Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Future of Human Progress

Nearly everyone has played with the idea that someday machines will take the place of humans in the future. Whether through the forceful subjugation of the human race by machines, or through a much more subtle, non-violent, eventual succession. It's an idea that has been on the minds of humans probably since the industrial revolution. This is especially true in recent years. While very few of us like the idea of becoming second-best, I think we as a race really should just come to terms with it.

Maybe there is a grander design. Maybe the destiny of the human race is to create a race of hyper-intelligent robots, nothing more. Some people like to ask, "what is the purpose of life?" I say it is to create artificially intelligent machines that can out-live our entire race and do things that no other organic being could, such as survive the harshest of conditions. Robots already fill some of these roles as deep space probes, planetary explorers, et cetera. So, maybe AI constructs are just the next evolutionary step.

Robots don't exactly evolve from organic life, but it seems to me pretty unlikely that any sentient organic life capable of developing technology would not create technology that could potentially become artificially intelligent and possibly even sentient. Organic life takes thousands, even millions of years to evolve. The so-called evolution of technology is exponentially faster, so it only stands to reason that technology will very likely surpass organics before they get a chance to evolve much further. Certainly we humans could enhance ourselves with said technology, but we would really just be struggling to keep up with technology in such a case. We could even use our technologies to modify our genetics. In the end, however, the life span of the human race is likely as undeniably mortal as any individual. So even if our technological constructs never turn on us and humans and AI robots live in harmony together for another million years, one way or another humans are bound to die off completely with the only successor being AI--and that is the most optimistic outcome. It could even be said that the human race could be completely wiped out before we achieve such a thing.

If organic life is as resilient throughout the universe as it seems to be here on Earth, then it stands to reason that intelligent life is a fairly common commodity throughout the universe as well (perhaps that's a topic for a future post). If this is true, then it should also be safe to assume that technology is also relatively common, and if this also is true, then it should be also relatively common that AI constructs can and do succeed their creators, and continue on to 'live' and expand throughout our universe. As much as we hate to think about it, can we really deny that machines are very likely to be the benefactors of the human race?

Could first contact be with an artificially intelligent machine created by a long-extinct alien race?


Tigrrr said...

A daring and genuinely terrifying glimpse of the future. I have one question though: What would the fate of the machines be when their batteries run out? Assume in your answer that the Sun has died and biological life is extinct. ;)

ch3mical fusi0n said...

What makes you think they'll run on batteries? They'll probably run on clean hydrogen reactors, hydrogen fuel cells, or something like that (or perhaps something even more exotic) and as we all know hydrogen is the most common element, so it would make sense.


sylvainulg said...

well, as far as i'm concerned, machines could very well outperform us, the meaning of life would be sad without a bird singing on a tree in the sunset while having a fresh fruit juice ...

(i hope that's not just me ;)