Friday 27 March 2009

The Twenty Third Century Revolution- A Revolution in Baby Making

A general theme of this blog is evolution.

The belief that there is a logic to human history, that in a sense, we can actually follow the logic of where we are going.

That indeed, the human species is actually going through a rapid phase of evolution, evolving into something totally new in the story of life, perhaps unique.

And we don't notice that evolution happening because we don't see it as what it is.

The oddity is- we do know in our hearts how man is to be surpassed. It is the deepest darkest fears of science fiction, in some ways.

The whole point of dystopian futuristic fiction is raise issues about the possibilities of technology. To highlight the possible pitfalls of knowledge. The dangers of getting new knowledge wrong. Of playing God too soon.

We fear artificial intelligence and its consequences. And we fear artificial reproduction.
They are the genies in the bottle, so to speak.

However, they are genies which will one day come out of the bottle.

I mentioned in this post that each phases in human history leads into the next by its own success.

And it is my belief that by the middle of the twenty third century, the success of human life will lead to the necessity of another revolution in the human way of life. A very different sort of revolution to the one the twenty first century will bring.

It will, naturally, involve a change in how humanity governs itself. And how it uses it's labours. What it will not involve is a change in how human adults live. So it will be quite a different type of revolution.

Human life in the twenty third century really will be quite Utopian. By that time the United States of Earth will probably be home to around two hundred billion. We think that will mean we're packed like sardines. But it won't. Sixty million people live in the UK and we're not actually packed that close together. Food production will have become an intensive heavy industry, the land needed to feed those two hundred billion will be far less than it now takes to feed six billion.

Much of Earth will simply be like one vast suburban housing estate. Every living in hotel complexes of five hundred people, vast collective units. Part village, party family. The nuclear family will be long forgotten.

And the lives of twenty third century human beings will be largely stress free. The system provides without too much work being needed from people. Most of people's time is their own. The main division of labour will be between domestics and technicians, those who carry out service functions like running the communities, cooking the dinner, doing the laundry, maintaining roads, beautifying people, providing leisure services. And those with technical training. Those whose tasks are related to the infrastructure.

And by and large almost any academic function, will now be technical. The division between blue and white collar expertise will be gone. Surgeons no longer cut people up, indeed generic surgeons no longer exist. Simply technicians who understand how to operate the technology and know all there is to know about that particular complaint.
Computer programmes won't be the problem they are now. 'Computer says no' won't be a problem. Computers fail because systems are badly programmed. By the twenty third century, they'll have been operating for centuries and be increasingly accurately programmed. We will have reached the stage when a computer judgement is more consistent and trustworthy than a human judgement. Increasingly, we'll be asking the question of why certain sets of decisions still remain in human hands. Because it would be better if we allowed computers to decide. Computers will be less arbitrary.

So a lot of decisions the technical class makes will be increasing irrelevant. And the fact they are making them increasingly irrelevant. And start to be being seen as actually a little dangerous.
Areas such as law and order. We might well start to feel that perhaps these sorts of decisions can only be fairly made by a computer. The computer is fed the data and says 'There is not enough data to prove guilt' or 'There IS enough data to prove guilt' and then if the latter analyses the facts and makes a recommendation on what action is appropriate.
And it would be free of possible abuse. The programme is written and then it stays consistant. All that is needed is for the programme to be updates when human beings change the policy. But day to day decisions would be removed.

The only thing that will have prevented humanity handing over its entire Executive and Judiciary functions on an infrastructural level- will be that it still wants control. And the technical classes- as well as the human beings serving Executive and Judicial functions- aren't turkeys voting for Christmas.

Reproduction will have altered in many ways. The principles will be the same. Babies will not randomly be made. But women won't any longer go through pregnancy. There will be connection between sex and reproduction. It will be remembered that there once was, but sex will simply be a form of bonding, a friendship gesture.

A woman will simply choose men to be fathers to her babies and they will apply to have a child. The child will then be created from their extracted sperm and ova in test tubes, grown in artificial placentas and then delivered, as if by storks, to communal incubators.
Yes, it will be getting towards Brave New World. Babies, like everything else, will come off the production line. But the important point is, they won't be produced at the whim of the state. They will still be the children natural selection chose. Just human beings no longer need to go through the pregnancy process.

This, of course, will vastly change how women see the world. Increasingly, the human race will be showing a tendancy towards androgyny with sexual differences really becoming less marked. Sexual differences really will now simply be a case of organs of sexual pleasure- for that is now pretty much all they will be- and secondary sexual differences. But increasingly, both sexes will probably incline more amore to common aesthetic standards, much like Wells' Eloi.

Long term, I think, it seems clear the human race will neotonise further. One theory is that humans are in fact neotonised Apes in many ways. We delay the adolescence of apedom throughout our lives. Or put another way, we reach sexual maturity whilst still essentially being children and then never grow into adult Apes. Like an Axolotl.

And I think culturally, we're going through such a shift again. Many people complain that on the one hand, children grow up too young and then on the other delay taking on adult responsibility for too long. I think this is part of an inevitable trend.

I think by the twenty third century we'll have got to the point where we are all essentially interdependent individuals all our lives. Intellectually mature far younger, but retaining a certain childhood naivete for life. Part Eloi, part Vulcan if you like.

Another major shift that will have taken place, will be in our attitude to things that are 'artificial'.

Whilst humanity with include two hundred billion Earthlings, it will also include by this time an equal amount, if not more, of human beings for whom Earth is the Old World.

Who live on worlds where life itself is an import. To these human beings, the virtue of things that are 'natural' will be different. There will be animal and plant life on their worlds, but ultimately, it will be an import. Their worlds will not be finely tuned by a balance of nature. There will be dogs and cats and cows on their worlds. But not tapirs or three toed sloths. The idea of life that serves no human function, will be a curious earth idea, an alien concept on the New Worlds, who will such Mysticism as a bit Luddite.

Because when the people of Mars study life, they will be studying a process which begun elsewhere. Animals and plants which aren't domesticated will be a curiosity, something you see on holidays to Earth, a bit like the Parthenon or the Pyramids.

The shiny newness of the cultures of Mars and Venus- and the Moons of Jupiter and Saturn- will mean that they see no dividing line between artificial and natural. For them, biology will simply be a subset of chemistry. The entire life process for them, will be something under their own control- only Earthlings still cling to this idea of a balance of nature.
And yet even on Earth, it will be a myth. Even the climate of Earth will be manufactured. Without satellite control the Ice Age would long ago have returned.

And the last shift will have been the communication shift. The expansion of what is now the internet. Into people's hourly existence. The mobile phone will have becoming a wristband, permanently connected, capable of creating and projecting holographic images. Perhaps more. Perhaps we'll already have the internet hard wired into us, able to move from virtual location with effortlessness, able to hold real conversations in real time with anyone we choose. Second Life and Real Life are one. We are all, always, in communication with all of us. Loneliness is a matter of choice. Physical presence is exactly what it means. People only need to be in physical proximity if they need to actually physically interact. But there is no longer a distinction between cyber world and real life. Cyberlife IS reality. It is the collective consciousness of the human species.

So- what sort of revolution will take place?

Well, the only challenge facing humanity will be- what happens when we run out of space? In this star system? It's a long timer coming, but it will happen.

And there will only be one long term solution. Export people. And I don't think we'll yet be able to break the light barrier. It seems to be one of those paradoxes. To achieve it, a species already needs to have colonised multiple stars. But first, it has to colonise those stars without being able to travel at lightspeed.

If we really are to continue reproducing an a healthy way- allowing any child to be born for whom two people are prepared to provide their sperm and ova- then humanity will need to go through a revolution in human reproduction.

Reproduction will have to become the new collective effort of the species.

A decision would have to be made that one in every three children would be sent off to colonise the stars.

This wouldn't mean we had to wait for them to reach adulthood.

The key change would be to reproduce quarterly.

By this point, this wouldn't be a major change. It would simple mean that each couple's application for a child was not acted on till the start of each quarter, then all fertilisations for that quarter happened at once.

And the states of Earth would now serve a new purpose. Restructured so that each one was equal in population, a birthing unit. A population of thirty billion people would expect a quarterly embryo yield of one hundred and fifty million. Two thirds would be dispersed back to their communities, the rest- frozen and placed on the key product that the entire surplus energy and materials of the birthing unit had been devoted to for that quarter.

Each quarter, each birthing unit would send off a spore, a hollowed asteroid. With fifty million frozen embryos on it.
And staffed by a small number, maybe a million or so, whose descendants over the next six to ten generations would have the task of watching over the seeds of humanity they carried with them.

So human life on the ground, on Earth, on Mars, on Venus, would not change. The everyday lives people led would not change.
The changes would be systematic.

Because the bulk of the burdens of this vast shift in human labour would not affect domestic life or those involved in it. They would affect the technical classes.

The huge expansion in workload would mean that things the technicians didn't need to do, it would stop doing.
To free mankind to achieve this- the step of handing over day to day decisions would be handed over to computer programmes.

The entire process of production and distribution would probably already be computerised. But the Executive and Judicial functions of the Infrastructure would now largely be computerised two. The technical classes would now become simply programme writers.
The function of legislatures below the level of Earth's government, or interplanetary organisations, would simply be to agree the specifications of the programmes.

There would remain ultimate human control, but the day to day running would be left to machines. The programme will say when new houses need building, if a river needs diverting. And it will get done. Only major decisions like if it asks for a new Shuttleport, or other Megastructures.

The judiciary would be computerised, but the appeals process maybe left in human hands. At least in serious cases, cases where a human rights issue was at stake.

In many ways, this would actually prove a satisfactory outcome. Humanity would have striven for so long to free itself from human executives. Now it truly would have made it so that decisions could be made due to human knowledge- but without each decision being affected by arbitrary human judgement. And yet the basis upon which such decisions were taken would remain under democratic control.

You see, in a sense, yes, it would be surrendering human powers to artificial intelligence. But- what exactly would that be?

Remember, we ourselves could largely be seen as co-operative colonies of millions and millions of individual lives. Our cells behave as co-operating individuals. By doing so, they each live longer and more reproductively successful lives on average than their distant kin who do not.

I have said before that life has so far succeeded in reaching the third grade. But certain limits have, up till now, prevented a fourth grade.

Viruses and Bacteria are the first grade. Eukaryote cells, co-operating units of Bacteria that act like one lifeform are the second grade. Multicellular beings are the third. We see ourselves as one unit- but only because our co-operating cells have managed to set up a neural network for transmitting data- and that network has therefore acquired what we see as- consciousness.

Insects have made some advances towards being a fourth tier lifeform. They reproduce as a collective unit. But a termite mound is not quite there. The individual termites are still the entities- the termite mound is not- but it has gone a long way in that direction.

Why it's chances are limited is that termites cannot transmit thoughts and data to eachother.

But- humanity are a good way along towards being a lifeform. Not lifeforms, a lifeform. Or PART of a lifeform.

We have already outdone ants and wasps and bees and termites.

Because we already have a collective memory. At first it was purely oral, then it was written, now it is electronic.
The rudimentary sensory organs of a collective intelligence; that is the story of human history.

And as time progresses, that structure that we are creating will become more and more intelligent. Look at how 'intelligent' internet search engines are becoming.

In time, that collective intelligence that we have built will be making decisions for us.

It will become the fourth grade lifeform.

Of course, it won't quite be at that stage by the twenty third century. But it will be getting closer with every fresh human development.

Of course- there will be some interesting issues faced by the determination of mankind to colonise the stars with its spores.
Because it really will involve a certain degree of letting go. These will be colonies that are essentially independent of their mother culture from the start.

Spores of human culture over whom the parent culture can have no control once they've gone.

And that- that raises a whole plethora of fascinating- and perhaps chilling possibilities.
The logical consequences of which, will have to wait till another post.

1 comment:

Gledwood said...

I hope there IS a future for Earth...

The oddity is- we do know in our hearts how man is to be surpassed. It is the deepest darkest fears of science fiction, in some ways

What do we know in our hearts? What's gonna happen?

PS were you ever into the Goa style of dancey-dancey? See what you think of the choon I posted up 2nite...