Thursday, May 2, 2013

Resistance can be FUN!

I went to the movies with Bernard last week.

Had a good time.  It was a special engagement.  A one-time satellite broadcast of the legendary two-part episode from Star Trek: The Next Generation, "The Best of Both Worlds."  You know the one, right?  It's the Borg.  They're after Earth and the Federation for all the marbles.  The stakes are impossibly high and it doesn't look like the Federation will come out alive this time.  I mean, the Borg even capture and convert Captain Picard for crying out loud.  If they can borg him, they can pretty much borg anybody.

"We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own.  Your culture will adapt to serve us.  Resistance is futile."

Those last few lines propelled me into reflection.  There is no more clear symbol of transhuman-phobia than the Borg from Star Trek.   Your culture will adapt.  Resistance is futile.  That's right.  The Singularity is on its way whether you want it or not.  It is in the Borg that we see reflected the basic fears of losing our "humanity" and our individuality.  An extension of this fear is the science fiction trope of "borging out," where someone's sanity degrades with each further cybernetic replacement or augmentation of their body.

Then there's the whole "hive mind" thing.  We fear losing our thoughts and individual opinions to a sort of collective consciousness that runs our society.  While this would be efficient in terms of getting things done, it does have its downsides.  Colony collapse is just one of them.  We're seeing right now what is happening to bees and what that is doing not only to them but to the rest of our environment.  Still, I can't help but wonder if "hive mind" would be all that awful (I find it interesting to consider all of the insect imagery in human culture and what that might allude to.  For instance, what does this mean in relation to the "Gray" alien meme of UFO reports?)  Think of the pesky human failings that would be no more, dour emotions such as sadness and heartbreak would be things of the past.  In keeping with the Star Trek comparisons, it would be like Spock's kolinahr, the removal of all feelings but without all the effort.  If there were a way to effectively do it, I would gladly shut off all of my emotions. 

Why?  Because are we sure that "human" as we know it is the way to go?  I'm not talking about a crazy eugenics scheme like in Brave New World or what the Nazis tried to do by misappropriating Nietzsche.  The idea behind transhumanism is to implement technology via very human ingenuity in order to eliminate things such as degenerative disease, missing limbs, blindness, deafness, and so on.  This would truly be a way to take control of your life, to rise above whatever hand that fate or genetics has dealt you.  For people like me who struggle with depression, I would seriously consider an implant that turns off the emotional aspect of the brain entirely.  I am (almost) willing to sacrifice the saccharine to be rid of the sorrowful.

Change of any kind contains an element of fear.  Trust me, no one gets that more than me these days.  I've had more change than I really care to have.  And the Singularity won't be a mere change, it will be a revolution, even if not as colossal of one as Kurzweil thinks.  Technology of any kind can be used to evil ends.  We have to hope we get it right more than we get it wrong.  Otherwise, we'll need to develop an affinity for eyepieces and cube-shaped craft.

But the whole "no emotions" thing remains appealing.

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