Global Warming Tipping Point

Click for Larger - Representative Population to Ecosystem Damage Correlation

Click for Larger – Representative Population to Ecosystem Damage Correlation

The concept of an environmental tipping point was first broached by James Hansen in reference to climate change. Hansen is an Adjunct Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and recently retired climate scientist for NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In 2005 at a presentation to the American Geophysical Union (AGU), Hansen stated, “we are on the precipice of climate system tipping points beyond which there is no redemption.”1 His use of the term “tipping point” to warn against the dangers of irreversible climate change started a trend in climate change communication that was picked up by the media and which they used extensively to report on the growing body of evidence that man-made activities were causing a significant increase in greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.

But Hansen was not the first to discuss climate change in terms of tipping points. In 2003, Alley et al. defined a “tipping point” as an event that “occur[s] when the climate system is forced to cross some threshold, triggering a translation to a new state at a rate determined by the climate system itself and faster than the cause.”2 The climate system being referred to encompasses the atmosphere, oceans, land, the cryosphere, and the biosphere.

The term eventually came to be used widely in other areas of science by biologists, marine scientists, engineers, and even policy makers. In 2008, a group of scientists lead by Johan Rockström proposed the idea of planetary boundaries that “define the safe operating space for humanity with respect to the Earth system and are associated with the planet’s biophysical subsystems or processes.” They identified nine such Earth-system processes that, if crossed, “could generate unacceptable environmental change.”3

  • Climate change;
  • Rate of biodiversity loss (terrestrial and marine);
  • Interference with the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles;
  • Stratospheric ozone depletion;
  • Ocean acidification;
  • Global freshwater use;
  • Change in land use;
  • Chemical pollution;
  • Atmospheric aerosol loading
Click for Larger - Three Critical Thresholds already exceeded.

Click for Larger – Three Critical Thresholds already exceeded.

But rather than call them tipping points, Rockström and colleagues referred to the planetary boundaries of these processes as “critical thresholds.” Furthermore, Rockström et al. believed that three of these processes have already crossed the critical threshold or tipping point: climate change, rate of biodiversity loss, and interference with nitrogen and phosphorous cycles.

As a contributor to climate change, most scientists agree that the highest carbon dioxide concentration that can be considered safe is 350 ppm.3,4 This threshold is based on paleoclimate data from the last 100 million years, which showed that not only was carbon dioxide a major contributor to global cooling, but that ice sheets did not form on Earth when CO2 concentrations were at about 450 ppm (±100 ppmv), suggesting the presence of a critical threshold. Setting the lowest possible threshold as the safe level would ensure that the large polar ice sheets will not disappear.3 The concentration of carbon dioxide stood at 395 ppm globally in 2012, with the Arctic recording the highest ever at more than 400 ppm and Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and Mongolia also recording 400 ppm or higher. The last time CO2 concentrations were this high was 800,000 years ago.4

In terms of biodiversity loss, Rockström et al. said that the rate of species extinction today is 100 to 1000 times more than the natural rate (0.1 to 1 million extinctions per million species per year for marine life and 0.2 to 0.5 extinctions per million species per year for mammals) based on fossil records. The rapid extinction has been due largely to land use changes such as the conversion of wildlife habitats for agriculture and urban uses.

Natural nitrogen and phosphorus cycles have been disrupted by man-made additions of nitrogen and phosphorus through agriculture. Nitrous oxide, a by-product of this man-made process is one of the greenhouse gases causing climate change and phosphorus inflows into oceans 20% greater than natural levels have caused past ocean anoxic events.3

The interrelatedness of the various climate systems and recent scientific evidence have led a group of scientists led by Anthony Barnosky to make similar conclusions that the Earth is on the brink of a massive global-scale tipping point due largely to human-induced climate change, which they detailed in an article published in Nature on June 2012.5  Whereas most scientists have documented localized or ecosystem-specific tipping points, Barnosky et al. warn that a planetary-scale critical threshold could soon be breached as more localized tipping points fall due to human activities. They propose the need to create improved biological forecasts that can detect localized and global-scale “critical transitions.”

In its 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) discussed the issue of tipping points, referring to them as “major or abrupt climate changes.” They identified six climate and climate-affected systems that have the possibility of undergoing such abrupt changes or experience irreversible consequences:6

Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) and other ocean circulation changes;

  • Arctic sea ice;
  • Glaciers and ice caps;
  • Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets;
  • Vegetation cover; and
  • Atmospheric and ocean-atmosphere regimes.

In 2008, 52 of the world’s leading experts on the climate attended a workshop called “Tipping Points in the Earth System.” In a report published by Lenton et al in 2008 in Nature,7,8 the participants identified nine climate systems that have separate tipping points in danger of crossing the threshold due to the increased levels of carbon dioxide and global temperature:

  • Arctic Sea-Ice;
  • Greenland Ice Sheet;
  • West Antarctic Ice Sheet;
  • Atlantic Thermohaline Circulation (a component of the Atlantic MOC);
  • El-Niño-Southern Oscillation;
  • Indian Summer Monsoon;
  • Sahara/Sahel and West African Monsoon;
  • Amazon Rainforest; and
  • Boreal Forest

Scientists have identified several paleoclimatic events as evidence that climatic tipping points have been breached in the past. The most pertinent of these events is the rise in sea levels as ice sheets melted and the corresponding temperature for the geologic time periods in which they occurred.9 For example, scientists believe that the global sea level was 4 to 6 meters higher during the last interglacial period compared to today based on the presence of elevated beaches. During that period, about 125,000 years ago, global average temperature was about 1°C warmer than the current interglacial period. Data from ice core sheets also suggest that the retreat of the Greenland Ice Sheet and other ice fields in the Arctic may have contributed to a rise in sea levels of about 2 to 4 meters during the last interglacial period. Scientists warn that the IPCC’s estimate of a 2 to 4°C increase in global temperatures in the next 100 years could lead to a rise in sea levels of 10 to 20 meters or more mainly from the ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctic. It is, however, uncertain how long it will take for the ice sheets to melt: it could take decades or centuries or longer.

There are still disagreements regarding the concept of environmental tipping points, mainly due to lack of quantitative measures to determine when exactly a critical threshold is breached for each climate system. Many of the assumptions currently being used to estimate thresholds are based on the human (in)capacity to respond to such dangers. There are those who believe that tipping points are simply expressions of anxiety that humans may not be able to solve climate change problems once the thresholds have been breached. Still others believe that there is enough scientific evidence for tipping points that cannot be ignored and thus require immediate action.

References:

  1. Hansen, J.E. (2005). Is there still time to avoid ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference’ with global climate? Retrieved from: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2005/Keeling_20051206.pdf
  2. Alley R.B., Marotzke, J., Nordhaus, W.D., Overpeck, J.T., Peteet, D.M., Pielke, R.A,… Wallace, J.M. (2003). Abrupt climate change.  Science, 299(5615), 2005–2010.
  3. Rockström, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K., Persson, Å., Chapin, F. S. III, Lambin, E. F.,…Foley, J.A. (2009). A safe operating space for humanity. Nature, 461, 472–475. doi:10.1038/461472a
  4. Borenstein, S. (2012, May 31). Scientists: Carbon dioxide at highest level in 800,000 years. USA Today. Retrieved from: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/weather/climate/globalwarming/story/2012-05-31/carbon-dioxide-greehouse-gas-level-climate-change-global-warming/55312242/1
  5. Barnosky, A.D., Hadly, E.A., Bascompte, J., Berlow, E.L., Brown, J.H., Fortelius, M.,…
  6. Smith, A.B. (2012).  Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere. Nature, 486, 52–58. doi:10.1038/nature11018.
  7. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). 2007a. Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S. D.Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M. tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 996 pp. Retrieved from: http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/publications_ipcc_fourth_assessment_report_wg1_report_the_physical_science_basis.htm
  8. Lenton, T.M., Held, H., Kriegler, E., Hall, J.W., Lucht, W., Rahmstorf, S., Shellnhuber, H.J. (2008). Tipping elements in the Earth’s climate system. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 105(6), 1786–1793. Retrieved from: http://www.pnas.org/content/105/6/1786.full.pdf
  9. Lenton, T.M., Livina, V.N., Dakos, V., Van Ness, E.H., Scheffer, M. (2012). Early warning of climate tipping points from critical slowing down: comparing methods to improve robustness. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A. 370, 1185–1204. doi:10.1098/rsta.2011.0304
  10. Climate Tipping Points: Current Perspectives and State of Knowledge. (2009, July). U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved from http://climate.dot.gov/about/overview/pdf/climate_tipping_points.pdf

It’s Global Warming, STUPID

Are you one of the three people still influenced by the two remaining politicians being paid by Big Oil to deny Global Warming exists?  NEWS FLASH: Human-Burned Fossil Fuels are the Major Culprit Killing the Planet as we Know It.

The Earth’s surface temperature has been measured for over a century and there is incontrovertible proof that we are now living in a hotter world. Climate change has crept upon us and the consequences are manifest around the globe. Heat waves are becoming more frequent while the incidence of record-low temperatures and cold snaps is on the decline. In regions such as the Sierra Nevada mountain range of the United States, there has been a documented drop in average snowfall and snowpack. Since warmer air has more water vapor, climate change has also altered the pattern of precipitation. In the United States, for instance, precipitation has intensified, increasing by about 5% over the last 5 decades.

Warming is particularly striking in the Arctic region where the extent of sea ice has continued to drop by approximately 10% per decade since the late 1970s. In the late summer, shockingly large areas of the Arctic Ocean are devoid of ice for long periods, raising concerns about adverse effects on ecosystems, national defense, and shipping routes. The high temperatures have also warmed the ocean waters, and since water expands at higher temperatures, sea-levels have risen by about 0.2 m or 8 inches.  Additionally, glaciers and ice sheets in various other locations around the world are rapidly melting with the excess water adding to the rising sea levels.

The warmer climate has also had a significant impact on flora and fauna. Many species of plants and animals are now being found at higher altitudes where the temperature is lower. The timing of various seasonal events is also changing. For example, animals and insects are migrating earlier, and breeding patterns are being altered.

With the development of advanced data collection systems such as satellite monitoring and powerful computerized simulation models, climate science has become more precise. We now have overwhelming evidence in the form of measurable data to support the phenomenon of global warming and climate change. Importantly, we also have data that implicates human activities as the major catalyst in the process.

Graph showing rising earth temperatures over the past 100 years

Click for Larger

The Earth’s surface temperature has been measured for over a century and there is incontrovertible proof that we are now living in a hotter world. Modern thermometers are located in thousands of positions over land and oceans, and the raw data is collected by specialized research groups such as the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in the United States. The analyses of the temperature data have demonstrated an average increase in the Earth’s surface temperature of over 1.4oF or 0.8oC over the last three decades. To put things into perspective, the difference between the global average temperatures of an ice age and the climate today is estimated to be a mere 9oF!

The temperature of the Earth’s surface is only one of several components of the global climate system monitored today. Specialized equipment is used to track ocean conditions such as salinity, temperature, and currents while weather balloons track atmospheric temperature, winds, and humidity. Additionally, remote satellite sensors provide a global perspective of atmospheric and surface changes in the climate system. While the data sets from these various sources are obtained in vastly different ways, they all consistently indicate that the earth is rapidly warming.

Human Generated Carbon Emissions Causing Global Warming

Human Generated Carbon Emissions Causing Global Warming

At the dawn of the 19th century, scientists began to realize the regulatory role of certain gases in maintaining the temperature of the Earth. These greenhouse gases, which include carbon dioxide and methane, form an insulating blanket around the earth and are crucial to its habitability. As the Sun’s energy warms the Earth, the blanket of greenhouse gases prevents the radiated infrared energy from escaping the atmosphere, keeping the surface from freezing. Unfortunately, the greenhouse effect is amplified with rising concentrations of greenhouse gases.

Human activities generate massive amounts of greenhouse gases and most scientists agree that we are largely to blame for the warming of the Earth. Methane is produced from the burning of fossil fuels, the raising of livestock, and from landfills. Carbon dioxide is also released from burning fossil fuels, while activities like deforestation reduce the rate at which it is removed from the atmosphere. Nitrous oxide results from use of fertilizers.  CFCs are greenhouse gases that do not occur naturally, and their presence in the atmosphere is undoubtedly a result of human activities.

There is another line of investigation that implicates human activities in the amplification of the greenhouse effect. The study of air bubbles trapped in polar ice cores has shown that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was steady for at least 2,000 years prior to the Industrial Revolution. Towards the end of the 19th century, atmospheric C02 spiked sharply and has been trending upwards ever since. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere today is 40% higher than preindustrial levels, bringing it to its highest point in the past 800,000 years.

After 800,000 years, Humans Destroy Nature's Balance - for Short-Term Profit Seeking

After 800,000 years, Humans Destroy Nature’s Balance – for Short-Term Profit Seeking

In addition to direct and indirect measurements of C02 concentrations, scientists have estimated the amount of CO2 that is naturally absorbed by the Earth’s land and oceans. They have also consolidated data on the amount of fossil fuels burned each year. The analyses indicate that at least 45% of the C02 produced from human activities is retained in the atmosphere. Carbon fingerprinting technology identifies fossil fuels as a major source of the carbon found in this greenhouse gas, providing further evidence that humans are culpable in climate change.

Scientists have also explored alternative explanations for climate change. Since the Sun has an obvious impact on the Earth’s temperature, solar activity has been analysed meticulously. Satellite records show the Sun’s output to have remained constant in the past 30 years. Indirect methods before the satellite era have similarly indicated that the sun’s activity could not have been responsible for any temperature increases beyond the latter 20th century. Finally, weather balloons show cooling of the higher stratosphere with warming of the lower troposphere. This observation is consistent with the theory that rather than the atmosphere being warmed from the sun above, heat is being trapped closer to the earth.

The Damage. Plain and Simple.

The energy landscape of the future will have a pivotal role in the progression of global warming. Taking into account variables such as population growth, technological developments, land use, and global energy-conservation policies, we can project changes in the average temperature of the earth by extrapolating trends in greenhouse gas production. To achieve this, scientists use powerful climate models built around mathematical equations that represent the dynamics of the climate system. In 2005, the World Climate Research Programme integrated the findings of 23 such modelling experiments from around the globe to predict climate changes. These experiments were based on three different scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions – high, medium-high, and low. All three emission levels predicted continued warming, with the scenario of the highest emissions leading to a greater than 110F rise in global temperature.

Human Extinction by Global Warming is possible - 3 scenarios

Results of another, independent study showing scenario A2, business as usual, resulting in more than 7 degrees warming.

Extreme Heat and Fluctuation

A climate change of this magnitude will lead to a spectrum of societal and ecological problems. First off, as the trend of global warming continues, it is obvious that various regions of the globe will suffer from higher average temperatures.  The heat index, which combines humidity with temperature to give a value for how hot it feels, is predicted to increase throughout this century.  By the year 2100, Central USA alone is expected to experience about 90 additional days each year of heat indexes higher than 1000F. Additionally, heat waves will become more intense, with the inference that heat-related morbidities will also rise. Overall, the ratio of record high to record low temperatures is projected to rise from the current 2:1 to 50:1 within the span of a handful of decades.

Less Rain

Less rain, dead crops, food shortages.Global warming will also have a significant impact on precipitation. As the world becomes hotter, the existing regional contrasts in rain and snow fall will become more pronounced. While polar and sub-polar regions will likely see greater snow and rain, many other areas will become dryer. In fact, for each 1.80F rise in temperature, the world’s deserts will see a 10% reduction in precipitation, worsening the impact of droughts. In countries such as the USA and Canada, the ultimate effect of global warming on precipitation is still uncertain. However, most climate models predict a dryer future for the southwest regions of the United States.

Along with disturbing the pattern of precipitation, global warming will also lead to greater incidences of extreme weather. Heavy rainstorms are already becoming more frequent globally and simulation models project a continuation of this trend. For each rise of 1.80 F, we can expect extreme rainfalls to intensify by 10%. In contrast, dryer regions will experience harsher droughts, making fire-prone areas more vulnerable to wildfires. As an example, the northern Rocky Mountain forests of the United States are predicted to experience a doubling in fire damage for each 1.80F rise in global average temperature.

Less Snow, Aquifer-Based Water, River Water, Hydro-Power

less snow, no hydro-power, dried up auquafirsAnother effect of global warming that is already starkly obvious is the decline in snow and ice cover over land and ocean. In the future, the sea-ice cover during the month of September is expected to diminish by a drastic 25% per 1.80F rise in temperature. As matters currently stand, the Arctic Ocean is expected to be seasonally ice-free before the end of this century. Terrestrial snow cover will also continue to diminish, with snow pack building later and melting earlier in the season.  This will adversely affect not only the availability of fresh water, but also the ability to generate hydroelectric power.

Shore Line Erosion

rising seas, eroding shorelines, shrinking earthAs global temperatures rise, ocean water will continue to expand as it becomes warmer.  In 1990, climate models predicted rises in sea-level for various scenarios of global warming– we are already near the top of the range of projections. The thermal expansion of oceans is by no means over, and its effect on sea-level is only being exacerbated by the melting of glaciers and sea-ice.

In Alaska, coastal erosions have already forced thousands to relocate. With the sea-level expected to rise another meter by the turn of the century, further loss of coastlines is imminent. If the sea-level rises by 0.5 meters, it is estimated that over 250,000 sq. km of land could be flooded worldwide, permanently displacing about 4 million people. At a rise of 1 m, coastline losses would be much more profound. In the US, for instance, over 90% of New Orleans, and 18% of Miami would be susceptible to flooding.

Mass Extinctions

Ecosystems are also under constant threat from global warming, with cold-adapted species being particularly vulnerable to changes in temperature. As lower altitudes become too warm for habitation, animals like the American pika are being confined to the cooler mountaintops. Such shifts in habitation of terrestrial organisms have disrupted important life-cycle events such as blooming, pollination, and hatching, wreaking havoc on food webs and inter-species interactions.  In the ocean, it is feared that warmer temperatures will lead to loss of phytoplankton, an organism crucial to the ocean food web.

Famine

Last but not least, a significant impact of global warming will be on food security worldwide. As C02 levels rise in the atmosphere, there is an intuitive expectation for crops and foliage to prosper.  In reality, while plants do grow faster with higher concentrations of available C02, the rapid growth means there is a shorter period during which grain is available. Furthermore, the higher temperature that results from increased atmospheric CO2 places greater water stress on crops, increasing risk of damage.

In the USA, half the country’s produce is grown in California. By 2050, it is projected that global warming will decrease yields of a variety of nuts and fruits by as much as 40%. Similarly, for each 1.80F of warming, the corn yield in the US and Africa will decline by 15%. At 90F of warming, yield losses would be global, doubling the price of grain worldwide.

Rising temperatures, declining grain production, hungry humans.

Rising temperatures, declining grain production, hungry humans.

There’s more. There are reams and reams of data that tell us we’re killing the planet as we know it. We can predict certain death and destruction to plants and animals, to the shoreline we’re familiar with, to entire ecosystems and species.

We (humans collectively) don’t know if we’re too late. Have we reached a tipping point – that point at which there is no relief from the high emission concentrations but the slow demise of humans, perhaps dwindling our numbers to the point we can no longer damage the planet?

Most scientists agree we can make a difference. If we act now – all of us on the same page saying no to the special interests that would have us keep burning oil and lining their pockets with cash.

The next article goes into some detail about ways we can mitigate and even reverse our folly. Read on. Hope is a terrific thing to have. Political clout as we all ban together is an absolute requirement to Save our Ship. Spaceship Earth.

NEXT ARTICLE: MITIGATING GLOBAL WARMING –>

References

  • NASA: Global Climate Change, Vital Signs of the Planet http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence
  • Belolipetsky P.V., Empirical evidence for a double step climate change in twentieth century, 2013, arXiv:1303.1581 [physics.ao-ph]
  • National Research Council, 2010, Advancing the Science, Limiting the Magnitude, and Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change
  • National Research Council, 2010e, Ocean Acidification: A National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean
  • Hansen, James, Makiko Sato, and Reto Ruedy. “Perceptions of climate change: The new climate dice.” Procedings of the National Academy of Science 119 (2012): 14726-14727.

Projecting Human Evolution: 5 traits we might possess in the future

Internet author Bryan Nelson makes some interesting and entertaining predictions in his article Mother Nature article “Projecting human evolution: 5 traits we might possess in the future” from May 2012. Using current and past trends to predict our next evolutionary traits, his article is certainly stirring some debate.

Bryan suggests that future humans will lack wisdom teeth, become hairless, become resistant to heart diseases and diabetes, be of a similar race and be relatively weak with susceptible immune systems – all traits- he says- that will develop because we no longer use them or will get used to them.

 

future-human-small-hairless-no-wisdom-teeth

Could this be a future human? Small, hairless, no wisdom teeth.

The Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, an evolutionary principle says that evolution is possible whenever anyone influence of natural selection, gene flow, genetic drift, mutation or non-random mating is present. Naturally, the conclusion is evolution is an ongoing business. After all, as he clearly points out, we depend heavily on machines to do heavy work, so will become weaker in future and wil become susceptible to pathogens because we don’t need our natural immune systems due to modern medicine.  And from history, he claims, humanity has always shed off traits it doesn’t need.

So according to Mr. Nelson, we will evolve into a completely machine dependent species owing to our increasing dependency on them, lose our wisdom teeth because we no longer have stuff as hard as our ancestors had to bite into, our bodies will eventually get used to the junk food we eat and develop resistances to diseases that these foods cause, and that currently increasing interracial sexual relationships will ultimately make us all of one race.

You can find his original article on the Mother Nature Network.

Future Branches on the Human Tree

Ian Pearson – BT’s Futurologist – presents insights into the future of many aspects of our daily lives – from work to leisure, and from capitalism to the care economy. To quote Ian, “Accuracy is impossible for all but the most trivial question, but blurred vision is better than none at all.” Here are Ian Pearson’s views on possible branches of the human tree, complete with time line.


Robotus primus

future-human-evolution-com-robotus-primusFor a time at least, we will be the second smartest beings on Earth. Computers will probably surpass us in intelligence around 2025*, and it will be some time after that before they develop the technology to bring us up to speed. So the first major impact is a new intelligence sharing the planet. We call this Robotus primus. In the 2025* time frame, it is reasonable to expect that these computers could be accompanied by sufficiently developed robotics technology to make them fully mobile, though their minds are not tied to any particular machine or location – but distributed. The early generations will rely on relatively crude robots, but these will quickly evolve into sophisticated androids. We stress again that Robotus primus is not the android itself, which is merely a tool, but the intelligent mind inside. We will of course see many grades of computer intelligence, just as we do now. A toaster cleverer than man would seem somewhat superfluous. Rapid speciation of this artificial intelligence can be expected, with elite models rapidly losing position to their descendants.

Homo cyberneticus

future-human-evolution-com-image-of-post-humanEven today**, people have developed silicon chips which can interface directly to human nerve cells. Various cybernetic prostheses and other extensions to the body are in development. Others have demonstrated that thoughts can be detected and recognized, even without physical contact with the body. It seems reasonable to assume that it will not be long before a computer can interface directly to a human, producing artificial senses and reading the persons thoughts. Although no-one has yet demonstrated a means of putting thoughts into a human, it does not seem unreasonable to assume it can be done, perhaps by creating appropriate electric fields at appropriate points, which again should not require any direct contact.

We thus expect that at some point after human machine equivalence, perhaps just a few years, the technology will be developed to make a full duplex mind link between man and machine. Then we will be able to enhance our mental ability by using external processing as an adjunct to our own brains. Since by this time the machines will be much smarter than we are, this will be a large step for mankind.

Those people who accept this technology will instantly have a great advantage over those who do not (and there will be many). In the same way that people rejecting IT today are a dying species, excluded from a new workplace and society by their own hand, then future rejections will be more exaggerated and speedy. So they will be so far removed from Homo Sapiens that they will in effect be the start of a new species, which we call Homo cyberneticus. As the technology rapidly develops, the differences between Homo cyberneticus and Homo Sapiens will increase. However, since the early Homo cyberneticus is a conjunction of conventional humans with machines, there is obviously room for improvement.

Homo hybridus

It is likely that many of the people who accept cybernetic enhancement would lend themselves to genetic enhancement too, or would allow enhancement of their offspring. A further branch of optimized biological man with some cybernetic links can therefore be expected. Perhaps their genes could be selected to work better with cybernetics than conventional organisms. We call this species Homo hybridus. This species is the one which makes Homo optimus rather redundant, very soon after its creation. Similarly, the first generation of Homo cyberneticus would become obsolete, since the human bodies connected would be inferior to those of Homo hybridus.

future-human-evolution-com-terminator_2Changes generally bring stress, and this often leads to conflict. The many new species would not coexist easily with Homo ludditus, and there would be some competition for resources between these species too. Whether peaceful coexistence is possible or not, it would seem unlikely, give the well known nature of Homo ludditus. Science fiction has already begun exploring this conflict, with The Forbin Project, Terminator 1 & 2 being famous examples. However, in Terminator, Homo ludditus wins, which seems an unlikely outcome. Perhaps the 2200 estimate for human extinction seems optimistic in this light.

We can also expect friction within our species as machine intelligence improves. The industrial revolution reduced the value of muscle power and in the same way computer evolution will reduce the value of brain power – to zero. One by one, jobs will be lost to machines, whether robots or computers. Our corporations will be run and staffed entirely by machines. Those using humans will not be able to compete and will go under. People will have fewer and fewer attributes to sell. Of course, production and output could greatly increase while human input could decrease, so we could all have a better quality of life without having to work. A fully automated economy could still be bigger than one which involves people. Early 21st century*** economics will not work in the future – the cracks are already getting bigger – machines take out delay and uncertainty, displace humans and reveal economics for what it is, a game of numbers in a spread sheet! . Our current concepts of wealth, money and ownership will take a severe battering. Perhaps we will enter an age of leisure, where any work we do is voluntary and is based on spending time with other people. Or perhaps people will be overtaken by fear as they lose control over what is happening. Then wars might break out. In any case, this age will not last long as we are absorbed into the higher existence offered by the machine world.

future-human-evolution-com-brain-to-computer-interfaceWhen a direct link from the computer into the human brain is achieved, thought transmission will give us telepathic communication not only with machines but with other people. We will be able to enjoy a shared consciousness with other humans and synthetic intelligences such as Robotus primus. Our evolution to Homo machinus will therefore be set against the background of a global consciousness. Individuals will still exist, but we will also have a group existence. As we achieve this link, we will also be able to make copies of our minds in the machine world – a backup in case of accident. We will become immortal, even if our mobility and physical existence is restricted until a suitable replacement body or android is produced for us. Death will be just a memory of a primitive past.

We may have an alter ego in the machine, or many. We may try out different situations or life decisions, or different personalities. These alter egos could occasionally make trips into the real world, time sharing robotic bodies. These bodies would not necessarily be humanoid, so we could really be the fly on the wall. Procreation could be a highly creative act, with any number of people combining (N – Sex) selected characteristics from themselves or their imaginations to create new beings. Each person could give rise to large numbers of personal offspring in this way. The number of beings which could coexist may be limited by the size of the host infrastructure, but they could timeshare or lie dormant until more space is created.

Homo machinus

The two enhancements of biological optimisation and connection to synthetic intelligence are not equal in potential impact. Due to speed of development, we can reasonably assume that some of each of the above species would exist, but we can argue that they would soon become obsolete. Homo optimus, would have been left behind by Homo cyberneticus and they in turn would be succeeded by Homo hybridus. However, as the mind machine link becomes completely transparent, and as materials and cybernetic technology improve, Homo hybridus would rapidly find most of its intelligence and most of its physical capability residing in the machine rather than the organic side. As the human mind gradually moves further into the machine world, it would become apparent that the organic body is redundant. If it died, it would be a minor inconvenience, requiring a cybernetic replacement to be commissioned. As the bodies die out, Homo hybridus would too, becoming a non corporeal being, which we call Homo machinus.

This new species retains some elements of the earlier human race, but is vastly more intelligent and has access to whatever physical capability is required. It can travel at the speed of light, exist in many places at once, and would be essentially immortal. It would coexist with Robotus primus, but we could expect that the two would closely interact and may quickly converge.

Summarizing, we can draw an outline of or projection of human evolution from the distant past to the relatively near future.

future-human-evolution-timeline-pearson

future-human-evolution-timeline-pearson

 

Space exploration is currently very expensive, so we havent got far yet. However, when we exist only as information within a machine, we could be copied into a very small device, encapsulated in a very small shell with some nano-technology machines, nanites. By this time, we could expect that nanites would be able to make replicas of themselves, and of anything else we desire. These small shells would be like seeds. We could accelerate them to near light speeds and send them off to other planets around other stars. The nanites would be able to fabricate a suitable environment and suitable body for us, and then upload us into them. The environmental requirements of Homo machinus might not be very demanding. We may not even be limited by the speed of light, if we can master warp drive, wormholes or tachyon transmission, all of which we know are possible in principle. Surely a few years of research by mid 21st century super-beings will crack the problems of bringing these principles to fruition. Many other exciting areas previously beyond us will be a natural part of our everyday existence.

  • *Originally predicted at 2015
  • **Originally stated 1995
  • ***Originally 20th Century

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Reviews of Future Human-Related Media

There is a lot of material out there on the web related to the future human, the future of humanity, future human evolution, and the like. Some of it is scholarly, some ridiculous, some entertaining, etc.  As we have a keen interest in the topic we thought it would be helpful to do a little survey across the web from time-to-time and let you know about the more interesting media on our human future we think you’ll enjoy.

Future Human Reviews