Troubled Future for our Species.
Posted on February 1st, 2017

R Chandrasoma

Since his emergence as a semi-civilized species many thousands of years ago, the threats to human survival have been both severe and sustained. Throughout the ages Famine, Disease and War kept populations dynamically stable and environmental degradation was kept within sustainable limits. This ‘fortunate’ state of affairs no longer holds – for two chief reasons. These reasons are interlinked but they are very different in origin and scope. The first is the explosive growth in the ‘energy footprint’ of humans as individuals – the cost of maintenance of a person in terms of the depletion of energy and material resources available in our planetary environment. Today this footprint is menacingly large and there  is no reason to believe that things will be different in the future. This ‘footprint’ encompasses such things as discharged chemicals that pollute habitats, carbon dioxide emissions that are rising to levels that are life-threatening, the wholesale destruction of organic species and the anthropogenic destabilization of the biosphere – all this resulting from Mankind’s historic  experiment in a ‘civilization’ that has gone horribly wrong    an ‘experiment’ that may soon kill all on Planet Earth except, perhaps, for some hardy cockroaches.

Let us look at some of the looming threats that are direct and of recent origin – the second assault on our felicity as a species.  As the renowned scholar Noah Harare points out, the greatest threat by far is the radical diminution in importance of man himself in a new dispensation that sees technological wizardry as the diving force in human evolution. The key developments that spell doom for ordinary humans are artificial intelligence, machine-learning and robotics. Much of human activity – indeed the better part- can now be done cheaply and efficaciously by intelligent machines – and human beings will become ‘obsolescent’ or historically defeated by machine ‘aliens’ that will do a better job. This may sound airy-fairy – but this ‘take over’ is happening right now – if insidiously and without much notice by the embattled masses. The prime symptom of this take-over is the loss of jobs in all sectors except in corporate management and research.

The paradox of an expanding economy with a shrinking work-force is  seen currently in most ‘advanced’ countries. Our species is the victim of a double whammy – heavy manual work is now done by machines with human operators – but it is only a matter of short years before artificial brains will replace the human operator. What of highly skilled work like a surgical operation or sculpting a complex piece of machinery? Artificial brains directing complex machines will do a far better job. in the future.  In the medical field doctors will be replaced by Computerized Intelligent Robots in all areas of practice – diagnostics, treatment and patient-support.

There is no need to belabour the point – jobs, wealth and status will be the prerogative of a tiny elite with computers and robots replacing brains and limbs. What place for mankind then? More urgently and importantly why do our leader in Sri Lanka speak of jobs for thousands in a future expanding market based on a model now gone for ever? The biggest existential problem – both here and abroad – is to find a meaning for human existence with jobs gone, the environment irreplacaby degraded and the sense of individual worth lost. Must we add that religion will go the way of jobs and markets?

One Response to “Troubled Future for our Species.”

  1. Ananda-USA Says:

    The British government had a similar problem of overpopulation in the British Isles in the past.

    Their solution was to pass laws that easily criminalized poor people, and deport them to Australia!

    A similar solution should work for the human species.

    We have to get our technology in place for deporting undesirables to other inhabitable planets, reserving the good Earth for our “best” people aka the “elite”.

    This will work satisfactorily in the short term, until the “elite” chewing the cud in the green pastures of the good Earth, suddenly realize that the much despised “planetary expatritates” have created better and more comfortable worlds for themselves and stricken with insatiable pangs if envy!

    If you think this will never happen, look at all the snooty Englishmen flocking to the United States and Australia!

    If we don’t blow up the Earth in a nuclear war in the next century, many of us “undesirables” will be boarding a spaceship, and working our way for passage to another less crowded planet!

    It is only a matter of time!

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