The Big Split. And The end of Homo Sapiens
It is difficult to imagine a world in which Homo Sapiens is not the only member of its genus and the dominant form of life on the planet. For those of us living in 2015, we have rarely felt the fear of endangerment from another species except our own. This was not always the case though, 50+ thousand years ago, our species co-existed with several other species of Homo including Neanderthal and Denisova Hominins. Coexistence lasted for a time, but Sapien’s brain eventually surpassed those of its rivals and allowed them to craft tools that were unseen in their primitive world. The Neolithic Age of technology was created by Homo Sapien and allowed them to develop rudimentary forms of pottery and agriculture, granting them access to formerly inhospitable terrain. As the other species failed to grasp the concepts of these new innovations, they slowly began to go extinct leaving Homo Sapien to conquer the planet.
You can graph human evolution, which is mostly a straight line, but we do get better and change over time, and you can graph technological evolution, which is a line that’s going straight up. They are going to intersect each other at some point, and that’s happening now.
We are the descendants of these innovative beings, and have continued to build on the progress of our ancestors. Technology today is advancing at a faster rate than ever before and innovation is now one of the most sought after industries for any powerful economy. The creation of computers led to the discovery of a new digital frontier that we are beginning to transpose our consciousness on, and tech is being integrated into our daily lives more each day. Robotic limbs, once the work of science fiction, are becoming closer to a reality, and we are not far away from an era where an entire hand could be replaced with a fully functional robotic one. This is fantastic for the progress of society, but these advancements are not ubiquitous. Technology is expensive and terrifying at the same time. It takes a certain person with enough capital and courage to want to partake in these robotic endeavors, and it is in this that we begin to see a possible second split occurring inside our species.
The Ideological Impasse
Western futurists and television writers envision worlds where we will have flying cars and the ability to record videos directly through implants in our eyes; but there are also those in much more fundamentalist religious societies who see technology as an ominous departure from our natural routes.
We can see this in perhaps the most prodigious divide right now between these two sects: the battle between Al Qaeda and the Western world. According to Lawrence Wright’s book The Looming Tower, Al Qaeda derives much of its philosophy from Qtubism, an ideology that advocates rejection and destruction of Western values such as consumerist capitalism. Most of the technological innovation in the United States is a result of this capitalistic model that puts technology on the consumer market. As such, many followers and members of Al Qaeda argue for a return to agrarianism and a rejection of these forms of technology.
Similarly, the Taliban another radical militant group banned almost any form of electronic entertainment, and absolutely rejected any Western scientific concepts as against their radical brand of Sharia Law. It is also worth noting how even in the West fundamentalist sects of Christianity also show contempt with innovation particularly when it comes to the field of biotech. Stem cell research and genetic engineering are both frequent topics of controversy in the Christian community as many worry that these fields are causing humans to go beyond what God had intended them to do.
The High Cost of Innovation
These heavily religious societies are joined with poorer classes of humans in their lack of technological capability. Technology is an expensive science, and even when a product is created it will often cost more than many low wage workers can make in a month. An iPhone, for example, runs an average price of $400 while a new Apple Computer can cost more than $2,000 higher than the price of rent for many people; gene therapy and artificial limbs are even more exorbitant. In the New Yorker article “The Gene Factory” journalist Michael Specter explored the world of genetic engineering and the impact it could have on global culture.
According to the article, scientists in China have unlocked the key to cracking the human genome and have begun research on isolating certain genes and artificially creating new ones. This research would allow us to remove genetic diseases and could also allow for the removal of genes that provide for obesity, high blood pressure and cancer. It could also allow future parents to determine whether their child will be stronger and even more intelligent than the average person.
Inevitably these services are only going to be available to the wealthy elite since the technology will be incredibly expensive. It could take decades, if not longer, before genetic manipulation would be available to the common person and by this point entire new castes would be created based not just on wealth, but also genetic purity. The 2007 global financial crisis threw the world into a state of monetary chaos that it is still recovering from. While nations like the United States, Germany and China have been able to pull themselves out of this, others such as Greece have fallen into default forcing them to enforce severe spending cuts that have destroyed their economies. These spending cuts most heavily impact the fields of research and medicine and can completely eradicate a nation’s innovation and technology sector.
As is already seen, wealthier nations have much more sophisticated technology and in a world where genetic engineering is becoming a reality, wealthier nations could soon be breeding their own distinct form of human. Of course this transition would take decades if not centuries to come to fruition, but one can already see the tremblings of a biological revolution taking place.
In a nation like the United States, technology is integral for every single citizen. Almost everyone has access to the internet and computers regardless of their socioeconomic class putting the entire US population at a greater advantage than those of Sierra Leone where internet and computer access is still quite limited. In the US, the internet and technology is now another part of the culture of the nation with much of the national dialogue taking place in digital space, a frontier completely inaccessible to some in the world. As the technology rapidly evolves so to does the backlash to it, and with the advent of artificial limbs and genetic research the stratification will only be that much stronger.
The Birth of a New Species
It’s interesting to see what this world centuries away might look like. Perhaps a new form of human will evolve out of these current trends. This new human might look like one from the modern day, save for having a gene in them that gives them a higher basal metabolic rate. They might take pictures and access the internet through a microchip that connects to their nervous system and retinas, and every few months they might have to go consult an engineer about problems they have been having with their mechanical limb. As time goes on, this new human will continue to better itself and strive for progress. As Scrutari continues to evolve at this fast rate, it will begin to completely replace its biological senses with mechanical ones. The average Sapien won’t be able to maintain itself in the world that Scrutari is creating for itself, and eventually may have to habitate its own separate world. Scrutari will be faster, stronger and more advanced than that of Sapien to the point that the two will evolve their own cultures, perhaps even modes of communication. This human would have ancestors in the past who were most likely affluent and from a secular nation, and it would interact with the remaining Homo Sapiens whose ancestors failed to take advantage of burgeoning science of their time. Looking at the current state of affairs and at the relationship between Homo Sapien and the Neanderthals, it might not be too difficult to see a world where Homo Sapien and new species called Homo Scrutari (Explorer in Latin) cohabitent the Earth.
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