In the first post, we took a high-level look at Transhumanism.
To recap, Transhumanism is based on the belief that human evolution is intertwined with technology. Technology has advanced to the point where we can now do things that will alter the definition of what it means to be human. Some of these technologies will be potentially dangerous. We ought to embrace this trend as an evolutionary challenge in order to guide and direct that change and move humanity up the evolutionary ladder to ‘the next step’.
So what exactly are we dealing with here?
Genetic Modification is the first item on the list is. I put it at number one because on February 15, 2017 the US patent office made a decision on the intellectual rights to CRISPR-cas9, a powerful and precise gene editing technology. Playing with our genetic code could certainly result in making us something ‘other’ than human.
In just the past month Chinese Drs. corrected genetic mutations in 6 human embryos, Scientists in New York and elsewhere are working on saving food crops , and Drs. in Massachusetts are developing treatments for blood disorders, blindness, and heart disease with it.
And, rightfully so, Ethicists are losing sleep … we are left asking ourselves what, exactly, does it mean to be ‘human’?
Human Enhancing Technologies … think Google Glass and other wearable tech.
Lockheed Martin is currently working on the 3rd generation of a hydraulically powered exoskeleton that already allows the wearer to carry 200 pounds of gear around while decreasing metabolic rates. Imagine a soldier in the field being able to hike 20 miles in the field carrying huge loads an arriving at the front lines as refreshed as if they had just awoken from a power nap.
Or an astronaut to move around with impunity in environments that they could not otherwise handle … shameless plug for my book … A Prequel to Change 😊.
With convergent technologies, bio-enhancing mechanology doesn’t stop there, Science is working on biotech enhancements to memory, cognition and even emotions. I read somewhere a comment by a professor commenting that we are evolving from “homo-sapiens into robo-sapiens”.
Will all humans be able to enjoy equal access to the performance enhancing modifications? I am guessing the answer is no but lets say that the technology becomes as ubiquitous as the cell phone … there will still be people who don’t want to be grafted into a machine. They will be at a serious disadvantage … could give new meaning to the term ‘cyber-bullying’.
Not all technologies need be internal to push us past being human. The collective body of knowledge accessible to everyone and anyone is staggering. This serves to push the pace of change even further, which will in turn push us to evolve into something ‘else’ even faster.
The ‘everyone and anyone’ access to this body of knowledge means that humanity will proceed to embrace the technologies driving this ‘transhumanistic change’ whether you and I agree to like it or not to like it.
Biomedical … We already mentioned gene-editing/splicing technology above since the headlines are from this week. But in addition, researchers are working with things like telemedicine, nanotechnology and robotics that will and ARE NOW extending life spans and curing some diseases while driving others into remission. The result is that with all these convergent technologies, both the quality of life and life expectancy are increasing dramatically.
Superficially, one might be inclined to think “Great! We will live longer and healthier.” And while that is already true, have no doubts, it will impact our society and culture directly and in ways that cannot yet be fully quantified nor qualified.
How long will adolescence last? Will there be jobs for all that want them? What will this do to reproductive cycles? Education? Medicine? Politics? Social Safety Nets? Housing? Food production? That we are in for exciting times is all I can say for certain.
Convergence and the Singularity … Where’s it all End?
Science, evolution and humanity have converged in the here and now … in your generation and mine … to bring is to a unique place in the history of life on Earth. We are on the cusp of huge events.
Give a Sci Fi geek a forum and he is going to use the term ‘singularity’ … and so I have. Mathematically it is a point that is not defined. Or becomes infinite, and this is the most common usage … in astronomy it’s the point at which the gravitational field of a body becomes infinite … black holes, for instance.
In our discussion, it is used in several ways including in reference to a very big topic that deserves its own library of books. Artificial Intelligence – AI.
I’ll skirt AI for the most part because of the scope of the topic. But it belongs in any discussion on transhumanism. Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering at Google has made 147 futuristic predictions since the ‘90s and has an 86% accuracy rate … he is a guy who seems to know things. He predicts that AI – Machine Intelligence – will match human intelligence by 2029.
He goes on to predict that “I have set the date 2045 for the ‘Singularity’ which is when we will multiply our effective intelligence a billion-fold by merging with the intelligence we have created.”
That’s his definition of the AI singularity … others say it is when AI surpasses us and we are no longer at the top of the food chain.
But setting AI aside for now, above we looked at just three of the areas that are rapidly propelling us as a species to an evolutionary Singularity, which is when we will no longer be ‘homo-sapiens’ but something else. What this will look like has not been decided yet … we will be the ones to settle the issue either by doing nothing or by taking action.
There is no time left … it is unfolding now.