The evolution of life on Earth started off with the formation of biological polymer molecules. This chemical evolution later led to biological evolution. And the biological evolution is now leading to digital evolution – Robots and Artificial Intelligence. So how will evolution proceed from here? Who or What will evolve after humans?
When evolution started, the purpose of life was simple – adaptation.
The life forms that successfully adapted to their surroundings multiplied and increased in number. The life forms that were not able to adapt, perished.
Then, the surroundings itself started changing. You had a changing environment. Volcanoes, meteors, asteroids, changing geography, grasslands becoming desert, ice age and so on. So the adapted species had to re adapt to these changing environments. The ones that successfully re-adapted to the changes, survived. Those that could not, perished, became extinct.
Whole is greater than the Sum of its Parts
Then more and more complex life forms evolved. sub cellular entities ganged up together to form a cell, because that increased the chances of survival. Similarly individual cells came together to form multi cellular organisms, because that again increased the chances of survival.
Then higher life forms evolved, with specialized organs evolving for perform individual tasks. This further increased the chances of survival as each organ became more and more perfect and effective in solving individual set of problems. So the complex organism now was a collection of specialized sophisticated machines.
Then came sexual reproduction which increased diversity with a species, so that many different combinations of expert genetic material can be tried out, increasing the survival rate n times. Sexual reproduction also meant, no dependence on external agents for doing things like pollination.
Response to Stimuli from Surroundings
In parallel, sense organs evolved that responded to external stimuli, so that information from surroundings can be directly captured, and a central monitoring system evolved that learnt from the patterns of external stimuli and underwent an unsupervised learning to work out best responses that the organism can provide to increase chances of survival.
This is how eyes, ears, nose, etc evolved leading to the evolution of a central nervous system, the brain. Brain became an organ dedicated to not just monitoring internal mechanisms, but also detecting external patterns and directing appropriate responses to other organs.
So, life now had a monitoring mechanism that could respond in real time to external changes. Earlier, simple life forms had to undergo genetic level changes and wait for generations to adapt to changes in the surroundings.
But with the advent of brain, the organism was able to respond to changes in real time as well, in terms of motion. This largely increased the chances of survival.
Different patterns of information and response lead to broad categorization of patterns into good and bad. Good patterns increased survival, while bad patterns decreased it. So were born, the emotions. Animals ended up with fear, happiness and various other similar emotions. The emotional level increased as brains became more and more complex.
Real Time Information Exchange
Slowly, intelligence beings evolved in the form of we, the humans. Humans, went a step further and developed their own complex mechanism of exchanging pattern information with other fellow human beings, the language.
The evolution of language helped humans to exchange extremely complex set of pattern information leading to the advancement of science and technology.
The evolution of intelligent humans meant, information need not be stored only at biological levels in DNA to be passed down to new generations, but can be also be written down as books or remembered orally (like the vedic texts) and passed on to generations.
While other animals via modes like sound or sign language can exchange a very basic set of information, the infinite combinations made possible by human speech and hence by human language made it feasible to understand, remember and ponder about a huge amount of information.
Humans were able to exchange information with each other, and pass it down to generations. Then came the era of computers.
Digital Information – Global Network
Now humans were able to store massive information, not just in their brain, but in external devices and access them as and when they wanted. All information was being digitized. So, you did not need huge libraries where you had to search thousands of books for information. The evolution of computing technology meant, a single hard disk can hold millions of books and can be carried around in a single laptop.
Then came the Internet. This converted the entire human knowledge into a single decentralized brain with a planetary range. Humans across the planet are today able to share information in a fraction of a second and even in real time. This has led to an information overflow, making it difficult for human brains to focus and process important information.
Information Overload – Artificial Intelligence – Cyborg?
Just look the amount of news, information, emails, whatsapp messages, tweets that we are constantly bombarded with. It is beyond the capacity of human brain to process such a huge amount of information in real time.
So, from here Artificial Intelligence takes on this task of processing huge amount of information in real time. If AI systems start doing the thinking part of humans, then what will humans be doing?
A drastically new way of thinking is required to model the human life around this new AI ecosystem. The way humans currently work, earn, spend – the entire mode of economics has to get a complete overhaul keeping in mind this new AI ecosystem.
We need to work out a completely new model of living – creating a system where both humans and AI fit into the same system. One possible way is to enhance human brains with AI capabilities? Cyborgs – the next logical step in human evolution?
So humans upgrade themselves enabling their biological brains to work in tandem with AI chips embedded alongside – thereby becoming Cyborgs. This will make humans – super humans – in terms of information processing and reaction speed. These cyborgs can then form a network to create swarm intelligence like bees, that can ensure that stand alone AI systems or AI networks cannot take over humans.