Author A.G. Riddle recently joined Glenn to talk about his “Extinction Files” book series and the future of humanity. In “Pandemic” and “Genome,” Riddle explored the fear that a rapidly spreading disease will wipe out millions of people and change our world forever.
Here are some of the topics they covered:
- Stephen Hawking’s warning that humanity may not survive on Earth
- The continued evolution of humankind
- What the “next great leap” for our species will look like
- How robotics and artificial intelligence will change everything
What do you think? Tell us in the comment section below just how worried you are.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article provided courtesy of TheBlaze.
APU GOMES/AFP/Getty Images
This is a rush transcript and may contain errors.
GLENN: So I did something after — I was on holiday, and I downloaded a whole bunch of books. And one of them, I think was Pandemic. I think that’s the first one that I read. And I’ve never done this. You know, at the end of the book, it says, hey, write to the author. Tell me what you think. So I did. And so I wrote, hey, just finished one of your books. And I really enjoyed it. And he wrote me back right away and said, hey, thanks so much. Would like to send you an autographed copy. And I’m like, oh, thanks. No recognition of who I was. I don’t even know now if he really knows who I am.
But — so I said, I’m already into the second book. And it’s really great.
Well, probably much to his surprise, I’ve — since that, I’ve read all of his books. Because he is looking at a problem that I am really interested in. And he has some — kind of some facts that he builds his fiction and a lot of his — I wouldn’t classify it as sci-fi I guess in a way. He builds his fiction around some facts that I want to find out more about. So I want to introduce to you A.G. Riddle. He’s the author of Pandemic. And also The Atlantis Gene. And I think the new one is called — what is it, A.G.?
RIDDLE: It’s Genome.
GLENN: Genome. No, no, no. Departure. I thought that was the new one.
RIDDLE: Well, Departure actually came out before Pandemic. So it’s a standalone. But it may be the most recent book you’ve read.
GLENN: Okay. So, anyway, they’re all great. They’re all great. So let me — first of all, thank you for coming on the program.
RIDDLE: Oh, of course.
GLENN: You really kind of look into a couple of things that interest me. You know, Stephen Hawking has said — he just said it again this weekend that homo sapiens are going to be a thing of the past by 2050. And people freak out. And they think, oh, my gosh, we’re going to be all wiped out. I don’t think that’s what he means. He means that homo sapiens as we know them, as we are now, are going to be so transformed, that you won’t be able to recognize the current homo sapien next to the — the new homo sapien of 2050. Does that make sense to you?
RIDDLE: It does. And I think he’s right in that we’re — I believe we’re in the midst of this radical transformation, that we’re just now getting our heads around.
GLENN: So in your book, you talk about something called The Great Leap. And I was only familiar with the great leap forward of China, which was a nightmare. But you talk about the great leap. Can you describe that?
RIDDLE: Sure. One of the interests and one of the themes in my work is, you know, humanity’s genetic history. So what we now believe is the current — you know, that our rates of humans, the homo sapiens sapiens are about 200,000 years old. And so when we first evolved, we know that Neanderthals existed on earth for maybe two or 300,000 years before us. And there were these humans called Denisovans and homo floresiensis on the island of Java. So there were other human species. And so we coexisted with them for about roughly 150,000 years. And it was status quo.
You know, life went on, on earth, as it had for a very, very long time. And then something happened about 50,000 years ago. And we see it especially in Europe, this explosion of creativity.
We see these cave paintings, and sort of this advent of figurative art, and so making, you know, clay sculptures and these other things. And so we also see the advent of complex language. And so these are things that really had not existed on earth before.
I mean, there were species that were — that homo erectus had made tools and other sort of breakthrough. You know, we had learned to control fire.
But we — no human species had ever done anything on this level, cognitively. So we call — a geneticist called this The Great Leap Forward. And so the only thing that we know for a fact is that after that, all the other human species went instinct.
And so this — I think this coincides with the extinction of other archaic humans. So I think there — you know, to me, it feels like we’re in another great leap forward.
GLENN: Okay. Wait. Wait. Before we go to the other great leap forward, let me just ask one thing. Because in your books, you kind of — and I don’t know what’s fact and what’s fiction here.
You — you allude to the fact that those — that, you know, the other species were kind of killed by us for competition of meat. And, you know, we had to go — we needed 20 percent more calories for our brains. And, you know, they were bigger, stronger, but we were smarter. So we kind of wiped them out. So that true, or is that speculation?
RIDDLE: Well, it’s still a matter of debate. What we do know for a fact is that when our species moved into an area, we see the archeological record of other species stopped. And so the big debate is, was that some sort of interbreeding with our species, or was it competition? You know, Neanderthals had existed in Europe for half a million years. They had seen a lot of climate change.
So a lot of anthropologists say, hey, look, you know, we think — obviously the world was getting warmer at that point. And we think that created this ecological disaster that wiped out the Neanderthals.
But to me, that doesn’t hold a lot of water. Because you got a species that’s very long-lived. We show up on the scene. You know, the cognitive revolution happens at the same time, and these guys disappear.
GLENN: Okay. So the reason I bring this up, and it may be where you’re going, take us to the next great leap.
RIDDLE: Well, I think, you know, we’re — to me, it’s sort of a ripple on the horizon. And, you know, in the late ’90s, people said, oh, the internet is going to transform everything. The retailers are going to go bust. And then it largely didn’t materialize. Things went on the way they had for a long time. But now we’re seeing this transformation of empty malls.
You walk into a restaurant, and now there’s a touch screen to take your order, instead of a person. The people are still there. Assembly lines need less people.
So we’re seeing, you know, this — call it a technological revolution of robotics and artificial intelligence. You know, robotics are doing a lot of the manual labor that we’ve traditionally done for — you know, since history began. And artificial intelligence threatens to frankly do a lot of our thinking for us.
So, you know, part of the thing that I explore in my books is, what becomes of the human race? What does the future look like?
That’s something I worry about.
GLENN: Okay. So let me ask you this: As I have read yours, I’m also reading — you know, I read a lot of Ray Kurzweil. And I’m reading Brett King. His book called Augmented, which is all about, you know, what do we need to teach our children? What is on the horizon? And what do we teach our children? And one of the things he talks about is that we have to be open-minded. We have to learn how to work with robotics and AI. And we have to really be open to accepting the changes that will be coming to even our own bodies and with nanotechnology, et cetera, et cetera. So as I’m putting these all together, and then I read your great leap, I think to myself, okay. So what I believe Stephen Hawking is talking about. And Ray Kurzweil, is the transhumanism. It’s the singularity of bringing man and machine and making them one.
If you do this and you have quantum computing and AI, a — an upgraded human is going to talk to a non-upgraded human. And it will be like talking to a dog. The information and the — the modeling that the individual could do, who is upgraded, that would be completely lost on a non-upgraded homo sapien, puts us in a different category. And so that was my first thought, was, okay. This is going to put us in a different category. You’re not going to be able to relate. And then I started thinking, well, we’re already starting to talk about cars. Once automated cars are really everywhere, it’s only a matter of time before we don’t let humans drive anymore, because they’re going to screw it all up. Well, if you have a non-upgraded human and everybody else is upgraded, I’m not going to let the human really touch anything because it’s like have your dog drive a bus. You don’t do that. You can’t do it.
Then I read your book and I think of The Great Leap. Is it possible that we — that the upgraded humans actually do wipe out the homo sapien because we’re dangerous to them?
RIDDLE: Well, certainly.
I mean, I think the long arc of human history has been to a certain extent replacement and sort of one dominant species.
I mean, one of the thing that fascinates me is the fact that there are no Neanderthals, but there are plenty of chimps and gorillas and bonobos, and these are obviously, whether you believe in evolution or not, you have to agree genetically a chimpanzee is 99.8 percent the same genome as our species of human. And so it’s like, why did they survive and Neanderthals didn’t? And I think it’s very clear that chimpanzees were not a competitor for food to us. And to some extent, they weren’t a threat. And so the question for me becomes, all right. If we know the future is about a certain amount of merging human with technology. You look on the street today, and everyone walking around is staring at their cell phone. Half the people driving is staring at their cell phone. So whether it’s been implanted or not, there is this sort of merging with technology that we know is somewhat inevitable. What does become the role for humans? And I do think there will be this — probably a minority of people that say, you know, I like life the way it is. And I’m not — I’m not going to join this sort of future that humanity at large has envisioned.
RIDDLE: And I’d like to think that there will be coexistence and peace. But, you know, the long arc of history hasn’t really borne that out. We may be entering this new era.
GLENN: Yeah. A.G. Riddle, author of Genome. Also, that’s a part of the Pandemic series, The Atlantis Plague, and Departure. You can start really anywhere and pick them up and enjoy them. Great storytelling. Really, really great storytelling. I really enjoyed it. A.G., I’d love to talk to you again sometime. Thank you so much for all of your hard work.
RIDDLE: Oh, thanks for having me. Really appreciate it.
GLENN: You bet.
Buh-bye. Name of the book, again, is genome. It’s part of the Pandemic series. I started with Pandemic, then went to Genome. Just went to Departure, which was an earlier book, which I thought was really, really good. But doesn’t have some of the kind of deeper stuff in it about The Great Leap. I mean, if you’re — if you’re at all curious about what the future holds and where do we come from and what is — what is — what’s the next turn? He gives you some food for thought. It’s all sci-fi obviously. But it’s quite good. A.G. Riddle is his name.