This I Believe

Phil - Superior, Colorado
Entered on February 6, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: humanism, science

At some point, our prehistoric ancestors decided walking around on bare feet was not ideal, so they made foot coverings. Walking far was a bit of a nuisance, so after thousands of years of walking, humans figured out how to domesticate animals, ultimately leading to the use of animals for transportation. Eventually, humans invented ways to cross bodies of water, and built all manner of sea-going vessels. With the invention of machines, humans improved upon ancient designs and built trains and ships and cars and aircraft, all powered by fossil fuels, and finally rockets propelled by a variety of volatile chemicals. By 1957, some of these rockets began carrying spacecraft beyond Earth’s atmosphere. In essence, the sandal, the riding animal, the animal-powered cart, the sailing ship, the coal-powered train, the jet-fueled aircraft, and the chemical rocket are all extensions of our very simple, but profoundly important ability to walk.

Our technology, two million years worth, has been critical to our survival. Our hairless, talonless, toothless, poisonless, wingless, finless, armorless bodies would not have lasted long had our brains not somehow been capable of abstract thought, thereby leading to conceptualization, modeling, and building. We also had to learn to work closely together, which lead to the invention of laws, government, management, and systems engineering. All of this allowed us to make things we needed to survive, live well, and provide for growing populations.

Terrestrial life emerged from lifelessness 3.5 billion years ago. Life then gave rise to the Human about 2.5 million years ago. In order to survive and flourish, the Human gave rise to all manner of technology ever since. About 10,000 years ago, an agrarian lifestyle was invented, and the Holocene Epoch (“Recent Time”) dawned. About 250 years ago, the human mind also gave rise to the Machine, ushering in the Anthropocene Epoch (“Time of Man”). Machines, and the processes invented to manage them, radically changed the humans’ ability to move, produce, and communicate. Eventually, experience with Machines provided for the emergence of the Computer. The Human, the Machine, and the Computer are together contributing to the emergence of a new epoch. I call it the Noocene, or “Time of the Mind”.

The Noocene will be a fascinating time. During this epoch, Humans, Machines, and Computers will ultimately merge. Nanotechnology, bioengineering, artificial intelligence, and all sorts of other disciplines will contribute to this “blending”. Governments will change, ethical codes revised, and old religions will be replaced with new ones. Over the millennia, the distinction between “organic” and “inorganic” will be meaningless. New forms of intelligence will proliferate, and an entirely new domain will mature, that of the virtual environment. Currently, we have the Physical Domain (the environment outside the brain) and the Mental Domain (the mind). The Virtual Domain (the cybernetic universe) can trace its birth to the Internet in the 1950s, but its potential is far from being realized. Intelligence will span all domains, and the infinite possibilities of existence will eventually be realized. This I believe.