Speciation of the Human Race

On a time-scale of a thousand years, neither politics nor technology is predictable. China and Japan are the only major political units that have lasted that long. A thousand years ago, Europe was an unimportant peninsula lying on the edge of the more advanced and civilized Arab world. The technologies of today would be unintelligible to our ancestors of a millennium ago. The only human institutions that retain their identities over a thousand years are languages, cultures, and religions. Perhaps it is not coincidental that the most intractable human quarrels and the most imperishable artistic creations are alike rooted in our languages, our cultures, and our religions.

Looking ahead a thousand years, one may predict that the diversity of languages, cultures, and religions will still exist, even if the dominant varieties are different from those that prevail today. The spreading out of human settlements into far distant places will tend to preserve our diversity and at the same time to make our diversity less dangerous. On a time-scale of a thousand years, the genetic differences between human populations may be increased by effects of natural selection or genetic engineering. Genetic differences which would be socially divisive and politically intolerable on Earth may be harmless when the deviant populations are living on distant asteroids. Within a thousand years, our descendants may be so widely dispersed that no central authority will be able to regulate their activities or even be aware of their existence. The process of speciation, the division of our species into many varieties with genetic endowment drifting gradually further apart, will then be under way. In the history of life on Earth, diversification of life forms has led to speciation, and speciation has led to further diversification. As humanity expands its living space away from the earth, the same processes are likely to occur. Our one species will become many. There is no reason why a variety of intelligent species should not fill a variety of ecological niches in different physical environments, some adapted to heat, others to cold, some to zero gravity, others to strong gravity, some to high pressure, others to living in the vacuum of space.

The main difference between the processes of natural speciation and the formation of human species in the future is a difference of time-scale. Speciation in nature occurs with a time-scale of the order of a million years. Human speciation pushed by genetic engineering may have a time-scale of a thousand years or less. Compared with the slow pace of natural evolution, our technological evolution is like an explosion. We are tearing apart the static world of our ancestors and replacing it with a new world that spins a thousand times faster.

Consider the simple question of size. The size of our population, the size of our economic resources, the size of our living space, all are growing at an average rate of about two percent per year. So far as the population on the earth is concerned, this two-percent growth must soon come to an end. But when life and industrial activities are spread out over the solar system, there is no compelling reason for growth to stop. It could happen that the growth will continue at a rate of two percent a year for a thousand years. Then, at the end of a thousand years, our population and resources and living space will have grown by a factor of five hundred million. There will still be ample reserves of sunlight and water and other essential materials available in the solar system to support a population of this size. I am not saying that it is necessary or desirable to increase our numbers by a factor of five hundred million. I am saying only that it is possible, and that it may happen within the next thousand years if we do nothing to prevent it.

More important than the growth in the quantity of human beings is the possibility of radical changes in quality. During the next thousand years there will be many opportunities for experiments in the radical reconstruction of human beings. Some of these experiments may succeed. When they succeed, our descendants may be born with mental qualities different from ours. To explore the possibilities of mental experience will be as great a challenge as the exploration of the physical universe. We must expect that at least some of our descendants will be eager to explore the delights of collective memory and collective consciousness, made possible by the technology of radiotelepathy. The experience of collective memory and collective consciousness will enormously enlarge the scope of art, science, religion, and history. Other experiments in collective consciousness may link human brains with those of dolphins and whales, lions and chimpanzees and eagles, breaking down barriers not only between individuals but between species. Those who have experienced the merging of memory and consciousness into a larger mind may find it difficult to communicate with those who still rely on spoken or written words. Those who have been part of an immortal group-mind may find it difficult to communicate with ordinary mortals.

The most serious conflicts of the next thousand years will probably be biological battles, fought between different conceptions of what a human being ought to be. Societies of collective minds will be battling against societies of old-fashioned individuals. Big brains will be battling against little brains. Devotees of artificial intelligence will be battling against devotees of natural wisdom. Such battles may lead to wars of genocide. But the vast expanses of space beyond the earth offer a way to resolve such biological battles peacefully. Within a thousand years, life will have spread through the solar system to the outer reaches of the Kuiper belt of comets, a thousand times the earth's distance from the sun. Societies that disagree fundamentally concerning the meaning and purpose of life may agree to keep out of each other's way by migrating to opposite ends of the solar system. Space is big enough to have room for them all.

We may hope that one group of our descendants, those who cling to our old human heritage, those who are loyal to our natural human shape and genetic endowment, will be allowed to remain here in possession of our planet, to maintain the old human values in our original birthplace, while those who radically transform themselves into new shapes will move away out of sight and out of reach.


Folksonomies: futurism speciation

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Natural selection (0.975186): dbpedia | freebase
Human (0.947276): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Species (0.819751): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Religion (0.802077): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Evolution (0.797114): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
World population (0.760657): website | dbpedia | freebase
Chimpanzee (0.672746): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Meaning of life (0.661090): dbpedia | freebase | yago

 Imagined Worlds
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Dyson , Freeman (1997), Imagined Worlds, Retrieved on 2015-05-31
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  • Folksonomies: science science fiction