The world is accelerating towards a future beyond fathomable comprehension. While we have a relatively good idea as to what might occur in 10 or 20 years time, when we start gazing out into the unknown — 25 to 30+ years from now — we find ourselves meandering beyond a point of which we can no longer properly conceive.
It is this reason alone why inventor and world-renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil refers to this period as the “Technological Singularity.” Borrowed from physics — where a gravitational singularity signifies that moment in which you’ve moved past a black hole’s event horizon — we will soon enter a period in time of which a technological “event horizon” occurs due to the exponential growth of information technologies. That is, beyond this technological singularity, we can neither see nor comprehend what is to occur — until it actually occurs, of course.
This couldn’t be a more perfect excuse to continue moving forward, however. We as a species have always wandered out into the shadows of the unknown. Without that innate proclivity to wander and transcend our limitations, we’d have never left the African plains; we’d have never invented the wheel; and we’d have never left this planet. As techno-philosopher Jason Silva adequately put it: the very meaning of life isn’t the answers in which we search for, but rather the search for answers itself!
It is in our human nature to be visionaries — to imagine (and equally create) the world of tomorrow. We may not have very good answers as to what might occur 30+ years from now, but the events of which will occur from now to then will most certainly stoke our imagination. Though the question remains: what is to occur?
Humai’s vision of the world of tomorrow is multifaceted. Let us quote from its very own webpage HumaiTech.com:
“We want to transplant your brain into an elegantly designed bionic body called Humai. It will use a brain-computer interface to communicate with the sensory organs and limbs of your new bionic body.”
While such a feat might appear, at first glance, to be radically anti-human, keep in mind that the human mind is all there truly is of which makes us human in the first place. It isn’t our biological substrate. It isn’t the blood which courses throughout our body, of which is pumped quite laboriously by our all-too-mortal heart. No, it is the mind — the human brain! Without neural stem cells recycling both dendrites and synapses, thus creating an electrically chemical baseline of communication between neurons in the brain, we would not exist. Everything else is merely organic papier-mâché.
The human brain is arguably one of the most long-lasting organs throughout the entire biological substrate itself. The only reason we age and die is due to either organ failure (liver, heart, kidneys, etc.) or the eventual degradation of our very own cellular structure. But what if we could replace our biological substrate with advanced technology — cybernetics, bionics, nanobots, etc. — all while allowing our newly acquired, non-biological bodies to host the human brain? How long might our average lifespan increase then? Shouldn’t we, as individuals, be given the right to decide how long we wish to live and when we wish to die, as opposed to being dictated by our biological clocks?
Shouldn’t we expand our horizons, just as our ancestors did with the discovery of fire or the engineering of the space shuttle? What Humai is aiming for isn’t as far-fetched as you might think. We are already using brain-computer interfaces to allow amputees to control robotic limbs via the mind.
Even more amazing, a couple of years ago, researchers were able to successfully perform what is known as brain-to-brain communication. In other words, while one participant was connected to a brain-computer interface (BCI) stationed in India, three other participants were connected to a computer-brain interface (CBI) stationed in France. Despite the participants’ rather large distance between each other (nearly 5,000 miles apart), the one connected to the BCI was able to successfully transfer the words “Hola” and “Ciao” to the three others connected to the CBI without any verbal communication — in other words, techno-telepathy!
Humai vision #2:
“Artificial intelligence will be integrated into synthetic organs, so they can operate independently. Sensor technology will allow you to feel the essence of human experience.”
Synthetic organs have been making headlines for a few years now, revealing itself to the world as being a legitimate life-saver. Stem-cell-based synthetic organ engineering has been at the forefront of it all. That might change, however, with the aid of both 3D printing and artificial intelligence (A.I.).
Known as “organs-on-a-chip,” researchers have been fast at work in developing microchips that are lined with microfluidic human cells, which simulate the activities, mechanics, and physiological response of entire organs. The smarter the chip, the smarter your artificial organs will be in response to changes in your body.
Humai vision #3:
“As your brain matures, genetic engineering will combat the aging process. Advancements in nanotechnology will offer extensive tissue repair and regeneration, including the repair of individual brain cells.”
Ever since Chinese scientists revealed to the world that they’d semi-successfully genetically modified non-viable human embryos, a whirlwind of ethical debates across the globe had ignited in response. It became the first official wake up call that this technology was here and is going to stay. How we respond will help determine the efficacy in our role of this new revolutionary field of science.
In December of last year experts convened in Washington, D.C. for a three-day summit meeting to discuss whether or not human gene-editing should be approved. Despite some hesitation regarding the ethical question of whether parents should have the right to genetically modify their children (and for what reasons), the experts concluded their summit meeting, giving human gene-editing the green light.
Jumping onto this accelerating wave current, U.K. regulatory body Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has approved the genetic modification of human embryos via CRISPR/Cas9 (and other subsequent gene-editing tools) at the beginning of this month.
CRISPR (clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats) is an incredibly powerful gene-editing tool that was only recently discovered in 2012. Given its exquisite precision, CRISPR/Cas9 has been at the forefront of gene-editing tools that’s been predicted to someday genetically modify the human biological substrate. That is, until last year where researchers discovered an entirely new gene-editing tool that is even more precise than CRISPR/Cas9 — called CRISPR/Cpf1!
As for nanotechnology, while it may be a few more years before we ever witness the full-scale implementation of nanorobotics entering the medical field for everyone to benefit from, researchers are already working hard to ensure Humai’s vision of nanobots swimming your bloodstream comes true. This is no longer science-fiction; it’s actually happening today!
This is the world of tomorrow, as envisioned by Humai. With bionic bodies, humanity will be taking its first steps towards cyborgism. So long the human brain is preserved, everything else is up for individual interpretation. Our bodies will become the next great works of art, equivalent to those celebrated today by Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Da Vinci.
With synthetic organs, aided by A.I., the longevity of our species will become nothing more than a mere choice of each individual. Similar to Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s fight for terminal patients to have the right to decide their death, each individual will be given the right to decide the extent of their lifespan. You’ll be able to update the efficiency of your artificial organs, similar to updating your smartphone today.
And with gene-editing and nanotechnology, the human biological substrate in its entirety will finally merge with the machine. Similar to cyborgs who’ll use bionics and cybernetics to augment and enhance the human body, these biological cyborgs (Bio-Cybs) will be using gene-editing technologies and nanobots to equally augment and enhance the biological substrate at one’s own behest. Medically, we’ll be using these technologies to finally do away with disease entirely. Non-medically, not even the sky’s the limit — we’ll be genetically modifying ourselves to accommodate the deep-space conditions of both micro-gravity and radiation.