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Cyberlife,evolution-off topic,long.

A lot of people have said things that I agree with on this topic, but I 
still think it's time for me to add my two cents worth. Okay, I'm going 
to go way off-topic from dinosaurs. It's also quite a long message. My 
apologies. If you don't want to read it remember 'D is for delete' :)

On Thu, 27 Jul 1995 STUCHKUS@GG.csc.peachnet.edu wrote:

> Just think of a world plunged into 6 months of dark and cold.  Evolution
> states the strongest survive, but this is amazing.

Indeed, when one looks at how destructive a major impact (impacts) could 
be, it's amazing that anything survives.

>     I believe the really sober thought is that without man the Earth was
> able to rebound from such a cosmic disaster.  It has been said time heals
> all wounds.  The repopulation of the Earth proves it.
>     With this thought at hand I beleive it's time for man to take himself
> off his self exhalted throne and live with rest of the world.  Man's

We already do. We can't help living with the rest of the world. But if by 
'living with the rest of the world' you mean balancing our impact on the 
environment and 'living in harmony with nature', I'll get back to this 
point in a moment.

> technological advances which he believes will ease his daily survival end
> up complicating it.  From the earliest blacksmiths man has polluted his
> environment trying to make his own existence easier.  Now he has to go
> back and clean up the mess he created to while trying to improve his
> survivabilty.

Stuff 'n' nonsense. Technological advances _have_ made human lives 
easier, more productive, longer, and generally happier. Try living as a 
humter-gatherer. You basically won't have any free time for recreation or 
intellectual pursuits of any sort. You'll also probably die as a result 
of a trivial infection or injury which could easily be treated with 
modern technology. Every technological step humans have taken has made 
our lives better. The simple development of hunting tools like the bow 
and arrow or the spear made it easier and safer to harvest other animals 
for food, the invention of rope (and hence the snare and the fishing net) 
made it possible to collect food without all that dangerous, difficult 
running around and sneaking. Further technological advances made it 
possible to live by doing only one thing and doing it well (making pottery, 
for instance) rather than having to gather all your food directly. Each 
step we've made has been for the general betterment of our species. And in 
many cases these technological advances have made many people/nations 
wealthy enough that they can freely afford to donate some of their 
resources to help other people/nations in worse circumstances. Society 
isn't a zero-sum game.
        As for the pollution that humans have caused, I'd just like to
point out that no species in the entire history of life has existed 'in 
harmony with the environment'. The earliest photosynthetic organisms 
spewed out pollution without a care. The fact that we can't live without 
this pollution (O2) tends to blind us to the fact that it's introduction 
to the world in huge quantities was an environmentally destructive event 
at the time. Animals in the wild don't carefully consider how much to 
eat, or whether to starve for the the good of the rest of their 
ecosystem, just to stay 'in balance'. Animals frequently eat all the food 
available to them, destroyig their habitats and themselves in the process.
This sort of behaviour is by no means confined to H. sapiens. If 
anything, it is our brains and the ability to understand in detail 
(thanks in part to our technology, ie satellite based observations of the 
atmosphere and oceans) what we are doing to the Earth that give us a 
chance of making up our minds about how we use our resources. And the way 
to do this is not to simply say 'Science/technology is evil!' as the
inappropriately named Neo-Luddites choose to. Low-tech ways of doing 
things tend to be more polluting than high-tech ways, and technology 
gives us the best way we have of finding non-polluting ways to 
manufacture products, transport food, etc. We should embrace 
science and what it can tells us about our situation on this planet. As 
someone-or-other once said (it might have been Carl Sagan) 'humans are a 
way for evolution to understand itself', and this is where paleontology 
becomes relevant. We can use the fossil record to judge whether our 
actions wil have significant good/bad effects, and try to figure out 
whether changes we observe really are the result of human activities, or 
some other force at work (like Milankovich cycles). And then we can use 
the brains evolution gave us, and the tools that we gave us to judge how 
we should act.
        My personal opinion is that it would be a pity to drive a species 
to extinction, but that humans are a truly unique and wonderful species. 
A lot of people act as if we're awful, a judgement based on the fact that 
we wage war and genocide, enslave our fellows, etc. But so do other species.
And no other species (from this planet) has ever composed a symphony, or 
written peotry to a lover, created a beautiful building, or performed 
open-heart surgery to save the life of one of it's fellows. No other species
has listened to the radio waves from galaxies a billion light-years away, 
or left footprints on another planet (counting the moon as a minor planet).
For an unlikely-looking african ape, we have achieved many wonderful things.
Let's not underestimate ourselves. We should continue to grow and achieve and
improve. And I'm certain that we, or our descendent species (one of which 
will almost certainly be robotic) will do so, out there in space. And I 
don't think we'll forsake the other species on earth in the process. 
We'll probably 'uplift' or 'upload' dolphins, chimps, etc as well.

> as long as supreme beings are not involved.  It's depressing, but
> probably inevitable that man will some day be dethroned as the greatest
> force of speciation on this planet.  

Humans will undoubtedly be dethroned someday. Every species becomes 
extinct sooner or later. The big question is, will we leave any 
descendent species? As I said above, I'm sure we will. Genetic 
engineering technology will make it possible for us to make a people who 
live longer, are immune to disease, are stronger, smarter, etc. 
I would also like to tip my hat to G S Paul for his(?) most recent 
message on this topic. I agree whole-heartedly that it will be possible 
in the very near future for humans to create and become mechanical lifeforms
with indefinite lifespans, greater mental faculties (including the 
ability to be emotional), and all sorts of abilities that we can only 
dream of now. Imagine how convenient it would be to make backup copies of 
yourself incase anything unfortunate happened to you, or make copies of 
yourself, send each one out for a trip to a different part of the galaxy, 
and then reunite, plug your minds together and share the experiences, 
becoming one single being again. Imagine what sex would be like if you 
could very literally plug your mind and your partner's mind together
and share all the feelings of the experience to a degree that is simply 
not feasible to present day humans! The possibilities would be literally 
limited only by our (greatly expanded) imaginations. Anyone who thinks 
that these ideas are pure science fiction, or if they do come true will 
be impractical for all but the richest people should consider this; forty 
years ago, a computer costing millions of dollars and occupying a number 
of rooms was slower and could perform fewer functions than a present day 
pocket calculator costing $20. Cybertechnologies will be expensive at first,
but will become easy and cheap to produce very fast when they are developed.
And similarly, space colonization will become cheaper and simpler as time 
goes by (or it would, if anyone was willing to actually support it,
grumble grumble NASA grumble grumble grumble William Proxmire grumble ..)
and while our cyberselves would be better suited to life in space, the sheer
quantity of space and resources to use out in the endless frontier will 
overcome the initial difficulties of getting out of Earth's gravity well, 
even in our present state. That's where the evolution of life and 
intelligence will really get going.
Hah! And you thought the Cambrian Explosion was spectacular! :)

Health, long life, and happiness,

  Sundance O. Bilson-Thompson.     *  "So scorn me for a wolfling, sneer 
   Adelaide, South Australia       * at my orphan scars. But tell me boys
 student Mathematical Physicist    *   what's your excuse? you ET's and 
      and Redhead fanatic.         * your stars!" The Uplift War - D.Brin