DISCLAIMER: The future I describe in the following essay I feel is
possible but I do not like to think it is probable.
In the beginning man was a hunter. His senses were tuned to the
world around him in ways we, today, cannot even imagine. In his world
everything was alive, the rivers, the forests, the earth itself. There
was a spirit that moved through all things. The animals were brothers
whose lives were taken with respect so that man could survive. Man
learned that he could hunt and survive best with others of his kind.
The clan and the tribe gave way to villages, towns and later cities.
Then states and nations were formed down through history. It is
instinctive for humans to be connected to other humans. Early man had
no prisons or executions. Those who broke the understood rules of the
tribe were banished, exiled, disconnected from the group.
Perhaps the one most irresistible feature of the internet is that
it satisfies our primal need of being connected to others or better
yet networked. Man is essentially a herd animal and the internet is
the biggest herd on the planet. Here we can blend in with the rest
of humanity. We can be any color, sex or creed. We can be anonymous
using handles for names, our fingertips touching a keyboard touching
other fingertips on keyboards. There is a certain kind of freedom
that can only be experienced within the perimeters of a herd.
On March 3, 1998 Stephen Hawking, considered by many the smartest
man alive, gave a speech at the White House on the next millennium.
Below is an excerpt from his speech.
"But now we are at the beginning of a new era in
which we will be able to increase the complexity of our
DNA without having to wait for the slow process of
biological evolution. There has been no significant
change in human DNA in the last ten thousand years. But
it is likely that we will be able to completely
redesign it in the next thousand. Of course many people
will say that genetic engineering on humans should be
banned. But I rather doubt if they will be able to
prevent it. Genetic engineering on plants and animals
will be allowed for economic reasons and someone is
bound to try it on humans. Unless we have a
totalitarian world order, someone will design improved
Clearly developing improved humans will create great
social and political problems with respect to
unimproved humans. I'm not advocating human genetic
engineering as a good thing, I'm just saying that it is
likely to happen in the next millennium, whether we
want it or not. This is why I don't believe science
fiction like Star Trek where people are essentially the
same four hundred years in the future. I think the
human race, and its DNA, will increase its complexity
In a way the human race needs to improve its mental and
physical qualities if it is to deal with the
increasingly complex world around it and meet new
challenges like space travel. And it also needs to
increase its complexity if biological systems are to
keep ahead of electronic ones. At the moment computers
have an advantage of speed, but they show no sign of
intelligence. This is not surprising because our
present computers are less complex than the brain of an
earthworm, a species not noted for their intellectual
powers. But computers obey Moore's Law put forward by
Gordon Moore of Intel. This says that their speed and
complexity double every 18 months. It is one of these
exponential growths which clearly can not continue
indefinitely. However it will probably continue until
computers have a similar complexity to the human brain.
Some people say that computers can never show true
intelligence whatever that may be. But it seems to me
that if very complicated chemical molecules can operate
in humans to make them intelligent then equally
complicated electronic circuits can also make computers
act in an intelligent way. And if they are intelligent
they can presumably design computers that have even
greater complexity and intelligence.
This is why I don't believe the science fiction picture
of an advanced but constant future. Instead, I expect
complexity to increase at a rapid rate, both in the
biological and electronic spheres. Not much of this
will happen in the next hundred years, which is all we
can reliably predict. But by the end of the next
millennium, if we get there, the change will be
Professor Hawking's words provided me with much food for thought.
Barring some unforeseen setback such as plague or nuclear war humans
will not be able to resist the opportunity to try genetic engineering.
The temptation to play God and speed up thousands of years of evolution
into a period of just a few years will happen somewhere and then
With computers doubling their speed every 18 months the possibility
of an intelligent machine may be less than a hundred
years away. A machine intelligent enough to design machines even
smarter than itself. Perhaps smart enough to design "improved
As a man stricken with Lou Gehrig's Disease Prof. Hawking must use
a computer to communicate to the world. As a result I'm sure he has
thought of the following but did not dare say it. That maybe in the
distant future the competition between engineered humans and intelligent
computers would be resolved by combining the two. What I mean is what we
commonly refer to in science fiction as cyborgs, a human with
hardware attached. The concept is horrific to say the least,
inhuman and monstrous. Would a genetically engineered human
feel in the way that we feel today? Would he believe in a God?
Would he have morale values the same as we do? Perhaps he may think
that physically merging himself with computer technology may not
only be logical but even fashionable. As computers today are most
effective in a network then so too would be a race of cyborgs.
A race of modem heads all connected and online. The ultimate electronic herd.
Here is where I have to stop, take a deep breath and do what comedian
George Carlin says he's doing. Sitting back and waiting for the comet
to hit and make things right.
You know it's been a while since I last went hunting.