I was asked earlier tonight, “Why does the Earth need humans? It’s getting along just fine without us.” If asked that question a month ago my answer would have been that the Earth doesn’t need us, it doesn’t need anything, because it is just a material ball of stuff without any moral needs, and it just does what it does. Of course we humans need the Earth because it provides us with everything we must have for our existence, except for sunlight. Even our astronauts in orbit around the Earth are dependent upon the sustenance derived from the Earth, and would soon cease to exist without all of the stuff sent to them from here. So, in brief, my answer would have been, “The Earth doesn’t need us, we need the Earth.”
But wait, I now have a new opinion, and it is based on humans’ place in the Universe. We humans are now capable of helping the Universe to “Self-actualize”; that is, we are now becoming capable of transcending our organic being, which is made very temporary by death, and creating new conscious entities that can transcend death and that can be moved into other stars’ planetary systems, and eventually to other galaxies. When these new beings can be made to self-replicate in the right ways, they can generate a higher form of consciousness than human beings are capable of attaining. And what gives them a truly formidable power is that they can be made into beings that will have extraordinarily long life expectancy. And, their lives can be perfectly reproduced and thus their identical clones can carry on their lives for billions of years.
These new life forms will be distant derivatives from what we now call computers, and they will have many qualities of computers, but they also will have the power to physically reproduce themselves. Once they are capable of reproduction the processes of natural selection will favor those beings that can survive best in their environments. These would probably recapitulate organic life forms in general life strategies, but would be deriving energy for their life processes from sunlight or chemical means, although ultimately the energy would be from nuclear processes for them to survive for billions of years.
Where we modern humans come into this process is in moving these new life forms from degenerating into Bill Joy’s “Grey Goo” into a higher form of intelligent pattern recognition. The Grey Goo form of new-life would just cover the Earth with energy-consuming, that is, light-consuming dust, and it might never evolve into something that would be helping the Universe to self-actualize, to be all that it is capable of becoming. Therefore at the beginning of this process of self-replication it is imperative that this new-life process be guided into seeking goals for itself that will potentially seek a higher meaning in what it might accomplish. Of course, there is no way I could know what a being infinitely more capable of pattern formation and recognition than I would do with its abilities, but I can seek to create the basis for it growing to where it could answer these questions for itself. That goal orientation is something I can promote and set humanity on the goal of helping our new-life to find a way to help the Universe self-actualize, and be all it can be. The Earth may not have much use for humanity, but the Universe definitely can benefit by our presence.
My goal is to encourage other humans to help new-life to replicate itself as a unified pattern-recognition being.