How far are we willing to go in our quest to build better bodies? Would we agree to having tiny machines implanted in our brains and bodies to make us function better? It’s not that alien a concept even now says James Hughes, director of the World Transhumanist Association.
“At least a quarter of the population of the United States has one kind of implant in their body already”, he says, citing several examples from contact lenses to pace makers.
Scientists are already working on implants, computer chips and nanotechnology in medicine that could prevent diseases, prolong human life and enhance our physical and mental performances. And according to James Hughes, that’s as natural an evolutionary step as the first caveman slinging the bloody fur coat of a recently killed animal around himself to stave out the cold. Hughes explains:
“We [trans-humanists] want to argue that human beings can become more than what people consider to be human and that’s part of our right.”
Hughes goes on to describe a possible scenario for the post-human future that may be ahead of us. He describes a family dinner say 500 years from now, where one person would have gills, another would have wings and a third may be nothing more than a black box, having interfaced his own personality with a computer, disposing of his physical body altogether.
According to James Hughes, these people should all still be considered valued members of our post-human future, a future which will have to extend the idea of human rights to rights for all - human, post-human and robot/human.
In 2004, James Hughes defended the concept of transhumanism in Amsterdam Forum, the Radio Netherlands Worldwide against the accusation of being anti-humanist, saying that transhumanism is all about the full realisation of human potential. To listen to that programme and read more quotes, go here.
In this one hour program of the “What We Still Don’t Know” series from the UK’s Channel Four, Are We Real?, astronomer Martin Rees explains Nick Bostrom’s Simulation Hypothesis with interviews with cosmologists and philosophers.
Inspired by a fleeting reference in the latest science essay by CRN’s Chris Phoenix, I recently started re-reading Larry Niven’s classic novel Ringworld. It must be two or three decades since I read the book, and revisiting it all these years later, I’m blown away once again by the novel’s startling originality and by the “bigness” of its thinking.
In 1964, the year before I was born, the American historian Richard Hofstadter wrote an essay for Harper’s, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” which opened with the observation that “American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”
I have been reading posts in the blogosphere about the new system for integrated voice in Second Life. As I thought, comments are split in two main camps: those who think the new option is a good thing, and those who are afraid that it will change the nature of Second Life as they know it.
Abstract: The coming knowledge society will see an acceleration in the trend towards increasing human intelligence begun hundreds of thousands of years ago. Many converging technologies will facilitate this acceleration of intelligence, including psychopharmacology, genetic engineering, nanotechnology and communications technology. The accelerating increase in intelligence will not just be in individual brains, but also in the social, political and economic systems that link those brains together. From growing individual and social intelligence we will create increasingly accurate models of the way the social and natural world works, and how best to achieve human ends. But the struggle for a smarter world will require a political struggle for greater liberty and equality to enable everyone to participate fully in social decision-making and to benefit from human enhancement. [Futures 39(8) Oct 2007: 942-954]
The fact that our Galaxy appears unperturbed is hard to explain. We should be living in a Galaxy that is saturated with intelligence and highly organized. Thus, it may be assumed that intelligent life is rare, or, given our seemingly biophilic Universe, our assumptions about the general behavior of intelligent civilizations are flawed. A paradox is a paradox for a reason: it means there’s something wrong in our thinking. The Fermi Paradox
Someone apparently found my blog recently by searching for “voldemort transhumanist”. After laughing out loud (literally), I spent a bit of time thinking about the implications of this particular combination of search terms.
Abstract. One of the mainstays of the controversial “rare Earth” hypothesis is the “Goldilocks problem” regarding various parameters describing a habitable planet, partially involving the role of mass extinctions and other catastrophic processes in biological evolution. Usually, this is construed as support for the uniqueness of the Earth’s biosphere and intelligent human life. Here I argue that this is a misconstrual and that, on the contrary, observation-selection effects, when applied to catastrophic processes, make it very difficult for us to discern whether the terrestrial biosphere and evolutionary processes which created it are exceptional in the Milky Way or not. In particular, an anthropic overconfidence bias related to the temporal asymmetry of evolutionary processes appears when we try to straightforwardly estimate catastrophic risks from the past records on Earth. This agnosticism, in turn, supports the validity and significance of practical astrobiological and SETI research.