[Paleopsych] ACC-list: Post-Darwinian Conflict

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Post-Darwinian Conflict
Arthur C. Clarke list
Date: Fri, 19 Aug 2005 15:59:36 -0000
From: "Alex Alaniz, PhD" <akalaniz at comcast.net>
To: acc-list at yahoogroups.com

An essay concerning law, social identity, inequality, conflict, crime, warfare 
and economic reality at the cusp of humanity's entry into post-corporeal, 
post-Darwinian evolution

Introduction--Humanity's entry into the post-Darwinian era

A draft of the human genome was released in the journal Nature in 2001 [1]. 
Today, the technology to sequence a human genome from scratch is being reduced 
to smallish, so-called biochips by companies like Affymetrix. In addition to 
finding their way into your doctor's office in the not-too-distant future, such 
biochips are currently being used with other advanced technologies to study how 
our DNA circuitry works in real-time [2], as well as to compare how the 
circuitry changes from youth to old age [3]. Genome therapies, moreover, are 
currently working their way thru clinical trials, and are about to be performed 
on the unborn [4]. We have developed genetically modified foods, and have mixed 
monkeys with jelly fish [5] to name but a few examples of our growing prowess 
to treat genetic codes as so much software. Humanity, thus, for better or for 
worse, has entered the era of post-Darwinian evolution, and it will not be long 
before we begin tinkering with ways to extend our lives and augment our 

Even more profoundly, it is not too far-fetched to imagine humanity entering a 
post-corporeal as well as a post-Darwinian era. Consider the recent development 
of neuroelectronic systems in particular [6] and the current clinical work to 
build direct brain/machine interfaces for paraplegics and quadriplegics [7]. 
The FDA has, in fact, recently granted approval to allow Cyberkinetics to begin 
a clinical trial in which small chips will be placed beneath the skulls of 
paraplegic patients to control computers by thought alone. Further down the 
line there are ongoing efforts to build brain chips to replace Alzheimer and 
stroke damaged brain tissue in general by Dr. Berger and colleagues at the 
University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Given the above developments and humanity's propensity for seeking out 
competitive advantages, it is likely that in the not-too-distant future people 
will seek out elective, post-Darwinian brain augmentation procedures, and that 
new kinds of social conflict will arise. In other words, we should be expecting 
profound changes in social identity, inequality, conflict, crime, warfare, 
economic and legal reality to come to pass in the not-too-distant future. To 
this end, many people, several organizations and even the United States 
government are already beginning to address some of the issues of a 
post-Darwinian, post-corporeal future. The United States, for instance, under 
the National Science Foundation (NSF) grant CTS-0128860 cosponsored a large, 
extensive study entitled, "Converging technologies for improving human 
performance: nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and 
cognitive science." Additionally, in this case with the support of the Commerce 
Department, the Converging Technologies Bar Association (CTBA) was recently 
launched in New York. Please refer to the CTBA at 
http://www.convergingtechnologies.org/. Also recently, Professor George Khushf 
and several colleagues of the University of South Carolina won a 1.35 million 
dollar grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the societal 
impact of nanotech and related trends such as nano, bio, info and cognitive 
technology convergence.

This essay will address some of the legal, social, and economic issues of a 
post-Darwinian future, pose many questions, and try to make the case that now 
is the time for active discussion regarding the development of legal and 
economic means to greatly reduce—if not altogether prevent—the dangers and 
pitfalls of the real future shock about to befall all of us, namely, our entry 
into a post-Darwinian evolutionary era. It will also touch on the possible 
natures and physical restrictions constraining a post-Darwinian evolution, and 
discuss our likely motivations for entry into a post-corporeal era, along with 
the possible attendant social and economic consequences, such as the 
possibility of the richest rich, as post corporeal beings, so rapidly consuming 
the world's resources, the poorest poor are starved out of existence. It will 
conclude with a call for simulations of the world in the not-too-distant future 
along the lines of the popular internet game SimCity.

1. Post-Darwinian, post-corporeal scenarios

On the good side of the post-Darwinian, post-corporeal brain augmentation era, 
we can imagine that attorneys and medical doctors, for instance, would find it 
useful to store all case law and case histories, respectfully, for ready 
reference inside sophisticated cranial silico-bio-implants. Armies of financial 
analysts would find it advantageous to have all real-time data streams piped 
wirelessly into their heads along with all global news feeds. The flood of 
information would then be filtered and processed in real time by powerful data 
crunching neuroimplants to extract exploitable patterns in the less than 
efficient real world financial markets. The same could be said for soldiers, 
meteorologists, public health officials, and so on, all to humanity's better 
good, but there is also a more deleterious side to the technology to consider. 
Imagine, say, an aggressive financial analyst who, without scruple, would hack 
into the mental resources of one of his coworkers to steal information, plant a 
debilitating electronic virus, or even more maliciously, plant a deadly 
electronic virus that not only kills its intended victim, but, because of an 
unintended mutation in the wild, ultimately extinguishes humanity. On a larger 
scale, consider the neuro-embedded spying, mind control, even population 
control which, enabled by the mass production and mass use of neuroimplants, 
may be pursued by governments, or by terrorist groups, or even by a powerful, 
individual industrialist in the business of supplying neuroimplants.

2. Viruses

Given today's electronic viral instabilities and their ever increasing number 
and pace, it seems foregone to conclude that if/when humanity begins wide scale 
use of neuroimplants, the electronic virus problem will grow far worse and far 
more personal. A brain surgeon for instance, using a neural implant chip to 
better navigate his telerobotic arm around an MRI-based three-dimensional 
projection of some lesion might, being infected by some teenager's electronic 
virus, snip a wrong section of tissue. Would his or her medical practice 
insurance cover electronic virus liability? What would be the legal standards 
required to prove that the severity of the electronic infection was the cause 
of the error versus the probability of it having been caused by a simple, old 
fashioned mistake? Would the manufacturer of the neurochip be fair game for a 
lawsuit, the claim being the manufacturer supplied insufficient or faulty virus 
protection in its product? Would the neurosurgeon who implanted the chip into 
the neurosurgeon who snipped the wrong section be sued as well? Where would the 
liability chain stop? Perhaps instead, either in anticipation, or, more likely, 
after too much damage has been done, lawmakers might require surgeons (and all 
other high stakes professionals) to undergo industry regulated virus scans 
before performing their specialties, cap legal damages, and cut the chain of 
liability to go no further than the producers of virus scanners. Perhaps 
lawmakers would relegate the ultimate responsibility of virus scanning to the 
appropriate government bodies only, say, the Federal Aviation Administration 
for scanning pilots, and similarly.

3. Cheating

As touched upon in the introduction, a financial analyst, say, with freshly 
augmented state-of-the-art neuro-implanted capabilities, such as wireless 
connections to the internet, and new powerful number crunching functions, and 
so forth, might try to hack in a competitor's mind, via his competitor's own 
older, lesser capable neuroimplants. What combination of legal deterrents would 
it take to discourage such behavior before it occurs, and what kind of policing 
methods would it take to enforce anti-hacking laws and/or to detect hacking 
crimes after the fact? How would the degrees of the severity of the hacking 
crime be defined, and, for that matter, what legal elements would have to be 
proved in a hacking case? Moreover, what types of sentencing guidelines should 
lawmakers set, and would the victim financial analyst and his or her company be 
subject to legal action from financially hurt clients for not having used the 
latest neuroimplant and virus scanning technologies?

4. Murder

Through many a Hollywood film, we have been presented with the idea that the 
internet may be used as an instrument to produce mass murder, e.g., the use of 
the internet to change airport approach patterns resulting in crashed airplanes 
for instance. Along this line, future heart rhythm defibrillators, like today's 
more expensive automobiles, will likely come built with wireless internet 
connectivity capabilities to be used to report impending problems to patients 
and doctors, and even to enable temporary adjustments to be made under more 
dire circumstances. What is to prevent someone wishing to collect his or her 
inheritance sooner than later from attempting to kill his or her wealthy, 
defibrillator using benefactor? Again a whole host of attendant legal and 
technological questions follow.

5. Post-Darwinian, post-corporeal evolution and ultimate winners

The issues such as those discussed above, and their innumerable variations, 
have been predicated on human beings remaining, except for their neural 
implants, essentially as human as our species is today, circa 2004. I, however, 
very much doubt that once the neuro implant game begins, humanity will remain 
corporeal for very long afterwards. Research work going back more than a decade 
and reported in important, peer reviewed journals has demonstrated the joining 
of neuronal nets with electronics via impaled microelectrodes [8, 9, 10]. More 
recent research being conducted at the prestigious Max Planck Institute for 
Biochemistry has reported in Physical Review Letters successful, direct, 
noninvasive coupling of a silicon chip with the basic element of neuronal 
learning via electric fields [6]. Along these lines, Dr. Berger at the 
University of Southern California is attempting to develop a hippocampus brain 
prosthesis chip for Alzheimer's disease. Given all this work, I can imagine the 
eventual development of hybrid silico-bacterial-nanobots designed to directly 
couple with a person's brain tissue to (1) absorb and archive all the person's 
knowledge in situ, (2) augment the person's mental capabilities in situ, and 
(3) connect the person's mind to the wireless internet. Such a person, much as 
we are oblivious of which brain cells drive our conscious thought, would, 
through his or her lifetime, remain oblivious that his or her brain cells, 
dying of old age, are being replaced by more robust, faster bio-silico 
replacements. He or she may even remain unaware that parts of his or her 
consciousness may begin to reside inside wirelessly linked extra-corporeal 
servers, which I dub IQ mindspace servers. With our frail human bodies being so 
susceptible to damage from bacterial and viral infections, cancers and 
accidents, why wouldn't the natural progression to humanity's use of 
neuroimplant technology be to embed itself directly into more robust, redundant 
IQ mindspace nano/bio-electronic/spintronic-based server farms spanning the 
Earth in bunkers, or orbiting it, or on the Moon, or beyond. In such an evolved 
post-Darwinian, post-corporeal world, all necessary interaction with the 
corporeal world to dig for energy resources, manufacture power plants, produce 
goods, run laboratories, explore the solar system, etc., could then be done 
telerobotically using (bio)robots ranging in size from the nano scale and 
upwards. Clearly, this path, should we take it, will spell the end of evolution 
by passive natural selection far more rapidly than our current post-genomic 
tinkering is already doing so. Lifespan lengths will then be indefinite, and 
humanity, moreover, will have entered the post-Darwinian, post-corporeal 
evolutionary phase.

5.1 Micro scale conflict, zombies and "unMurder"

In such a post-Darwinian, post-corporeal world, on a smallish, micro scale, a 
financial analyst might rather infiltrate, overwhelm and ultimately control a 
competitor's very IQ mindspace's will, making the victim an overpowered 
lackey—read zombie—with the victim's cohorts, family and friends remaining 
none-the-wiser throughout some indefinite period. Would it seem reasonable to 
conclude that the victim would thus be rendered nonexistent, or should he or 
she be considered murdered and dead? Might it not be possible, the perpetrator 
having saved his victim's mental assets in some kind of static memory device, 
that such a murder could be undone? For the undoing of such type of murder, 
more akin to a coma, would one have to demonstrate to the court by a 
preponderance of evidence, from family members, friends and associates, under 
an extensive psychological examination process, that, more likely than not, the 
victim's characteristics have been restored wholly and with little or no 
significant corruption? Could spouses claim rape? Could employers claim 
sabotage? Finally, if the victim could not be legally proven to be unmurdered, 
would the "entity" remaining behind, unless family or friends took him or her 
in, be left out in the cold, having no access to any of his or her prior 
possessions or privileges. In such cases, would it be the government's 
responsibility to take care of the hapless victims?

5.2 Macro scale conflict and ultimate winners

On a larger, macro scale, the issues of a post-Darwinian, post-corporeal world 
of competition and conflict would likely acquire a far more ominous tenor. Let 
us assume that business works as usual, and that the more money one has, the 
more one could and would use it to augment one's own brain. Then an empire 
builder such as Mr. Bill Gates, whose wealth exceeds the first billion or so 
poorest people, now becoming blessed with an indefinite cyber-based lifespan 
and controlling an army of employees, agents, as well as an army of 
semi-autonomous robots could come to dwarf humanity in a way the mortals Khan, 
Napoleon, Hitler, or Stalin never could. A post corporeal Mr. Bill Gates, 
occupying one of the world's largest IQ mindspace server farms, could in 
principle be running in the background all manner of (bio-molecular 
manufacturing based) factories, laboratories, fossil fuel extraction 
operations, and conventional, nuclear, solar or other types of unconventional 
power plants, with all of these facilities being manned by an army of 
semiautonomous robots ranging in size from the nano to the macro scale under 
his direct control, whilst he simultaneously occupies himself with manifold 
other activities. Moreover, unless he is either forced by some form of economic 
and/or legal system, or is philanthropically inclined, there is no fundamental 
reason why he should have to share his advancements with the remainder of 
humanity. Instead, he would rather likely not share his scientific and 
technological advancements for fear of giving any advantage to any potential, 
or real rivals of his own class. The richest rich will thus likely leave the 
poorer classes commensurately scientifically and technologically behind at an 
ever increasing pace, and this leads to two worst sub cases for the poorer 
classes, each of which could spell the end of humanity, save for a few ultimate 
winners, or even one ultimate winner.

Let me explain what I mean by the phrase one ultimate winner. Let us suppose 
that we are in that period when the human race is transforming itself into an 
advanced post-corporeal IQ mindspace society which, for technical and/or 
economical reasons, remains bound to Earth. To continue to exist, the society 
must continue to consume resources to extract and use useful energy, with the 
supply of useful energy being restricted to what can be extracted from the 
Earth, the moon thru tidal power or lithium mining, and captured from the Sun. 
These energy constraints, then, would be the physical constraints restricting 
the initial post-Darwinian, post-corporeal evolution.

Let us consider the worst case. Even if it is the case that the available 
supplies of energy, and the ability to exploit them with advanced technologies, 
are, by our present (corporeal) standards, illimitable, there is no apriori 
requirement that the transformation of humanity into IQ mindspace resources be 
done so equally or equitably according to current moral standards. At present, 
the poorest man and the wealthiest man cannot personally consume a 
significantly disparate amount of food and water on a day-to-day basis. But the 
wealthiest man, if his wealth be proportionately converted into IQ mindspace 
server capabilities (to store vast libraries of knowledge and acquire massive 
amounts of computational power to simulate market behavior, develop even more 
advanced technologies, and so forth) would dwarf the energy usage of the 
poorest man (reduced to a small IQ mindspace server if at all) by many orders 
of magnitude. Then, in much the same way that Earth's current, most advanced 
species is using increasingly greater planetary resources at an ever 
accelerating pace—because its science and technology are accelerating at an 
ever increasing pace—extinction of the less advanced beings of the future will 
happen at an accelerating pace in proportion to the rate at which their 
resources get usurped. That is, the richest rich, by rapidly outpacing the 
science and technology of the rest of humanity, will rapidly come to consume so 
much of the energy from the Earth, the Moon and the Sun, to the maximum rate 
physics allows, that the poorer (lower IQ mindspace) classes will literally be 
starved out of existence. Then, ultimately, after the sun is no longer useful, 
the richest rich will either migrate elsewhere in the galaxy, or, should it be 
the case that for physical reasons interstellar space travel never becomes 
practicable, the richest rich too will die out when the Sun can no longer be 
tenably exploited, and the human story ends.

Two notes to the worst case:

(1) Regarding the world's poorest people being converted into IQ mindspace 
entities, I wrote above that it might not happen at all to cast doubt that the 
conversion would necessarily happen to all of us. Not many of today's billion 
poorest can readily buy a low-end personal computer, let alone a massive 
supercomputer server farm. Thus it may be the case that a large fraction of 
humanity may be dropped off the evolutionary tree, but, as explained in the 
preceding paragraph, this is not to say that the situation for most of the 
remainder of humanity, from those with enough assets to purchase entry level IQ 
mindspace servers up to, but not including the richest rich, is any less dire. 
As has been argued above, we could all of us, en masse, be starved out.

(2) Nothing so far expressed, including physical limitations, fundamentally 
precludes the eruption of IQ mindspace class warfare, and the possibility that 
only one future being might, by quashing out all other life (either directly or 
by passively starving the rest out) become the ultimate winner of Earth's four 
billion year old evolutionary competition, except perhaps the speed of light. 
It may be the case that the Earth is simply too big (light taking about 0.064 
seconds to travel half way around its circumference) to allow a single being to 
maintain coherence between distant parts of itself, especially if the situation 
is very fluid. The larger dinosaurs for instance, with long distances between 
their brains and tails, and slowly traveling nerve signals, likely found it 
very disadvantageous to only eventually feel their tails being bitten by some 
rival. Thus, instead of there being one ultimate Darwinian winner dominating 
the Earth, it may be the case that there will be a multitude of such grand 
winners, with the "size" of the area of their control being limited to the 
longest reaction times that still allow them to maintain coherence across their 
largest dimension within a fluid, competitive environment.

Given the latter case, namely, a population of grand winners, many more complex 
questions would arise. Among the first questions would concern population 
dynamics. Would there be tens of grand winners, or thousands, or even larger 
numbers of winners? Would they reproduce? It seems logical to believe that 
electronic/quantum computing beings would find sexual or asexual reproduction 
simple to do, and the process would likely consume little time. Among the 
winners and their progeny, we might then ask what kind of predator/prey 
dynamics would prevail. Control and coherence of the society, moreover, would 
also become an issue as the society spread out further from Earth, first 
reaching the moon and nearby planets, then venturing further out yet. Two great 
sources for further reading regarding many possible futures of post corporeal 
and arbitrarily advance life, each providing many references, are, 
respectively, Barrow and Tippler [11] and Kurzweil [12].

6. A Different post-Darwinian future--A better case

It is well researched and documented that collections of people working 
together on a common problem make better collective decisions the majority of 
the time than individuals themselves do [13]. Perhaps, if it cannot not be 
rigorously proved by iron clad mathematical argument, it can at least be 
reasonably demonstrated through various game theoretic studies that the net 
value of humanity would rise faster in a post corporeal world wherein everyone 
is allowed to continue to exist in peace, and no one person (or small group of 
persons) is allowed to dominate the world through unrestricted, electronic 
post-Darwinian, post-corporeal warfare. Such a demonstration would then provide 
humanity with a rational motivation for a smooth, controlled, legally 
regulated, economically constrained transition to post corporeal life. Yet even 
if the opposite were true according to theoretical modeling—that, in other 
words, the net value of humanity would grow more rapidly with unrestricted 
Darwinian warfare being allowed—I can imagine that very few people would 
willingly give up their existence for some mathematically demonstrable greater, 
but abstract good. Thus, there will either be a powerful and rational reason, 
or a powerful, self-preservation-based motivation to seek out a controlled, 
policy-based transition to post-corporeal life. Two simplistic, first order 
cases come to mind.

Sub case I:

Individuals are not allowed to transfer themselves to superior IQ mindspace 
servers. Everyone will share equally the fruits of all scientific and technical 

Sub case II:

Individuals may transfer themselves to IQ mindspace servers with 
capacities/capabilities commensurate to their wealth. However, most economic 
relationships existing prior to the post corporeal transformation will remain 
intact. Mr. Bill Gates will be required to keep his secretary. His secretary 
however, no longer a corporeal being, will not be required to use the services 
of a dentist. Dentists will have to find some new role in the post-corporeal 
world. Again, everyone will share equally the fruits of all scientific and 
technical advances. This post-corporeal transition will cause economic 
displacements much like the industrial revolution did. Certain elements of the 
workforce, as weavers and gun makers were once obviated by machines, will too 
be obviated, but novel opportunities will likely arise if history is any guide.

Any such physical limits as those expressed above, designed to prevent a 
single, singular winner (or smallish group of winners) from ultimately usurping 
all resources would likely then lead to new kinds of legal and economic systems 
also with novel predator/prey resource relationships quite apart from those of 
today and yesteryear, or they might lead to a strange admixture of old and new 

7. Conclusions and future work

We are in a period when our sciences and technologies are rapidly fusing 
together such that an advancement in one field rapidly parlays itself into 
advances in other fields. Consider as an instance the advancement of DNA 
biology in part leading to DNA computation, and conversely, the use of advanced 
robotics, powerful computers, and advanced computational algorithms to decipher 
our DNA-based genome. It follows then, unless there are limitations we have yet 
to run into, that the greater our scientific and technological capabilities 
become, the increasingly faster we develop even more advanced scientific and 
technological capabilities, including those which enable our fusion with our 
technologies. Certainly there can be no denying that we have steadfastly, and 
in my opinion, ineluctably, entered a post-Darwinian era which may rapidly, 
within a few decades, go post-corporeal. Accordingly, as is the case with the 
United States Social Security, and its aging population base, we are beginning 
to face unprecedented social, legal, economic, and political ramifications 
which need to be addressed now, before all hell breaks loose. If Darwinian 
evolution is about biological systems exploiting every possible, physically 
allowed niche and propagating the most fit specimens through natural, passive 
selection, without moral, man-made considerations, there is no fundamental 
reason post-Darwinian evolution—with or without a post-corporeal 
transformation—should, apart from involving active selection, be in any way 
less indifferent to us, unless we make it so. We need to begin to study these 
impending possibilities now, before it is too late. To this end, I believe it 
would be not only interesting, but also of the utmost importance, to not only 
begin to simulate the social, legal, economic predator/prey systems imagined 
above under various physical limitations, but many more situations so that we 
may begin to ferret out those solutions we can all of us be reasonably happy 
with during our post-Darwinian and/or post-corporeal transformation. Perhaps a 
good beginning would be the use of games such as SimCity, modified to play out 
various post-Darwinian, post-corporeal scenarios, e.g., stock broker versus 
stock broker, etc. Along these lines, Professor Ian Lustick at the University 
of Pennsylvania, for instance, is modeling the social structure of Pakistan 
with a Sims-like game. Someone out there should seek grant money to do the same 
thing for post-Darwinian, post-corporeal societies.


[1] The International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium (IHGSC) , "A Physical 
Map of the Humane Genome", Nature 409, 934-941 (2001)

[2] Duggan, D. J., M. Bittner, Y. Chen, P. Meltzer and J. M. Trent. 1999. 
Expression profiling using cDNA microarrays. Nature Genetics 21:10-14.

[3] Ly et. al., "Mitotic Misregulation and Human Aging," Science 2000 287: 

[4] BBC News, "Hope for gene transplants in womb", 
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3581727.stm , 30 March 2004

[5] A. W. S. Chan, K. Y. Chong, C. Martinovich, C. Simerly, G. Schatten, 
"Transgenic Monkeys Produced by Retroviral Gene Transfer into Mature Oocytes," 
Science, Vol. 291, pp. 309-312 (January 12, 2001).

[6] R. A. Kaul, N. I. Syed, and P. Fromherz, "Neuron-Semiconductor Chip with 
Chemical Synapse between Identified Neurons", Physical Review Letters, Vol. 92, 
No. 3, Jan. 2004.

[7] Duke Med News, "Human Studies Show Feasibility of Brain-Machine 
Interfaces," http://www.dukemednews.org/news/article.php?id=7493 23 March 2004

[8] D. Kleinfeld, F. Raccuia-Behling, and H.J. Chiel, Biophys. J. 57, 697, 1990

[9] Y. Yarom, Neuroscience 44, 263, (1991)

[10] A. A. Sharp et al., J. Neurophysiol. 69, 992 (1993)

[11] J. D. Barrow and F. J. Tippler, "The Anthropic Cosmological Principle", 
Oxford University Press, Walton Street, Oxford OX2 6DP, 1986

[12] R. Kurzweil, "The Age Of The Spiritual Machine", Viking, Penguin Group, 
Penguin Putman Books, Ltd., 275 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, 
U.S.A., 1999

[13] Heiner R. A., "The Collective Decision Problem, and the Theory of 
Preference", Economic Inquiry, 1981, vol. 19, issue 2, pages 297-332

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