Technology presents a strange possibility for the future of human biology. There’s such a relief of evolutionary selection pressure that is granted by collaboration and technology. Not only does collaboration and technology make building societies easier, it makes being stupid easier as well. On one hand, technological development allows us to solve many ailments intrinsic to our biological limitations. On another, it allows limitation to thrive and potentially reproduce. This poses us with a dilemma: devolution.
The human tendency towards mass collaboration and language have allowed us to get help in problem-solving. If we were a lone species, we might need very sharp cognition in order to survive. Language gives us the ability to extract solved problems from thousands of years ago. As our models of reality switch away from physical and sensory-logical understandings, we may find ourselves relying on linguistic symbolic representations of the world without even noticing our fading ability to comprehend the external world. Abstraction helps us to simplify the external world, but if we rely on these models to operate in our insulated societies, might we lose touch with our base cognition that allows us to comprehend a more complex picture of reality?
Humans have a social pressure for ‘intelligence’ in the academic world, most of the human environment has become not so much the physical natural world, but a symbolic cultural world of religions and delusions. The world of culture is not bound by the limitations of the natural world, physics, mathematics, or any rules of nature, but instead operates on a more psychotic, symbolic, and noisy level of sorts. It isn’t clear that humans are the most cognitive capable species out there, as we rely on shared solutions and help from the outside, rather than internal abilities to solve problems. Collaborative problem-solving with a cultural memory of our solutions is superior at solving problems, because we have so much more information as a starting base there is a clear advantage we have at solving problems, it is essentially the transfer of environmental enrichment across the ages, but what it isn’t, is cognitive problem-solving ability. This has led me to argue that chimpanzees may have superior cognitive processing abilities compared to humans.
Not only are language, abstraction, and culture possible selection pressure reliefs, but so is technology.
Cave-dwelling species are known to lose their vision due to the lack of necessity. The eyes become a vestigial organ in the lack of purpose. For every problem solved, every disease cured, we will find ourselves with an accumulation of vestigial mechanisms. As every need is solved with technology, the need for our endogenous mechanisms are lost. In the same way the need for vision declines in the dark cave, the need for biology declines in the technological cave. Virtual reality similarly provides us with an experience cave. The human tendency is to burrow away from nature and into security, into technology, into what we desire in its final form.
Is this what happened to human fur?
Was it replaced by technological exogenous fur (clothes)?
Our health care systems could be likened to an immune system cave. One could imagine that progress in the medical field could leave us with increasingly less need for defenses against disease. Even with the concurrent coronavirus problem, we are responding to it more thoroughly than ever. New hospitals were built rapidly, the cities went on lockdown, drones were sent out to spray disinfectants across cities, all part of a city-wide immune system of sorts. One could imagine a future in which we are trapped inside entirely sterile cities that are perfectly immune regulated to the point that going outside of the city bubble is a risk.
As we develop external immune systems like this, we may find our own immune systems devolving, hyper susceptible without the presence of the technology. As we cure physical problems and losses of functionality, we replace those losses with tools. Eventually we learn to fix increasingly severe problems. One could imagine that one day we will be able to cure children born without lungs, or something equally absurd. Our descent into cyborgism may leave us with exceedingly less need for functioning bodies. So much that there may even be new selection pressures against our obsolete biological mechanisms. Genetical engineering to remove the bits of our bodies we deem unncessary due to technology may become common practice, like circumcision at birth is now.
A conversion from biology to technology.
From mind, to machine.
The Brain As A Vestigial Organ
As we build machines that can solve problems for us, there is a decrease in the need for problem-solving as a survival tool. The selection pressure for these abilities could be lost. In the beginning, we need cognition greatly to solve these problems, but as artificial intelligence develops, the need will decline. We will find ourselves in the cognitive cave. This is actually something I’ve argued for in the past when comparing chimpanzee and human cognition. In this argument, I claim it is likely already happening despite an illusion that our cognitive capacity greatens.
In theory, the need for cognition will always decline, because that is the very goal of these AI technologies. That is what it means to improve our cognitive technologies.
As cognition is outsourced to AI we will find ourselves no longer needing intelligence to function. AI may design AI to solve our problems, so we wouldn’t need the ability to design AI for solutions. Eventually we may simply ask our AI to solve problems and it will. Perhaps it will continue to the point that learning human language is no longer necessary, instead an AI will read our minds and communicate for us, it will know what problems we want solved without the need to be asked.
We will simply float around as sacks of euphoria and water.
The human form will shrink and shrink, until the entirety of the human form is a vestigial organ and AI completely consumes us as a new species. It is as if technology reverses the evolutionary clock, unwinding us back until we are nothing.
Until total devolution.
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2 thoughts on “Devolution”
This is why I support eugenics. I believe it allows us to remain humane and care for the sick while preserving what we find important about the human race. Eugenics has come along way and can compassionately eliminate our problems rather than relying on bullshit authoritarian selective breeding.
Losing complexity is not a problem for natural evolution, but it’s a problem if you believe humans should take charge of their future. “Anti-eugenics” often suggests we aren’t already making a choice, we like to imagine that mixing genes without thought is neutral, but you are choosing the future of the human race nonetheless.
Eugenics is difficult,and I believe some disabled populations should be preserved becuase they wish to see themselves represented and becuase we don’t fully understand the importance of those genes, rather than actively selecting against disabled traits, we should be selecting for, and reverting damage to our “typical human” traits, like sight, athleticism and cognitive ability.
In this way I wish to see myself “represented” in the future, there are actually things I don’t want to pass on and I am under no illusion that I am genetically superior.
I think “species conservation” is a good rule of thumb to use, becuase it is the same rule we apply to animals, a practice that we successfully carry out without the shitty politics.
Of course not to say there isn’t a reason for the “shitty politics.” I understand entirely why people are alarmed.