Evolution's next step: blending humans with machines
By Dick Pelletier
Historians place the beginning of modern culture around the
time when humanity abandoned hunter-gathering in favor of crop
cultivation, about 10,000 years ago. This makes us 400
generations old (25-yrs-per-generation). When we began this
trip, life was brutal, medicine almost non-existent and average
life expectancy was puberty; living just long enough to
But we've progressed rapidly through the years. Average life
expectancy now pushes 80 in developed countries, and according
to UN census data, octogenarians, nonagenarians, and
centenarians are the fastest-growing age groups. Today,
scientists are poised to eliminate most diseases; and one day, a
few forward-thinkers believe we will even conquer death.
Author Ray Kurzweil in his top-selling book, The
Singularity is Near says, "Between 2035 and 2050, we will
merge knowledge, skills, and personalities with artificial
intelligence. This will produce a superior human that thinks,
reasons, and communicates more efficiently than today's humans."
So in about two generations, we will begin merging with our
machines. This means civilized humans will have lasted only 402
generations, a rather short lifespan for Earth species.
However, experts say this does not signal the end of
humanity. Replacing body parts with non-biological materials
like false teeth, cochlear implants, titanium hips,
thought-controlled prosthetics, and artificial neurons does not
take away our humanity. Even if we swapped every cell in our
body for 'artificial' materials, by maintaining our memories and
consciousness, we would still consider ourselves human.
By mid-2030s, experts say, computers are expected to surpass
human intelligence, which many believe will enable human-machine
mind transfers. Some people may choose to increase their
intelligence by downloading data from these super-intelligent
machines directly into their brains, while a few brave
risk-takers will transfer memories, emotions, and consciousness
into an android and become the machine. Both groups will
consider themselves 'human'.
In the following years, enhanced humans and human-like
machines will adopt features from each other until by the 2060s
or 2070s; everyone will enjoy a similar body type that
automatically repairs itself when damaged. This milestone will
finally put an end to human suffering, sickness, and dying.
Eliminating death will free humanity to focus on deeper
thoughts. We can now grasp what it means to be human – to live
life in an indestructible body on a fragile planet that needs
our help. We’ll turn to technologies that enable us to achieve
Type I Civilization status, which cosmologists identify as the
ability to utilize 100% of the sun’s energy that strikes our
This power will help us terraform a better Earth; eliminate
global warming, and control the weather. No more hurricanes,
earthquakes, or storms. Sunshine and rain can be directed to
fall where needed.
On the lighter side, our bodies will not require food or
sleep, but many will miss these activities; so a Star Trek
Holodeck-like entertainment system will let us experience
these and other scenarios – visits with loved ones, trips to
exotic galaxies, and romantic encounters. Imaginations will run
wild on the 'Holodeck'. We’ll create situations so
real; we won’t even realize they're simulations.
If this "magical future" unfolds as suggested, many people
alive today will enjoy an indefinite lifespan as we move through
the 21st century and beyond.
This article appeared in various print publications and
on-line blogs. Comments always welcome.