The Evolution of Human Science (Chiang)

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The Evolution of Human Science
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: In a future where metahumans dominate scientific research, human scientists shifted their focus from original research to interpreting metahuman science, leading to new modes of scientific inquiry.

Twenty-five years ago, the last original research report was submitted by human scientists. This marked a shift in the scientific landscape as metahumans, beings with enhanced cognitive abilities, began to dominate experimental research. They communicated their findings through digital neural transfer (DNT), a method beyond human comprehension, reducing human scientific journals to mere vehicles of popularization.

No one denies the many benefits of metahuman science, but one of its costs to human researchers was the realization that they would likely never make an original contribution to science again.

The rise of metahuman science led many human scientists to abandon original research and focus on hermeneutics, the interpretation of metahuman scientific work. This included textual hermeneutics, where scientists deciphered cryptic translations of metahuman publications, and artifact hermeneutics, where they attempted to understand the physical principles of devices based on metahuman science.

Hermeneutics is a legitimate method of scientific inquiry and increases the body of human knowledge just as original research did.

The Narrator — narrator; a human scientist reflecting on the role of human scientists in an age dominated by metahuman science.

The most speculative mode of inquiry was remote sensing of metahuman research facilities, such as the ExaCollider installed beneath the Gobi Desert. Despite the criticism, these undertakings were considered worthwhile as they increased the body of human knowledge and could potentially lead to applications overlooked by metahumans.

The Sugimoto gene therapy, which could augment a human brain into a metahuman one, had to be performed before the embryo began neurogenesis. This posed a dilemma for human parents of a metahuman child, as they had to choose between allowing their child to interact with metahuman culture via DNT and watching them grow incomprehensible, or restricting access to DNT, which was seen as deprivation by metahumans. Consequently, the number of parents opting for the Sugimoto gene therapy dropped significantly.

Despite the dominance of metahuman science, human culture and the scientific tradition were expected to survive. The possibility of a different intelligence-enhancing therapy that could bridge the cultural divide between humans and metahumans was seen as a justification for the continuation of human research. The technologies that made metahumans possible were originally invented by humans, serving as a reminder of human potential.