22 September 2007

Thoughts on the Future and the Continuation of Our Species

Ok. Let me preface this by saying that I've been reading Ray Kurzweil's new book and it's kind of getting me thinking too much about these things. That being said, let the insanity begin!

I've been thinking about what will happen over the next thirty years of my life. There will be a point at which machine intelligence and human intelligence merge, I believe, and become the same thing with one helping the other. That's the next step in an unstoppable exponential climb towards the Universe's ultimate destiny.

For one, what if we become, essentially, immortal? What if we can live as long as we care to? There won't really be a reason to keep perpetuating the species at that point, biologically speaking, but there will still be a reason to keep making newer and better machines. The process of evolution will have totally shifted from being a biological process to being a technological process. At this point, the only way to die would be to have your consciousness erased from the Universe somehow, and I'm not even entirely sure how that would work or if your consciousness proper would have made the jump into the information age with you. This fits nicely in with the idea that the current asymptotic progression of technology is a continuation of earlier biological processes (things like DNA, going from single-celled to multi-celled organisms, and fish evolving jawbones can be thought of as paradigm shifts the same way that the transistor and quantum computer can).

So, reproduction will no longer be the driving force of evolution. It will become a human-driven process completely, and we will control it with our own ingenuity. That's pretty awesome, but it reminds me of something that Louis Armstrong once said when the Pope asked him if he and his wife had children. He supposedly said, "No but we're sho' havin' a lot of fun tryin'." I think it's gotta be the lewdest joke that a Pope has ever laughed at. Anyways think about that a second to get what I'm talking about.

The other thing that I think about a lot lately is what's going to happen to the people who get left behind. The Singularity and the next age, and in fact this current information age, are first world phenomena still. The third world is just now getting online, beginning with China and moving along through Asia, South America, and now Africa. I have a feeling that the XO laptop and the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) campaign will coincide neatly with all of these world events. The very notion of absolutely minimizing the price of a laptop is interesting in and of itself, but that it's happening right here, right now, is very special. I have a feeling that very few human beings younger than I am right now will be truly and completely left in the dust, except perhaps by choice (theirs or someone else's). This is all so inevitable, like a rising tide that is bringing us all up with it.

Keep looking forward, space cadets; I'll see y'all later.

No comments: