Alien Worlds "Planetary Habitability Index" Proposed
News Flash: Hope Revived! First Signal Received from Errant Mars' Phobos-Gunt Mission

Is the Human Species Entering an Evolutionary Inflection Point? (Today's Most Popular)

 

SpriteWill the future of space exploration evolve into a hybrid of human and robotic expeditions, one which may change the face of humanity in space?

The species that you and all other living human beings on this planet belong to is Homo sapiens. During a time of dramatic climate change 200,000 years ago, Homo sapiens (modern humans) evolved in Africa. Is the human species entering another evolutionary inflection point?

Paul Davies, a British-born theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist and Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science and Co-Director of the Cosmology Initiative at Arizona State University, says in his new book The Eerie Silence that any aliens exploring the universe will be AI-empowered machines. Not only are machines better able to endure extended exposure to the conditions of space, but they have the potential to develop intelligence far beyond the capacity of the human brain.

"I think it very likely – in fact inevitable – that biological intelligence is only a transitory phenomenon, a fleeting phase in the evolution of the universe," Davies writes. "If we ever encounter extraterrestrial intelligence, I believe it is overwhelmingly likely to be post-biological in nature."

Before the year 2020, scientists are expected to launch intelligent space robots that will venture out to explore the universe for us.

"Robotic exploration probably will always be the trail blazer for human exploration of far space," says Wolfgang Fink, physicist and researcher at Caltech. "We haven't yet landed a human being on Mars but we have a robot there now. In that sense, it's much easier to send a robotic explorer. When you can take the human out of the loop, that is becoming very exciting."

As the growing global population continues to increase the burden on the Earth’s natural resources, senior curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Roger Launius, thinks that we'll have to alter human biology to prepare to colonize space.

In the September issue of Endeavour, Launius takes a look at the historical debate surrounding human colonization of the solar system. Experiments have shown that certain life forms can survive in space. Recently, British scientists found that bacteria living on rocks taken from Britain's Beer village were able to survive 553 days in space, on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS). The microbes returned to Earth alive, proving they could withstand the harsh environment.

Humans, on the other hand, are unable to survive beyond about a minute and a half in space without significant technological assistance. Other than some quick trips to the moon and the ISS, astronauts haven’t spent too much time too far away from Earth. Scientists don’t know enough yet about the dangers of long-distance space travel on human biological systems. A one-way trip to Mars, for example, would take approximately six months. That means astronauts will be in deep space for more than a year with potentially life-threatening consequences.

Launius, who calls himself a cyborg for using medical equipment to enhance his own life, says the difficult question is knowing where to draw the line in transforming human biological systems to adapt to space. Credit: NASA/Brittany Green

“If it's about exploration, we're doing that very effectively with robots,” Launius said. “If it's about humans going somewhere, then I think the only purpose for it is to get off this planet and become a multi-planetary species.”

Stephen Hawking agrees: "I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space," Hawking told the Big Think website in August. "It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet.”

If humans are to colonize other planets, Launius said it could well require the "next state of human evolution" to create a separate human presence where families will live and die on that planet. In other words, it wouldn't really be Homo sapien sapiens that would be living in the colonies, it could be cyborgs—a living organism with a mixture of organic and electromechanical parts—or in simpler terms, part human, part machine.

"There are cyborgs walking about us," Launius said. "There are individuals who have been technologically enhanced with things such as pacemakers and cochlea ear implants that allow those people to have fuller lives. I would not be alive without technological advances."

The possibility of using cyborgs for space travel has been the subject of research for at least half a century. A seminal  article published in 1960 by Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline titled “Cyborgs and Space” changed the debate, saying that there was a better alternative to recreating the Earth’s environment in space, the predominant thinking during that time. The two scientists compared that approach to “a fish taking a small quantity of water along with him to live on land.” They felt that humans should be willing to partially adapt to the environment to which they would be traveling.

“Altering man’s bodily functions to meet the requirements of extraterrestrial environments would be more logical than providing an earthly environment for him in space,” Clynes and Kline wrote.

“It does raise profound ethical, moral and perhaps even religious questions that haven't been seriously addressed,” Launius said. “We have a ways to go before that happens.”

Some experts such as medical ethicist Grant Gillett believe that the danger is that we might end up producing a psychopath because we don't quite understand the nature of cyborgs.

NASA, writes Lauris, still isn’t focusing much research on how to improve human biological systems for space exploration. Instead, its Human Research Program is focused on risk reduction: risks of fatigue, inadequate nutrition, health problems and radiation. While financial and ethical concerns may have held back cyborg research, Launius believes that society may have to engage in the cyborg debate again when space programs get closer to launching long-term deep space exploration missions.

“If our objective is to become space-faring people, it's probably going to force you to reconsider how to reengineer humans,’ Launius said.

The Daily Galaxy via via astrobio.net

Comments

I think its easy to envision starting small with computer chips implanted in the body and going bigger from there. We all ready have pacemakers. I think we have artificial hearts. Soon they will figure out how to connect a cpu and ram type memory into a person and wire it into their brains. I am sure it has been tried more than a few times. More than likely has been successful by now.

Hmmm...interesting article, the advanced Mecha at the end of Spielberg's AI come to mind.

I just recently posted similar concept
http://anandcv.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/the-future-of-biological-evolution/

no, at least no in near future, I think people will remain people, because the electronic is still primitive and is evolving too slowly. Another reason is that people a pretty conservative and they don't want to adapt under environment but try to adapt the environment under them.
And don't forget there could be an regression in our evolution, fossil resources soon will terminate, we have problems with chimate and overpopulation. Look our days shuttles and concordes don't fly and men don't walk on moon.

Hmmm, such fools are we.... There will be TWO phrases to space colonization.
One will be robotic and telepresence, enhanced virtual robotic telepresence,
with humans controlling robots in space via the internet and safely on Earth.

Two will be habitation underground; on planets or moons, not in space or above.
This will protect humans from hard radiation and insure our survival.

The robots will build underground structures for human habitation and they will
get there, land, be taken underground by a robotic spaceship protected from
hard radiation. A super fast trip, no sight selling allowed.

So, it will be a two prone venture into deep space, with robots leading the way.
THis way we bypass the questions of hard radiation and humans living in space,
to go underground. It's either that or DIE!

Ah,,,... prong, ugh!

We provide hospitality consulting services to help developers, investors for their projects. Consulting services rendered during the past 24 years to 84 hotel projects, 41.800 beds in total in Turkiye, Russia, Poland, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. Please visit us.

"The species that you and all other living human beings on this planet belong to is Homo sapiens."

this statement just goes to show how ridiculous this web site is.

fuckin dune coon bastads.

all other living beings came from homo sapiens? huh?

I have to say, I enjoy reading your blog. Maybe you could let me know how I can subscribing with it ? I feel I should let you know I found your page through yahoo.

Once self-aware thinking machines have been enabled to independently manipulate matter, anything is possible. The 'Three Laws of Robotics' proposed by Asimov in SF back in the day must be fundamentally and firmly embedded in their psyches to prevent the Omega from being the end of organic life.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)