I respect and admire you for many reasons. I know plenty of people who feel the same. You are a stirring speaker. Your passion and clarity can move me to tears. For an astrophysicist, you are very down to earth. You come across as so level headed, friendly, and warm that even when disagreeing with someone, you never seem to argue.
I am writing this letter in appreciation, but also to ask you a question. When you speak about the future of humanity, you have brought up the meger 1% difference between us and Chimps. You have said this leads you to worry deeply that human beings lack the intelligence to fully understand and explore the universe. I guess my question is why?
I agree that as we are now we definitely don’t have what it takes. You have suggested thinking of a being 1% beyond us in the way we are beyond the chimp. I just see no reason why we can’t become these new beings. Are we not already becoming them? Doesn’t any species have to evolve to such a point? Aren’t our greatest technological achievements the products of post human intelligence, or at least the first glimmers of it? Our intelligence may not be biologically evolving at much of a pace, but our ability to analyze and utilize data, to make discoveries certainly is. Networks have allowed us to function as a kind of meta or hive mind and computers have allowed us to dig into problems many times faster than otherwise possible. Improved base intelligence and intuitive understanding would be great and could allow us to make even grater strides, but is there any reason to think those aren’t on the horizon for us? Putting the timeline aside, do you not think much of the idea of “The Singularity” as Ray Kurzweil or any other futurist envisions it, or post humanism in general?
I see our biological intelligence as being just enough to let us build on the previous generations discoveries. We stand on our ancestors shoulders and see a little further each time. Isn’t that what science is all about, pushing past our own limitations? Isn’t it like a whole new evolutionary paradigm?
So that’s my question. Why does our current intelligence worry you, when there is such possibility for growth? Whether it be entirely through information technology and artificial intelligence, technologically augmented intelligence, direct manipulation of our DNA, or all of the above, I see an exciting and limitless future. What worries ME is that YOU are worried, and you have far grater knowledge than I will likely ever possess, unless we all become part of a post human neural network. I am writing this as an open letter because the science question email address on the Hayden Planetarium website is temporarily suspended. I don’t know if this question will reach you, but I would so deeply love to have you elaborate on this topic in the succinct way that you do.
Sincerely, Nick Criscuolo
PS: I hope you like your pixel art portrait, and have a look at my space related animations if you like.