The 21st century could be the last one for humans, warns a senior astronomer. The vast scientific advancements may someday take a toll on humans with alien species to replace them by 2100.

Seth Shostak of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California argues that designer babies and artificial intelligence (AI) will lead to the creation of a new dominant species. The advancements in the two fields may lead to the emergence of "alien species" in the next century.

On Jan. 15, 2016, Shostak wrote a post titled, "Could This Be Humanity's Last Century?" which is a less-than-sunny concept about Earth and humanity's fate in the coming century, as shaped by happenings in the past millennium.

"But what about the 21st century? What will your kids and grandkids do that will still be important a thousand years from now?" he argued. He added that his argument is not about the numerous threats present today such as climate change or terrorism.

Shostak mentioned three things that can happen in the next 100 years. First, he talked about people's understanding of DNA sequences and the molecular level of biology. With advancements in science, technology and medicine, scientists in the future may be able to cure diseases that are deemed incurable today.

"But our efforts won't be limited to merely fixing ourselves; we'll also opt for improvement. You may hesitate to endorse designer babies, but hot-rodding our children is as much on the horizon as the morning sun," Shostak said referring to biotechnology and gene editing. Re-engineering future children will transform them into something different from humans in many aspects like how dogs are from gray wolves after domestication.

The second development he mentioned is human expansion into outer space to explore other resources. Scarce resources like metals and minerals can be extracted from asteroids and humans may soon establish settlements on Mars or the Moon.

"The third thing you can expect before the year 2100 is the development of generalized artificial intelligence," Shostak said. He believed that the rise of artificial intelligence will be the biggest influence on the future of humanity.

Machines of the future will not just play games in computers but can do more than that. These machines can perform the thinking on behalf of humans. The development of AI is more than just improving future children but entails substituting them with engineered successors.

Humans may rely on AI to do the work for them. With scientific advancements like these, the Homo sapiens that walked the Earth for 50,000 years might be unrecognizable in the next 100 years. He added that these changes may not happen in this century but it may happen in the next 1,000 years.

Photo: Jeff Keyzer | Flickr 

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