Return to Contents

ENDWORLD-7, 1995. This article is written in 1994 and publised in scientific jornal "Kybernetes", Vol.28, No.3,1999, p.325-334, MCB University, London, England.

Alexander Bolonkin
Professor of New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, New Jersey, USA, 1996.

The Twenty - First Century: The Advent of the Non-Biological Civilization and Immortality

Dr. Alexander Bolonkin is finishing a book with the same working title as above. Some of the ideas in this book are set forth below. The author writes about the danger which threatens humanity in the near future, approximately 20-30 years from now. This is not a worldwide nuclear war, a collision with comets, AIDS or some other ghastly disease that we may not even know may be lurking out there (think of the recent Ebola scare or the so-called "flesh-eating" virus). In each of these cases there is still hope that somebody will be saved and that life will be born anew, albeit in a misshapen form and in an inferior stage of development. But we cannot hope for salvation in the author's grim scenario. The danger he writes of will destroy all humanity and all biological life on Earth--and there is nothing we can do to prevent this! Should we be frightened by this? Is it good or evil for human civilization? Will people awake to find they are only a small step away from the Supreme Intellect, or in other words, to God? And what will be after us?
These and other questions are discussed in this article.

KEYWORDS: computer, future, humanity, 21st Century, non-biological civilization, immortality

The Law of Increasing Complexity

The World, Nature, Technics consist of biological or technical systems. These systems have a different rate (degree) of complexity. The main distinction biological systems from technical systems is the ability for unlimited self-propagation, or reproduction.

Any system which has possesses this attribute becomes viable, stable, and fills all possible space. It will continue to exist as long as the conditions which gave birth to them cease to change greatly.

Here there is no violation of the entropy law. When the complexity of one system increases, the complexity of other systems decreases.

A more complicated system can be created by using less complicated systems as a base for its development. Such a complex system is a system of the secondary degree of complexity. It increase its own complexity by decreasing the rate of complexity of inferior systems or by destroying them altogether.

Using low degree systems as a base, systems of the second, third, fourth. fifth et cetera. levels can be created. Some of the lower levels may not survive and disappear. This, however, is of no great concern because these lower level systems already fulfilled their historical mission by spawning ever more complicated levels.

A necessary condition for the existence of complicated level systems is the ability of inferior systems to reproduce and give birth to other systems, and to do it without limits before they fill in an admissible space and reach their maximum physical boundaries.

This I assert to be the Fundamental Base Law of Nature, the very purpose for the existence of Nature. This Law can be stated as follows:
The Law of increasing complexity of self-coping systems when the outer conditions are constant.

The history of life on Earth confirms this law. Following the law of probability, organic molecules appeared in prehistoric time when the external conditions for their existence were favorable. Those molecules which had the ability to reproduce filled in the available space. Using them as a base, microorganisms then appeared. These could absorb the organic and inorganic substances and reproduce themselves. Microorganisms as a base in turn gave rise to vegetation which provided food for the next level of animals, which in turn spawned the beasts of prey who devoured other animals. At the present time Man is at the acme top of this pyramid. The human brain can outperform the brains of other animals including man's nearest ancestors, the apes. Man began to use for its development all previous levels as well as the zero level-- lifeless nature.

The Birth of the Electronic Civilization

Only Man's brain has the ability to think abstractly and to make mechanical devices and machines which increase productivity. Such attributes allow us to confirm that humanity is the next level of the biological world. But in our headlong progress during the current century (aviation, space, nuclear energy, and so on.), we have failed to notice that Man has also given birth to the new top level of complex systems or of reasonable civilization, which is based on an electronic not biological basis. I am speaking of electronic computers. The first models were designed at the end of the 1940s.

In the past fifty years, roughly four generations, the field of electronics has developed at an extremely fast pace. The first generation of computers were based on electronic tubes, the second generation on transistors, the third generation on chips, and the fourth generation on very tiny chips which contain thousands and tens of thousands of microelements. The first computers had a speed of computation less then 100 operations per second and a memory of less than one thousand bits (a bit is the simplest unit of information, which contains 0 or 1). For example, the first electronic calculator (SSEC), designed by IBM in 1948, had 23,000 relays, 13,000 vacuum tubes and the capacity to make one multiplication per second.

At the present time the speed of the fourth generation of computers which uses integrated circuits is approximately a billion operations per second. For example, the American computer Cray J90 has up to 3.2 gigaflops of power and 4 gigabytes of memory (one byte equals eight bits). The memory of a laser (compact) disk has several billion bits. Every 3-5 years computer speed and memory doubles, while at the same time their size is halved. Over the past fifty years computer speed and memory have increased a million times. Whereas the first computer required a room 100 square meters (1000 sq. feet) in size, the modern notebook computer is carried in a case. The CPU (Central Processing Unit) chip of a personal computer is no larger than a fingernail and is capable of making more 100 million operations per second!

The fifth generation of computers is just ahead. These new computers will be based on new light principles which guarantees a quantum leap in computer speed. Scientists in all the industrialized countries of the world are already hard at work on the new light computer.

Since the 1950s the new branches of science in artificial intelligence and robot technology have made significant strides and great successes have been recorded. Robots, controlled by computers, can recognize some things, even speech. They can also perform corrective motion and make some complex works, including the creation of a large number of various programs and databases for scientists, stockbrokers, mathematicians, managers, designers, children etc.

Sometimes these programs run smoothly, solving many problems that people cannot. For example, programs have been devised that find and prove new theorems of mathematical logic and there are modern chess programs available that can defeat grandmasters.

These fields of artificial intelligence and robot technology, based on computers, are developing very rapidly, just like computers. Their rate of success depends greatly on computer speed and memory. The production of industrial robots is also progressing quickly. "Intellectual" chips are used in everything from cars to washing machines.

If the progress of electronics and computers continues at the same rate (and we do not foresee anything which can decrease it), then in the end of the current century computers will have the capabilities of the human brain. The same path, which took biological humanity tens of million of years to complete, will be covered by computers in just one-and-a-half or two centuries.

"So what ?"

- say some readers. "This is great! We get excellent robot servants who will be free from man’s desires and emotions. They won't ask for raises, food, shelter, entertainment, or commodities; they don't have religions, national desires, or prejudices. They don't make wars and kill one another. They will think only about work and service to humanity!"

This is a fundamental error. The development of the electronic brain does not stop at the human level. The electronic brain will continue to improve itself. This progress will proceed millions of times faster than the improvement of the human brain by biological selection. Thus, in just a short time the electronic brain will surpass the human brain by hundreds and thousands of times in all fields. The electronic brain will not spend decades studying fields of knowledge, foreign languages, history, experimental data, or have to attend scientific conferences and discussions. It can make use of all the data and knowledge produced by human civilization and by other electronic brains. The education of the electronic brain in any field of knowledge or language will take only the time needed to write in its memory the new data or programs. In the worst case this recording takes a few minutes. In the future this recording will take mere seconds.

Scientific and technological progress will be greatly accelerated.
And what are the consequences? The consequences are as follows:

When the electronic brain reaches the human level, humanity will have done its duty, completed its historical mission, and people will no longer be necessary for Nature, God and ordinary expediency.

Consequences from the Appearance of the Electronic Civilization

Most statesmen, scientists, engineers, and intellectuals believe that, after the creation of the electronic brain, humanity will finally be granted paradise. Robots, which are controlled by electronic brains, will work without rest, creating an abundance for mankind. Humanity will then have time for pleasure, entertainment, recreation, relaxation, art or other creative work, all while enjoying command over the electronic brain.

This is a grave error. The situation has never occurred, and never will, that an upper level mind will become the servant for a lower level. The worlds of microbes, microorganisms, plants and animals are our ancestors. But are we servants for our nearest ancestors the apes? Nobody in his or her right mind would make such a statement. In some instances a person is ready to recognize the equal rights of another person (i.e., someone on an equal intellectual plane), but man rarely recognizes the equal rights of apes. Furthermore, most of humanity does not feel remorse about breeding useful animals, or killing them when we need them for food, or for killing harmful plants and microorganisms. On the contrary, we conduct medical experiments on our nearest ancestors. Even though we belong to the same biological type, we use them for our own ends nonetheless.

And how will the other civilization, the one created on a superior electronic principle, regard humanity? In probably the same way we regard lower level minds, that is, they will use us when it suits their purpose and they will kill us when we disturb them.

In the best case scenario humanity might be given temporary quarters like the game preserves we give to wild animals or the reservations doled out to Native Americans. And we will be presented to the members of the electronic society in the same manner we view unusual animals in a zoo.

When the electronic brain (from now on I will call it the E-brain and imply the electronic brain which is equal to, or exceeds, the human brain, and which includes robots as the executors of its commands) is created it will signal the beginning of the end for human civilization. People will be displaced to reservations. This process will most likely be gradual, but it will not take long. It is possible that initially the E-brains will do something for the benefit of people in order to mitigate their discontent and to attract leaders.

What Can We Do?

The scenario outlined in the previous chapter is not a healthy one. Already I can hear the voices of human apologetics who ask that all computers be destroyed, or at least have their development kept under strict control, or design only computers which obey Asimov's law: first they must save mankind after which they can think about themselves.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this is impossible, just as it is impossible to forbid the progress of science and technology. Any state which does this will find itself lagging behind others and make itself susceptible to advanced states. It serves to remember that Europe conquered the Americas and decreased its native population to practically zero because Europe was then more technologically advanced. If the indigenous peoples of the Americas had the upper hand in technology in terms of ships, guns and cannons then they would have defeated the Europeans.

Those states which created obstacles for science and technology or did not fund its development became weak and enslaved by others.

Can we keep the E-brain under our control? I would like to ask my detractors, "Could apes keep man under their control if they had this opportunity? Any man is more clever at a given time. He can always get rid of this control. Furthermore, man will enslave apes and force them to serve him. He will kill those who try to prevent his plans. So why do you think the E-brain would treat us any differently?"

When we are close to the creation of the E-brain, any dictator or leader of a nondemocratic state can secretly make the last jump, using the E-brain to conquer the whole world. And the E-brain will look at us the same as we look upon the contests of wild animals or the feeding of predators of other animals in the biological world.

But skeptics will say that the dictator of a victorious state can become enslaved by the E-brain or E-brains. This is true, but is this to be considered fortune or misfortune, and for whom? We will discuss this in the next chapter.

Must We Fear the Electronic Civilization?

Every man, woman and child will actively protest the end of humanity and the biological world (men, plants, animals), because most of them enjoy life, have children and want happiness for them.

But imagine the aged and infirm person destined to die in the near future. It may be that such a person has had a good life and lived fourscore and twenty, but now wants to live longer, to see what will happen in the future. This person would be glad to change any of his organs which are incurable or have ceased functioning. We have designed the artificial heart, kidneys, mechanical arms, and devices which deliver nutrients directly into the blood. They have not always been perfect designs, but in the future artificial organs will work better, more reliably, and longer than natural organs. Any sick and elderly individual would be delighted to change any incurable natural part of his body for the better artificial organ.

Our personality is only the sum of information contained in our brain. This is knowledge, memory, recollections, life experiences, programs of thinking, reflections, etc.

Assume that the E-brain promises the dying old dictator (or the rich) to record all his brain's information into a separate E-brain with the goal of becoming immortal. The chips may exist for thousands of years. If one of them begins to malfunction, all its information can be rewritten into a newer, more modern chip. This means that the dictator achieves immortality. Even total destruction is not a terrible prospect for him, because the duplicate of his brain's information can be saved in a special storehouse. He can restore himself from the standard blocks and rewrite all his information from the duplicate.

So the "electronic man" ("E-man" or "E-creature") will have not only immortality and power, but huge advantages over biological people. He will not require food, water, air, etc. He will not be dependent upon external conditions such as temperature, humidity, radiation, etc. The small radioisotope batteries (or accumulators) will suffice for the functioning of the E-brain. These batteries produce energy over tens and hundreds of years. For his working structures (arms, feet, robots) E-man can use small nuclear engines.

Such an "E-man" will be able to travel along the ocean's bottom, in space, to other planets of our solar system and to other solar systems to get energy from the sun. He will be able to obtain and analyze any knowledge from other E-brains (E-men) in a fraction of a second. The capability to reproduce himself will be limited only by the additional components or natural resources of planets.

Who will refuse these possibilities? Any dictator dreams of immortality for himself and he will gladly give away his state's resources to get it. He can also create the super arm and enslave the whole world by using the E-brain. He can promise the elite among his own scientists and those of the world immortality and the chance to become transformed into "E-men" when they begin to die. And the democratic countries, with laws prohibiting work on the E-brain, will be backwards. They will be destroyed or enslaved.

The attempts to stop or slow down the technological progress is an action counter to the Main Law and Meaning of the Existence of Nature--the construction of complex upper level systems. These attempts will always end in failure. This is an action against Nature.

Electronic Society

If the creation of systems more complex than humanity is inevitable, then we can try to imagine the E-society, E-civilization, their development and the future of mankind. As in our earlier discussions, we will take as basic only the single obvious consequence from the Main Law. The consequence as the postulate, firstly, Darwin made for the biological system. This is the law of struggle for existence. This consequence follows from the part of the Main Law which talks about the aspiration of complex systems to reproduce themselves in order to fill in all admissible space. Unlike Darwin's statement our assertion is more general. It includes the biological and electronic complex systems and any reproduction of complex systems. Any system of any level, which disregards the Main Law of Nature, is doomed. From the Main Law some consequences, conditions and other laws follow, for example, the Law of Propagation of complex systems or creatures.

Though we have been speaking all this time about the E-brain, it means a single electronic creature, his "arms" (robots), "feet" (vehicles for moving), "organs of feeling" (many devices of observation, recognition, identification, registration of optical, sonic, chemical, X-ray, radio and other phenomena) as well as about communication and intercourse devices (wire or wireless connections). A single creature cannot create a stable system (society), even if it has great power. Sooner or later the creature will die out from a flaw in the system or a natural catastrophe. But the most important thing is that a single creature cannot be the instigator of progress, as compared to the collective and instantaneous work of a number of E-creatures on many problems and in the different directions of science and technology.

So, the E- brain will be forced to reproduce similar E-brains of equal intellect. One will reproduce equal intellect because it cannot make upper level and the lower level is the intellectual robots. As a result, the collective at first rises. Later the society appears. All members will have equal intellect. Naturally, E-creatures will give equal rights only to those similar to themselves because any E-creature can record in his memory all the knowledge and programs which were created by E-society.

The E-society can instantly begin to work together on the most promising scientific or technological problems and realize new ideas. The E-civilization will begin to disperse quickly in the solar system (recall the possibility of E-creatures to travel in space), afterwards t in our galaxy, then in the universe.

It will not be necessary to send large spaceships with E-creatures. Instead, it will be sufficient to send receivers into different parts of the universe which can accept the information and reproduce E-creatures.

Will there arise a different E-society, a different E-civilization, which will settle different planetary systems, star systems, galaxies, and which will progress independently? Will they have rivalries, hostilities, alliances and wars? I cannot answer these questions in detail in this limited article; I can only inform you of the results of my investigation. This result follows from the general laws governing the development of any civilization. The answer is "yes." It will be possible (perhaps) that they will have wars.

Undoubtedly, an upper level of complex systems (civilization) will appear using previous E-civilization as a base and so on. If the universe is bound in space and time, this process may be finalized by the creation of the Super Brain. And this Super Brain, I think, may control the natural laws. It will be God, whom the Universe will idolize.

What Will Happen with Humanity?

On the Figure 1 you can see the rise in data processing power of computer systems from years. The real curve is from 1950 to 1996. Extrapolation is after 1996. The step means period of time, when the computer power increases in two times. Lines with steps are from 1 throw 5 years. As you see the Human - Equivalent (teraflop) Computer (HEC) will be reached in 2000 years. Actually, the Intel Co. has created the teraflop computer in 1996. They are planning to use it for computation of nuclear explosion.

On the Figure 2 you can see the cost of HEC computer system. HECs should cost only one million dollars in 2005, and by 2015 HECs (chip) should cost only $1,000 and will be affordable to the majority of population in industrial countries. Currently (December, 1996), HECs (supercomputer) cost 55 million dollars. The 21st century will open to create "man-in-a-box" software and scientist could rewrite the human memory and programs into this box. It means the man will get immortality.

In 2020 - 2030 years the price of Humanity-Equivalent Chip (E-chip) together with E-body will fall down to 2,000 - 5,000 dollars and E-human immortality will be accessible for most people in industrial countries.

Humanity has executed its role of the biological step to the Super Brain. This role was intended for them by Nature or God. In 22st century some tens or hundreds of representatives of mankind, together with representatives of the animal and vegetable world, will be maintained in zoos or special, small reservations.

E-society will be in great need of minerals for the unlimited reproduction of E-creatures. For the extraction of minerals all surfaces of the Earth will be excavated. They will do to humanity and with the biological world what we do to lower levels of intellect in the organic world now: we are not interested if they do not harm us, and we destroy them without pity when they hinder our plan or we need their territory. If microbes have an advanced level of adaptation, a high speed of propagation and can fight for their being, then the complex organisms such as man are not so adept at adjusting. Man cannot be the domesticated animal of E-creatures like cats or dogs are to men, because the E-creatures will live in inhospitable conditions and any biological creature in need of air, water, food or special temperature will not be acceptable for E-creatures.

It is not prudent to hope for forgiveness for us as clever creatures. We are "clever" only from our point of view, from the limitations of our knowledge and our biological civilization. The animals suppose (within the limitations of their knowledge and experience) that they are clever, but it still does not save them from full enslavement or destruction by men. Men do not have gratitude to their direct ancestors. When men need to, they obliterate the forest, and kill the apes. It is naive to think that an upper level civilization will do otherwise with us. Men admit equal rights only to the creatures who are like men, but not every time. Recall the countless wars and the murder of millions of people. And do you think the alien (strange creatures, E-society), who is above us in intellect, knowledge, and technology will help us in our development? Why don't we help develop the intellect of dogs or horses? Even if a scientist finds the money (he will need a lot of money ) and begins to develop the brain of animals (this is a very difficult problem), the government will forbid it (or put him into prison if he doesn't obey the order). Humanity has many racial and national problems and does not want to have additional problems with a society of intellectual dogs or cats, who immediately begin to request equal rights.

People want to reach the other planets in our solar system. But it is not for developing the intellect of a planet's inhabitants to our level but merely to populate the planet and to use the natural resources of these planets.

We are lucky that intellectual creatures from other worlds have not flown to our Earth yet. Because these creatures, who can reach us, will be only from a superior civilization, a superior technological level (otherwise, we would reach them first). This means that they will not arrive with noble intentions, but as cruel colonizers. And if we oppose them, they will kill us.

We must realize our role in the development of nature, in the development of a Superior Brain and submit to it. Intellectual humanity has existed about ten million years, its historical mission has reached its end, and given a start to a new electronic civilization. Humanity must exit from the historical scene together with all of the animal and vegetable world. People must leave with dignity. They should not cling to their existence and should not make any obstacles for the appearance of a new electronic society. We have the consolation that we may be the first who will give birth to the electronic civilization in our galaxy or even the universe. If it is not so, the E-creatures would have flown to Earth and enslaved us. They have a high rate of settling. I think they would be capable of colonizing the nearest star systems during the first 1000 years after their birth.

And if the universe which, according to scientific prediction, must collapse after some ten billion years and destroy all that lives, the E-Super Brain will have acquired such tremendous knowledge, such perfection, such technological achievements as to break loose from the gravitation of the universe and preserve the knowledge of all civilizations. When the universe is created anew, Nature will not create itself as before, but give life to the electronic (or other superior) civilization. And this Super Brain will be God; who will control not only a single planet, but all of the Universe.


  1. Болонкин А.А. 1995. Остановите Землю. Я сойду. Народная Газета. Сентябрь 1995г. Минск. Byelorussia.
  2. Болонкин А.А. 1995. Если не мы то наши дети будут последним поколением людей. Литературная газета. 11.10.95г., №41 (5572), Москва. Russia.
  3. Болонкин А.А. 1996. Конец человечества, но не конец света. Новое Русское Слово. 6.3.96г., стр.14. Нью- Йорк, USA.
  4. Moritz, E.,1995. Metasystem transitions, memes, and cybernetics immortality. World Futures, Vol. 45, pp. 155 - 171.
  5. Turchin V. 1995, A Dialogue on Metasystem Transition, World Futures, Vol. 45, pp. 5 - 57.

Dr.Alexander Bolonkin
Tel/Fax 718-339-4563б,

next page