Thursday, October 2, 2014

Transhumanism will create a "different species" of human by 2050


It's a one-word slogan you'll find transhumanists (myself included) stating to urge people towards taking the next logical step in human evolution.  That's what Cadell Last says, too.

Last is a researcher at the Global Brain Institute and he claims that due to radical advances in technology, humanity is on the threshold of a "major evolutionary transition." One, in fact, on the level of the past jump from ape to human.  I came across this article on Last's work in the UK's Daily Mail.  I understand that the publication is something of a tabloid, but I found the contents of the article worth pondering.

How does Cadell Last see humanity by 2050?  Well for one thing, many of us will be living longer.  People in the 80-100 age bracket will be far more common and more to the point, they will be living more "youthful" lives than their past counterparts.  One example of this is that people who choose to have children could soon do so later in life.  "The biological clock isn't going to be around forever," says Last.

The most interesting aspects of the piece, to my thinking anyway, is how cybernetic technology and body enhancement/augmentation will alter our lives.  A graphic included with the Cadell Last article includes mods such as:

-Implanted ear devices to eliminate the need for unwieldy Bluetooth gear.

-Chip implants in your fingers that can handle tasks from the mundane, such as turning on lights to serving as your personal password/ID for security protocols.

-Enlarge the brain with hardware.  This would enhance memory and thinking.  Over time, you could update the software in the brain as you would any other system.

One quote I took notice of in the article, and this was not attributed to Last but is still engaging, is this one: "Those who take risks and innovate with their own bodies will be the biggest earners by 2040."

As with most other matters of progress, you either adapt and survive...or don't.  Accept transhuman technology or live out an exilic existence.  This is already becoming a visible issue in the arena of sports.  Today, CNN ran a story on the "rise of cyberathletes," competitors with cybernetic components who are changing the nature of sports.  As the writer points out, we're going far beyond Oscar Pistorius, whose legs are outdated technology by now anyway.  We're talking about prosthetics that can outdo any limb that nature produces.  What's the upshot?  In 2016 there will be an Olympics for these athletes if that gives you any indication.

But back to Cadell Last.

He also lists other external changes to the human experience by 2050.  Robots and artificial intelligence, he asserts, will take over the menial jobs in our lives.  This will shift occupations towards the more intellectual end of the spectrum.  We will also, projects Last, spend a great deal of time in virtual reality.  Why not?  It's got to beat real reality.

At first blush, such predictions might paint a picture of a transhuman humanity as lazy or "a bit too leisurely" as Prince might say.  As someone raised with what I believe to be a strong work ethic, I can see that.  Consider something else though.

When human workload lessens, we get time.  In this time, many begin to wonder and speculate.  While it doesn't always seem like it (especially if you live in America), humans are naturally curious creatures.  We wonder about the universe around us and how it works.  We create art based on our perceptions and experiences.  More time on our hands may cause revolutions in science, in art, and in thinking in general.  We saw it happen when humans took to agriculture and no longer spent the majority of their time hunting and foraging to survive.

While I think that Last is essentially correct in where transhuman technology is going, I'm somewhat skeptical as to the rosy picture he paints.  There are always pitfalls, both seen and unseen (the "known knowns" and the "unknown unknowns" as Donald Rumsfield might put it.)  I also am skeptical as to just who will have access to these augmentations and advancements.  All of us?  Even someone in an impoverished area in Africa?  We're only going to get the era that Last forecasts if we all get it.  Something tells me that will all come down to class and money.

I hope that I'm wrong.

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  1. On Facebook, Peter said: "I hope not..."

    We wish only to improve the quality of life. :)

  2. On Facebook, Dr. Bob said: "With the way that we are mismanaging a planet, I, for one, welcome our new robotic overlords."