This week Seed is asking the question:
“Will the ‘human’ race be around in 100 years?”
Since I suggested the question, I have a quick set of answers. I believe there are three primary categories of alternatives:
1) The rate of technological (both bio & computational) change will continue to accelerate, and “humanity” as we know it will be transcended beyond comprehension.
2) Our complex technological society will collapse as our artifactual matrix overwhelms our cognitive substrate, and the sociological response will be like that of lemmings over a cliff. We will revert back to some sort of post-pre-modern scenario where expectation of affluence is attenuated and the liberties and freedoms we take for granted will be constrained back to historical proportions.
3) We continue as we are, basically a very advanced primate leveraging our innate cognitive capacities to the point where we explore creation of the universe itself with our mind’s eye.
I think #3 is the least likely, we’re either headed for a “big crunch” or civilizational correction, or we are going to transcend convential constraints. I don’t know enough really to give good odds at #1 vs. #2, though I would prefer #1 for obvious reasons. But within number #1 there are a host of alternatives…and I would hope that whatever transcendence post-humanism takes (whether it be biological, computational or a cybernetic synthesis) that basic human values like beauty and love are preserved. As for #2, unlike many people I don’t think resource exhaustion and environmental degradation is as much of the problem as the fact that human minds do not naturally scale up to societal levels, and I am not totally sure that irrational herds can’t send the complex integrated modern technological-economic system crashing down. An intelligent ape whose hands are within arms length of a big-red-button that could destroy us all can only be assessed a finite span before it does the deed….
In any case, I will be an optimist and say that #1 is the most likely, and I don’t know that what will follow us can be termed “human,” so I’ll say that our species is gone (or at least marginalized to small sects and cliques like the Amish).