Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Zoltan Istvan: transhumanism to save humans in a dying world

This is one of those nights where I wish I was already transhuman.

Been a long day as the semester is kicking off. I am strained and fatigued to say the very least. But I still have enough energy in the reserves to give you a blog post. Zoltan Istvan, 2016 candidate for president on the Transhumanist Party ticket (it's rather historic and all you psephologists out there would do well to take note), has posted a new article that details how new technologies could help humanity to survive in an environment that we've pretty much broken.

It's nothing new. You've read my long series of posts that describe how we'll all be swinging in the breeze any year now due to our short-sightedness and greed. Many speculate that we have little choice left but to plan for the worst case scenario in terms of climate change as there may be no turning back. As it is with so many other instances, survival may depend upon adaptation. So how do we adapt the human form to an increasingly hostile environment? Itsvan pitches four possible adaptations:

-Immunotherapy. Between toxic chemicals and radioactive contamination, cancer may one day become even more of an issue that it already is. Immunotherapy is one solution. This entails utilizing the body's own defense systems to attack cancer cells and disrupt the spread, thus alleviating the "burn the village to save the village" approach of chemotherapy.

-Bionic organs. Failing organs can one day have cybernetic replacements. We already have 3D-printed hearts and eventually livers that right are now undergoing test runs. Artificial arteries and even artificial blood are both in the queue for development. Itsvan points out how one of the most critical threats to a deteriorating environment is the air that we breathe. Cybernetic lungs with intricate filters could go a long way in that department.
Of course I began to wonder. Why stop there? Why not replace all of the soft points and liabilities and dependencies that we have? I mean, evolve. I thought that was the goal? Zoltan Istvan, of course, is way ahead of me.

-Food alternatives. "Frankly, I think doing away permanently with caloric intake should probably be a goal of all humanity," says Istvan. "Since it presents massive hassle from an evolutionary point of view. Millions of people die worldwide every year from food poisoning, digestive issues, and especially malnutrition. The fewer organs we need (including our bowels) the better off we’ll be, and not needing food or water would dramatically lesson our reliance on the environment."
I'll say. I could do without eating. Plus, just to echo what he said, the fewer biological liabilities we have the better off we will be. While that's wonderful to think about and should be a goal for the transhumanist movement, it's a fair ways off. In the meantime, developing alternative foods such as cloned meats and corn-based products such as Soylent that are dense with nutrition might make for good stopgaps. In a hostile environment, food production will only get trickier.

-Wearable tech. There are plenty of ways to keep ourselves warm, but staying cool in an increasingly warming world is difficult. Agencies such as ClimaWear are designing smart clothes that will regulate body temperature at a comfortable level, even in a heatwave. As we become more cybernetic and interface directly with machines, these systems should one day be connected with our nervous systems and handle the issue from the inside. Then again, you know me. I'm all for going for "the full monty" when it comes to total body prosthesis.

Sound crazy? Ask yourself that when you're trying to get by in an overpopulated world that is 20 degrees hotter than it should be.

Of course we could always try things the Man Plus way.

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