’t bring humanity back to the stone age, it’s possible that in 1,000 years we will have changed ourselves into something that is no longer recognizably human.
Last week’s question was “If you could cause one invention from the last hundred years never to have been made at all, which would it be, and why?,” and you can see a roundup of all the answers here. This week’s roundup should be up on Stochastic by midday.