will intelligence evolve?

Evolution by natural selection is, by and large, accepted as fact by the large majority of scientists. That is, species change over time is due to external (largely environmental) pressures. If we accept this view, it follows that our brains, as well as our bodies, must also be products of evolution. Since the brain is the seat of human intelligence, it then follows that our intelligence is the end result of about 3 billion years of evolution, give or take a few million years.

Okay. That part I get.

The most optimistic projections predict that we’ll have computers with the capacity and performance to match the human brain within 10 to 30 years. I personally think that’s way too early, but you have to figure that, eventually, a machine will at least be capable of simulating human thought within about 100 years or so. Coupled with expected advances in brain scanning technology, I expect one of the first applications of such a system will be to upload an existing consciousness to a machine in an effort to achieve something similar to immortality. Someone on the verge of death will be more than willing to be a guinea pig in this experiment, considering the alternative.

Here’s the part I don’t get.

Given these facts:

1. Our intelligence is the result of evolution due to environmental pressures.

2. We will eventually be able to upload individual human consciousness to a machine (environment).

How will our intelligence then continue to evolve? I would expect that a machine environment would be virtually unlimited in possibility. Given enough computing power and storage space, our minds would for all intents and purposes be living in the Matrix. Where then would the environmental pressures come from that would continue to shape our intelligence? Without competition for scarce resources, what would drive us? Without bodies that hunger and crave, can drives even exist? As exhilarating as that first taste of a virtual universe may be, how would we feel after a thousand (or a million or billion) years of limitless freedom? How will disembodied minds produce offspring? Without offspring, mutations can’t be introduced into the population and even if they could be, without drives or scarcity how could they be judged for fitness?

And really… how goofy is it to have daydreams like this?

4 Responses to “will intelligence evolve?”

  1. maria Says:

    and if we evolved from apes,

  2. Isaac Z. Schlueter Says:

    We still ARE apes.

    Evolution is not a straight line at a target. It is not a design process, and that confuses a lot of people who, although they may mostly accept evolution, still think in creationist terms. Once you design the automobile, you throw away the horse-drawn carriage, so why keep the things that humans are related to once you have humans? Also, observe the extreme egotism, the assumption that we’re “higher” than other animals, and thus, the chosen of evolution.

    The fact is, a chimp is a very highly evolved chimp; a beetle is a highly evolved beetle; a fungus is a highly evolved fungus. Evolution doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t think you’re beautiful. It is a process, not a designer, and it has resulted in you being the way that you are for the simple reason that your type of organism is effective at passing on genes—end of story. Once you have grandkids, evolution is done with you, and you’re free to die.

    I am doubtful that computers will be able to adequately model a human brain any time in our great-grandchildren’s lifetime. There’s a lot of subtlety in those cells and pathways, and frankly, we’re still not very good at software.

  3. ralph Says:

    I agree that it will be exceedingly difficult to model a human brain or transfer an existing consciousness to a machine. However, I believe it will eventually happen - even if it takes 100, 1000, or 10,000 years. I just don’t see how we’ll continue to evolve in the absence of environmental pressures. I also don’t see how an artificial intelligence will be able to evolve. Emergent software development methods mimicking natural selection judge each generation of a particular program for fitness against a baseline established by the (human) designer. If we create conscious software, where will that fitness baseline come from? My thought is that machine intelligence will be as different from human as an average human is to an autistic savant. These machine intelligences will be as opaque to us as Rainman was to Charlie Babbitt.

  4. maria Says:

    You’re talking like Mohinder Suresh.

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