This is the second part in a brief series looking at whether human enhancement — understood as the use of scientific knowledge and technology to improve the human condition — would rob our lives of meaning and value. The focus is on David Owens’s article “Disenchantment”. The goal is to clarify the arguments presented by Owens, and to subject them to some critical scrutiny.
The rise in reported cases of people being born with conditions on the Autism Spectrum indicate a possible evolutionary trait: a mutation that enhances the ability of the most powerful tool the human animal has – its mind. Instead of working toward a cure for ASD, we should be harnessing the collective power of these genius minds to fundamentally change our society. We need to evolve or die.
Most science fictional and futurist visions of the future tend towards the negative — and for good reason. Our environment is a mess, we have a nasty tendency to misuse technologies, and we’re becoming increasingly capable of destroying ourselves. But civilizational demise is by no means guaranteed. Should we find a way to manage the risks and avoid dystopic outcomes, our far future looks astonishingly bright. Here are seven best-case scenarios for the future of humanity.
Our ancestors struggled to get enough calories just to stay alive. But as food supplies have become reliable and rich, people around the world face the opposite problem. Now, as we try to keep our weight in a healthy range, we look at all kinds of factors: diet, exercise, sleep, supplements, meditation, hypnosis, psychotherapy, prayer, or even surgery that might help us tip the scales a little less.
My brain contains approximately 100 billion neurons, each connecting to other nerve cells through synapses. These interactions process signals entering the nervous system, and then produce output responses that stimulate my bodily functions, everything from thinking to walking to kissing.
In a number of developing countries, the relationship between increased resource allocation to the education sector and improved education outcomes is fairly weak. A major finding is that “traditional” education inputs fail to yield the expected positive influence.
The idea of artificial slaves - and questions about their tractability - is present not only in the literature of modern times but also extends all the way back to ancient Greek sources; and it is present in the literature and oral history of the early modern period as well. Aristotle is the first to discuss the uses and advantages of the artificial slave in his Politics.
New Google hire and renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil sums up how technologies might play out over the next two decades with this claim: “If you remain in good health for 20 more years, you may never die.”
Positive futurists believe that as thought talking technologies become reality, which some believe could happen during the 2030s and 2040s; our diverse world could evolve into a peaceful global community eliminating most of the ethnic and religious barriers that plague society today.
If you could design your own body, give it any shape, size, color, contour, texture and elegant design, what would you choose? What if your body could regenerate healthier, fresher skin and worn out tendons, ligaments and joints with replaceable ones? What if your body was as sleek, as sexy, and feel as comfortable as your new automobile? These are just a few of the questions to consider in the decades ahead. Sit back, take a deep, relaxing breath, follow the Primo Guides, and come along for an aerodynamic ride. Welcome to the future! ’ (Natasha Vita-More) 1
’… in a couple of years, everyone will consider the possession of a soft, hairy, sweating body to be shameful and indcecent. In a prostheticized society, you can snap on the loveliest creations of modern engineering.’ (Stanislaw Lem The Futurological Congress: Vision of 2039) 2
Though pain has clearly served an important evolutionary purpose, not everyone is convinced that we still need it. A growing number of forward-looking thinkers are suggesting that we need to get rid of it — and that we’ll soon have the technological know-how to do this. But should we choose to embark on such a radical experiment, we’ll need to pay close attention to the risks and those aspects of humanity we might risk losing.
What if you could read my mind? What if I could beam what I’m seeing, hearing, and thinking, straight to you, and vice versa? What if an implant could store your memories, augment them, and make you smarter?
The human brain is capable of 1016 processes per second, which makes it far more powerful than any computer currently in existence. But that doesn't mean our brains don't have major limitations. The lowly calculator can do math thousands of times better than we can, and our memories are often less than useless — plus, we're subject to cognitive biases, those annoying glitches in our thinking that cause us to make questionable decisions and reach erroneous conclusions.
How ‘bout life in a body that can never age or get sick: Imagine living in a body fashioned from ‘designer genes’ that can never age or get sick. Now picture yourself thinking with a mind that processes data millions of times faster than today’s brains; and finally, consider a world with virtual reality indiscernible from reality and a technology that would enable you to change body size and skin color by simply using thoughts or voice commands.
Building machines that process information the same way a brain does has been a dream for over 50 years. Artificial intelligence, fuzzy logic, and neural networks have all experienced some degrees of success, but machines still cannot recognize pictures or understand language as well as humans can.
On December 23 (2012), many keralite (people hailing from Kerala, a southern state of India) viewers both home and abroad anxiously glued their attentions to their Television sets, for their favourite singer, Mr.Sukesh Kuttan in the finale of the hit reality TV show on Asianet channel called “Idea Star SingerSeason 6”. However, Sukesh did not sing much to the disappointment of the viewers.
The words “cyborg” and “transhuman” are frequently used interchangeably, but to what extent, and in what ways, do the concepts have the same referents? And which is the preferable concept to identify with when contemplating one’s own future?
Forty years after the last flight to the Moon, human exploration of outer space seems to have stalled, although a number of options exist for new scientific and technological alternatives, both in goals and the means to achieve them. Public opinion polls fail to look deeply into popular conceptions, and they tend to reveal only weak enthusiasm.
Immaculate doll-face, globulous breasts, teeny waist, slender limbs, vacant ice-blue eyes, long platinum hair - Valeria Lukyanova of Odessa, Ukraine, has re-designed her physical form to resemble Barbie, the plastic Mattel toy. Is the result “beautiful”? Critics screech that she’s “creepy” and “lifeless” with an “uncanny valley” absence of sexuality, but… let’s not kid ourselves here.
Science is all about asking questions, exploring problems that confound or intrigue us. However, satisfactory answers can’t always be found in today’s media that far too often focuses on cases of technology gone awry, filling readers with more hopelessness than hope.
The recent Nature journal special edition is dedicated completely to the problem of aging. Among various articles covering topics from demographics to comparative biology and robots, there’s one about the interventions in the aging processes. It is a nice overview about the current successes in slowing down aging in mammals, however I found the last paragraph rather disappointing. It says….
Piracetam has been around since the 1960’s and is regarded as a pioneer “smart drug.” It enjoys a popular, international following, its record as a treatment for cognitive disorders is impressive, and scientific exams haven’t flagged any dangerous side effects. But is Piracetam truly the intelligence booster many of us eagerly want?
What can we expect when machines surpass humans in intelligence; a point in time that futurists predict could become reality by 2045. Though it’s impossible to forecast this far in advance with 100% accuracy, by combining predicted technology breakthroughs with present-day knowledge, we can make plausible guesses about how tomorrow’s super-intelligent machines might affect our lives.
Many engineers, including me, think that some time around 2050, we will be able to make very high quality links between the brains and machines. To such an extent that it will thereafter be possible (albeit expensive for some years) to arrange that most of your mind – your thinking, memories, even sensations and emotions, could reside mainly in the machine world. Some (perhaps some memories that are rarely remembered for example) may not be suited to such external accessibility, but the majority should be.
Humankind is frequently referred to as a tool-using/-making species. What is becoming clear is that we are also a species with a real talent and drive for greater integration with our tools and with one another. Humankind is an increasingly networked species. And while this is a teleological essay, I am not prepared to make an argument that what we are witnessing is necessarily either a good or bad thing.