A remarkably frank, comprehensive assessment of 21st-century life is only the staging area for one of the richest, wildly imaginative rocket ship rides into the future of humanity.
The first two-thirds of Darwin’s book are dedicated to carefully cataloguing the greed, selfishness and myopia currently afflicting humankind today, and readers might ask, “So when does the ominous prognostication that the title suggests kick in?” Well, hang on, because when it does, it’s enough the blow off the top of even the most ardent futurist’s head. Here is a fantastic world of tomorrow filled with new races of virtual immortals poised to test the very boundaries of space and time. More incredible, however, than the artificial post-humans, organic post-humans, robots and still-normal humans predicted to one day inhabit the planet is the sheer plausibility of it all. Matching the same sober, meticulous narrative demonstrated earlier in the book, the author (in the guise of an extraterrestrial intelligence) coolly extrapolates what impact genetic engineering, nanotechnology and robotics might have on the future of humankind. The result is an uncanny universe as astounding as any modern-day comic book creator or ancient myth-maker might imagine. Rooted in present realities, the future of humankind as envisioned here is a fantastically variable and pliable thing. While some might one day opt for a Matrix-like existence exploring virtual worlds via online avatars, others might evolve into super-beings with the ability to draw sustenance from the sun and morph into their environment. It’s a mind-boggling thought experiment with profound, far-reaching implications. Much, of course, is controversial and predicated upon the assumption that human beings will really want to live forever given the opportunity. But there are other things to ponder: When is a robot alive? At what point are you something other than human? How will organic post-humans and artificial post-humans interact? Someday, according to the author, these are the kinds of questions a profoundly changed humanity will have to face.
A futurist looks into the mirror and barely recognizes the strange human being staring back.