When It Comes to Neanderthals, Humans May Be the Borg

The extinction and competition hypotheses for the demise of the Neanderthals, notably suggested by interdisciplinary scientist and author Jared Diamond, hinge on the idea that humans were more advanced than Neanderthals. Commonly claimed are the following: that humans had more communicative abilities, were more efficient hunters, had superior weaponry, ate a broader diet, and had more extensive social networks.

But the archaeological record doesn’t back any of those claims, the authors found.

In 2010, scientists discovered that between one and four percent of the DNA of modern humans living outside of Africa is derived from Neanderthals, providing clear evidence that the two species were interbreeding to some extent tens of thousands of years ago. In January of this year, Benjamin Vernot and Joshua Akey of the University of Washington published a paper in Science that corroborated those results. They found that a fifth of Neanderthals’ genetic code lives on within our species as a whole.

via RealClearScience – When It Comes to Neanderthals, Humans May Be the Borg.

As someone who discovered last year that they were 3% Neanderthal, and given the now very low population estimates for Neanderthals, this strikes me as completely plausible.  Maybe Neanderthals didn’t die out so much as marry into the family.  In other words, we are Neanderthals.  (At least those of us who aren’t from recent African stock are.)

Virtual afterlives will transform humanity – Michael Graziano – Aeon

Imagine a future in which your mind never dies. When your body begins to fail, a machine scans your brain in enough detail to capture its unique wiring. A computer system uses that data to simulate your brain. It won’t need to replicate every last detail. Like the phonograph, it will strip away the irrelevant physical structures, leaving only the essence of the patterns. And then there is a second you, with your memories, your emotions, your way of thinking and making decisions, translated onto computer hardware as easily as we copy a text file these days.

via Virtual afterlives will transform humanity – Michael Graziano – Aeon.

There are certain thinkers for which just about everything they say seems to resonate with me, whether because what they’re saying are simple truths, or because my biases are in sync with theirs.  Michael Graziano is rapidly becoming one of these for me.  This article mirrors my thoughts in this area to a large degree.

But I do envision one extra complication that Graziano omits.  I can see many people electing to do what he describes: joining into group minds, losing their identities, particularly after they’ve removed the emotions that cause us to value self identity.  Many people find this idea abhorrent.  The Borg in Star Trek were one of the creepiest threats for a reason.

But I can also see a lot of people resisting that trend.  Perhaps these people would be careful to instantiate themselves into their own hardware / body to minimize the chances of the group mind effect.  On the other side, I could see group minds becoming a type of predator, trying to incorporate as many independent minds as possible to increase their strength.  A potentially very scary future.

Of course, it’s possible group minds would be appeased with a copy of the individualist’s minds, with perhaps a one way syncing of memories to receive updates.  Maybe.  It would depend on how threatening the group mind saw the existence of those independent minds.

Speaking of data synchronization, in a future where we can have multiple copies of ourselves running around, memory synchronization might become a critical feature.  It’s easy to imagine that copies which were isolated from the others might become too different, perhaps eventually wishing a divorce of sorts from the others.

Individuals could, in theory, become antagonists toward each other.  A concept explored in science fiction.

The future of the human race could be stranger than we can possibly imagine.