It has taken man around a hundred years to refine the design and production of airplanes. They are incredibly safe and reliable things. The same cannot be said of the human body. Around a third of people will be affected by cancer at some point in their lives, another 20% by heart disease, a similar number by neurological diseases – and so on. But I suppose we can excuse nature for her inferior designs since she only had 3 billion years to get it right. Neil deGrasse Tyson gave a very funny speech about nature’s stupid designs, pointing out that we drink and eat through the same orifice as we breath – not good. In any case, as far as human beings are concerned their physical existence is uncertain and sometimes painful, simply because nature doesn’t seem smart enough to get it right. Of course, from natures’s perspective things may just be fine and dandy.
I think most of us ingest notions such as “nature’s wisdom”, “the beauty of nature” and so on. It takes a small revolution in thinking to realize that nature is dumb and produces any number of unsuccessful species that are unfit for purpose. All-in-all nature generates an inferior creation. Inferior to what? Well, inferior to airplanes, automobiles, and even smart phones. In just a few decades the smart phone has gone from a keyboard that allowed us to dial a number to something we can talk to, that displays maps, and takes photos. And it generally does it all in a reliable and fairly straightforward manner. If a third of smartphones were found to have a growth within them, we would consider that a failure. Humanity is so accustomed to seeing nature as something to be adored that it overlooks its stupid, blundering behavior. Epictetus said that the part of man that is divine is his intelligence and reason. I have no idea what “divine” means, but I do have a sense that humanity may well be able to create in a way that is far superior to nature. This will offend all those who have set Nature up as some kind of God, but many people have a liking for stupid Gods (just consider the God of the Old Testament). Yes, Nature is powerful, but power in no way correlates with intelligence.
Humanity is on the verge of creating its own intelligent creatures through the exponential growth in computing power and the rapid development in AI. By “on the verge” I mean during the next century. Quantum computers are already used by people like Google and NASA. These perform billions of parallel computations by calling on the resources of parallel universes (yes, seriously). The computers offer the prospect of solving problems in just a few seconds, where traditional computers might take the age of the universe to find a solution. AI is already being used in some businesses to replace managers (Hitachi for example), and driverless cars are just a few years away.
More generally humanity may be able to create intelligent creatures that are rational in nature. And I should add that in AI the term “rational” is well defined. Every AI is given a goal, and the nearer it is to fulfilling its goal the more rational it is considered. Powerful AI programs have already suggested that human beings should be put in zoos because of their threat to the Earth, and so Terminator may not be all that far fetched. AI’s designing other AI’s is already starting to happen, and there is no telling where this might go. But surely it could not be worse than a planet full of creatures that have to eat each other to exist.
George Carlin said that humanity was needed to synthesize styrofoam because nature could not do it unaided. Humanity is now redundant, and will be destroyed. Humanity may simply be a stepping stone to another life form, initially based on silicon, and hopefully individual creations will not be required to destroy each other to continue existence.
I really don’t think we should look at nature with rose tinted spectacles. It’s a vicious, dumb brute that advances through gladiatorial contests between and within species. It’s an inferior creation and it is useful to view it as such.