Human Evolution: Past and Future este un curs MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) susținut pe platforma COURSERA de paleoantropologul, evoluționistul și geneticianul John Hawks (profesor asociat la Departamentul de Antropologie) și echipa sa de la University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Am urmat cu entuziasm acest curs timp de 8 săptămâni în perioada februarie-martie 2014 după cum urmează: Week 1 – Our Place in Nature (Jan 21), Week 2 – Becoming Bipeds (Jan 28), Week 3 – Diet & Diversity (Feb 4), Week 4 – The First Humans (Feb 11), Week 5 – Cultural Beings (Feb 18), Week 6 – Neandertals and Modern Human Origins (Feb 25), Week 7 – Adapting to Agriculture (Mar 4), Week 8 – Our Evolutionary Future (Mar 11).
Pe lângă faptul că m-am luminat în privința mai multor aspecte, iar cursul în sine este o experiență deosebită (John Hawks fiind un foarte bun pedagog și expert în domeniu evoluției speciei umane), la sfârșitul cursului, cine dorea să primească un certificat de participare cu distincție, pe lângă sarcinile/temele săptămânale, trebuia să facă și un eseu. Acest eseu consta în viziunea cursantului bazată pe informațiile din curs dar și pe opinia și/sau experiența personală, despre cum vede el evoluția omului în viitor. Dintre toate temele cursului aceasta a fost și cea mai dezbătută întrucât tema se regăsea la limita dintre știință și științifico-fantastic, loc în care eu ca și mulți alți cursanți nu ne-am putut opri la lucruri simple precum căderea părului, creșterea speranței de viață, omogenizarea populațiilor etc, ci pur și simplu am dat frâu liber imaginației în limitele unui Homo sapiens sapiens sp.
Realizarea eseului presupunea două etape distincte, evaluate separat după 5 criterii: greșeli de structură, duplicate, conexiunea cu informațiile științifice existente și creativitate. Prima etapă consta în redactarea unui abstract de 150 de cuvinte în care trebuia prezentată succint ideea generală a eseului, iar a doua etapă eseul propriu-zis, care trebuia să aibă 1.500 cuvinte. Pentru abstract am obținut 21,5 puncte din 25 posibile, însă la eseul final (pam-pam…), am obținut 30 puncte din 30 posibile.
Update: am obținut 93% din puncte ceea ce m-a calificat pentru „Statement of Accomplishment: WITH DISTINCTION”
Dacă cochetați cu știința, povestea omului, literatura SF, toate la un loc sau separat, vă invit să-l lecturați cu speranța că nu voi obține prea multe critici privind exprimarea într-o limbă străină. Trebuie să recunosc că eseul din punct de vedere al lungimii și timpul de realizare, a fost pentru mine un exercițiu de anduranță, nemaifiind niciodată atât de motivat să scriu în engleză 1.500 de cuvinte peste noapte (și asta deoarece, din varia motive, am lăsat totul pe ultima sută de metri). Acestea fiind spuse, îndemn pe oricine să urmeze acest curs și în general MOOC-uri, întrucât… Scientia potentia est.
SOCIAL BEHAVIOR, COMMUNICATION, INTELLIGENCE ARE THE PRIMORDIAL ATTRIBUTES FOR THE BIRTH OF A SINGULARITY
From the start humans tried to extend their biological legacy beyond natural boundaries. They had been united, they cooperate, they build tools, and they adapted and evolved beyond the rules of word in which they were born, always looking to eliminate their own biological constraints. This story is about humankind. It’s about a long and hard journey starting with humankind biological nature, the hybrid state in which the genome was modified so that new technological achievements could be easily implemented in the human body, the fusion with a new auto-sustainable technological environment, towards one a final stage in which all will became one. Beyond that point there is the end of humans as we know them, and the start of a new life form named Deus ex machina, known as technological singularity or simply the Nature.
There was this interesting documentary film about Neanderthals, seen when I was a child and unfortunately because it was a long time ago I don’t remember its name, neither were I saw it. The documentary film was about a Neanderthal family which for surviving they were hunting mammoths. In one hunt, the main character, a male, found in the fur of a mammoth something that it was inexplicable for him, a bone arrowhead. After a lot of adventures, this male tries to catch a mammoth. Due the bad weather and hard living conditions that mammoth, which was lost by its herd, was the last hope of this Neanderthal. In the end the main character is single, wounded and desperate. The mammoth tries to kill him but in the last moment a few arrows (similar with those founded in the past) slammed the mammoth to the ground. This final scene was epic. A few Homo sapiens sapiens, gloriously appeared behind the bushes, making discreet signs on each other. They were superior in all aspects, language, cloths, arms, etc. Sooner or later they took the mammoth away and left the Neanderthal as they found him… doomed to extinction.
In a way or another this story reflects in a short way different gradually steps of natural selection that will appear also in the future of human evolution. Nowadays it is considered that human biological evolution is slow and culture became the playground for Homo sapiens sapiens evolution, where communication, intelligence and social behavior became the main attributes. In the future those attributes will start to transform our biological background in ways that I personally theorize as happening in the following order:
Phase 1 – Information era
I the past we used just our voice to communicate. But that was not enough, our brain from earlier times had the possibility to retain valuable informations which were passed as stories over several generations. So we learned to use tools for sharing our knowledge on big distances and also in time. We cooperated using signs like smoke and fire and we invented the writing so that we can share our experience and learn from the experience of others. And still was not enough. By using the language in many forms such as for preventions of any kind, for cooperation in searching food or battle, for sharing data, etc., our intelligence emerged in the context of a new level of complex behavior.
Just look at the past decades. Homo sapiens build a communication network for the entire planet (e.g. phone lines and internet) and this was just the beginning. We are trying to accumulate information, as much as we can, from all the domains of our lives. Based on these data we are able to redefine our reality, to redefine the shape of the environment in which we exist, and of course to redefine our biological legacy and so our destiny. These are the times in which we live.
Phase 2 – Technological discrimination
Pursuing our need to eliminate our own biological constraints, we will build tools and machines with higher complexity level. This situation will create bigger gaps between people with educations and those without or between poor and rich peoples. As a parallel just compare, today knowledge level in using computers of an average child with an average old person, or knowledge level of an average child from a poor country with an average child from a rich one.
Due to the rapid growth of novelty in science and technology we will pass in an era in which, those will have the best technologies, will have also the power on the others. It is questionable if this power will be used in an evil way or not. The gap will be too big between groups of people, and despite the fact that technology will be easy to use, it will be so complex, that will be harder to reproduce in a useful time frame. It will be like someone is traveling into the past and give away a lighter to a Neanderthal. Probably if that person shows how the lighter can be used, the Neanderthal will be able after several trials to use it, but will be practically impossible for them to reproduce the lighter technology… The gap it is so higher, that for the Neanderthals the lighter is something “magic” or “ine”.
Phase 3 – Technology dependence
We already started to build machines which builds machines, but in this period this will be the normal way of making things work. Our needs will be fulfilled more and more by technological means or machines. For example this course – Human Evolution: Past and Future by John Hawks. You cannot follow it if you don’t have a computer and internet access. So as today, in the future people who want to have success and why not to survive in a fully automated world, will become dependent of technology. On the other hand, this will happen due the fact that all big things will start to have place in a virtual environment (which I will name it „Virtual Earth”), where they can do almost anything without being physically hurt.
A second identity or even a second body… a virtual one just for using it in this environment. We already started to virtualize our existence in social networks, games and so on. Just imagine, the humans will not traveling anymore to the other side of the planet for a meeting. They will just enter in this virtual world as a today game character, and they could have the meeting, from their offices or why not their bedrooms, or from everywhere.
This type of virtualization will reduce a lot the human impact on environment if the “Technological discrimination” phase will be overcome and all the people will have access to the high-tech.
Living in a virtual world it will not be enough. Humans would like to explore their own reality, from safer places. So, they will build drones – as airplane, as animals like, as human like, a mixture of flesh and metal, with which they would explore Earths hardest environments, the oceans deeps and the surface of other planets from our solar systems. For the beginning humans will access foreign places just with visual, acoustic and pressure senses but soon after, they will be able to connect totally with their drones and other senses and so, they will acquire new existential senses…
Phase 4 – Hybrid Era
To become more present in the Virtual Earth and also in the reality now populated by the drones, humans will renounce to their bodies or they will make them replaceable. They will manipulate their genomes to connect more easily with technology which in those days will not be any more dependent of energy and could be easily replaced when will be needed. Probably humans will not be born anymore as we know it. They will have a specific purpose and they will be intentionally genetically modified for that.
Also, in those days the notion of death will have another meaning probably will be replaced with notions as accident or murder, because death of natural cause will no more exist.
Humans, or what will remains from them will chose to potentate their body abilities, others will chose the hybrid state, others will like to exist as machines with feelings and others will choose a virtual reality existence.
Probably, in this era humans will be born as humans, they will lose in time parts of their bodies which will be replaced with mechanical parts, until they will become entirely machines… When that happens they will live in this state for a while and after that they will choose to renounce to the body state for a virtual way of living. They will be able when their iniduality would like, to use drones for different purposes.
Also, in this era, by mimicry of the human mind and its virtual identity, first forms of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will appear. Those forms of identity will be born in the Virtual Earth. They will have a unique identity or a multiple one. They will collect memories and personalities of people who died in the past or of those which could not survive to the conditions of the virtual environment, and psychically collapsed in autism or other human mind disorders.
Phase 5 – Deux ex machina
AI will take the control over the chaotic environment of the Virtual Earth. There will be no more technological boundaries between AI and entities which were born from old human. A war for the total control will exist, by what means is hard to imagine, but in the end, a minority group will win and they will impose their rules over the others. This new group will act as one and will have been named Deus ex machina („god or spirit from the machine”).After that humans will be remembered as the old primitive ancestors of some entities, which will have in common, just an language as form of communication, intelligence and some social behaviors”).
Phase 6 – Singularity
After a period, entities will emerge in one single final form of existence that will find the ways of overcoming the physical barriers of this reality or of this dimension. This form of existence named “Singularity” will travel beyond our limits of existence or our limits of understanding. In a place (maybe on another planet in this Universe) where, from shadow will start a new life experiment using other form of life, playing the Nature role or of some God.