" For tens of thousands of years, humans have reigned as our planet’s only intelligent, self-aware species. But the rise of intelligent machines means that could change soon, perhaps in our own lifetimes. Not long after that, Homo sapiens could vanish from Earth entirely.
That’s the jarring message of a new book by James Lovelock, the famed British environmentalist and futurist. “Our supremacy as the prime understanders of the cosmos is rapidly coming to end,” he says in the book, “Novacene.” “The understanders of the future will not be humans but what I choose to call ‘cyborgs’ that will have designed and built themselves.”
Given their complete dominion over Earth, the cyborgs would become our planet’s final inhabitants. Lovelock thinks the Novacene could last a billion years or so, until the growing heat from the sun makes Earth unbearable even for synthetic life. At that point, the cyborgs might migrate to another world.
Perhaps they will eventually make contact with cyborgs from other planets as well. Seth Shostak, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, thinks the same scenario might already have played out across the universe. “I think it’s likely that most advanced intelligence in the universe is synthetic,” he says.
If this strikes you as a grim scenario, you’re not thinking like Lovelock. “I’m now past a hundred and to have an optimistic view is the only one worth having,” he says. Humans have had a great run on Earth, he writes, and before we bow out, we’re engaged in one of the noblest things we could do: “We are now preparing to hand the gift of knowing on to new forms of intelligent beings.”"
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