2113 (part three) – Under Fifty Million Humans
My series 2113 is a speculative series of articles on a fictional timeline of the future set one century from now. This time portrays the future as it might be based on several premises. One premise is that we have no major catastrophes, and progress persists more or less without major industrial or societal collapse as it has for the last few centuries. Another premise is that we’ll have not a clear-cut singularity, however that the emergence of artificial intelligence, the transition of human minds in to machine substrates and the recognition of non-human minds and human mental minds on artificial substrates is achieved seamlessly and without major societal disruption. The article also assumes a somewhat implausible continuation of the current abundance-assuming paradigm of freedom, free trade, globalism (or what might be labelled ‘universalism’, in the 22nd century), a further increase and refinement of democracy and a growth of both individual affluence of all people, as well as a vast increase in individual affluence of elites.
The first installment of this series was about the general outlines of this future and can be found Here, the second was about a specific failure (or tragic) mode, in case of certain dead-end asteroid colonies, Here, This article is posted Here, and eventually you, my readership (all three of them) might find the forth installment Here. Since I abhor comment management on this blog due to spam predation, I will eventually invite my readers to respond with questions and criticisms, for which you are already encouraged to email me.
The 21st century exploded and was completely unlike the 20th century. Fairly soon all who lived in this universe started realizing the uncomfortable truth that whatever was happening around them was becoming completely incomprehensible. By 2113 this is becoming a problem, since political management of such turbulence has become next to impossible. The moment someone established ‘authority’ anywhere, within seconds, minutes, hours or days the hyper-dynamic system of traffic, communication, commerce, transaction creates unmanageable exceptions and paradoxes and effectively challenges that authority. As a result there is no more ‘state’ in 2113 (and The State died well before that date), and all things happen consensual and ‘algorithmically democratic’.
There are massively posthuman minds in 2113, especially in the energy fertile halo around the Earth where lunar materials exported from the fairly dense lunar gravity rise up from the lunar surface by the billions of tons daily quickly coalesce to form intricate mechanisms to harvest and utilize solar energy. These minds are vastly smarter than baseline human minds. In such an environment of extropy the biggest minds in the solar system interact but since they not any more knowledgeable than their billions of immediate (and quite otherwise developed) competitors these minds just play catchup. Nobody, not even the smartest mind, has any semblance of control.
There is a massive dynamic flux between scarcity and abundance in the solar system. Ambition, desire, imagination, greed for the denizens of the solar system of 2213 quickly outpaces the constraints of such any resource surplus. Everyone wants more, immediately. This engenders a highly competitive environment. In such environment there is displacement, and since everyone has a stake to defend against displacement the only remotely stable legal infrastructure of the Solar System (in theory reaching beyond the orbit of Saturn) is about tempering displacement. The solar system is a hostile environment and if some agency decides to buy up all oxygen products in this or that month, potentially a few million humanoids living nearby suffocate the next week. Everything is on-demand. There are no long-term guarantees or contracts.
The only way to defend against any such predatory displacement is by means of “economic democracy”. This was realized first in the 2030s of the previous century when one after another country saw their inhabitants scramble in a mad panic to guarantee their constituents equivalents of “basic income”. This process of “equity emanicipation” was inescapable in 2020 hind sight. Politicians sure took their sweet time implementing it, and if it had been implemented in the 2020s maybe a billion lives in the third world wouldn’t have been displaced in to premature extinction. Water under the bridge in 2113.
Another major difference for what it means to be human was life extension. That particular progress went considerably faster than everyone expected in advance. It took humans decades to finally turn cancer in to ‘an ecology of curable diseases’ but a simple affordable therapy that replicated most functional symptoms of health .. however the ability to bestow youth took Google just over 15 years. Hundreds of millions of people that were getting old and frail around the turn of the 3rd millennium found themselves to their stark surprise turning in to the equivalent of twenty-somethings by the middle 2030s to 2050s. The historically oldest person alive in 2113 was born just after the second world war. That is a 165 year old human citizen in 2113 … except for one little detail.
The oldest somewhat biological human in 2113 was born in the year 1963. That’s a little younger, and that person lives on the Moon, and doesn’t look a day over 19. The oldest historical human on the other hand isn’t anywhere near human any more. This person isn’t even a person anymore, and even worse – it isn’t even a single psyche any more.
In 2113 roughly half of the people that lived a century earlier didn’t formally die. They are all still around in some form, and many of them in many forms. They slowly changed their bodies in incremental steps, metamorphing from mostly biological humanoids in to enhanced humanoids (2030s-2040s), then slowly in to cybernetic organisms (2040s-2060s) and gradually the most of these turned themselves in to mostly virtual beings linked to ‘plastinated’ brains that ran in some clinical laboratory environment (2060-2080) and finally the vast majority of formerly human beings became info-morphs – largely software constructs that emulated the legacy individuality of the person they once were (2060-2090). Not in any manner that could be interpreted as less or inferior than humans. In fact the original biological humans they used to be would be as insignificant larval forms compared to these post-humans. And they wouldn’t just scatter out of the terrestrial gravity wells by the billions – they’d move to the Moon, Mars, Mercury, the Asteroid Belt. But these minds would also procreate laterally – create idealized variants of themselves, or copied themselves (2050-2078) until the authorities finally made lateral copying of sentient citizenship illegal.
Visualise the human species leaving mortality and biological constraints behind and entering in to this existential diaspora. This happened fast. It happened as much as would an explosion of change. In the 2030s it was hundreds of humans who left in to space. In the 2040s it became thousands of humans, most of these humans subtly edited. In the 2050s the ascent of humans in to space had succumbed to the logarithmic progress rates of information technology and had escalated in to the tens of thousands, and come 2080 millions of humans were migrating in to space, and most of these humans barely had recognizable human bodies. At the same time there was an explosion of individual humans, trans-humans and post-humans, each seeking their own niche, meaning, rationale and in full pursuit of prosperity and happiness on the surface of Earth, and natural biological reproduction became an antiquarian oddity only practiced by the few. Human bodies were replaced by synthetic vatgrown bodies, humans created android partners and sought to bestow full recognition as legal persons and citizens in the eyes of the law for these partners. Population expansion followed an S curve between 2035 and 2080 on Earth and in the near Earth system. Humanity, transitional humanity and post humanity ballooned in numbers from several billion to close to two trillion. Clearly the vast majority of these minds were not physically incarnated and most lived info-morph lives.
That leaves us to deliberate the fate of humanity. For what does it mean to be a human being? Thinking at a snails pace dictated by biological neurons, imbibing food, breathing air and having children through arbitrary sexual procreation? Because if that were the constraint the last pure human was born somewhere after 2075. Fundamentalist humanity died then, since after that date natural procreation was declared outlawed and apart from some incidents was not practiced again. But many tried to remain as human as they could within the strict constraints of legality. Many sought to outlaw the pathetic state of humanity, mostly for reasons of pity. The residual “mostly baseline” humans quickly dwindled and by 2080 none were left. All had hadf their bodied altered and it need be added quite voluntarily. Even a minor upgrade is a vast improvement over the natural state and none objected much. But a small fraction of humans insisted on cultivating a lifestyle that would be at least moderately recognizable for their forebears in the 20th century, having more or less human bodies, more or less human lives in “cities”, insisting on eating and sleeping and ambulation and fairly recognizable speech. Some even read books and watched movies and did things that were crafts very similar to the crafts practiced all throughout human history. This violitional luddite state (or “ludditional”) became for the masses of posthumanity a snailpace slow spectactor sport and these humans were left alone, heavily subsidized and able to follow their archaic lifestyles to their hearts content. However the temptations of transitioning to another state were tempting, and ludditional numbers dwindled over time. In 2113 only some fifty million are left.
As the surface of the earth has transformed in to something unrecognizable – the atmosphere is thick with a soup of industrial nanoids, the average temperature is at least ten degrees higher world wide – these ludditionals live mostly underground on the Earth and on the moon, and most in a few dozen titanic caverns deep in most stable planetary tectonic bedrock of the planet. Many are religious, many practice “re-enactment”, and as said their curious lifestyle is quite expensive. A dwindling few circulate back and forth between an infomorph existence (although this is met with hostility with the majority of them) and a flesh existence. Their numbers have followed a steady downwards S curve trend, and it is widely believed that because of predating economic pressure their lifestyle will have become ‘fiscally’ unsustainable by 2150 or so.
This was written by me, Khannea Suntzu. The article may be reprinted or quoted with attribution. The article has specifically been made available for reprinting for Zero State publications, IEET, Transhumanity, Singularity Hub, Turing Church, Space Collective, Singularity Network, Terasem and VenusPlusX. I may opt to slightly edit the article later on. This is the 4rd installment of my 2113 series.