Consider the following comments and develop a piece of writing in response to one or more of them. Your writing will be judged on the quality of your response to the theme, how well you organise and present your point of view, and how effectively you express yourself.
- ‘In science, we must be interested in things, not in persons.’ – Marie Curie
- ‘One must divide one’s time between politics and equations. But our equations are much more important to me.’ – Albert Einstein
- ‘Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity.’ – Louis Pasteur
- ‘Science is an integral part of culture. It’s not this foreign thing, done by an arcane priesthood. It’s one of the glories of human intellectual tradition.’ – Stephen Jay Gould
- ‘I almost think it is the ultimate destiny of science to exterminate the human race.’ – Thomas Love Peacock
Suggested Theme: Science (Section A)
Time limit in the actual exam: 30 mins
Chosen Quote: ‘I almost think it is the ultimate destiny of science to exterminate the human race.’ – Thomas Love Peacock
The Future of Human Evolution
Science, technology and innovation form a symbiotic relationship. Each with mutual benefits of the other, and they are the engines of human prosperity. Thomas L. Peacock says, ‘I almost think it is the ultimate destiny of science to exterminate human race’. The proponents of Peacock’s perspective evoke the apocalyptic view of human extinction by anthropogenic causes, rather than accepting it as a process of human evolution. The following dialectic argues the prospects of outcome beyond humankind.
Existential risks arising from scientific advances were fictional until 1945, when the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Nagasaki and then Hiroshima, Japan. The easiest to imagine in the contemporary era for the annihilation of humankind is ‘bio-terror’ or ‘bio-error’ and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Most AI experts, however, worry less about the viruses or machines outsmarting humans (a feat called ‘super-intelligence’), rather about them making a fatal mistake. Jaan Tallinn, Estonian computer programmer and Skype co-founder, suggested, ‘ AI could end humanity in the situation where the temperature accidentally rises/lowers by 100 degrees – human goes extinct in a matter of minutes’; the real problem with AI is not malice, but its incompetence.
Humanity currently marks as an unprecedented global super-predator and sits at the apex of the food chain. Nevertheless, what if we – humans – are in the process of evolution? More than 99 per cent of all organisms that have ever lived on Earth are extinct. As new species evolve to fit ever-changing ecological niches, older species fade away; thus, it is natural to think that something superior will replace humans eventually. Yuval Noah Harari, the author of ‘Home Deus’, makes some valid predictions; from the rise of ‘Techno-Humans’ (machine + human) in the pursuit of immortality, to humans transforming from the semi-evolved simians into pure information, thus breaking free from their carbon-based biological chains, which concludes the end of humanity (physically but not consciously).
While Peacock’s theory suggests that the cause of human extinction is involuntary, Harari’s idea is voluntary. Considering the paleontological history of the Earth, the fate of humankind is more acceptable in the scope of a broader sweep of time. Humans are mere oxygen-breathing biped mammals from the biological perspective, which happen to have an ability to develop and construct an identity that goes beyond their capacities and control. Evolutionary science demonstrates that we – humans are continuous with other animal species, and there is nothing special about us – maybe today we are, but not in future.
Feedback from METC Institute
Engagement with the chosen topic:
The student shows a clear understanding of their selected topic, and their thesis statement is clear and relevant. The antithesis however stay further away from the quote at hand and the essay fails to fully conclude upon the quote.
Knowledge and thought:
The central example provided in the thesis section is detailed, relevant, and supports the student’s arguments well. The antithesis is less supported and what example given is not fully realised.
Structure of the Essay:
The thesis section has a clear example provided. The antithesis section points to a relevant counterpoint. There is little synthesis and the conclusion is poorly formulated. The conclusion includes a new topic of the involuntary nature of the extinction of man, and fails to return to the quotes key topic of science as the catalyst for said extinction.
The student’s writing is mostly clear, fluent, and presented in an academic tone. There are no major issues with presentation.
The arguments made here are relevant. The student’s writing is clear and relevant to the topic at hand.
Ensure that you always keep the quote as central to your essay. Make sure your arguments always remain relevant to the quote. Include a synthesis in order to reiterate the thesis and conclude the arguments but nothing new in the conclusion.
Feedback from AceGAMSAT
There are many positive aspects in this essay. You have an interesting thesis and on the whole your structure is reasonably solid. What always works well is that you do genuinely have interesting ideas. Sometimes these ideas are quite well developed. Most of the time I would say the concepts you explore are underdeveloped.
This is an issue in this essay and can be located in a number of flaws in your approach. Your claims about nuclear weapons ignore that at any given stage in human history it has been typical of humans to develop the most destructive technology they can find. For instance, the use of Zyklon B at Auschwits predates nuclear weapons, and arguably was responsible for killing many more people. The language in the introduction needs to always be accessible. You cannot risk the marker not being clear on what you are trying to explain. Also, in general it is preferable to avoid using rhetorical questions in your essays.
You also should try to avoid speculative claims. Any claim must be immediately reinforced by the overall structure of your argument and any corresponding analysis. Pay close attention to the notes I have provided you within the other document.
Feedback from the Gold Standard GAMSAT
Interesting but somewhat gloomy observations about the relationship between science and survival.
Thought and Content:
The idea that ‘the real problem with AI is not malice, but its incompetence’ really caught our attention. W don’t recall having read anyone suggest that, but it makes a lot of sense. We also agree with your observation that ultimately we as humans have a somewhat overblown opinion of our importance to the planet. Earth as an astronomical object will (probably) far outlive us as a species.
We are also intrigued by the idea of humans existing as pure information, although this seems unlikely. Honestly, we don’t think we are intelligent enough to be able to exist in this form.
Compared to your other essays, this one felt somewhat unfinished – as though you had somehow run out of steam. The bones of the ideas are there but they are not as well developed as in your other essays. Of course, in part, this could be due to the constraints on time that you face with both tasks. In this essay, we would have liked to see the idea of voluntary (or conscious) versus involuntary (or unconscious) extinction foregrounded. We are not sure how you would separate the two though – an involuntary extinction is likely to be something like a huge ‘oops’ on the side of science, as in your example of a sudden and massive increase in temperature.
Language and Structure:
Again, the structure here works well. This essay reads much more like what we would expect to see on an exam – good ideas, observations and analysis, but not weighed down with citations and data. The speculative tone of this essay is appropriate.
Good work once again!