“It is difficult to predict the extent of self-government which the [person] of the future may reach or the heights to which [they] may carry [their] technique. [We] will become immeasurably stronger, wiser and subtler…The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise.” — Trotsky
Should humanity make the conscious effort to evolve itself? Is it wise to indefinitely strive for more and more advanced versions of ourselves, or are we better off not fussing about it?
Some people feel uneasy about the prospect of a future humanity that is more evolved than ourselves as a result of our own conscious upgrading. Opposing conscious evolution implies one of two things: it either admits the belief that we are better off as less evolved, or the belief that where we are today is the best possible version of ourselves. But is it? If you could make humanity less intelligent and weaker, would you do it? If not, that is what we are in effect doing to our descendants by our cynicism towards optimizing human evolution today.
It’s critical to optimize both the whole as well as the individual, the mind as well as the body. This means raising the collective intelligence, EQ, levels of self actualization, mental health, and human capital relentlessly. True evolution involves the collective consciousness. It does not mean a mere transhumanist implant, it means a happier, healthier, smarter culture.
Consider that today the median IQ is 100. Imagine if tomorrow’s median were equivalent to today’s 110, 120, 130, or what about 200 or 300? There will always be people at the lower, middle, and upper levels of the bell curve- that is inescapable- but we must strive to make the lowest levels of the bell curve overcome their weaknesses and the geniuses crack the gates of heaven. Let’s unleash everyone’s inner da Vinci.
We are all individuals. Yet it’s possible to collectively improve ourselves (we’ve already done it many times) by moving the whole bell curve to the right for certain traits, in other words, making us better on average. Since that’s true, not proactively improving our average traits when we could reflects a lack of collective courage, will or clarity.
Sometimes, this prospect makes some people uncomfortable. To commit to a future where the average IQ is equivalent to today’s 150 or 200 feels like we would lose a part of ourselves to elitism.
But consider this. There was once a time when humans were illiterate, when the life expectancy was 25 years, when the workings of the natural world were a superstition-filled mystery, when we didn’t have language other than primitive hand signals and grunts. Every time we’ve overcome ourselves and evolved, we did indeed lose some part of ourselves, because to evolve is to transform, and to transform is simultaneously death and birth.
In retrospect, would we ever want to go back to when most people were illiterate and less conscious? So when most people are hyper-conscious, would they ever want to come back to where we are now? Have you ever wished you could go back to before you had a clarifying epiphany to your previous state of ignorance?
At its core, the fear of actively improving ourselves collectively is ultimately a subconscious fear of our own power, a fear of our own vast potential.
Just like many of us in the microcosm of our own personal lives might fear our own power to become a more capable, intelligent, powerful and self actualized version of ourselves because we are so addicted to our comfort zone and limiting beliefs, so too do we apply this same handicap to our conception of humanity as a whole.
Would you ever want society in the future to be one as depicted in the movie Idiocracy, where the average IQ decreases? If you are a normally reasonable person, the answer is almost certainly no. So, if you wouldn’t want our collective intelligence to decrease, why would you want it to stay the same? Just like a penny saved is a penny earned, collective intelligence stagnant is collective intelligence lost.
Do you think the universe, after evolving into us for eons, has finally reached as high as it (and therefore we) could ever possibly get? We used to be apes, even lizards and amoebas. Why would we want to arbitrarily draw the line now after all that? How unimaginative!
In the swampy primordial pools of early Earth, the first biological life forms emerged. These simple, humble, microscopic amoebas were almost the furthest thing we could imagine from beings that could write poetry, have ecstatic spiritual experiences, contemplate the deepest thoughts on the nature of existence, and engineer space ships that would land on other planets. Yet here we are, our very existence in this moment the definitive proof that intrinsic in those amoebas, and even intrinsic in the Big Bang itself were always the potential for the beauties and magic of advanced civilization.
We began as pure potential, and through the evolutionary process, potential transforms into actualization.
Have we arrived? Has humanity already achieved the apex of this universal process of actualization? It would take arrogance and short-sightedness to an astonishing degree to assume so. The minds of the most enlightened and intelligent human beings to ever walk the earth all descended from this seed, as all life has. For billions of years, no life even had a spinal cord, let alone the capacity for complex self-reflection and analysis.
It would be impossible for the mind of a bug to accurately contemplate the complexities of the human condition, so it takes a leap of intuition and intellectual honesty for us to come to terms with the fact that the level of consciousness, psychological wholeness and intelligence that the universe (i.e. we) are actually capable of may be mind-bogglingly greater than we’ve generally imagined.
Now, we can theoretically make sense of that, which means we can actively make immanent the actualization of this elevated condition.
“What is great in [humanity] is that [we are] a bridge and not a goal”- Nietzsche
Evolution, until it developed consciousness, was by definition unconscious. The struggle to survive, reproduce and evolve into more complex and intelligent beings was left to its own devices. The thing about evolution is that it itself also evolves- meta-evolution. In other words, once we were evolved enough to self reflect, plan, and conceive complex thoughts as individuals, and develop civilization as a collective, the process of our evolution switched gears into a higher phase where its outcome is directly dependent on culture.
Evolution has now become a conscious process.
Materially, this has culminated into genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, advanced medicine and the many other ways we’re extending our lives and controlling our environment. But crucially and often missed is that evolution is not only genetic, but memetic, not only physical, but psychological and cultural. Assuming we take on an evolutionary mindset aimed at constant improvement, it naturally follows that we should consciously design our psychological and memetic evolution with as much, if not more of a priority as our physical evolution.
There have been times and places where human consciousness, thinking and creativity have flourished more vibrantly than most other times- think of all the times in history designated a “renaissance” or a “golden age.” During those special moments, the culture of a people reaches a critical condition that arouses a collective consciousness into remarkable vibrancy, passion and innovation.
Modernity is duplicitous. In terms of material things like technological advancements and physical sciences, the last few centuries have ushered human civilization as a whole into a golden age. In mere centuries we’ve developed modern sanitation, medicine, agriculture, all types of engineering, computing, we’ve unlocked cosmological questions like the age of the planet and the universe, we’ve discovered the nuances of subatomic particles and quantum mechanics, we’ve sent people to the moon, created the internet, decoded our genome and extended our average lifetimes significantly.
It is, in these material respects, a wondrous golden age to behold.
The self-evident wonders of modern innovation are a double edged sword, though. Their very success breeds a blindness to their own undoings. The easiest but wrong way to look at material advancement is linearly- We had less, now we have more, we were worse off, now we’re better off, we were primitive, now we’re advanced.
This simple idea of linear progress just isn’t true. Modern philosopher Marshall McLuhan pointed out a pattern in technological innovations- rather than seeing each new medium as simply “better” for having been invented, he points to a more nuanced look at each innovation, by considering the following questions about them:
-What does it enhance?- How does this new innovation make things better? This is the default question a lot of people turn to when looking at the progressions of modernity.
-What does it make obsolete?- What do we no longer use or do because of this new technology?
-What does it retrieve that was obsolesced earlier?- New innovations revive a sense of what had been lost before, but in a new way. Radio brought back the importance of the spoken word, cell phones and social media brought back proximity to our neighbors, quantum mechanics brought back a sense of immaterialism and nondeterminism in physics.
-What does it flip into when pushed to extremes? Here is the crux of the hidden pernicious side to modernity’s material ‘golden age.’ These are unintended consequences and often downsides. Cars brought us pollution and traffic jams, social media brought us distraction, fakeness, and isolation, modern agriculture brought us ecological destruction, consumption of junk food and pesticides, modern media brought us marketing and advertising which has ushered a culture of materialism, consumption and celebrity worship, the instant gratification of modern technology reduced our patience and attention spans, modern engineering led to the development of nuclear weapons and the means to destroy life on earth.
Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. -Martin Luther King
In many ways, because of the advancements of modernity, we have access to the most information than ever before, and in that sense, we are in a golden age. But we are also surrounded by a cultural matrix of commodity fetishization, degenerative culture, distraction, systemic privilege, hyper consumption and atomization. In that sense, we are overdue for a renaissance.
The classical Greeks and Renaissance Italians did not need refrigeration, smartphones and automobiles to engender a civilization that brought them an unprecedented burst of philosophy, art and culture. This doesn’t mean that modern technology and high culture are mutually exclusive. This has been the claim of anarcho-primitivists who note modern cultural degeneracy and mistakenly see these trends as direct evidence that culture and modernity cannot coexist.
In reality, the evolutionary process is dialectical. Every phase brings with it new challenges, which are then synthesized into new solutions. This means our challenge isn’t to reverse the technological trend- it’s to learn how to harness it for higher ends through even more innovation, crucially guided by more noble values.
Today we are already seeing the rumblings of the potential for a modern cultural renaissance. We can reject the debilitations of modernity without necessarily turning to primitivism. We can enjoy our technologies without becoming a slave to them- but only by cultivating virtue into the minds of our citizens and leaders.
The ultimate quest for human civilization is to optimize our spirit and our technological capabilities. Evolution passed us the baton when it handed us our neocortex, giving us consciousness and the ability to conceptualize, plan, and take responsibility. Then, and now more than ever, humanity is playing the highest stakes game with its very existence. Do we take this sacred baton of evolution and drop it, squandering it on hate, fear, greed and small-mindedness, destroying ourselves or descending into Idiocracy? Or do we follow through on the sacred task, and take this process that began in Earth’s primordial pools all the way to the Omega Point?
The hour of decision looms, the countdown to launch can be heard. This is the moment all of human history has culminated to- so what’s it going to be? Failure to launch and implosion, or Humanity 2.0?
Humanity 2.0 will wisely and altruistically use artificial intelligence, cyborg enhancements and genetic engineering in a way that provides universal access and empowers everyone. But if our collective consciousness fails to launch or rise to the challenges of these transformative technologies, transhumanism will be defined by the highest bidders, and there will be no going back from the resulting dystopia.
Like a post- Star Trek world, imagine a highly technologically advanced society that is full of composed, thoughtful, confident, dutiful, freethinking and talented people with healthy psyches. The technological advancement is already here and closing in fast. The consciousness revolution to eliminate government corruption and embrace the collective upgrade is scarily behind.
Technology is neither inherently good or evil-it’s simply a tool. How that tool is used is determined by the values, thought and intention behind its innovation and use. When we optimize our values, cultures and our minds and wisely guide our optimized technology, we will have reached the next phase of evolution of not only humanity, but of life and the universe itself.
A renaissance that proactively evolves the human condition by maximizing our collective consciousness will unleash a golden age the likes humanity has never seen before. We will fuse the vast knowledge and power already achieved by modernity with a cultural and political renaissance, synergizing them into a potent alchemy that will spark a quantum leap that will take is to the stars- both figuratively and literally.