Friday, May 01, 2009

Transhumanism: Your Bodies, Yourself


There's a theory about human progress posed by philosopher Peter Drucker who surmises that cultural evolution is similar to biological evolution insofar as cultures experience punctuated equilibrium as well. We are, according to some (and I happen to agree), living in just such a time. The lives of people a few decades from now will be so radically changed by science that their lifestyles could be rendered unrecognizeable. One of the most promising prospects for human modification is called Transhumanism.

Ok, so we're all fairly well acquainted with what Transhumanism is thanks to the Bionic Woman and the Six Million Dollar Man. But this technology actually ventures beyond finely articulated prosthetic limbs into indefinite life extension therapies and full body transplants. A person's memories, quirks, intellect and personality can be stored on a CD-Rom and exist solely in cyberspace or be implanted into a different body. It's no surprise that Stephen Hawking is a huge proponent of this type of research.

I know the naysayers will be bellowing "Machines will enslave humankind -- just like the Matrix!" This, to me, is utter nonesense. The fear of malicious robots is more psychological than practical in my view. We look at these blocky chunks of moving metal and see a loss of individuality. Because we have a theory of mind we try to project ourselves into the expressionless body of the bot and imagine what it's like to be this automaton. It draws out our own fears of losing our unique selves. Anyways, enough psychoanalyzing because the machines that are around today will not be anything like the robots of the future. Scientists have mapped the human genome -- (Wo)Man's information code -- and will in the next decade or two identify and map the human brain. With this knowledge in tow it will then be possible to create some subtle and emotional robotic implants capable of true intelligence.

As a side note, isn't science grand? Seriously, science might be the new religion and I mean that only as a compliment. Hundreds of thousands of human minds cooperating with each other for the betterment of the species, often times without the guarantee of monetary compensation. Every miracle religion promises science is en route to actually fulfilling. Religion says you will be given a new body -- science is achieving it. Religion says the lame shall walk -- science is doing it. Religion says you will live forever -- guess what, science is working on it.

How will human/robotic hybrids effect social life? Will interpersonal relationships be enriched or diluted? And what of the specialness of life, will it be even more sacrosanct in a Transhumanistic future or will it be cheapened by this sort of technology?

TechnoCalyps: Transhuman Part 2

TechnoCalyps: Transhuman Part 3

TechnoCalyps: Transhuman Part 4

TechnoCalyps: Transhuman Part 5

Technocalyps: Transhuman 6

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