For the entirety of life on earth — some 4,000,000,000 years — evolution has pushed everything forward…blindly. Literally. No rhyme, no reason. Just random mutations that sometimes benefited their carriers, sometimes were deleterious, but mostly were of no consequence whatever.
We now know evolution was less a competition, and more a cooperative expression of accidentally mutually-beneficial creativity. Novelty propels species.
We’re going to get to the point where we can (easily, cheaply, and accurately) engineer the evolution of our own species. When this happens the process no longer will be aimless, but by definition the exact opposite. What does it mean when you can predict everything about the coupling of a particular sperm and egg? When you can “reach in” and alter it to suit your desires?
Precision gene editing is coming, and over time no disease or otherwise undesirable trait will be immune. The queue of “fixes” is as long as the diseases and flaws of which we’re aware. The ultimate goal likely will be to enable us to thrive on currently inhospitable planets, but in the nearer-term the curing of diseases and the enhancement of our abilities will remain paramount — and who will get to determine and define these goals? Does safety govern? Ideology? Religion? Progeny IQ?
Maybe we’ll be able to control this in a way soon enough that will allow us to extend our usefulness in the eyes of the emergent machines? Maybe all of this converges on a race of über-humans who’ve no interest in procreating with others who are “less than”; maybe carnal desires won’t matter as we can intervene post-conception, but pre-birth?
It’s crazy to think about, but after nearly 4,000,000,000,000 years of haphazardness, we’re developing tools to inject our knowledge and desires into the evolutionary process that produced all of us. You can bet it’s going to get…weird.
And when machines start to practice natural selection in ways both orders of magnitude more frequently than humans, and systematically instead of randomly, things are going to get…weirder still. A human-created Cambrian explosion may not be too far off.
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