Thursday, August 2, 2012

Transhumanism


Transhumanism is a difficult concept for most people to imagine, so let me begin at a point that most everyone will be able to relate to.

Artificial limbs. Artificial organs. Genetically engineered organic material meant to replace defective or destroyed parts of the human body.

It is very likely that if you are capable of reading this then you are also capable of understanding or at least grasping the idea of the things mentioned above.

Now, take that basic idea of replacing human body parts with artificial parts or with genetically engineered organic material and hold that as a thought for just a moment.

Put aside all the moral or spiritual debates that might initially spring to mind, however righteous or correct those arguments might be, and come along with me on what could be one possible timeline, peeking into one possible future, as we travel the super-highway of TRANSHUMANISM.

What creepy thing could be waiting just around the corner?

What exactly IS transhumanism?
According to Nick Bostrom writing in the Journal of Evolution and Technology transhumanism, or Humanity+ or just H+, “...is an international intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.”

Reducing that explanation to an easier description would give you this: the science and philosophy of transhumanism is interested in making humans smarter, stronger, and longer lasting.

Sounds good doesn’t it?

Most of us could take to the idea of being healthier, being stronger, and who knows, maybe even looking a little better than we currently do. The quest to LOOK GOOD or just look better seems to me to be fundamental facet of truth of our society, otherwise why would the health and beauty industries be making billions of dollars every year.

But transhumanism isn’t just about looking good. It’s also about improving our intellectual capabilities, knowledge storage and retrieval and application. Basically, it’s about being SMARTER and more capable than we are now. In short, making us more like a MACHINE, a computer. A robot.

Some of us might not be frightened by the idea of strapping on a gizmo that makes us as strong as the Six Million Dollar Man, or (for those of us not quite that old), The Terminator. It might even be fun to have the ability to lift a car or go diving without all that bulky gear or climb Mt. Everest at a record pace without oxygen tanks. But will it stop there?

Russian media mogul Dmitry Itskov has already stated that he intends to go much further.

Itskov’s new project, the 2045 Project, looks to go beyond just strapping on a gizmo to enhance the performance of human beings. By the year 2045 Itskov’s goal is to make it possible for a human to completely transfer their intellect, their consciousness, their BRAIN out of their current restrictive vessel and put it INTO a completely different vessel.

If it does someday happen that humans would be able to transfer all their knowledge and memories and sense of self outside themselves to a device other than their body... well that just creates a completely new and exciting (and frightening) realm of theoretical thought!

If this is ever a real thing, then who says I have to be a MAN or a WOMAN? Who says I have to have hair, or skin, or eyes?  Hell, who says I am even required to have a BODY?

Why not just apply my consciousness to a sub-atomic particle, something that would allow me to travel at or beyond the speed of light?

Kind of eliminates all the space travel issues we normally face, doesn’t it?

Is transhumanism a BAD thing?
Now what could be wrong with wanting to make humans better, stronger, faster? Curing disease or, hell ELIMINATING disease is just one aspect of the idea of transhumanism that should prod even the stodgiest of detractors to nod at the possibility.

But is there a possible DOWN SIDE to all of this? Living without disease, sporting an indestructible body, being able to purchase replacement parts... that would pretty much mean we could live forever.

And there is the first hitch...

By becoming immortal we would introduce the whole god factor thing to the equation.

Show of hands... how many of you would have no change in EGO if you found out you were immortal and indestructible and had the ability to travel faster than light?

Would you still feel the same as you do right now?

Maybe right now your life is pretty good... you feel somewhat confident, maybe you have a small amount of power and influence in the world, maybe you make a pretty good living and have no reason to believe that it will stop anytime soon and you should be able to live to a ripe old age with a full retirement package to enjoy before you trot off and die.

Is that enough?

What if you could continue forever, with the body you had in your early 20’s, or perhaps an even BETTER body, with no need to exert yourself unless you wanted to, endless fun, endless food, endless sex?

Umm... wouldn’t that make you feel a little god like? (lower case g intended).

I would venture a guess that most people wouldn’t be able to handle that kind of power. It wouldn’t be long before those people with the means to do so would build bigger and better contraptions to put themselves into.

What if a maniacal dictator had the capability to put his consciousness into a massively, colossal, gigantic piece of equipment with guns and lasers and poisonous gases and everything he might need to go out and conquer the world. Who’s stopping him?

And what about CLOUD computing? Have you seen the possibilities this creates? Using a collection of High Performance Computing technology servers with cloud computing capabilities that share data across hundreds or perhaps THOUSANDS or even MILLIONS of entities, you would have yourself a virtual army at your disposal. You would in fact BE the army... one mind controlling an entire unit with millions of bodies. Indestructable.

What more could we do or expect to do with transhumanism?
With faster than light travel, the ability to eliminate diseases (at least disease as we know it... what about software viruses?) and maybe even live forever, what more could we expect from transhumanism?

The altruistic side of me wants to imagine a better world, one in which there is no more war or famine or disease, one in which we are all truly capable of living life without the typical hardships we all encounter.

But I don’t think that would be the end of it.

As evident in the type of folks Itskov is courting as possible investors (wealthy), this type of technology would go first to the super rich. The idea of all powerful overlords springs readily to mind.

If this ever comes to fruition, would we get the world like The Terminator where the machine-people rise up to exterminate all the “meat-bags” and horde all the worlds resources to use selfishly for themselves and the people they decide to keep around?

Or, would it be all Unicorns and Rainbows?

As a writer I am of course drawn to the possibility of conflict and chaos as that makes for great story material. But it’s always possible transhumanism could turn out to be a good thing.

What do you think?



Check out my fantasy novel “The Plotters of Cantaera” and my “Stop Sucking series” here: http://www.amazon.com/Paul-Philip-Carter/e/B007VCZZ64/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1




2 comments:

  1. Wow! You really made me think on a Friday night Paul! This is a fascinating, but very scary concept. I am definitely all for enhancing technology to its greatest potential, but as always, so much power in the wrong hands can yield disastrous results.

    Great post!

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  2. Thanks Laura... and just to note, I am ALL for the use of prosthetics, etc, for improving the lives of those who need it. That's a true blessing and something I hope they continue to pursue and improve.

    But I'm not so sure about the whole idea of CHOOSING transhumanism! That's when my entirely overactive imagination takes over!

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