What will the future of the human species look like in a million years?

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by Gianluca Riccio


What will the future of the human species look like in a million years?

Most species are transient. They become extinct, differentiate into new species or change due to random or environmental mutations. The “modern” human species (how should I put it? Homo sapiens) has existed more or less for about 300.000 years. What will happen if we get to a million years?

One of the first to ask himself this question was the science fiction author HG Wells: in a short essay from 1883 called "man in the million year" he envisaged the next evolution of the human species. Today that prediction of his has almost become common opinion: the human species will have a large head and a small body. Or it will split into two or more new species.

His hypotheses, although in detail not in conformity with the discoveries made to date, are still generally valid.

More than a human species, or a more than human species?

Future (but predictable) technologies such as the strengthening human, uploading cerebral or artificial intelligence (AI) they could produce technological forms of new human and animal species that do not yet exist today.

It is impossible to predict the future perfectly. Those who draw scenarios for passion or profession analyze current signals in perspective, but there are also elusive unknowns. If we explore the possibilities, however, the most probable case seems to be that of a vast "speciation": it is plausible that the human species will also divide into several others.

Who among us wants to improve the human condition (slowing or stopping aging, improving intelligence and mood, strengthening the body) could create a 'strand' that leads to new species.

It is clear that there are also people who reject things like this on principle, and also by virtue of this this separation will occur, which we could define as being of another kind.

How to define them? “Human” and “Post-Human”?

Human species

From one kingdom to another

I mentioned a frontier technology: that of brain scan to transfer consciousness to another medium, or send it online to a cloud.

If we could achieve it (having a huge time ahead and without dying out for other causes) we could even go beyond speciation, moving from the animal kingdom to the “mineral” one.

There are many reasons why someone might want to do this: to increase the chances of immortality, to acquire incredible computational abilities, to evolve in new ways.

It is unlikely, however, that humanity will remain the only intelligent species on the planet. Artificial intelligence is advancing rapidly, and many experts think it could become sentient this century or sooner (some even think it already is).

It can happen, and it probably will. We may find ourselves on a planet where the human species as we know it today will have been largely replaced by artificial forms of intelligence, or a mix between hybrid and artificial.

Human species
Sentient robots taking care of archaeological sites and the ruins of cities that have not yet been born do we have any?

Human and post-human species: Utopia or dystopia?

If we make an effort to reason in a non-ideological and non-sentimental way (that is, in a way that I don't like, but which can be functional) it seems plausible that some part of minds will eventually turn into software.

Computers could become much more efficient than flesh-and-blood beings: they would not need to eat, drink or sleep ("inefficient" ways of feeding themselves) and could save energy simply by "slowing down" their operation at will. In a distant future, in short, with the same energy and matter, artificial minds would be much more sustainable than biological ones.

Human species
In the middle of the desert, enormous data centers host billions of people who have decided to live... On a server.

There are quite a few differences

Physical beings have a clear disadvantage compared to future, possible “artificial” beings: they move in the slow world of matter. But they also have a great advantage: they are self-sufficient: they do not vanish if their connection is interrupted.

Again: “natural” humans can remain in traditional societies very different from those of “software people”. In the future there could also be a form of peaceful coexistence: "flesh and blood" humans would be a bit like the Amish communities of today, they would live with their own rules tolerated by the new "technological" species.

Will it really be like this? Impossible to say with certainty: especially on such dilated timescales.

A world that has become "wilder" again

A vision of the world in 1 million years

There is still a human species, and it more or less resembles us, but it is less numerous than the current one. Much of the planet has become "wild" again, because much less land is needed for agriculture and cities: what we now call "rewilding" has taken off.

Here and there cultural sites with very different ecosystems crop up, carefully preserved as party favors by robots for historical or aesthetic reasons.

Beneath an ocean of solar panels in the middle of the Sahara desert are billions and billions of artificial “minds,” inhabiting enormous data centers, things that once threatened to overheat the planet.

It wouldn't be a good or bad world. Not from our perspective, I mean. We cannot judge it.

In any case, a million years from now) the least unlikely option is that the "biological" human species will have been extinct long ago.

If that's the case, however, the most likely reason will be a lack of respect, tolerance and clear rules with other post-human species.

Let's start being kind to each other and also to the machines: you never know.