October 20, 2010

The Natural Successor

Following is an extract from Richard Linklater’s philosophical animation film ‘Waking Life’: “If you look at the time scales that are involved here (in the evolution of man) -- two billion years for life, six million years for the hominid, 100,000 years for mankind as we know it -- you're beginning to see the telescoping nature of the evolutionary paradigm… when you get to agricultural… to scientific revolution and industrial revolution, you're looking at 10,000 years, 400 years, 150 years. You're seeing a further telescoping of this evolutionary time. What that means is that as we go through the new evolution, it's gonna telescope to the point we should be able to see it manifest itself within our lifetime, within this generation.”

I have always believed in this. The species that follows us should take less time to evolve from us than what we took to evolve from our predecessors. And, this does not happen overnight. We must be able to find the initial hints of it among us. Also, there is another kind of ‘telescoping’ that nature has achieved. Evolution has progressively condensed the learned behaviour among species. In fact, the present state of information technology is another step towards that – we know infinitely more than our predecessors a few centuries ago. An average man today knows so much more about such a varied range of topics. And all is made unbelievably accessible to us by the Internet which I believe is the next great invention in the series of agriculture, the wheel, and steam engine.

Nature has a grand plan manifested in the form of the wonderful evolution of life. Presently the humans are at its pinnacle. But the height of this summit is constantly increasing. We will perish if nature decides to do so, but its great journey will never cease. And to achieve its forward motion, it will choose a species better suited to carry on its expectations than us. Going by the discussion above, the initial hints of that species must be present among us.

Is that species the Artificial Intelligence? Can it be considered a species at all? Why not? The difference between living and non-living is incomprehensible if we consider all that exists as different manifestations of the same space-time or mass-energy continuum. A polythene bag, filled with air like a balloon, dancing in the wind, I believe, is as living in its existence and capacities as we are. It is matter, and energy, some chemicals, and some internal and external forces, and all this cause a perceptible ‘event’. A kettle filled with boiling water makes noise and vibration. Again, and interplay of matter, and energy, and some internal and external forces. We might be more complex, but essentially are manifestations of similar forces. Our living and thinking and indulging in abstractions are nothing but more complicated ‘events’ generated from similar forces. Why then are we called ‘living’ and the polythene bag is not? And if there is indeed something, evolved out of us, that can perform most of what we can, including the telescoping of knowledge and information, does calling it ‘artificial’ rule it out as the potential species that would replace us?

Shankar’s ‘Robot’ begins with the haunting tune of ‘O naye insaan, dharti pe aa’, welcoming a ‘New Human’ onto this earth. I can not help but think whether it is a prophetic call to the true and ‘natural’ successor of man.


  1. hmmm... so the discussion continues... :)

    the last films i have watched, in order, are: I, Robot; Artificial Intelligence A.I.; Robot and Wall.E (not pre-planned that way)

  2. Wow! Such profound thoughts after watching a Rajni movie! I can see the quick evolution.