While this discussion will only reference an earlier paradigm called ‘Hybrid AI’, it will replicate the following diagram from part of this discussion entitled ‘Hybrid AI Timeframe’, although the focus of the current discussion is primarily orientated towards the fictitious genus called ‘Homo Optimus’
Within the diagram, we see that ‘homo optimus’ is one of 6 additional evolutionary stages, all man-made and predicated on future technology developments. In the context of this speculative paradigm, it is argued that ‘homo sapiens’ have already been superseded, like Neanderthals before them, by ‘home computerus’, which is another fictitious genus that has been augmented by externalised computer processing, which is now required to maintain the human ecosystem. While later stages, i.e. 4,5,6 and 7, are related to development associated with AI and robotic prosthesis, stage-3 assumes ‘homo optimus’ to represent some future peak of human biological evolution brought about by genetic engineering of the human genome, although this ability will also be predicated on other technologies, e.g. AI and nanotechnology. While many may initially reject any meddling with natural evolution, it was argued that social norms may simply change over time, as survival pressures mount on humanity to compete in a competitive world, which may become increasingly dominated by AI and robotic developments. If so, humanity may simply be forced to accept ‘new solutions’ in order to survive in some ‘brave new world’ of the future.
But does this brave new world have to be worse?
For many of us alive today, the description implied above might appear far worse than anything predicted by Huxley or Orwell. However, as previously pointed out, we who are alive today may not be asked for our opinion on some future world, such that we possibly need to remind ourselves of the dialogue in Huxley’s novels between one of the brave new world controllers, Mustapha Mond, and the savage, John:
“… our world is not the same as Othello’s world. You can’t make flivvers without steel and you can’t make tragedies without social instability. The world’s stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and never want what they can’t get.
In this context, we who are alive today may be more like the savage, John, who does not want or understand the brave new world that the future not only accepts, but actively seeks to protect and maintain. Even if we want to anchor our arguments to the concept of ‘natural’ evolution, we still need to accept that all species are subject to change and therefore are always transitional in nature rather than permanent fixtures of creation. Of course, it is possibly part of our present human nature to live in the hope that such inevitable change will not come so quickly as to affect us personally.
So what is the genetic endgame for humanity?
While we shall try to refrain from specific predictions that may range too far into the future to have any accuracy, we might still speculate on one of two general directions, i.e. regression or progression. Regression might be used to imply a collapse of the modern world, for whatever reason, such that current technology cannot be maintained, while progression implies that technology developments continue. In this context, there can be no long-term option in which the world simply remains unchanged. Of course, in terms of Kurzweil’s relatively short-term singularity prediction or the longer term Hybrid AI progression towards ‘homo primus’, the outlook for present-day humanity might appear somewhat bleak unless it is prepared to adapt to some form of brave new world or seeks an option to exist outside it, as per Huxley’s savage cited above. However, in terms of some genetic endgame for humanity, it may not be so unreasonable to seek enhancements that attempt to correct any genetic flaws that have resulted from the process of ‘natural selection’ driven primarily by survival in a savage world of the past. Equally, there is no guarantee that natural selection will necessarily lead to greater intelligence in the future, especially as many studies are actually suggesting that brain size and intelligence may be going in the wrong direction. If so, then genetic engineering may be the only reasonable hope for humanity to evolve significantly higher sentient intelligence. However, while homo optimus may find a place alongside other technology-driven changes, it is unclear how social, economic and political stability would be maintained, if only privileged sections of society have any choice as to whether to go down this particular path.
Note: While applications of gene editing technologies, like CRISPR , may initially only be used to help eliminate specific disease and increase disease resistance in food crops, the possibility that it will also be used to improve human intelligence seems highly probable, if not inevitable. As of 2018, more than 500 genes have been associated with intelligence using data from the UK Biobank that allowed a comparison of DNA from 240,000 people. Initially research has identified 538 genes linked to intellectual ability, and 187 regions of the human genome that are associated with thinking skills.