In this section of the site we’re going to treat you to a variety of future visions, or scenarios as they’re called in the discipline of Futures Studies. While all forays into the future are founded on some semblance of the past and present (trends and developments), the farther out one “predicts” or tries to conceptualize the future, the more speculation and chance enter into the equation. Never, they say, does the future follow the most likely path.
In our opening essay below, we present our far-future vision originally published in 2003 to which only minor modification has been made. It embraces the themes found throughout the site: namely that developments in AI, Human Genetic Engineering, Interstellar Colonization, and Nanotechnology will weave an intricate fabric upon which the diverse future of humans will evolve.
While the essay references the probability that certain branches of the human family tree may wither (just as they have in the past), it is an optimistic celebration of diversity and a testament to our fundamental belief in the robustness and enduring nature of the human spirit across space and time.
The Future of Human Evolution, a short introductory essay
By the Editor
We find in much of the literature about the future of human evolution that while there are many predictions about enhancing the uniqueness of future individuals, there is a surprising tendency to envision a rather homogeneous evolutionary path for the human species. We see in this literature advances in technological and scientific disciplines extrapolated to the nth degree and applied to the human race in a wholesale fashion, and discussed in terms of their immediate social implications. We see a different, longer-term vision. We believe that diversity is the future of the humankind. We do not strive for this as a goal so much as we recognize it as a natural outgrowth of existing human nature, advancing technology enabling the acceleration of the evolutionary process, and our soon-to-be-achieved ability to spread beyond the confines of Cradle Earth.
All of the technological themes represented on this website are central to our diversified vision of human evolution. But it is human nature that will dictate how this technology is harnessed and applied to our species. Genetic engineering will be the first of the human advancement sciences to see practical deployment. The 21st century will be marked by the typical protests that accompany new technology along with the associated predictions of doom and the demise of society as we know it. Motivated self interest will prevail and research will continue despite attempts to ban germ-line genetic engineering. Some human experiments will fail renewing with vigor the religious, moral, and ethical arguments, but enough will succeed such that over the next 100 years we can predictable alter genetic traits to increase longevity, prevent disease, improve intelligence, and promote other characteristics desired by the Authority at hand (parents, private research teams, governments, religious organizations – whomever we as sentient citizens allow to make such judgements). Some factions of society will categorically reject any genetic manipulation, even for the screening and elimination of ‘preventable’ genetic disorders.
With respect to the successful genetic exercises, the evolutionary rules of natural selection will apply; the terms “positive”, “negative”, “good”, and “bad” toward introduced-changes are applicable within the framework of today’s (or the ‘then current’) cultural norms and individuals possessing these altered traits will most likely be judged by society accordingly. Individuals with enhanced characteristics or capabilities such as intelligence of any and/or all types, emotional capacity, strength, speed, size, color, and all manor of possible variation who can find a mate will propagate naturally. Those that can’t, won’t. Individuals in the later category may well coalesce, in the fashion of many science fiction tales, into a social strata and begin to form the basis of a first new cospecies.
If during this next 100 years sufficient advances are not made in space colonization initiatives, growing diverseness in genetically differentiated races and the corresponding social dynamics created by evolutionary acceleration may well provide the impetus. The intelligence unlocked through the genetic engineering process and advances in Artificial Intelligence may contribute to the needed scientific advances in physics necessary to make interstellar travel more accessible. Just as those seeking religious freedom or the escape from persecution fled the shores of Europe, analogous groups will seek the shores of distant stars. Others will leverage the new-found interstellar capabilities for property and wealth and adventure. Genetic manipulation will allow for greater longevity and specialization both for the journey as well as the diverse environments of our many destinations.
Separate societies will evolve, political ideologies and social orders unique to the members’ modified genetic characteristics and space-faring mentality will form. Speciation will occur. Branches of homo sapiens will evolve into being or be created in one generation for specific galactic conditions. Some will flourish, some will become extinct, their remains to be found millennia later by humanoid archaeologists who will attempt to create a fossil record of our expansion.
At some point in the not too distant future, the promise of true, sentient Artificial Intelligence will come to fruition. Some of these sentient beings will choose to accompany humanoids on their journey. Some will seek their own path in the universe. There likely will be no doomsday, servant enslaving master scenario played out. Conflicting materialistic motivations and competing for limited resources will be archaic notions in this era thanks to the ability of nanotechnology to create sustenance from inorganic matter and valued items from refuse. Circuitry will become sufficiently complex to mirror the humanoid brain, and biological augmentation will be commonplace. Perhaps the entire download of the mind will be accomplished. But however widespread, it will not become the universal model for our species. There will be no universal model. There will be thousands, perhaps millions of variations of our current form spread throughout the galaxy and beyond. This is the future of human evolution, if we can avoid a single catastrophic event to prevent any future at all.
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