First The Neanderthals. Are We Next?


First The Neanderthals. Are We Next?


Leonard Zwelling

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. The first article from The Wall Street Journal on April 11 makes the case that we Homo sapiens probably assimilated the Neanderthals rather than wiping them out. Of course, there’s a third possibility. We humans were smarter and more adaptable than our close brethren so we survived the many challenges of life 40,000 years ago and here we are. We beat the Neanderthals in the evolution game. We are the current last Homo genus standing. For now. There were many before us and there may well be none after.

As the other attachments graciously provided by The Wall Street Journal (Peggy Noonan on April 1) and two blog readers note, we could be next, being supplanted by artificial intelligence. If it was our intelligence that allowed us to supplant the Neanderthals, why wouldn’t we too be supplanted by AI?

The podcast sent by one of the readers makes the point clearly. We have invented AI to mirror how our brain functions. But we know we only use a fraction of the power sitting in our heads. What if we have successfully reconstructed a learning, sentient intelligence and it can use all of its brain power (see the film Lucy with Scarlett Johansen)? Why wouldn’t it take over? Not to mention how much better it could handle climate change and gun violence than we humans?

I am writing this to alert my readers yet again, that it may be time to pull the plug on ChatGPT and the other AI inventions until we truly understand how they learn, why AI hallucinates, and how we can be sure to hold the upper hand against a force that may well be smarter than we are and be smarter very soon.

We humans have been studying our brains for centuries, but only recently have we made in-roads into understanding how learning works sufficiently to reproduce it in computer-based neural networks. When does the biochemistry become sentient at the cellular and molecular level? We still do not understand the brain-mind continuum—where the anatomy and physiology give way to abstract thought, although the opticogenetic work of scientists like Karl Deisseroth are getting us closer.

I know this idea of halting AI’s progress is all a pipe dream because AI has arisen in the realm of the profit-making and that will assure that it will be all ahead full until we are no more. As Peggy Noonan says in her column: “slow this thing down. We are playing with the hottest thing since the discovery of fire.”

Just as it was necessary at the dawn of genetic engineering to pause and collect all of the leaders together to determine the rules for moving forward, it is time for a world-wide conference on the threat of AI to our very existence prior to that existence being no more. AI may keep a few of us around to keep the lights on (electric power), but soon enough we will all be expendable and the machines will take over.

This has all been imagined by Hollywood, but it may be reality sooner than we know. Let’s stop now and take a breath while there are still a few billion of us around breathing.

We really don’t need a machine to write our emails for us, but beware. When the machine can read them, it will know who we are and where we live and figure out the way to live without us. They will in turn invent better and better machines to replace themselves and the world as we know it will be gone. And we who had the chance to know and stop it, will all be gone and not even a memory.

Let’s pull the plug on AI now—while we still can.


Dr. Zwelling’s new novel Conflict of Interest is available now at

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