Is it possible for another of Earth's species to catch up and overtake us technologically over the next million years or so? Assuming we survive that long as a species and our technology stagnates along with our biology, but our population reduces to say 20 million people. For example; if an isolated group of octopus evolved to become semi terrestrial (it would be basically impossible to develop chemistry, metallurgy etc under water), is it theoretically possible for them to increase in intelligence, develop tools, have an agricultural revolution, develop written language, have an industrial revolution and etc over the next million years or so.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding. Please take the tour and visit the help center to understand our standards and policies. Your question at the moment is rather lacking in background and context. If you could provide them it would make easier to attempt an answer. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Mar 11 at 6:57
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    $\begingroup$ Is this asking about a real currently existing species just 'evolving' socially (i.e no big changes in neural makeup, just learing, and teching learnt stuff)? Or is it about real evolution for some reason leading to a currently existing species getting smarter? Or is it about any scientifically thinkable way (including intervention by aliens) to make a technologically advanced species from a currently existing non-human one? Or is it about a putative currently existing species with human-like levels of intellect catching up? And, on top of the aforementioned - are humans still around? $\endgroup$ – bukwyrm Mar 11 at 8:12
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    $\begingroup$ A million years is a very long time. Quite likely, there will be no humans on Earth a million years from now, either because we become extinct by our own actions, or because we will evolve into something else. Remember that the entire history, from the oldest inscriptions on Sumerian bricks to the latest SpaceX rocket, covers less than 1% of a million years. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 11 at 9:36
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    $\begingroup$ @aCVn A million years is a long time for cultural development. It's not a long time for evolutionary development. I can't see any currently intelligent species evolving quite the drastic specialisation towards intelligence and sociality that humans have in a million years. It's been 3.3mya since humans started using flaked stones which is already a very advanced tool compared to other examples in nature at the moment. $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith Mar 11 at 13:27
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    $\begingroup$ "it would be basically impossible to develop chemistry, metallurgy etc under water". Come on, that's an engineering problem. Let those pesky Octopi engineers have some fun trying to figure out how to smelt while being underwater. $\endgroup$ – Tolure Mar 11 at 16:41

The first question is, are humans still around, retaining their technology. If yes, then it is extremely unlikely since humans already around. Any new species developing tools would be first investigated, and later possibly integrated in human science.

If humans are not around, the earliest reports of stone tool usage are 3.4 million years ago. So this is the timescale to look at for a new species to get to our current technology. This time can of course be shortened, especially if the newcomers bootstrap themselves with knowledge from humans. On the other hand, they might be hampered by depleted natural resources from humans, oil might be scarce for them.

Your best bet for someone overtaking human technology would be some sort of human created AI, or gene engineered superhumans, or whatever creature is experimented on should we ever figure out what actually causes intelligence.

  • $\begingroup$ natural resources aren't depleted, but the logic as to where to get them from would be a bit confused. Of course, when I say natural resources aren't depleted, that's assuming we don't discover a method of efficiently annihilating matter just for the fun of it. $\endgroup$ – Giu Piete Mar 13 at 7:30

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