From Homo Sapiens to Homo Deus
As a species, we have evolved over a period of thousands of years, having survived plagues, famines, natural disasters, and countless wars amongst ourselves to have arrived on the smartest version of our species, the homo sapiens. This begs the question: What is the next step of human evolution, and if there is a step, is it biological, or technological?
Charles Darwin’s theory of the Survival of The Fittest has made one of the largest impacts on how we viewed human evolution. In simple words, it stated that the species which continued to adapt itself to the ever-changing ecological spectrum shall survive, and those who don’t, will perish.
But, in the current ecosystem, we do not expect harm from others on a large extent. Over the course of human history, we have established effective control over famines, developed contingencies for natural disasters, and reined in plagues that originated from outside human sources (except that guy who ate a bat in China), and have more or less, pretty much avoided killing each other in wars since World War 2.
We have become the dominant species on this planet, yet are still looking for ways that make us more resistant to pathogens, diseases and even try to cheat death. The average human lifespan has doubled from the last century, from 35 years of age to 67 years, and given the current technological advancements in medicine, gene splicing, and using stem cells to heal damaged nerves, we can try to double our lifespan yet again, to around 130-140 years in maybe the next century too.
After taking a look at this, a certain view stands out: Human evolution has plateaued, and technology will be the next step for our evolution in the foreseeable future. We don’t have to continue making changes in our ability to survive, and that animal instinct of survival has almost been buried.
So, technology is our saviour, and biological human evolution is dead. But this statement has far reaching consequences, some of which we can only try to comprehend at our current stage.
We have all seen some of those sci-fi movies wherein people regenerate from wounds thanks to nanites in their bloodstreams, or because they are a genetic experiment aimed at increasing cellular regeneration. You know, the good stuff. But the one thing in common with all of these movies is the fact that only those who can, and are able to afford it, are the ones who receive it.
Take a look at the Maze Runner series: The world is left with a disease after being hit by solar flares, called “The Flare”, and only the rich can afford a medicine called “The Bliss’’, which slows down the rampaging effects of the disease on their brains. But ultimately, people like Thomas or Minho have adapted due to genetic evolution, and are hence called “Munies” (although after having being tortured by the Maze they helped build themselves, but that’s beside the point.)
This actually sounds far-fetched, but that may soon be our reality. The gap between incomes and possessions has been increasing since the dawn of currency, and only those of wealth and power will be the ones standing alive. And in events of catastrophe, the rich will always prevail, and those who are less fortunate, will always suffer.
Looking at all of this, it our future does seem bleak, since those who are in power can never be expected to use it for the benefits of others, since the concept of “noblesse oblige” has gone down the drain. But there is still hope, but it exists only in the form of uncertainty.
If you don’t believe what I’m saying, take a look around yourself right now. During the month of March this year, when we were all ushered into worldwide quarantine, the rich were off to places like Mykonos partying, taking advantage of the all-time low prices Governments were offering to keep their economies afloat.
Before that too, multimillionaires and billionaires were spending their money building nuclear bunkers in places like New Zealand, preparing for the eventuality of a worldwide nuclear conflict. Peter Theil has paid extravagant amounts of money to prepare his bunker, complete with an air filtration system and go-to bags full of guns and food.
Furthermore, the idea that one day we can cheat death by living for more than 100 years makes us question our legacy. Since now we don’t have to retire by 55-60, and then wait until our bank account depletes on account of our medical bills, it changes the entire way we know life. We can still party till we are 30-40 years old with a 21-year old’s metabolism, and can still figure out our way in life even we’re 80 years of age, still having around 50-60 years left to spare.
Since technology has been progressing at such an unprecedented rate, we have failed to consider one thing. We ourselves, have given rise to an entirely new animal kingdom, that evolves at such unprecedented rates, that to calculate its path would be futile. We have given birth to a non-living species called Technium, the Seventh Kingdom.
We have already been part of a rare evolutionary process called obligate endosymbiosis, where two species which cannot thrive independently, fuse into one. In our case, Homo Sapiens, and Technium. Dan Brown was not wrong when he ended Origin with this school of thought, leaving all of us with the ramifications of comprehending such a future wherein every second, we get better.
And if we look closer, we’ve already been absorbed by it. The iPhones in our hands, headsets in our ears, with information travelling at speeds faster than that of light, and the introduction of faster processors every day, only means one thing: We shall have to live with a non-living species for the foreseeable future.
And the ground-breaking thing as, that we shall be considered God, by machines. Daily advancements in areas like Artificial Intelligence, Augmented reality have allowed us to allow a non-living species to think, and decide, and make for us, an alternate reality. The Cambrian Explosion of Technium has taken place, with each new technology providing us with tools to create newer ones, allowing the evolutionary rate to increase exponentially, and at a pace never ever seen before.
Walt Whitman was correct to say, “The future is no more uncertain than the present.” Human curiosity has changed the world yet again, but also instilled in our hearts with a potent form of fear, one which will continue to nag us every time we make a new discovery. And given the current world scenario, and the one which is forthcoming, we need to progress not only technologically, but also ethically and morally, so that everyone on this planet can have access to it, and not only those who have the means to do so. Only then, can our current world survive, and natural selection go the way of the dodo.