I'm sure every person thinks they're at the end of evolution, that the next thing that happens, hopefully not until shortly after their death, in their sleep, of natural causes (of course) is that the world becomes uninhabitable. But I think for those of us who are alive now, it's more true than it's ever been.
My grandparents probably thought this, having lived through the Great Depression, and survived World War II, only to find that the death of the species was imminent and locked-in, any day now, because of nuclear weapons and ICBMs. The threat hasn't gone away, but somehow we have avoided disaster.
We think tech is the future. That our destiny is to learn how to transport our minds into cyber bodies, and live forever. And maybe if we knew how to sustain life here we would achieve that destiny. But everything happens in context. The context for all the great stuff we're creating with computers is that our species is not tenable. Unless there's big change, immediately, we don't survive to put our minds into cyber-bodies. We don't even survive to build huge empty apartment buildings on Central Park, or to have a winter olympics or a Superbowl, or presidential elections. We. Don't. Survive. That has to be the primary issue now, and until it's resolved.
Further, if we are going to put minds into cyber-bodies, they shouldn't be ours. Our programming has led us to where we are. Evolution, survival of the fittest, competitiveness. All this was good for the first 99 percent of human existence. But now we need a new kind of mind, one that does not view the self as all-important. It's such a foreign idea, so hard to explain in words, precisely because our minds were designed to reject the idea of personal sacrifice. Our goal, which was a good one from an evolution standpoint, was to suck up as much resources as we can, so our offspring will have a better chance when fighting with nature, and competing against the other people's offspring. This can no longer be the way we do things.
We need fewer people. We need to devise new systems for life support. New ways of thinking. In many ways we have to reverse the impulse that got us here. We have always been trying to get bigger. Now we have to learn, very quickly, how to get smaller.
Computers with human minds is just a diversion, like all of what we do with computers. We have to work on us, now, and make some big changes.
If you want to read more on this, I highly recommend this op-ed in yesterday's NYT. One of the best things I've read on climate change. The ideas aren't new, we've had plenty of time to see this coming. But it's time to stop viewing the crisis as off in the future. It's already our present.