Humans: v1 & v2

Once upon a time, there were non-human apes. That species branched off into chimps, bonobos, and us.

I wonder if we’ll soon see our current species divide. Perhaps in a different way than evolution had previously determined such things. I wonder if we’ll see a species emerge that can only work with genetic alterations and body augmentation and would not survive in the wild, while there are others who struggle the old fashion way. Perhaps Homo aucto and Homo sapiens, respectively.

To some extent, division has already happened, though not enough to warrant the naming of a new species. The gap between an LA high life and Ethiopian tribe is substantial and it’s curious how a 17 year old from one might communicate with the 17 year old from the other, with so few priors to compare.

Although, numbers of cell phones and access to Wikipedia are increasing swiftly among the masses of developing countries as well as in developed ones. However, there is still extreme disparity when it comes to the availability of resources including access to physical resources, education, and medical technology. When one is combating daily survival, the idea of “life-extension” takes on a different tone than it does in the transhumanist community. But, it is difficult for those who have to empathize with those far away who have not. This is one possibility for species branching to be not so far in the future – lack of opportunity and lack of empathy.

What would it look like to have a recorded history with a previous species to which one relates no more than Homo sapiens to chimps? Would each species maintain ties and interact, sharing and communicating as people do? Or, would the divide be so great, that neither would want to interact with the other, either because of prejudice or indifference? Would Homo aucto care less or have less invested in Homo sapiens, just as many Homo sapiens currently conserve more emotionally with wild animals or even pets as the they are short-lived and don’t have the ability to communicate as the other can? There can be companionship, perhaps, but the ties may become less strong, the capabilities of communication far different.

It could work another way though, should a division occur. As we discover more about consciousness and others in the animal kingdom, there are those who see the likelihood or affirm that a number of other animals are conscious and have begun to invest more thought into them. Beyond those who become vegetarian for human-centric reasons, there are those who won’t eat animals because they don’t want to kill and devour people. Additionally, a number of programs and  funding has been allocated to learning more on this subject and discovering the capabilities of other animals. And there is the question of how we might bridge the gap so that human animals and other species could communicate more readily, perhaps bringing them up to speed and determining consent and the ethics thereof (the concept being fancifully portrayed in one of my favorite episodes of Gravity Falls (I wish that linked to a full clip, because the end part is thought-provoking too)).

On that note, there is the possibility that if we go so far that we can alter our minds substantially via whatever method, we could add empathy enough to share the technology to those with less access. The search for longevity could also include making our bodies more efficient (utilizing solar power for energy is much discussed, especially for those that see medical potential and among those who favor mind uploading or becoming more robot than human), could answer a number of the world’s problems including pollution, and also an answer to starvation and malnutrition. Another possibility is that a friendly AI could be created to manage our world more effectively to maximize happiness across the board.

The question with this is: is Homo aucto in all of our futures, or just in the futures of the privileged? Biohackers and citizen scientists, in general, want technology to be shared with everyone and believe that self-experimentation is a worthwhile way to get there. They do not want to leave the choices about where we go as a species to those with greater power. However, comparatively, the biohackers I know, including myself, still have far more resources at their disposal than those in developing countries. It doesn’t seem fair to me that only a few should enjoy longer life or a better quality of life and others oughtn’t. Some would say that it’s just a “fact of life” that some survive and others don’t. Those same people probably would say that death is a “fact of life” too, so, I’m unconvinced.

I wonder if my version of justice can be had and if many of the biohackers are the answer to this problem. Those willing to take their futures into their own hands and struggle with fewer resources and can potentially better empathize with those who have even less than they. Perhaps the lucky few biohackers who found the time and money who were able to research these things and find a way out of mortality will want to document the way for those that couldn’t make it along side them. And/or perhaps it will be wealthy philanthropists or the friendly AI that make an impact. Regardless, I more-or-less think that there will be a delay; there will be those who get it first. I just hope the delay is not so long that lives are lost needlessly in waiting.

“The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty, and all forms of human life.”

John F. Kennedy

If Homo aucto and Homo sapiens can be distinguished, to the point where the DNA (or lack thereof) is incompatible and neither species makes much sense to each other, I think the most likely possibility is that it will be made by choice.

A strange idea among transhumanists and biohackers is that we have the potential power to divert evolution’s mechanisms and survive in a different way, no longer relying on our genes. That choice works both ways. It may be that many Homo sapiens would simply opt out of pursuing such a change, once the choice is there.

Already in our history, there have been those who have not adopted modern technology. Whole cultures, even, like the Amish. There are those who do not believe a machine could be “alive” whether or not it’s a transfer of a human brain. There are those who identify so strongly with their skin and bones that they would not want to lose that or change that to become something ”else”.

I think that if there is a chance that there will be a Homo aucto, it will not be an accidental progression of all Homo sapiens; we’re changing evolution on that score. I am of the opinion that it will have a lot to do with choice. Those who remain and those who transition, until they can be distinguish so well that categorizing the two as the same would seem absurd.

But, if we chose to move forward, like the person born into a middle class American family may choose to reject that lifestyle and live off the land, will we find compromises; will we be able to reverse our choices?

“When you deprive people of their right to live in dignity, to hope for a better future, to have control over their lives, when you deprive them of that choice, then you expect them to fight for these rights.”

Queen Rania of Jordan


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