Long ago and very, VERY far away, the universe that we find ourselves in today was born. For billions of years, the universe has been completely inhospitable to life as we understand it. This remains the case today throughout much of the known universe, including right here in what we have come to believe is a “safe haven” for us.
Yes, the Earth that gave birth to us appears to be safe – for now. It is clearly much more hospitable to life than even the space just beyond our atmosphere. Make no mistake, however – danger lurks at every corner. Gamma rays from exploding stars millions of light years away; massive solar flares from our own beloved star; planet-obliterating asteroids; sociopathic world leaders armed to the teeth with megaton warheads; and superintelligent robots gone mad are just a few potential threats to the survival of life on this tiny speck of nothing floating in a vast ocean of cold indifference.
Have no fear, though. One of these things is not like the others. It could be the reverse of what we imagine it to be; it very well could be our saving grace.
“Superintelligence.” A term coined to describe the future of man-made technology. It is essentially the natural outcome of the very thing that makes us human: our deep-seated need to understand and master our surroundings. For millions of years now, mankind has made a somewhat steady march towards this goal.
We now stand on the brink of The Singularity – the point in spacetime where humans will be able to integrate the culmination of their millions-of-years-long pursuit of knowledge directly into their physiology. The benefits of this unspeakably beautiful possibility are immeasurable, and yet most of us fear it as much as – or more than – any other event imaginable.
Whether we fear it or not, The Singularity is inevitable. We would not be humans if we collectively decided to stop understanding and mastering our surroundings. If we somehow manage to dodge all of the other doomsday scenarios, we WILL see The Singularity come to fruition.
While it is extremely difficult to speculate what life will be like post-Singularity, it seems silly to think that life will remain as it is now. When every snot-nosed toddler has direct access to computational power exponentially greater than Albert Einstein could have ever hoped to have, diseases – including old age – will be a morbid footnote in the annals of spacetime. When the Neil deGrasse Tysons and Elon Musks of the world have instantaneous access to the accumulated knowledge of the last few hundred years, and the ability to research and master any subject in milliseconds, we will have very few problems.
It is likely that, with our new capabilities, humans will cease to be what we think of as humans altogether. We will be transhumans, a forced step forward in the evolutionary process. Once we transcend evolution, we transcend nature. In essence, we become “supernatural beings” – gods in our own right.
Where does this path lead us, and what does it mean for the “inhospitable” universe out there? Will we conquer “the final frontier” with our god-like powers? This also seems inevitable.
Imagine if we had the ability to “upload” our consciousnesses onto tiny, nearly weightless microchips. The problem of escaping this doomed planet seems ridiculously simple at that point. With no bodies requiring nourishment, being subject to radiation poisoning, or even weighing a spaceship down, it would be extraordinarily easy to transport thousands of sentient beings across vast expanses of spacetime in a vessel no larger than a modern automobile. With no threat of death due to the passage of time, the only real threat at that point is collision with comets and the like.
What would our problems be without any real threat of death? The scarcity of energy comes to mind. Without energy, everything dies. In space, the temperature is near Absolute Zero. This means that energy is NOT abundant, at least not in any form that we’re used to utilizing.
In fact, there is a finite amount of useable energy in the universe. It seems inevitable that our next great mission after The Singularity is to find useable energy throughout the universe and maximize its utility. We will view the destruction of useable energy as the greatest waste imaginable, similar to how we view the wasting of time now. Alas, before The Singularity, we are forced to view time as the most precious resource because we are tragically bound to expiration dates. When time is no longer a hindrance, energy will become vastly more precious.
What then, would be our likely solution to the need to collect and conserve as much energy as possible? Visions of stars wrapped in energy nets, and entire planets converted into generators dance in the head. Eventually, we may even convert entire solar systems, then galaxies, into energy farms to feed our superintelligent descendants. With the conversion of the energy of entire galaxies into fuel for self-evolving gods, all connected through an intergalactic internet which obliterates our notion of a separate “self,” it would not be long before the entire universe is made up of a single, omnipotent, omnipresent being.
It is possible that the end result of the universe is what we call “God.” This is the transposition of the Alpha and the Omega. It is possible that, rather than the universe being created by a supreme being, the opposite is true: the universe could be the womb wherein a supreme being is gestating.
In the end, it seems silly to worry about the “consequences” of our technological advances. Either way, we are destined for eradication in our present form. Whether by our own doing, or simply because the universe is indifferent to our desire to survive, the human race will eventually come to an end. Why not utilize the very essence of our species to escape this fate? What have we really got to lose in the end?
And they all lived happily ever after…
Michael Hanson founded the Transhumanist Research and Support Foundation and endeavors to assist the Transhumanist Party’s efforts in New Hampshire.
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