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parallaxicality
2005-Oct-17, 08:27 PM
What predictions can we make concerning our future, over the course of thousands, millions and billions of years?

Can we extrapolate known trends in genetics?
Will the human race ever diverge into separate species?
Or will it eventually become homogenous?
How long will it be before we accumulate enough traits to evolve into a new species?

Geological questions are also pertinent:

How will the continents change over the next few hundred million years?
How will this effect climate?
How long before we experience a geological catastrophe, such as a supereruption or a massive impact?

Ecological issues:

How long before all large wild animals and plants are extinct?
Will we create a "garden world" where all the ecology is geared to our own consumption?

Astronomical issues:

Will we ever experience a massive astronomical catastrophe, such as a gamma ray burst?
How long before the Sun's expansion increases Earth's UV radiation levels beyond human tolerance?
How long before the Earth becomes like Venus?
How long before the Earth is finally destroyed?

SolusLupus
2005-Oct-17, 08:49 PM
What predictions can we make concerning our future, over the course of thousands, millions and billions of years?

Since I'm on a roll so far, let me give this a shot based on my opinion and what I would LIKE to see in our future (not a FULL prediction, I add!)

As I'm sorta a transhumanist, when I talk as a transhumanist, I'll have it noted.

Can we extrapolate known trends in genetics? -

If you mean by if we can predict the future of genetics, I think that one can give a reasonable guess... though one has to wonder if the human race, as a whole, would accept the idea of genetic tweaking, whether to animals or to humans.

Will the human race ever diverge into separate species? -

Possibly, yeah, it depends on how seperated from each other we may become. If we seperate when it comes to colonization, it might be possible to take different routes if we're seperated for too long.

Transhumanist - Or, alternatively, we might MAKE ourselves a different race, to become better, healthier, and longer-lasting in the end.

Or will it eventually become homogenous? -

Possible. We do have a tendency to stick with each other, and as much as I said in the former question, I don't doubt that in spite of being worlds apart, we'll still remain in constant contact with each other.

Transhumanist - To speak more as a realist, it's unlikely people would want to embrace a change that would change themself into another species, or even resembling another species (outside of those that would be considered "Deviants", i.e., rebels and such - teenagers always gotta be different and stuff!). It's possible, but it seems (to me) unlikely.

How long will it be before we accumulate enough traits to evolve into a new species? -

Not touching this. Can't say, and would probably be wrong anyways.

I don't know enough about geology to answer those questions.

How long before all large wild animals and plants are extinct? -

Hopefully, never! I have a feeling that humans will always want to presever our own piece of terra firma, no matter how far from Earth we might eventually become. (See Alien, Ripley with her kitty cat, for instance. We need our fuzzy companions!)

Will we create a "garden world" where all the ecology is geared to our own consumption? -

This is possible. It's what Asimov predicted in his Empire/Foundation novels, that humans would remove everything from nature that was harmful (like a bee's stingers), but keep in everything that's beneficial (a bee's honey). I predict that if we move towards such a thing, there would be resistance - the idea of altering nature to just suit man's needs is becoming less and less popular as time goes on.

I won't touch the astronomy issues, but I'd like to see the answers myself :)

So yeah, those are my (biased) opinions. ... Don't tear me apart TOO much >.>

akirabakabaka
2005-Oct-17, 10:43 PM
How long until the world realizes that borders are an arbitrarily restrictive construct and we all unite as People of Earth, so that we can be capable of setting common goals for humankind on the order of millions of years into the future?

Will it be before or after a giant space rock destroys us all in a catastrophic collision?

Ken G
2005-Oct-18, 08:16 AM
The fossil record shows we probably have 50 million years or so before we have to worry about mass extinction from space. It seems clear that, since <50 years is all we would potentially need to enter a political instability that could cause a similar extinction threat, the latter is a million times greater concern! I think we have to ask two questions related to the potential destiny of humanity to populate the galaxy and survive for billions of years:
1) what special attributes did previous intelligent beings lack, such that they have not accomplished it by now, and
2) does humanity have those attributes?
At the moment, I would have to classify humanity as a pretty run-of-the-mill intelligent species, I don't see anything particularly special about us from the perspective of what can evolve from a relatively hospitable yet challenging environment. So I would expect that either we will be extinct on timescales of interstellar colonization (call it 10,000 years for a rough guess), or we will have to figure out the answer to (1) and how to make the necessary adjustments. That should please the transhumanists! But keep in mind, the intelligent beings that preceded us might have tried trans-intelligent-beingism already...

Maha Vailo
2005-Oct-18, 11:06 AM
Previous intelligent beings? There were any besides other hominids?

Besides, I've heard that the thing that separates us from previous hominds was our sense of imagination and creativity, which gave us the will to survive. Lets hope we can use it wisely in the future.

- Maha Vailo

SolusLupus
2005-Oct-18, 01:38 PM
How long until the world realizes that borders are an arbitrarily restrictive construct and we all unite as People of Earth, so that we can be capable of setting common goals for humankind on the order of millions of years into the future?

Will it be before or after a giant space rock destroys us all in a catastrophic collision?


I'm sorry, but in my opinion, the idea of us removing ALL our borders in general will be a long way off. I think we'll find ways to get rid of asteroids FAR before we'll get rid of the need for political boundaries.

We ARE coming closer, however - so the idea isn't completely laughable. The United States, for instance, has a whole mess of religions and cultures in it, each contributing. However, this set-up isn't perfect, and a lot of people (especially quite a few "in charge", as it were) seem to still assume that the United States is all about... well, something it's not about. I won't go into it too much, because it's a religious and political firecracker.

So, yeah, that question is an interesting one. However, I predict it'll take a very long time until nations like China or North Korea will want to work with the US on anything that benefits "mankind" solely. I predict that if we get to the point of the colonization of other worlds, we'll be setting political boundaries even then.

Maybe someday mankind can merge into one group - a United Solar System, a United Galaxy, etc. But there will, for a VERY long time at the least, be a need for people to feel like they're part of a group, and not just the major group that surrounds them. People are rather cliquish by design - they develop groups of friends, and sometimes those groups of friends could have ideas that goes against the mainstream of society that surrounds them. As a result, the idea of everyone working together in harmony is, so far, an utopian fantasy that seems nearly impossible now. Here's to hopin', though!

GOURDHEAD
2005-Oct-18, 02:05 PM
If you mean by if we can predict the future of genetics, I think that one can give a reasonable guess... though one has to wonder if the human race, as a whole, would except the idea of genetic tweaking, whether to animals or to humans. Is it possible that you meant "accept" instead of "except" (audible similarity). Note that "except" as used is an off-normal usage but does connote meaning, although just opposite to "accept".

If I have guessed correctly, what we have here is an example of error checking that will be extremely difficult to incorporate into AI. If I have guessed incorrectly, what we have is an indication of constraints that will be needed on whatever error checking we incorporate into AI. In either case the power of context, premise, and perspective is demonstrated.

SolusLupus
2005-Oct-18, 04:19 PM
Okay... first of all: I was slightly irritated at your post, Gourdhead, until I realized you were making a point. However, this "typo" wasn't a mistaken understanding of the word, it was just me typing very quickly. I tend to replace entire words with something I don't mean - sometimes homonyms. However, I do know the difference between accept and except, and I feel that it was a pretty silly error (I edited it out). I'm such a perfectionist.


If I have guessed correctly, what we have here is an example of error checking that will be extremely difficult to incorporate into AI. If I have guessed incorrectly, what we have is an indication of constraints that will be needed on whatever error checking we incorporate into AI. In either case the power of context, premise, and perspective is demonstrated.

I think that the word "AI" is thrown around a lot. I have a lot of different ideas of artificial intelligence, however.

For one - TRUE SAPIENT artificial intelligence will be almost nothing compared to that of our computers. Our computers would probably be, in comparison with human intellect, the EXTREME of an "idiot savant (sp?)" - onliy with a very very small memory. To have a memory in a computer that's equivalent to a human's, you'd need hundreds of tetrabytes... that's a lot of bytes!

For two - a sapient AI would be able to think. Thus, it would be able to learn from mistakes. it would not be incredibly reliant on programmed ideas and responces. the Spell Checker we have now is pretty idiotic - it only checks if words are misspelled. But there ARE grammar checkers - which is slightly more advanced, but still relies on simple rote memory. Now, think about that for just a moment if you will. On simple rote memory we have primitive (relative to the future) machines that tell us how our grammar and spelling are wrong, and can be decently accurate. Imagine what would happen if you had an AI that could remember the little itty bitty details? Then add in how the AI wouldn't need to use memory cells that decay, like we do. Perfect "photographic memory" (sometimes literally).

For three - I like monkeys. (I'm in a real clown mood today for some reason).

For four - I think that "true" artificial intelligence is way off... it'll take a while to truly discover it. On our venture towards it, however, there would be a lot of applications for it - from civilian to military to industrial. In any case where you need exact specifics, exact numbers, and instance decision making/perfect memory, an AI would probably be able to do it very decently.

I also think that artificial intelligence won't necessarily be kept only to computer chips. Imagine, if you will, if we could actually literally create a brain. A human-like brain, with all the capacity of one. Then we could tweak it, mod it, add to it, etc. We could, in essence, remake our own mind, then broaden on it even more. The implications of this would be astounding.

(Edit: A few typos and a few uncapitalized words. Ah, heck with it, I'm not correcting it... but I'm surprised at myself.)

GOURDHEAD
2005-Oct-18, 05:35 PM
AI, like the search for perfection, will likely always be a work in progress as it is with "natural" intelligence. At a more subtle level, body language and intonations also affect communication and add to the confusion as do their artificial suppression---another challenge for the designers of AI. Semantics interfaces with thought processes, especially strongly so in scientific discourse, so intimately that extreme care and rigorous discipline is required in the choice of words as well as how we string them together. The future that we map will be more pleasant in direct proportion to the level of non-ambiguity we can maintain by our choice of words and how we string them together.

SolusLupus
2005-Oct-18, 07:37 PM
AI, like the search for perfection, will likely always be a work in progress as it is with "natural" intelligence. At a more subtle level, body language and intonations also affect communication and add to the confusion as do their artificial suppression---another challenge for the designers of AI. Semantics interfaces with thought processes, especially strongly so in scientific discourse, so intimately that extreme care and rigorous discipline is required in the choice of words as well as how we string them together. The future that we map will be more pleasant in direct proportion to the level of non-ambiguity we can maintain by our choice of words and how we string them together.

Some interesting points, but if I may:

I think that the "necessity" for body language is a big factor for the way we communicate, but not entirely what's necessary. In fact, what if instead of mapping AI to emulate us, we come to a compromise and find a way to interact with the computer without need of such visible signals? As well, Artificial Intelligence doesn't necessarily have to revolve solely around language.

As well, the ability to recognize signals is once more put under the "learning" category. Programming a computer will become very primitive compared to how a sapient AI could learn, I feel.

Of course, I'm someone that actually can't wait for something like a neural interface - plug me in, suit me up, and put my mind into the machine itself. It may be a long time until we develop such technology, but dang would it be cool.

eburacum45
2005-Oct-20, 01:54 PM
One way humanity will start to diverge could be when we try to colonise non-Earth-like worlds, and even colonise space itself. Adaptations for low pressure environments such as a partly terraformed Mars or simply adaptations to microgravity could be very useful; every environment in the Solar System which could conceivably hold life might have a subspecies specially designed to thrive in those conditions.

But since these are sub-species they may well be capable of crossbreeding, especially with a little technological help; the development of truly separate species might not occur until humanity has colonised oyther planetary systems.
In a few millenia, the whole basis of genetic inheritance might change; perhaps some, or all, new individuals will be designed to order from a morphological grab-bag, and the idea of speciation will no longer apply. Or this might only be true of certain sections of humanity.