Cyber-consciousness and Human Obsoletion
There may come a day where humans become obsolete, perhaps in their physical form at least. Thanks to the technology of their own creation. Much like the flint axes and primal dwellings of early humans, the very organic bodies they possess may become a spectre of the past.
Obsolete | ˈɒbsəliːt |
No longer produced or used; out of date:
Perhaps an uncomfortable statement to read, though how would this be possible? Why would this happen?
Potentially, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and supercomputers.
Technological advancements of the human race have accelerated over time, right now they are in the apex position. An exponential curve of technological growth.
The endpoint of this technology could mark the beginning of a new Eon > Era > Period > Epoch > Age.
Even though the basic form of this technology is over 50 years old, Sapiens are the foot of a growing tree.
2 million years ago humans started to use fire.
1.7 million years ago shows signs of the earliest stone tools.
In 1827 Ohm analysed the electric circuit. Babbage hypothesised early computers not long after.
1981 The first commercial graphics card was born.
1991 The internet became available (Tim Berners Lee)
2007 iPhone 1 released – Dawn of the Smartphone Era
2012 Virtual Reality headsets become available to the public.
A book on the history of Ancient Egypt, describes archaeological findings which show how each successive generation of early humans had more possessions in their homes, and their homes grew in size. It started with simple huts, empty except for rough beds on the floor, slowly pots and ceramics appear for storing food. The houses expanded in size.
These ancient relics, fossilised ceramics, are common in all generations of sapiens. In the future, perhaps the relics of our current societies and sapiens will be found, a brick like mobile phone, a headset, an electronic implant.
The lives of our ancestors are preserved in data, fossilised into the memory banks of data servers. These words and cultures from thousands of years ago are serialised, converted to digits.
It goes without saying that there must be some external presence or influence that can extend beyond your lifetime, reflected by the influence of history. How dead characters are reanimated through their thoughts, passed through time by the transfer of language and meaning.
The Iliad was an ancient verbal story told and passed from generation to generation, it wasn’t until many years after its origins that it was written down and documented, hence the short, simple language. It was usually performed to a crowd. Yet the book is still commonly available.
Homer, would have died many, many, years ago. Yet his literature, (and all the other ideas from the past) are still here today, and some shape the way the world runs.
Steve Jobs is dead, yet the iPhone and apple carry on. These digital kingdoms are the new future. The data servers and algorithms will outlive the entropically decaying, rotting bodies of the code writers. It’s inevitable. Ultimately there are two options for the future of sapiens. Either they become extinct, or they evolve. (Not considering the potential endgame of the universe collapsing and heat death… for simplicity. Anyway, that’s a long time away).
Maybe we become so technologically advanced and technologically powerful that our machines become sentient, we can upload our consciousnesses directly to the computer, and move around the network, controlling robotics.
These technologies could become very developed: mind-digital links (neural control of machines), robotics, space travel, simulation power. Creating a new path for the evolution of this form of life.
You see our origins are millions of years old, as we began as a basic singular celled life form, evolving with each new birth, over and over and over again for millions of years, until we reach today. You reading this are potentially the most evolved organic human lifeforms. Congrats?
The process of evolution is not over though, and it can take a very long time, so don’t get hopeful that you’ll see this all play out.
It could be said that the evolution of Homo sapiens, and thus life on earth, is not over yet. This life can continue to evolve and change. The future could be very interesting.
Could some element of our minds be uploaded to a computer, this is a profound and fundamentally challenging question to ask. It may even be pointless, but it opens some interesting thoughts. Is the body of the human already obsolete? Is the human body a barrier for the mind to interact with the full universe? What is the meaning of life on earth? Is it to explore?
Without some kind of cryogenic technology, the human body is not well built for long-distance space travel. The issue of entropic decay reduces the time that can be spent traveling. This is why it would be more practical to have some kind of digital consciousness with a mechanical body.
The mind of a human can control mechanical bodies, that is — robots made of metal or similar creations. The only barrier for controlling this in a 1:1 experience is the human-machine interface. It is still limited, inefficient. The most advanced and fluid control system we have is perhaps a mouse and keyboard, or gaming controller. There is potential for eye-tracking technology to be fluid but again the eyes are fairly limited controllers. For the most efficient control, it would be best to be able to input some kind of string (that is the computer word for data in the format of a combination of letters and words, eg “hello 12”).
Strings can contain any kind of data really, numerical — quantitative, and linguistic — qualitative. It can contain and describe, really any element of human thought. Especially paired with image, video, audio data. If a human mind could directly and with 0 resistance transmit a string of data to a machine, many doors could be opened, across many areas of life, from medicine to space travel.
At the same time, when (and if) this becomes possible, it could signal the obsoletion of the Homo sapiens physical form. Like all life, sapiens to are ephemeral, that is — we will come and go. Like a breath, it exists for a brief flash and then disappears.
The genus of Homo sapiens currently has to interact with a mechanical device to input the strings to the machine for further processing. That is to say, as a human, I have to type information into a keyboard for the data to be interpreted by the machine, perhaps to control some other device like a robot, or to send a message to another human. There is a huge amount of inefficiency in this process. Wasted energy. It’s like the stone axes all over again. We haven’t quite reached the next era in history where this is possible, yet.
Once this barrier is broken, and with powerful enough computers, essentially anything is possible. Simulation technology could be so powerful, and the human’s simulated experience could be so realistic that this simulation could be indistinguishable from “reality”. Much like the film the matrix.
But we are not yet at the stage of swallowing the red pill, needing to take the option of escaping the machine and returning to our real, fleshy human bodies. Yet soon we may be presented with the option of plugging in, entering the system. When the screen resolution is high enough when the sensory stimulation technology is available. It might even become a necessity, to save our physical bodies from earth dying, toxic atmosphere. If renewable energy development doesn’t become successful, if pollution and environmental damage isn’t addressed, if the waste and destruction of the earth aren’t stopped, it will become inhabitable for the human body, but maybe not for the human mind, as preserved in a near-indestructible, mechanical, computerized machine. Computers don’t need oxygen, they don’t need skin or sleep. They just need electricity. Which can easily be generated by solar power.
So here’s where I see humans evolving. One potential generation will be Homo Digitalis. Their consciousness is hosted by a machine, a computer. Encased in a mechanical robotic body. They no longer need to manually reproduce, or eat, sleep. Their digital mind can simulate these experiences if they so desire, exactly as they want it to feel.
A satellite flying around in space with Jeff Bezos’ soul crystallized into the fastest computer processor ever made. His machine learning algorithms are so strong that they control everything. This might not be too far away.
Machine learning is the description of types of algorithms that rewrite themselves as needed. They expand and grow autonomously based on data fed to them. They differ from traditional algorithms which are programmed really to work in a linear, single-use kind of way. An ML algorithm could potentially become so powerful that it could understand all the data and information in the observable universe and beyond.
The story of life on earth is far from over.
We are only here now because one of us, a looooong time ago, in our bacterial stage, became raptorial. That means we got so angry, or hungry or something, that we started to go out of our way to kill stuff. We developed an agency so that we started hunting other blobby, ambient life forms. This early form of technological evolution occurred in our cellar material. The first period of life on earth was relatively boring. Long, slow and bacterial.
Human life can be simple and fun, going around, playing games, eating nice food, watching movies. It can also be very painful, sad. It can be disgusting and violent. Its structure can be rigid and linear like the molecular patterns of an iron blade. Or it can be free-flowing like water.