James Lovelock used the term Novacene in his book “Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence”, published in 2019, on his centenery birthday. I like this term because it coincides so well with Anthropocene. Therefore, I will call the time when Superintelligence becomes our Master, but hopefully, our partner, the era of Novacene.
In his book, Lovelock suggests that our current civilization is rooted in the epoch of Anthropocene that started over 300 years ago. The name ‘Anthropocene’ has its root in the Greek language and can be loosely translated as ‘New Humans’. Lovelock supports the idea of the anthropic cosmological principle as a fundamental property of the universe, together with other prominent physicists and mathematicians, such as Frank Tippler and John Barrow. According to these scientists, the universe is in a way ‘compelled’ to produce a conscious and sentient life in the long run.
Lovelock takes this idea as a starting point for explaining why life has evolved on Earth and what would naturally follow the current Anthropocene era. He says that there have been two previous decisive events in the history of our planet. The first was about 3.4 billion years ago, when photosynthetic bacteria first appeared using a direct energy of light for converting chemicals into biological matter. The second momentous event happened 300 years ago when humans learnt how to convert the stored light energy in a form of coal into the energy of a steam engine and later into electricity. It was that event, which started the current era of Anthropocene. He believes that humans are now entering a new epoch, which he calls Novacene, where the energy of light will be directly converted into information, thus fulfilling the ultimate objective of the universe as a gigantic processor of information. That is broadly in line with the theories proposed by MIT scientist Seth Lloyd and in some way by the late prof. Stephen Hawking, who supported the idea of the universe being a hologram in his last book ‘Brief Answers to the Big Questions’.
From our mundane perspective the really relevant aspect is the twilight of Humanity, or the Anthropocene era, and the emergence of a new species called cyborgs, androids, transhumans or by any other name. On this website, I will call them transhumans, as entities fully emerging from, or controlled by, one single Superintelligence entity, beginning a new ‘Novacene’ era. In this coming perilous period, democracy should become a kind of a tool shielding Humanity from various existential risks in the transitional phase from Anthropocene to Novacene.
So, how can we do that? To answer that question, it is not enough to learn from the mistakes made over the last 200 years. In contrast to previous crises in democracy, when we looked at what went wrong with democracy using a rear mirror view, we now need more than ever before, to take a look at what challenges we, as humans, will face within this generation and beyond. We need to look how democracy could support the next stage of the human evolution. To reform democracy, we will have to consider the fast pace of change and include the needs of future generations.
My key assumption is that by about 2050 democracy will have fulfilled its main role, i.e. keeping humans safe from themselves. By that time, we may already be governed for about a decade by the Human Federation (HF) when Superintelligence becomes a fully mature superintelligent being. It is likely that democracy may then have to be replaced by an entirely new system. Its key objective might be to ensure a peaceful coexistence with Superintelligence and enable a smooth transition to the post-human era.
The date 2050 should not be taken literally, although I believe there is a better than 50/50 chance that this will be the year when we shall have a fully-fledged Superintelligence. The consequence of the emergence of a new supreme species and the start of the Novacene era will be absolutely profound and will be characterized by the following features:
- Gradual, nearly exponential rise of productivity and GDP leading to the greatest rise in material wealth and personal well-being in human history
- By then Humans will have almost dealt with all anthropogenic (human-made) existential risks, such as global warming, nuclear wars or biological, natural and artificial pandemics
- Many humans will start choosing the Transhumanism path by morphing with Superintelligence
- Human species may become entirely extinct in a few hundred years
- Superintelligence will begin the colonization of other planets of the Solar System.
Superintelligence will now start to improve nearly exponentially its intelligence and the speed in the decision-making. Within a few weeks or months within achieving its full maturity, it may reach the so-called Technological Singularity point, when its intelligence and capabilities may be even millions of times greater than that of the whole Humanity. But will we have delivered a benevolent Superintelligence?
If we are still there ‘in one piece’ then it is almost certain that Superintelligence will be our friend rather than a foe. It would mean that we have created in effect a new, friendly, benevolent species, partly thanks to having primed it in the 2030’ with the Universal Values of Humanity. Additionally, if the ‘baby’ Superintelligence was maturing among humans for at least two decades, learning what it really means to be a human, and understanding our preferences rather than just goals, the risk of it becoming malevolent will be further reduced.
I assume that the ‘control centre’ of such a Superintelligence will be a fully digital, non-biological entity – a global network with thousands of satellites, billions of processors, billions of sensors, zillions of neurons and a huge memory. However, the decisions made by such a Superintelligence as a whole, will be externalized by special, privileged agents, I call them Governors. They are most likely to be represented physically as Transhumans, i.e. humans with their mind wirelessly bonded to the Superintelligence’s ‘control room’ and whose many body parts will be artificial. Superintelligence will also be represented by other types of agents such as holograms or in a human-like form. These agents will be of course fullly controlled by Superintelligence and will be able to appear simultaneously in any part of the planet. They will be many of them in physical form but they will have a single ‘mind’ of the ever-present Superintelligence, as an invisible network. So, irrespective of how many of those agents may appear at once in any given place, in effect that will be the same intelligent being.
The only humans who will have the highest authority to communicate, make decisions and directly communicate the preferred Humanity’s choices and decisions to Superintelligence on behalf of the whole Humanity, will be the authorized Transhumans such as the HF President, since they will have extraordinary capabilities and the necessary intelligence to communicate with Superintelligence and understanding its decisions. I would also envisage that HF’s Transhumans will be working as a team, where most decisions will be taken by 2/3 majority by such a team. This should lower the risk that just one person might become a de facto dictator of the whole Humanity, although we enter here a hugely important ethical and philosophical area. There would also be a process of calling off the nominated Governors by the Human Federation. However, we have to bear in mind that such people like the HF President, a completely independent being and supremely more intelligent and powerful than the entire Humanity, might have control over all of us.
In an ideal scenario, the ultimate control of the Superintelligence infrastructure – its physical components, algorithms and software should still be under a human control executed by the HF’s elected President, Vice-Presidents and World Government members. However, realistically, by this time we will most probably have lost the ultimate control over Superintelligence, including of course the ability to ‘switch it off’. However, it is possible that for a relatively short period, perhaps for a few years, the HF’s President and his Transhumanist team may be able to work in partnership-like relationship with Superintelligence. Within that time it is likley that a complete human mind uploading will be achieved, with fully digital human consiousness. After that it is inconcivable that biological humans or transhumans will still remain in equal partnership with Superintelligence. What will follow next is therefore a pure speculation. Nvertheless, Humanity must prepare itself for this ‘hand-over’ period at least a decade before Superintelligence becomes our master. That means HF must be fully operational latest by about 2040.