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We are perhaps the only humans in the galaxy, but not on our planet

A recent revision of the famous Drake Equation (used since the middle of the last century to determine how many intelligent civilizations exist in our galaxy) seems to indicate that we are probably the only humans in the Milky Way. Whether that conclusion is true or not, the truth is that we are no longer the only humans on earth.

The study on the Drake Equation, by Robert J. Stern and Taras V. Gerya, was published last April in Scientific Reports. Stern and Gerya modified the original equation by adding elements such as time and possibilities for the formation of continents and oceans on exoplanets as well as the movement of tectonic plates.

The researchers concluded that, although “primitive” life may be abundant in the Milky Way, there are about 500 Earth-like planets in the entire galaxy, that is, “suitable for the accelerated development of advanced life.” In the best-case scenario, that number would reach one million, a small fraction of the 10 billion civilizations in our galaxy that Frank Drake anticipated in 1961.

While we wait for our galactic cousins ​​to call us or discover us, or we them, we humans of the 21st century are no longer the only humans on earth, as we were since the disappearance thousands and thousands of years ago of the Neanderthals, the Denisovans and other human relatives of ours, but not us. From now on, digital humans will accompany us.

This is neither science fiction nor a future possibility: digital humans are already a reality and, whether we like it or not, whether we are ready or not, in a short time we will interact with them as frequently or more frequently than we now interact with our cell phones.

A few weeks ago, the company Altera announced that it already has $9 million to develop “digital humans with artificial intelligence.” According to Altera, digital humans will be “the bridge” between biological humans and artificial intelligence. Interacting with digital humans will be “like interacting with a human friend,” that is, “they will live, and love like us.” And they will be empathetic.

For its part, a few days ago, NVIDIA announced new technologies and programs focused on digital humans. In fact, that company launched a platform and a series of services to create and interact with digital humans who, unlike what happens with us, can change their face and language as many times as they want.

So, although the chances of encountering other humans in our galaxy have been significantly reduced, the opportunity to encounter other humans (in this case, digital ones) on this planet already exists. And that means that we will have to adapt to them and they to us, perhaps through protocols that regulate the rights and responsibilities of digital humans.

These two questions then arise: How do we define the limits of personality in a world where consciousness and agency are no longer exclusive to biological organisms? And how will we live if our galactic cousins ​​contact us?

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