Elon Musk recently stated his belief that most humans are already cyborgs. Noting our physical dependence on smart devices, the near-ubiquitous presence of machines in our lives, and our obsession with online networks, Musk says the only thing stopping us from being full-blown cyborgs (the kind imagined in movies) is input/output limitations. But that day is on the horizon, and independent scientist James Lovelock argues that it could come sooner than we think.
The British futurist Lovelock is the author of a new book Novacene, which argues that we are in the early phases of what will be a total intelligence takeover of the Earth. The new dominant species will be a self-sufficient robot/artificial intelligence hybridization that aims to modify the Earth.
“Our supremacy as the prime understanders of the cosmos is rapidly coming to an end,” Lovelock argues in his book. “The understanders of the future will not be humans but what I choose to call ‘cyborgs’ that will have designed and built themselves.”
Lovelock says it is difficult, if not impossible, for us to know what the cyborgs will look like because exponential technological growth over the next several decades and centuries will so dramatically alter computer systems and processing platforms. Lovelock imagines future cyborgs could be spherical objects, or, he says, “it’s entirely possible they would have no form at all” and will exist as virtual beings on vast digital substrates.
Lovelock’s theory is an offshoot of the Gaia hypothesis he developed in 1974. The Gaia hypothesis posits that the Earth is a single, self-regulating system that pushes and evolves to facilitate more complex forms of life and intelligence. Future cyborgs, it follows, will evolve from today’s rudimentary systems and will recognize the need for more sustainable ecosystems.
This doesn’t necessarily mean they will kill humans off, as imagined by the Terminator movies, but they will likely seek to modify the Earth. At first this could involve geoengineering to control climate change, but eventually, the cyborgs’ needs may become different than our own. They may terraform the Earth to make it more silicon-friendly and, in the process, make it less hospitable for carbon-based life forms.
“Eventually, organic Gaia will probably die,” Lovelock speculates. “But just as we do not mourn the passing of our ancestor species, neither, I imagine, will the cyborgs be grief-stricken by the passing of humans.”