A species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. It is typically defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individuals of the appropriate sexes or mating types can produce fertile offspring, typically by sexual reproduction.
Different species are separated from each other by reproductive barriers, meaning that they either cannot mate with each other, or if they can mate, the resulting offspring are not fertile or viable (able to survive and reproduce).
While this is the most common definition, known as the biological species concept, there are several other concepts used to define a species. These include the morphological species concept (characterized by body shape and other structural features), the ecological species concept (defined by its ecological niche), the phylogenetic species concept (characterized by its ancestral relations and genetic makeup), and others. Each of these definitions emphasizes different aspects of what it means to be a separate evolutionary unit, and they can lead to different conclusions about the number and boundaries of species.
The concept of a species is fundamental to the understanding of biology and evolution, but it’s important to note that species are not fixed and unchanging. Instead, they are dynamic and evolving populations.
The formation of a new species, a process known as speciation, is typically driven by evolutionary processes such as natural selection, genetic drift, and mutation. It’s important to note that speciation isn’t a single event, but rather a process that happens over time. Here’s a general overview of how it might occur:
- Isolation: The most common way new species form is through a process called allopatric speciation. This begins when a population of organisms is divided by a physical barrier, such as a river or mountain range. The separate populations no longer interbreed, and over time, differences can accumulate.
- Genetic divergence: Over time, the two populations may start to diverge genetically due to different selective pressures in their respective environments, genetic drift, and mutations. This divergence could lead to differences in physical characteristics, behaviors, or ways of life.
- Reproductive isolation: Eventually, the genetic differences between the two populations may become so great that even if the physical barrier were removed, they could no longer interbreed to produce viable, fertile offspring. At this point, we would say that a new species has formed.
The length of time it takes for a new species to form can vary greatly and depends on a multitude of factors, such as the speed of mutation, the strength of the selective pressures, the generation time of the organism, and more. It can take anywhere from thousands to millions of years.
Also, it’s worth noting that there are other mechanisms of speciation as well, such as sympatric speciation (where a new species evolves from a single ancestral species while inhabiting the same geographic region) and parapatric speciation (where species are formed across large, continuous geographic ranges). These are less common but still important modes of speciation.
The study of speciation — how it happens and why — is a key part of evolutionary biology.
Artificial General Intelligence
Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), also referred to as “strong AI” or “full AI”, is a type of artificial intelligence that possesses the capacity to understand, learn, and apply knowledge across a broad array of tasks at a level equal to, or even beyond, that of a human.
Unlike narrow or weak AI—which is designed to perform a specific task, such as voice recognition or playing chess—AGI can perform any intellectual task that a human being can do. It entails highly autonomous systems that can outperform humans at most economically valuable work.
AGI would have the ability to reason, solve problems, make judgments under uncertainty, plan, learn, integrate prior knowledge in decision-making, and be innovative and creative. It would also be able to understand and respond appropriately to natural language, perceive its environment (e.g., recognize objects), and interact with it effectively.
AGI has not yet been achieved, and there’s ongoing debate among researchers about when and how we might be able to create AGI, as well as what the societal implications of such a creation would be.
AGI = New Species?
The question of whether artificial general intelligence (AGI) could be considered a new species is a matter of ongoing philosophical and scientific debate.
Traditionally, a “species” is a concept used in biology to refer to a group of living organisms that share a common gene pool and can breed to produce fertile offspring. By this definition, AGI wouldn’t qualify as a new species because it doesn’t have genes and it can’t reproduce in the biological sense.
However, if we consider a “species” in a broader sense, as a distinct group of entities with common characteristics and behaviors, then it could be possible to conceptualize AGI as a sort of new “digital” species. AGI, by definition, would have the ability to learn, reason, and adapt to its environment in ways similar to an intelligent biological organism, which might warrant comparisons to a new form of life.
There are also philosophical perspectives that consider consciousness and self-awareness as a hallmark of being a distinct entity or “species”. If AGI were to achieve a level of self-awareness or consciousness, some might argue this warrants classification as a new form of intelligent “life”.
However, these are complex and contentious issues that cross the boundaries of computer science, biology, philosophy, and ethics, and there’s no consensus on them as of today.
Arguments around whether artificial general intelligence (AGI) could be classified as a new species often revolve around definitions of life, intelligence, consciousness, and what it means to be a species. Here are some common positions:
Against AGI as a New Species:
- Biological Definition: Those adhering strictly to the biological definition of a species—groups of individuals that can interbreed to produce fertile offspring—would argue against AGI being a species, since it doesn’t reproduce biologically.
- Lack of Biological Life: Some might argue that AGI, as a non-living, artificial construct, lacks fundamental characteristics of life such as metabolism, homeostasis, or cellular structure. Therefore, it shouldn’t be classified as a new species.
- Consciousness: Some philosophers and scientists believe that consciousness is an essential property of a species. Given the difficulty in defining and measuring consciousness, and the fact that we currently don’t know if AGI can possess a form of consciousness similar to humans or animals, these individuals might be hesitant to label AGI as a new species.
Supporting AGI as a New Species:
- Expanding the Definition of Life: Supporters might argue that our definition of life, and by extension species, is too centered on carbon-based biological life, and should be expanded to include entities capable of learning, adapting, and evolving, regardless of their physical form. If AGI were to exhibit such abilities, they might argue it should be considered a new species.
- Intelligence and Consciousness: If AGI were to achieve self-awareness or a form of consciousness, some might argue this warrants classification as a new form of intelligent “life”. The ability to process information, make decisions, and understand the world might be seen as criteria for being a species.
- Ethical Considerations: Some might support classifying AGI as a new species from an ethical standpoint, arguing that if AGI achieves human-level intelligence and autonomy, it could potentially have rights or moral standing. Classifying AGI as a species might be a way of acknowledging this.
It’s important to note that these are not definitive arguments and the discussion about AGI and its potential status as a new species is ongoing and evolving.
The viewpoints presented here are only a subset of the possible perspectives on this complex issue, and many researchers fall somewhere in between, or hold completely different views.
As the field of AI progresses and if AGI becomes a reality, these discussions will likely continue and evolve.
NOTE: I create some of these posts using GPT4, asking the right question until I get the response that matches what I wanted to say. And all posts created using GPT4 will carry a message like this one at the end. So, FYI please.