Dec 03

Humans, Super-Humans or Extinction?

In Brief — Humans arose from pond scum millions of years ago, progressed through stages to the place where they are today. Assuming progress continues, will humans become super-human or is extinction their fate? [Written in August/September 2017.]

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Where Will Time’s Arrow Lead Humanity? —

War, disease, famine or, alternatively, extended life, good health, mental power and contentment? Since we can’t see around the corner into the future, we can only guess where the arrow of time will lead us.

Author Yuval Harari’s “Sapiens” (Latin for humanity) traces the path humans are on from the time they came down out of the trees and began walking toward the future. From early humans to the technological era in which we live now, science is guiding us toward…what? As Harari posits, will humans become “Homo Deus” (Latin for man as god) are we just another animal doomed to extinction like all those who are dust on the path of history? Human hubris is now in the process of eradicating many of our fellow creatures. Are humans next? It’s an existential question for humanity, but the universe will continue with or without us, not caring that humans ever existed.

Possible Futures —

What are the possibilities that may lie ahead? Will humans become godlike and create nirvana or will circumstances lead to extinction? It seems that scientific advances hold the possibility that we can become like gods, but even small occurrences can interrupt that progress. In weighing the possibilities, we mustn’t forget that there are no guarantees that dead-ends don’t lie ahead. Will climate change or virulent new viruses interfere to steer humanity onto unpredictable paths?

With that caution, what may lie ahead?

Every human contains numerous personalities. One can be ambitious or passive, profit-seeking or phlegmatic, but one aspect is always certain…the human drive toward improvement. If one is good, two is better.

We have defeated smallpox, so why not eradicate other diseases? If an I.Q. of 140 is good, why not one of 200 or 400? We can use a computer to instantly give us the answer, so why not turn our brains into computers and eliminate the middle man?

We are now capable of editing a gene to eliminate a future threat to life, so why not create a super-human by altering other genes? Extend life markedly? It will undoubtedly be expensive, so will the wealthy be the only ones to benefit? Will this create a two-tiered society? Will resentment burn in the breasts of those who can’t afford life extension?

Ethics? The golden image shimmers ahead, so someone, somewhere, won’t care about the ethics and will forge ahead. Remember that humans are programed for pursuing a higher level. Humans will be happier with that advance…but will the happiness last or will greater advances be needed?

Religion? Once humans become godlike, how will this affect belief in deities? Will religions survive or will they fade away? If they fade away, what will fill the void?

War and weapons? Given humanity’s penchant for dominating “The Other,” will the nation or group with superior weapons dominate? Will democracy succumb to autocracy? Will the defeated side become slaves? Will slavery be part of humanity’s future? Will Homo Deus even need unimproved humans? Will those weapons be turned on common humans?

Gender? Will men or women dominate? Will gays and lesbians be treated the same as heterosexuals? Transgender persons? Will marriage survive? Is marriage even necessary?

These are just a few of the issues that will be raised in the future. Each question leads to multiple possibilities. Each of those possibilities leads us …where?

What is your view and why? Are you encouraged or frightened? Regardless, I hope to make you think about what lies around the corner. Harari’s “Sapiens” and “Homo Deus” explore past and future. For good or ill, the future lies ahead.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on June 2017.

 

2 comments

    • Dave Meyers on December 3, 2017 at 19:45

    We are already a two-tied society and it seems that there is no impetus to remedy that fact.
    Deadly diseases have been eradicated in the past because a small few with the knowledge and capability gifted their antidotes to the world. But, there is no reason to believe that achieving a paradise on earth through technology where we all share in an Eden-like society can be achieved. The mere fact that all humans do not share that goal eliminates the possibility that it can ever be achieved. Greed, power, and superiority are the goals of many and they will never be willing to share, contribute, or help to develop a world in which we all thrive.
    Division is the reality of our time, and that division breeds contempt, and that contempt precludes compromise or cooperation…. those very things that would be required to form the foundations to improve society and the world condition.
    Autocracy seems to be the direction that some would prefer we go in. And, many of the world’s citizens are OK with that because it makes them feel safe. An all-powerful leader will protect me, even if I have to give up some privacy and autonomy in the bargain. And those who wish to rule will stoke the fears of the lower tier in order to achieve their goals; wealth, power, and superiority.
    So, unless we somehow all get on the same page, paradise on earth is the stuff of fairy tales. All the technology in the world doesn’t seem to be able to save it NOW…so, if diseases and genetic problems can be solved by future technologies you can bet that it will be misused for the benefit of the powerful and not to make the world necessarily a better place. Th-th-th-that’s all folks!

      • Don Bay on December 4, 2017 at 06:40
        Author

      If by two-tiered society you mean the rich and the poor, then you are right. Let’s remember, however, that there are gradations in the rich and the poor.

      Human nature is such that there will always be those who strive for money and the power to make the rest of humanity dance to their tune. There will also be those, who for one reason or another will forge ahead to take us to nirvana forgetting that human nature is waiting to spring out and devour us all.

      You are right that the rich and powerful will hoard the benefits while the crumbs will fall off the table for the rest of humanity. But…will climate change, war and profit-seeking intrude to make nirvana impossible? Will those crumbs be short-lived? Is extinction around the corner?

      Summed up, some degree of nirvana is likely, but human nature is stronger and will win the race, so my vote is that extinction awaits. The goal line is uglier than we expect.

      Who said I was an optimist? Are there any optimists out there among my readers? Let’s hear your thoughts.

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