It is interesting that human DNA is 98.6% the same as the gorilla and 97.8% the same as orangutans, our original biological roots. It seems inevitable that sequencing of the human genome will bring a new level of knowledge of our biological makeup. As we begin to understand the subtle yet significant differences, the consequences are awesome.
Technology will enhance biology through the virtual elimination of disease and significant increase in longevity. But, will it also increase raw intelligence? Surely choosing the physical and mental characteristics of your child through genetic selection would be preferable to the current biological lottery.
Increasingly in the future, people will be constantly connected to the world through intelligent processors and communications. These devices will be everywhere - in our clothes, our beds, our homes, all over and even inside our bodies. Does that change a personâ€™s raw intelligence? If you protest that it does not, then how will you measure the difference?
As you read this, you don't really know whether I can spell properly or write grammatically correct language because my word-processing program has automatically corrected my spelling errors and grammar. And my integrated thesaurus has allowed me to choose words that didnâ€™t come to me naturally.
Similarly, my knowledge and experience on virtually any subject are supplemented by Internet access. Although I am an electronics engineer and have never been to medical school, I've gained a level of fame as a medical consultant among friends and acquaintances. And, I have given amazing demonstrations as a biochemist, an archeologist, and an entomologist. My primary tool for demonstrations of my power is an Internet connection and one of many excellent search engines. Within a couple of years, I won't even be tied to my desk - I'll have a fast wireless connection with the PDA in my pocket.
The point I am making is this: today, traditional tests of knowledge and intelligence are obsolete. Just as an inexpensive calculator endows a middle-school junior with the math capability of a savant, an Internet connection represents an extension of human capabilities that provides vast power and knowledge to the user. Evolution has taken a step forward.
Before you think I am being too grandiose, consider this. Evolution is survival of the fittest - Homo sapiens with a tool survived while the equivalent, sans tool, did not. History makes it evident that man-with-tool conquered man-without. Even mentally and spiritually advanced societies (India a few centuries ago, Aztecs and American Indians within the last two) were quickly subjugated by technological prowess.
The development of tools continually extended human powers through the agricultural and industrial revolutions until today, when we have developed vast computational capability combined with instant worldwide communications and connectivity.
It took humans thousands of years to get to the industrial revolution, following which technological developments continued with an exponential rate of change. Towards the end of the last century, significant changes in the human landscape occurred in just decades. In this next century, technology speed-up will continue with major evolutionary consequences.
The new millennium is bringing enormous changes in all areas of human consciousness - social, philosophical, spiritual - we must begin to consider the ramifications and prepare for them.
Soon perhaps, a new level of evolutionary intelligence will allow humans to focus, not on selfish advancement, but on spirituality and love.