Peter Diamandis Thinks We’re Evolving Toward “Meta-Intelligence”

November 18, 2017

From Natural Selection to Intelligent Direction

In the next 30 years, humanity is in for a transformation the likes of which we’ve never seen before—and XPRIZE Foundation founder and chairman Peter Diamandis believes that this will give birth to a new species. Diamandis admits that this might sound too far out there for most people. He is convinced, however, that we are evolving towards what he calls “meta-intelligence,” and today’s exponential rate of growth is one clear indication.

In an essay for Singularity Hub, Diamandis outlines the transformative stages in the multi-billion year pageant of evolution, and takes note of what the recent increasing “temperature” of evolution—a consequence of human activity—may mean for the future. The story, in a nutshell, is this—early prokaryotic life appears about 3.5 billion years ago (bya), representing perhaps a symbiosis of separate metabolic and replicative mechanisms of “life;” at 2.5 bya, eukaryotes emerge as composite organisms incorporating biological “technology” (other living things) within themselves; at 1.5 bya, multicellular metazoans appear, taking the form of eukaryotes that are yoked together in cooperative colonies; and at 400 million years ago, vertebrate fish species emerge onto land to begin life’s adventure beyond the seas.

“Today, at a massively accelerated rate—some 100 million times faster than the steps I outlined above—life is undergoing a similar evolution,” Diamandis writes. He thinks we’ve moved from a simple Darwinian evolution via natural selection into evolution by intelligent direction.

Credits: Richard Bizley/SPL
Credits: Richard Bizley/SPL

“I believe we’re rapidly heading towards a human-scale transformation, the next evolutionary step into what I call a “Meta-Intelligence,” a future in which we are all highly connected—brain to brain via the cloud—sharing thoughts, knowledge and actions,” he writes.

Change is Coming

Diamandis outlines the next stages of humanity’s evolution in four steps, each a parallel to his four evolutionary stages of life on Earth. There are four driving forces behind this evolution: our interconnected or wired world, the emergence of brain-computer interface (BCI), the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI), and man reaching for the final frontier of space.

In the next 30 years, humanity will move from the first stage—where we are today—to the fourth stage. From simple humans dependent on one another, humanity will incorporate technology into our bodies to allow for more efficient use of information and energy. This is already happening today.

The third stage is a crucial point.

Enabled with BCI and AI, humans will become massively connected with each other and billions of AIs (computers) via the cloud, analogous to the first multicellular lifeforms 1.5 billion years ago. Such a massive interconnection will lead to the emergence of a new global consciousness, and a new organism I call the Meta-Intelligence.

This brings to mind another futuristic event that many are eagerly anticipating: the technological singularity. “Within a quarter century, nonbiological intelligence will match the range and subtlety of human intelligence,” said notable futurist Ray Kurzweil, explaining the singularity.

Credits: Lovelace Turing
Credits: Lovelace Turing

“It will then soar past it because of the continuing acceleration of information-based technologies, as well as the ability of machines to instantly share their knowledge.” Kurzweil predicts that this will happen by 2045—within Diamandis’ evolutionary timeline. “The nonbiological intelligence created in that year will be one billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today.”

The fourth and final stage marks humanity’s evolution to becoming a multiplanetary species. “Our journey to the moon, Mars, asteroids and beyond represents the modern-day analogy of the journey made by lungfish climbing out of the oceans some 400 million years ago,” Diamandis explains.

Buckle up: we have an exciting future ahead of us.

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The next XPRIZE: Education software to end global illiteracy

June 7, 2014


If you want a vision of what the world will look like in 25 years, have a chat with Dr. Peter Diamandis. This MIT aerospace engineer and M.D. from Harvard is an international pioneer in the fields of innovation, incentive competitions and commercial space. As the chairman and CEO of the XPRIZE Foundation, best known for its $10 million Ansari XPRIZE for private spaceflight, he is helping to jump-start a commercial space industry in the U.S.

An emissary for “social entrepreneurship” with a goal of harnessing technology to help mankind, Dr. Diamandis has launched a number of private ventures, including Planetary Resources, a company designing spacecraft to mine near-Earth asteroids for precious materials; and Human Longevity, a genomics and cell therapy–based diagnostic company focused on extending the human lifespan.

To fast-forward change and help failing industries, he partnered with Ray Kurzweil, the director of engineering at Google, to launch Singularity University six years ago. The unaccredited university in Silicon Valley teaches leaders how to apply “exponential technologies” to address humanity’s grand challenges. Educators are well-known entrepreneurs and scientists who want to mentor the next generation of world-class innovators. In a recent interview with CNBC’s senior editor Lori Ioannou, Dr. Diamandis talked about his upcoming plans for the XPRIZE Foundation and the rapid pace of technological change.

“If you can make a big impact on the global literacy problem, you can uplift a big portion of society.” -Dr. Peter Diamandis, founder and chairman, XPRIZE Foundation

CNBC: You talk about exponential technologies. What does the term mean?

A: These are technologies—artificial intelligence, robotics, infinite computing, ubiquitous broadband networks, digital manufacturing, nanomaterials and synthetic biology—that will enable us to make greater gains in the next two decades than we have in the past 200. They will have transformational impact hard for us to imagine today.

CNBC: What industries are being turned upside down by rapid technological advances?

A: A good example is the financial industry. Already we see new approaches to the markets with the introduction of digital currency known as bitcoin and block-chain trading. There is also an arms race going on with the use of artificial intelligence and quantum computing. Look at what’s happened with algorithmic high-frequency trading. You have to ask, ‘Will the NASDAQ or the NYSE still exist a decade from now?’

CNBC: Do you think most people are aware of this revolution?

A: No. There is so much tech disruption going on, I don’t think investors and money managers are aware of the rate of change coming down the pike. The rate of change is too hard to fathom. But they need to be aware that many of today’s F500 are in danger. A study from the John M. Olin School of Business at Washington University estimates that 40 percent of today’s F500 companies on the S&P 500 will no longer exist in 10 years.

CNBC: What trends are at work?

A: In my book “Abundance,” I note some of the broad ones. Robots and AI are replacing people in the workforce; virtual commerce and telecommuting is having an effect on real estate trends. Digital manufacturing, known as 3-D printing, is allowing anyone, anywhere, to create physical items from digital blueprints, and it is ushering in an era of do-it-yourself innovation. People need to understand how exponential technologies are impacting the business landscape. They need to do some future casting and look at how industries are evolving and being transformed.

CNBC: So what’s the next big XPRIZE competition going to focus on?

A: We hope to launch one on global literacy over the next six months. There are 1 billion people who are illiterate on Earth. About 100 million are children with no access to schools or teachers. Our focus will be on launching a competition to create software that can operate on any mobile or tablet device that can teach reading, writing, math and other subjects in a two- to three-year period. My feeling is that if you can make a big impact on the global literacy problem, you can uplift a big portion of society.

CNBC: You are one of a number of “technophilanthropists.” What led to this new era?

A: Many entrepreneurs that made their fortunes by founding successful technology companies want to give back and solve the world’s biggest problems on a grand scale. There is tremendous opportunity in this approach.

Lori Ioannou, Senior Editor,