Mainstream humanity will probably continue its current dysgenics
program well into the future, as further medical advances make it
possible to retain and concentrate what would otherwise be detrimental
mutations in the gene pool. The availability of contraception and
progressive social programs can be expected to select most strongly for
irresponsibility and whatever mental traits minimize one's ability to
function as an economically productive member of society. Intelligence,
motivation, and creativity will probably continue to be selected against
and, perhaps just temporarilly, society may become stratified into a
working class that must work increasing hours in an incresingly taxed
and inefficient economy and an underclass that produces the vast
majority of offspring in a subsidized but nonetheless dismal lifestyle
dominated by poverty, violence, crime, and increasing overcrowding.
It is possible that some country or other political unit may adopt a
program of incentives to counteract this, encouraging those with
desirable physical and mental qualities to reproduce, but this is likely
to be quite short-lived, as the remainder of the world will doubtlessly
be outraged at such an unconscionable program and will apply economic
and political sanctions and/or simply exterminate them.
Computer researchers and developers will continue to select for more
powerful, capable, and "intelligent" computers and software; as their
complexity and sophistication increase, more and more of the task of
designing newer and more powerful hardware and software will be done by
the machines themselves and, in conjunction with increasing factory
automation, they may eventually be able to "reproduce" and evolve
largely on their own. Around this time, humans and computers may begin
to trade positions as humans become tools for the computers, at least
until such time as machine intelligence and capability advance to the
point where humans and other biological lifeforms become obsolete.
With the continuing decline of intelligence and education in the general
population and with the increasing economic hardships imposed by
expanding tax rates and governmental regulation and restrictions on
economic activity, people turn in increasing numbers to organized
religion. As in past millenia, the religions most adept at slaughtering
or absorbing adherents of other religions will be the most successful.
With its good/evil reversion, glorification of violence against
competing philosophies, denigration of individual judgment and
responsibility, patriarchal authoritarian command structure, suppression
of natural desires (with sublimation into approved acts of destruction
and oppression), and proven ability to claim the ritual trappings of
subdued cultures as its own, it is likely that christianity and its
derivatives will be among the most successful.
As religions gain secular power and nations are converted into
theocracies, it is likely that religious leaders will avail themselves
of the knowlege of genetics and evolution even if they simultaneously
reject it and punish its teaching; decisions regarding marriage and
offspring may be taken over by the religious bureaucracy and
"undesirables" may be sterilized or simply executed. People will then
be bred for obedience to authority and combat ability; eventually,
different breeds of people will evolve--soldiers, workers,
administrators, etc., each specialized to the task intended for them by
the religious "hive." Speciation may eventually occur, though with so
many factions, each believing that "god is on their side" it is not
unlikely that, before enough time has elapsed, one or more will decide
to use nuclear weaponry to eliminate the infidels in the rest of the
world, counting on their deity's personal intervention to save them from
suffering the fate they intend to bring on to everyone else. If this
occurs, it may result in the extinction of humans, leaving the field
open for life-forms that survive the results of all-out nuclear war to
vie for the new 'dominant species' title.
Advancing technology greatly expands the lifestyle options available to
humanity. Several human subgroups with very distinct lifestyles, mores,
and cultures appear, each derived from various radical subcultures.
Some groups may decide to turn themselves into hybrid organisms,
combining computing and mechanical elements with their organic bodies;
to do this optimally, they may cease to use internal reproduction and
rely exclusively on in vitro fertilization and gestation which might
greatly decrease their genetic exchange with other human subspecies.
A subspecies consisting entirely of women who reproduce
parthenogenically is likely to appear, as are groups of people who use
biotechnology to edit and modify the genetic makeup of their offspring
as desired, picking and choosing genes from various human and animal
sources with the occasional wholly synthetic gene, many of these groups
feeling no particular need to stick all that closely to the traditional
human phenotype. A few elitist groups may spring up, relying on
selective breeding and some genetic surgery (largely to repair damaged
genes) to maximize a set of desired mental and physical qualities within
All of these groups will be likely to spring from stock that is already
above average in intelligence, creativity, focus, and motivation;
initially, they will probably all be faced with prejudice and hatred
from "mainstream" humanity and some of those that are more localized may
be wiped out completely through violence. Eventually, however, these
diverse groups will have the ability to become the dominant cultural and
political forces, at which point they will compete primarilly with each
other and "mainstream" humanity will be a large but relatively
unimportant "minority" group formed largely but not exclusively of an
These subspecies who were birthed from technology will seek solutions
from technology and will likely begin to migrate to places beyond the
earth-- some to permanent bases on other planets which they may try to
terraform, but most to self-sustaining gigantic "space stations" with
the capability of collecting raw materials, processing them, and using
them to expand and to build other stations. Some of the largest may be
capable of interstellar flight and may embark on centuries-long voyages
of exploration, hoping to expand human knowlege and perhaps to discover
other planets that could be made suitable for human life. Others will
populate the sea floor, create vast artificial islands, or build huge
Some of the more ambitious groups using genetic engineering and/or
cybernetics to modify the human phenotype may set about to modify both
other planets and humans to be suitable for each other and greatly
modified biomechanical human derivatives may end up populating Mars, the
gas giants, the moons, and even interplanetary space itself. Meanwhile,
thanks to improving entertainment technology and automation, it may
become politically and economically viable to replace systems of
financial support for the poor with the option of moving into a small
but comfortable box in which one will be nourished and subjected to
continuous full-sensory entertainment for the remainder of one's
existence. Increasing numbers of people will opt for this and, once
settled in this lifestyle, will be unlikely to produce offspring,
reversing the selection pressure for irresponsibility and indolence.
With the cultural and political centers of the various human offshoots
mostly located off-planet, "mainstream" humanity may re-emerge as an
influential economic and political force and may "specialize" in being
generalists as the far smaller human offshoots become increasingly
specialized in their forms and abilities. Humanity, now several
distinct and mutually infertile species, moves towards greater
cooperation and interaction, increasing human happiness and prosperity
as diverse skills and viewpoints are combined to everyone's benefit.
Genetic engineers create modified insects with greatly increased
intelligence. Everything goes well until a group of these insects ends
up watching a weekend-long MST3K marathon featuring "Them," "Day of the
Tarantula," "The Hephaestus Plague," "The Cockroach that ate Cincinnati,"
and numerous other classic 50's horror films and, after thinking it
over, decide to eat everybody and establish themselves as the dominant
In a stunning upset, Dan Quayle is elected President in 1996; the entire
human race evacuates the earth in protest, and ring-tailed lemurs build
a new civilization that returning human explorers, millenia later,
describe as "cute."
Organization: Nyx, Public Access Unix at U. of Denver Math/CS dept.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Gregory Bloom)
The important point to consider in asking 'what next?' is that evolution
has made the jump from an externally directed program (lightning, disease,
predation, warfare, etc.) to an internally directed one. Intelligence
is no longer the by-product of haphazard forces - it is now a desirable
product. As we develop the tools for manipulating the matter which is used
in the expression of intelligence, we amplify the ability of intelligence
to shape itself into whatever it desires. Homo Sapiens is merely the
most recent ripple on the expanding wavefront of intelligence.
We can see many examples of how we are already increasing intelligence.
First, of course, we have computers. These are nothing less than
intelligence amplifiers. Humans who augment their intelligence with
the use of computers are able to solve problems of unimaginable complexity
in comparison to their un-enhanced friends. (Okay, so most of them
just play 'Tetris'...) Modern communications technology is also a form
of intelligence amplifier. Humans now have a far vaster exposure to
the world than, say, our great-granparents. I expect this greater
exposure translates into a greater ability to solve arbitrary problems.
So to answer 'what next?' we can easily extend these trends - people
will, without direct modification, become smarter and better informed.
We will have more computers, more facts (effectively better memory).
Soon, the average person will be able to say 'how did the quadratic
formula go?' and instantly hear the answer whispered in their ear.
As we refine our control over the matter that expresses the 'intelligence
wave-function' (tm), we will probably come up with things like smart-baby
kits, that allow small modifications to the DNA of sperm or ova to
provide parents to be with slightly smarter, prettier, stronger babies.
On a simpler level, it is easy to imagine positive feedback stimulation
to the pleasure centers of the brain whenever we get into a desirable
mental state - i.e. we can tune our brains to stay in creative-analytic
mode for all 16 waking hours a day. I strongly suspect this, more than
any other difference, accounts for why folks like Einstein do what they
do - it simply feels good! (We should be able to do this right now!)
Machine intelligence will, of course, continue to increase exponentially.
It is a misnomer to describe this as being somehow separate and distinct
from human intelligence, however. Machine intelligence is an extension
of human intelligence, just as human intelligence is an extension of
intelligence as a whole. Humans will not be replaced. We will simply
continue the process of transforming ourselves until it is likely that
current humans will not recognize the result.