Monday, October 29, 2007

Humanity vs... humanity?

Will the human race eventually divide into two different species, one far more advanced than the other? Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry at the London School of Economics seems to think so (see article here).

While science and technology have the potential to create an ideal habitat for humanity over the next millennium, there is the possibility of a monumental genetic hangover over the subsequent millennia due to an over-reliance on technology reducing our natural capacity to resist disease, or our evolved ability to get along with each other. After that, things could get ugly, with the possible emergence of genetic 'haves' and 'have-nots'.

If you've ever watched the Jerry Springer show, you might be tempted to conclude that the process described in this article has already begun!

Seriously, leaving aside the genetic angle, technology is already rapidly creating an even greater divide within humanity - those who have it and understand how to use it, and those who do not. A divide may be coming - faster than we think - where the former group begin to merge in a meaningful way with their technology, and leave the latter group well behind... at which point the world becomes a vastly different place.

That I-Pod of yours, or that cell phone, or Blackberry, or X-Box 360, or ___________________ (fill in the blank) is taking us further and further away from the rest of the human race, bit by bit, at an ever accelerating rate. I'm not suggesting that we should give them up - rather than slowing ourselves down, we should be working harder to make sure that everyone else keeps up. Most of all, in our rush to have all of the latest gadgets, including those that may become part of our own bodies, we must not forget those who don't have access to them.

The alternative to maintaining an awareness of the growing divide within humanity, and trying to do something about it, is a bleak future for us all.

Paul Kimball


Mac said...

I'm not sure why this story is in the news again. I think I first encountered it a year ago -- maybe more. As far as I can tell it's exactly the same story.

As for your remarks: I concur. The "digital divide" promises to become a chasm within two decades (or less.)

Paul Kimball said...

Well, the story was "new" to me. ;-)


Anonymous said...

Isn't it already a chasm? Information and the ability to access it at any time and nearly anyplace has become common place among the haves. Body and facial sculpting as well as various prosthetic devices are also available readily to a certain percentage of the population. Chemicals that alter our state of mind are relatively easy to acquire as are those that alter our physical abilities. I think that 10 or 20 years is too generous an estimate. The chasm has occurred, we are living it right now and it shows no sign of slowing down.

mister ecks said...

This is truly abominable pseudoscientific garbage. It's one thing to note the very real and unfortunate growing divide between the rich and poor, another to state with any kind of certainty where that will lead in an evolutionary sense. If there's one thing that evolution is not, it's predictable!

Paul Kimball said...

Mr. Ecks:

I wouldn't call it "garbage", but I certainly don't buy it. I think it's far more likely that technological changes will create that divide, between human and posthuman, and a lot faster too. But the end result will still be the same - those with the werewithal will be those who have the option of the "upgrade", while the rest of the world will continue on as before, only now as a supposedly inferior species (I would avoid the upgrade on principle - I'm happy being me).