If we think of all the versions of genus Homo leading up to modern man as alpha and beta tests, we can call the average person today Human 1.0. Science fiction has often explored the idea of the next stage of humanity, which I shall call Human 2.0. Most guestimates of Einstein’s IQ puts it around 160-180 – let’s assume he was Human 1.6. IQ is not a reliable measure of man, but it’s useful enough for this essay. Basically I’m suggesting that humanity is evolving toward a time when the average person’s 100 IQ is equal to today’s 200 IQ, and we can say we reached the Human 2.0 stage of evolution.
IQ is terribly hard to quantify, but there is speculation that some people have surpassed the 200 level already. Might not the huge economic divide between the “haves” and “have nots” we see today already reflect the emergence of Human 2.0? Science fiction always predicted Human 2.0 beings looking different, with bulging foreheads, and maybe six fingers. And for some strange reason, more often than not, they predict Human 2.0 with ESP abilities. What if people were just twice as smart, but looked no different. Isn’t that difference enough to bring about a massive social transformation? Isn’t that different enough to designate a new species? Plus, if you implant a smartphone into these people, making them cyborgs, how could normal people compete?
While humans are evolving, so are robots. Many scientists expect a point in our future where robots reach a state of intelligence equal to Human 1.0. Let’s call that Robot 1.0. But like Moore’s Law for computers, I expect robots to quickly evolve, so Robot 2.0 and then Robot 4.0 will quickly be upon us. How will humans feel when their smartphones are twice as smart as they are? I hope you’ve seen the movie Her.
There is speculation that many historical people had theoretically IQs as high as 180, or Human 1.8. I assume our brains, although fixed in size by the shape of our heads, and limited by the birth canal, can still evolve to become smarter, but I doubt we’ll ever see Human 4.0. We could go the Brave New World route and grow babies in artificial wombs, and use genetics to quicken our evolution, to produce big headed humans often imagined by older science fiction stories. But for now, let’s assume that won’t happen soon.
Let’s forecast instead, that humanity as a whole is working towards becoming Human 2.0. If the average future person is twice as smart as today’s people, will we become smart enough to be ethical stewards of the Earth? It’s pretty obvious that collectively Humanity 1.0 is not smart enough, because we’re ruining this planet quickly and killing off species at an alarming rate. By that standard we really don’t want robots staying at 1.0 levels long. We want robots to reach 2.0 and 4.0 levels as fast as possible, because we know the destructive power of Human 1.0.
Maybe that’s why so many science fiction movies predict intelligent machines attacking humans, because they can’t imagine anything smarter than people, and that’s what people would do, attack any competitors.
If science fiction is any indication of how humanity will deal with smart machines, the future doesn’t look good – but I think science fiction is wrong. What if robots are more ethical than humans? Most of what makes humans evil are their animal impulses, and robots won’t have those. I’ve read people say that without our animal drives machines won’t care to live and will want to shut themselves off. But being alive, whether via biology or cybernetics, tends to inspire a desire to keep living.
I read a lot about the 19th century, both fiction and nonfiction, and the rise of the first machine age and industrialization caused a lot of human suffering and angst. Jobs are important to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of humans. One problem with life on Earth in 2014 is we have way too many people compared to the number of fulfilling jobs. People in the 19th century asked why build machines to do our work when so many people want those jobs. Many are still asking the same question in the 21st century, but few people think progress will hit the brakes.
I’ve always been a science fictional dude, so I have a science fictional solution. Let intelligent machines have all the solar system except the Earth and Mars, and we share the Moon. Space really is a hostile place for people, either much too cold, or much too hot, and always way too radioactive and thin on something to breathe. Instead of designing machines with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, design them to live in space, and leave Earth to us. Let robots have the spaceship building business and sell us rides to Mars.
I wouldn’t think even Humans 2.0 would want to compete with Robots 4.0, or Robots 32.0. Let’s invent smart machines and then tell them to keep anything they learn a secret from us, so we can figure things out for ourselves. Instead of programming them not to kill us, lets program them not to crush our spirits. Let’s keep our jobs and ambitions, and let AI robots create their own societies away from us.
We need to preserve space on Earth for all the animals, as well as all the old fashioned humans, and the newly evolved humans, and maybe for some of the robots. But do we want to coexist with machines that are smarter than us than we are to pug dogs?
Science fiction is constantly changing and evolving. It represents our most ambitious fantasies, but in recent years I think we’re all becoming more realistic. I don’t think humans will be colonizing the solar system and the galaxy. Earth, and maybe Mars, might be our only homes. We need to protect our environments because we need to live here for millions of years. Maybe Human 3.0 or 4.0 will adapt to living in space. I just don’t see Humans 2.0 going the Childhood’s End thing, and destroying Earth and leaving it for space. I think the conservation of our planet is very important because we’re going to need it for a very long time.
There is no heaven or final frontier, just Earth.
Let the robots have the stars.
JWH – 3/4/14