Is Humankind just a stage in the chain of stages, of which evolution of Nature is comprised of and will humanity be superseded at some point because of either biological or intellectual evolution?
If so, what will the next generation, which will succeed Humans, utilize from human achievements/ developments?

NB That is what Stephen Hawking said on this issue (see the last paragraph) in:


"This means Hawking says that we have entered a new phase of evolution. "At first, evolution proceeded by natural selection, from random mutations. This Darwinian phase, lasted about three and a half billion years, and produced us, beings who developed language, to exchange information." ".

Also see

Curr Aging Sci. 2014;7(1):17-24.
Human evolution, life history theory, and the end of biological reproduction.
Global Brain Institute (GBI), Brussels, Belgium. [email protected].
Throughout primate history there have been three major life history transitions towards increasingly delayed sexual maturation and biological reproduction, as well as towards extended life expectancy. Monkeys reproduce later and live longer than do prosimians, apes reproduce later and live longer than do monkeys, and humans reproduce later and live longer than do apes. These life history transitions are connected to increased encephalization. During the last life history transition from apes to humans, increased encephalization co-evolved with increased dependence on cultural knowledge for energy acquisition. This led to a dramatic pressure for more energy investment in growth over current biological reproduction. Since the industrial revolution socioeconomic development has led to even more energy being devoted to growth over current biological reproduction. I propose that this is the beginning of an ongoing fourth major primate life history transition towards completely delayed biological reproduction and an extension of the evolved human life expectancy. I argue that the only fundamental difference between this primate life history transition and previous life history transitions is that this transition is being driven solely by cultural evolution, which may suggest some deeper evolutionary transition away from biological evolution is already in the process of occurring. PMID: 24852016 [PubMed]

Also see http://www.bees.unsw.edu.au/has-human-evolution-come-end-0
And http://www.theguardian.com/science/2002/feb/03/genetics.research

  • Quick question: When you say 'Chain of stages' are you positing an actual Great Chain of Being or just using it as a shorthand for something else?
    – Dave B
    Jul 30, 2014 at 20:03
  • Something similar - but without reference to God. I am leaving the "initial conditions" to be outside of the scope of assumed by me concept. In this context I do not care how the the stages, such as appearance of the Universe, life and Human beings came out to existence.
    – Alex
    Jul 30, 2014 at 20:15
  • With or without a god-figure at the top, the concept of a Great Chain of Being, especially as classically envisioned, has been shown to be false and is to biology what phlogiston is to physics. If you are positing something similar could you please either elaborate on the differences so I know the important details or make it clear that I should not be focusing on this element for being of minimal importance to your question?
    – Dave B
    Jul 30, 2014 at 20:20
  • From the Wikipedia article (GCoB): The idea of the Great Chain as well as the derived "missing link" was abandoned in the early 20th century science, as the notion of an ordering of living organisms is antithetical to modern biological classification
    – Dave B
    Jul 30, 2014 at 20:23
  • What is important to me only is that I recognize/acknowledge that Nature in its "evolution" (in the broad meaning of that word, which is wider than biological evolution) historically went through (so far) 3 following historical consecutive stages: a) appearance of objects, not associated with life b) biological evolution of living objects, up to (inclusively) appearance of Human beings c) the stage where Human activities are taking place. This classification of stages is my own - unless you will point me to preceding references.
    – Alex
    Jul 30, 2014 at 20:32

2 Answers 2


There is absolutely no guarantee that anything devised by human minds or hands will survive the eventual extinction of the human race.

That's the short answer - there's a myriad number of ways and reasons by which our species may be wiped out. Our current numbers and distribution may seem impressive, but the hubris of our species is vulnerable to medium-sized rocks in unstable orbits, emergence of devastating and virulent new diseases, climate destabilization and the resultant loss/reduction of human-habitable areas, etc. etc.

I mention this because the 'how' behind our eventual extinction will affect what artifacts are left behind and how they might be interpreted. Based on previous questions, it is my understanding that the question-poser holds the view that H. sapiens (sapiens) will be superseded by some form of meta-humanity of our own devising. While possible, this outcome is not guaranteed and is of unknown likelihood, but will be considered below.

Extinction due to cruel, cosmic coincidence

If H. sapiens' death knell comes about due to some form of Death from the Skies, most other species on our fair planet would suffer significant setbacks as well. 65 million years passed between the K-T extinction event and the advent of modern humans, and because human-like intelligence has happened only once so far we have no idea if that's fast or slow.

A few million years would probably be an optimistic waiting time. For comparison, time has not been especially kind to human achievements over the past few thousand years - 5000-year-old cities tend to be completely buried. So with that future in mind:

  1. Gaining, transmitting and storing knowledge would have to be reinvented. Note that, since we have no idea how likely the emergence of human-like intelligence is, there is no guarantee that such would arise for a second time on the same planet.
  2. There already exist non-human (and even non-mammal) tool-using and tool-crafting species, though humans have certainly elevated tool creation to an art form. Since tool use has arisen spontaneously multiple times in multiple lineages, it does not seem unreasonable to predict that a species with sufficiently human-like intelligence would develop more and more complicated tools similar to how we did.
    Artifacts of humanity's brief tenure on this planet would be left behind. Should some future species develop sufficiently human-like intellect to invent their own version of archaeology there would be a lot of interesting stuff for them to dig up, interpret and argue about in their equivalent of academia halls. Due to the passage of geologic-scale time, it would be unlikely that anything we've made would still be functional enough to be reverse engineered.
  3. A codified morality would have to be reinvented, and would be contingent on the emergence of a species with sufficiently human-like intelligence. That said, should such intelligence arise the development of some form of morality is probably a given, since most (if not all) social species have some way to reward/punish acceptable/deviant behaviours. There's no way to know how similar their morality would be to any of the various moral systems devised by humanity (though there may be sociologists/anthropologists/biologists/etc. who specialize in this area who may be able to make some educated guesses)
  4. Artistic creations that left physical artifacts may be preserved well enough to be rediscovered in the ruins of our civilization. Whether they would be appreciated as art by the future species is unknowable. It is extremely unlikely that any of our writings would ever be deciphered (deciphering extinct human languages is hard enough, with some of the earliest written languages still indecipherable!), so any meaning behind the art would be lost. Any of our digitally-encoded knowledge would likely be long decayed by the time computer-like technology could be reinvented.
  5. The assorted religious values expressed by various H. sapiens groups throughout history would only be recoverable if the scientist/linguist equivalents of the future species could crack one or more of our written languages and have sufficient surviving source material to work from. It is far more likely that the future species would develop their own unique superstitions, beliefs, cults, etc.

Extinction due to natural disasters (disease, habitat devastation, nuclear war, zombie outbreak, etc)

If our species is taken out by some event(s) more local to our planet, we might go down without taking 90% of all extant species along with us. Earth's fauna might be in a position to adapt to our abandoned infrastructure, so the re-evolution of human-like intelligence may be faster the second time, maybe as fast as hundreds (or even tens) of thousands of years.

  1. Gaining and storing knowledge would still have to be re-invented, but the artifacts left behind by H. sapiens might be salvageable enough to serve as exemplars. Written works would probably not be decipherable (as above), but physical ruins would provide lots of ideas to reverse-engineer.
  2. Assuming that extant tool-using and tool-crafting species survive the H. sapiens extinction event, their crafting efforts may get a boost from the materials we abandon. The exact nature of our extinction would determine the quantity and quality of material artifacts left behind.
  3. Morals would have to be re-invented, as above.
  4. Human art would still lose its modern meaning, as above.
  5. Human religious values would be lost, as above.

H. sapiens bring about their own extinction through creation of sapient robotics, superhumans, or other 'transcendent' non-carbon-based life form

In this scenario, human extinction is a planned event because we've created something better and are stepping aside and letting our creations take over (or we accidentally create the robo-apocalypse that Hollywood loves and we get wiped out forcefully, save for one plucky hero and heroine. But I digress).

There is currently no reason to think that we're anywhere close to creating a trans-human species. There may also be technical considerations that would prevent us from creating such a species (at least as commonly envisioned). That said, if we can and eventually do, human achievement at that time would be the starting point that the new species would work from.

  1. Gaining, storing and transmitting knowledge would continue to follow much the same pattern as it has through human history.
  2. The robo-species would undoubtedly be intelligently designed to use other human technology, and would be able to craft new and novel items.
  3. Morality would continue to evolve, using the programming by their creators as a starting point. The physical realities of a trans-human species might radically shift the nature of moral considerations - if a trans-human can have a complete backup of their mental state made at any time, death might only be an inconvenience, for example.
  4. Artistic works would still be recognizable, being grounded in the human programmers' tastes initially, and if the trans-human species has senses beyond what H. sapiens possesses their artistic expression could evolve along very unexpected lines.
  5. Religious values would initially be whatever was programmed into the trans-humans and would evolve from there. If all trans-humans have instant, inbuilt, internet-like access to all human and trans-human knowledge at all times I would predict that religion would quickly fade to near-nonexistence in trans-human societies (based on studies that correlate education to religiosity in human populations).


What values, if any, (created by the Mankind) will survive the[sic] Mankind itself?

None, unless we deliberately send them into the future using some method of our own devising. Even then, without actual humans these values could rapidly evolve into something beyond recognition.

  • 1
    Thanks for your time and thoughts, spent on answering my question ! I was mainly concerned in the non-catastrophic course of events, which is covered in your the very last scenario. The only two things, which I could add with regards to non-catastrophic scenario: a) in that case mostly "knowledge" will be "reused"; b) this preemption could happen in such way, which will be totally beyond control of Human society ...
    – Alex
    Jul 31, 2014 at 0:21
  • I hate to write this, Dave, but I see that voting down on my question is continuing and, as a result, it could end up with that this my question will be put on hold to follow the destiny of the rest of my questions.
    – Alex
    Jul 31, 2014 at 0:28
  • @Alex: At least I got an answer in this time though! I split the answer into the three parts to try and emphasize that #3 isn't a given and might not even be very likely.
    – Dave B
    Jul 31, 2014 at 13:41
  • Guess who was voting for your answer :-;
    – Alex
    Jul 31, 2014 at 14:01
  • would you be willing to cast your vote "FOR" my question (since you have answered it ) ?
    – Alex
    Aug 1, 2014 at 3:23


Humankind - is just a stage in the chain of stages, of which evolution of Nature is comprised of.

According to the dialectical principle of the "negation of negation", one could assume that Humanity will be superseded at some point in time (through either biological or intellectual evolution), and that the Humankind, as we know it, will cease to be the leading edge of Nature.

It will be superseded by the next stage (whatever it might be - let say, robots), which will "negate" the previous stage (the Mankind).

So let us look what values, if any, (created by the Mankind) will survive the Mankind and will be assumed by the next stage, which will play then the role of the leading edge in the evolution of the Nature ...

The question could be re formulated in other words as:

"product(s) of which of the following Human activities (if any):

A) Gaining and storing Knowledge

B) Creation of Material values by producing "man made objects" - such as machinery, buildings (starting with pyramids) - those objects have certain practical value for Humans

C) Creation of Moral values

D) Artistic creations (music, paintings, sculptures, books, plays, movies, etc.)

E) Religious values (may be considered as part of C) ? )

will be utilized by that next stage of the Nature's evolution ?"

In the future, upon non-catastrophic cessation of the Mankind's current function of being the leading edge in the process of Nature's evolution, the most utilizable Mankind's asset will be the knowledge.

Knowledge is the most important product of human activity, though it is perceived mainly to be the derivative of the utilitarian need to improve the material standard of Human life, improve productivity, ease physical labor efforts, and satisfy human curiosity.

From the more abstract generalized prospective level, the search and production of knowledge could probably be viewed as the clear manifestation of the major trend in the development of Nature.

The second stage (biological evolution of life forms - in a process where currently we could observe three stages) of Nature's development ends upon appearance of the human mind, which on the third stage is used to extract knowledge.

Even if Earth’s experience of Nature’s development is entirely unique and occurred in spite of all odds, knowledge nevertheless still reflects the laws of the objective reality.

One could see clear separation of knowledge from its original producer (particular scientist/human being) as far as the storage of knowledge is concerned:

brain->book->computer database->ROM/firmware.

Above scheme shows how storage of the knowledge separates further and further from its original “consumer”.

The trend of knowledge separation and taking on its own existence will eventually show itself in the area of its usage.

One might think of expert systems, robots and artificial intelligence, naturally, as the next stage in that direction.

Knowledge, therefore, is the fundamental attribute of Nature, which, like time, has the global overall trend of being unidirectional (its volume is always increasing).

The true knowledge, in its final instance is universal and absolute (complete) since it describes the universal objective laws of matter, which are (we believe) the same across the entire universe.

Knowledge vs. information: knowledge is substantially different than some collection of bits/bytes of information (which may or may not contain any fundamental knowledge).

So, knowledge has it is own value beyond the human need and is, in its purified logical/mathematical form, transparent with regards to its potential producer and user.

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