Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The transhuman prank

For a moment there, I'm sure opponents of transhumanism thought they hit a gold mine.

It was an exclusive interview for Singularity 1-on-1 at the Singularity Weblog.  On April 1st, site founder Nikola Danaylov sat down to interview Chet Getram, CEO of ByoLogic, a "lifestyle biotech firm." The setting of the black and white interview was suitably dank, taking place in a medical facility where dragged body bags and occasional screams punctuated the discourse.

Wait, I should really preface this.  The whole thing starts out with protesters picketing the ByoLogic facility.  Getram steps outside with a megaphone to assuage the crowd.  He is of course flanked by guards in black fatigues and gas masks.

Once in the interview setting, Getram proceeds to tell Nikola about the many exciting products on the way from ByoLogic.  Among these is their latest innovation, ByoRenew, a pill you can take that sets the basis for further subscription upgrades you can purchase, such as immunity from the common cold and up to protecting you from heart disease or cancer.  But what is perhaps the company's biggest upcoming success is ByoBaby.

ByoBaby is a series of serums injected into expectant mothers.  These procedures protect and enhance their fetus.  Latest test versions of ByoBaby have already reached four years old and are performing very well in school.  Nikola asked Getram if ByoBaby and the other technologies have had FDA approval.  Getram pointed out that ByoLogic is Canadian-based and has "a very good relationship" with that nation's version of said agency. "You have to make sure you have the little people on board," Getram said.

Of course if you noted the date of the interview...or even the title of this no doubt recognize that the whole thing was a satirical fabrication.  So April Fools.  This dystopian vision was brought about by Trevor Haldenby, a futurist and designer from Toronto.  He also plays the role of the fictional Chet Getram.  As Haldenby says:

"ByoLogyc’s CEO Chet Getram is a ruthless and manipulative fictional character — a living experiment designed to explore how the language of human-centered design, sustainable business, and social innovation could be used to obscure a nefarious and short-sighted vision of profit as generated by a new biological economy."

He makes a fair point.  I also believe you could view the exaggerated nature of the presentation (see it for yourself) as speaking to the many fears people have regarding transhumanism....and poking fun at them. While the video interview doesn't address cybernetics or uploading, you could easily substitute them in with the ByoLogic products and expect similar reactions.

That said, Haldenby's basic argument stands as valid.  Can we really trust a biotech corporation that just wants us "to live our best possible life?"

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