Transhumanism & The Fate of Human Evolution
Over the years a great amount of funding, manpower, and brainpower has been devoted to answer a single question: “How can humans transcend our current capacities physically, intellectually, and psychologically?” It is a question that humanity has mostly relied upon nature itself to answer, but evidently passivity towards this question is no longer acceptable. Techno-science continues to transform our external world, and its potential to enhance our internal world is hotly debated. Regardless of the ethical dynamics, research is being pursued in many areas that directly relates to the application of technologies into the very fabric of our beings. It is only a matter of time before these technological pursuits become fully fleshed out, in a manner of speaking, and begin to converge. One such project is facilitating just that. It is known as the NBIC project.
The NBIC Project
- The main objective of this project is to explore the enhancement of human experience and capabilities through the integration of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive science. This is convergence technology.
Converging Technologies Agenda:
- A change in agenda after the Cold War due to changing social values, change in academic institutions and a refocusing of science after the Cold War.
- US plans on using convergence technologies on a more individual level, speaking to the long standing Western interest in individual differences. Europe more concerned with its application on a societal/cultural level. US funds research based in specific research strands (positive feedback loop). Europe guides research along into intended convergences (negative feedback loop). European scientists do not have entrepreneurial tradition of marketing discoveries into the applications.
- Rockefellar Foundation founding policy: Can we create a new science of Man? Weaver envisioned molecular biology would allow us to get in the middle of the micro level biochemical processes of organisms without disrupting any critical functions; nano-biotechnology. Weaver felt Uncertainty Principle was a microphysical obstacle that could be penetrated eventually.
- Scientists have taken issue with the notion that nanotechnology is a breakthrough in conducting science at the atomic level, when chemistry has been doing so for decades.
- Nanotechnology operates at the smallest quantifiable level of matter, just above the point of quantum indeterminacy. US pushing this as the new vehicle to stimulate new research in other disciplines. Europe using it as an economic tool for modifying society.
- Possible drawbacks of nanotechnology: public openness and ethical issues, it may just infiltrate every sector of the economy and change it fundamentally.
- CT a form of response to the deterioration of welfare states. Response to 1st fiscal crisis was population control due to overconsumption, but more a shift towards neoliberalism. The second crisis had to do with the burden of the pension system, CT can extend working life to prevent underproduction. Precautionary Principle; nature has limits but knowledge allows us better uses of it (proactionary principle).
- US more forceful in convergence of disciplines whereas Europe wants collaborative research between disciplines in hopes for the betterment of society.
- Theory of Convergent Evolution: Lamarck and Chardin; increased interbreeding and interactions would yield hominised substance. Philosophy of science; Pierce’s theory of convergent scientific realism that separate theories align under the same conceptual umbrella to account for all phenomena, different disciplines must acknowledge similar objectives in order to work together.
- Recent scientific developments influenced by CT agenda; x-ray crystallography, which led to molecular biology revolution as it opened pathways for chemists and physicists to contribute their expertise to the study of bio engineering. Noam Chomsky’s innovations in linguistics. Convergence of bioinformatics and computer simulations.
- Use of organic structure as basis for synthetic designs, under the precondition that organisms are not defined by their material.
- Concept of instantiation rooted in biblical literature; threefold manifestation of a single entity that is equally representative of God’s nature.
- John Duns principle of univocity; difference between man and God is of degree of capabilities not kind.
- CT has been accused as a Protestant infused movement of “playing God”.
- Dover v. Kitzmiller case may have indirectly legitimized the instantiation of synthetic life forms by accepting a natural selection computer simulation as evidence for evolution.
- Commentators on one side argue that CT is a reductionist program aimed at arriving at the smallest components of matter. Holist side argue it is a upward process of arriving at a way to improve human or societal level functioning.
- CT agenda is neither reductionist or holistic according to Fuller. Is strategic without arbitrary end goal.
- Biological Citizenship; individuals responsible for knowing their genetic composition
- Neuro-chemical self; the manipulative capability of pharmacology in influencing our mental states
- Somatic expertise; genetic counselling
- Biocapital; commercialization of our bodies
Fixation on Nanotechnology
- Need to establish most basic level of reality that can be redesigned by humans.
- Brad Cox critique defined nanotechnology as faith; “whatever evolution can do design can do better”.
- Likened economics to an ecosystem
- George Gilder critique in Quantum Economics made the case for NT as the future of capitalism
- Nanotechnology’s functionalist emphasis is anthropocentric
- Physics vs Science differing worldviews: physics more concerned with the acquiring materialistic knowledge, chemistry more concerned with functional knowledge and manipulative capacity of matter.
- synthetic and organic only differ in components; they are metaphysically similar as they are made up of same material, just different order (Bhasker, & Hacking)
- Ethical concerns about human enhancements are about whether it is really necessary, why hasn’t evolution already accounted for such capabilities. Would it be counterproductive for normal human function if we enhance ourselves beyond what is needed?
Biology as a Vehicle for Human Enhancement
- EU and US differ in realization of it not whether to actually engage in it
- Plato’s theory of the heritability of achievement was modified by Galton into eugenics.
- Serves as background for application of biological interventions for benefits in human function
- Today’s CT agenda can be traced back to “The Reorganization of European Society” proposed by French socialist Saint Simon. Ownership of one’s body is the key to individual productivity. CT is a revival of a period in time where moral sciences aspired to intervene with brain functions to improve society.
- CT’s ability to control gene expression may avert Wiesmann’s doctrine (the flow of DNA is one way only).
- In Germany there was attempts at converging medicine and law
If the Cognitive Scientists can think it,
the Nano people can build it,
the Bio people can implement it,
and the IT people can monitor and control it.
- Anticipatory measures from science geared toward getting a feel for public response on developments and application of nanotech. This is an attempt to expose the public in hopes of easing the acceptance of future applications. Drawbacks that expectations may cause backlash. However the ability of early exposure garners interest and will only help push the project along.
- Transhumanists make the category mistake by assuming their interventions can potentially have a social level impact when they haven’t even mastered the biological aspect of it.
- John Harris vs Peter Singer; Harris is a Neo-Darwinian and utilitarian who has liberalist-individualist view, as in each individual has right to decide for themselves what aims to pursue as long as they don’t intervene with other’ rights. Singer views utilitarianism as the maximisation of benefits for the whole society.
- May lead to a scenario where negative eugenics is applied to allocate species within an ecosystem.
- Harris deems transhumanism as a natural progression without considering whether it would cause humans to lose more basic capabilities borne from external factors (global warming)
- Darwin’s followers are more aligned with the precautionary principle because natural selection always trumps artificial selection, Harris does not take this into account.
- For Ableism to follow we must believe “Mendel trumps Darwin”, it is the only way to ensure adaptability to changes in external conditions
- An ethical concern that those without biological “upgrades” will be perceived as disabled as they will be unable to perform up to raised standards of productivity and cognition.
- Enhancement technology will give rise to “problem of universals”; can life be equally evident in two materialistically different forms?
- Habermas argued “designer babies” undermine moral autonomy. Enhancement research may also allow us to modify our experiential process.
- Harris urged public contribution to enhancement research as it is moral duty to explore possible benefits of it.
- Overlap in client base interest ultimately shapes CT agenda, rather than it being prematurely set.
- Two obstacles in policy formation; religious objection to redefining the “human being” and risks associated with individuals participating in research.
Image Credit: http://www.theupwardcall.net/
Cybernetic Immortality for Humans Within the Next 33 Years
A Russian mogul wants to achieve cybernetic immortality for humans within the next 33 years. He’s pulled together a team intent on creating fully functional holographic human avatars that house our artificial brains. Now he’s asking billionaires to help fund the advancements needed along the way.
The man behind the 2045 Initiative, described as a nonprofit organization, is a Russian named Dmitry Itskov. The ambitious timeline he’s laid out involves creating different avatars. First a robotic copy that’s controlled remotely through a brain interface. Then one in which a human brain can be transplanted at the end of life. The next could house an artificial human brain, and finally we’d have holographic avatars containing our intelligence much like the movie “Surrogates.”
Recently Itskov published an open letter to the Forbes world’s billionaires list telling them that they have the ability to finance the extension of their own lives up to immortality. He writes that he can prove the concept’s viability to anyone who’s skeptical and will coordinate their personal immortality projects for free. PopSci’s Clay Dillow describe Dmitry in March as a 31-year-old media mogul, but I couldn’t find a detailed biography for him.
The project’s ultimate goal is to save people from suffering and death.
Future prospects of “2045″ Initiative for society
The emergence and widespread use of affordable android “avatars” controlled by a “brain-computer” interface. Coupled with related technologies “avatars’ will give people a number of new features: ability to work in dangerous environments, perform rescue operations, travel in extreme situations etc.
Avatar components will be used in medicine for the rehabilitation of fully or partially disabled patients giving them prosthetic limbs or recover lost senses.
Creation of an autonomous life-support system for the human brain linked to a robot, ‘avatar’, will save people whose body is completely worn out or irreversibly damaged. Any patient with an intact brain will be able to return to a fully functioning bodily life. Such technologies will greatly enlarge the possibility of hybrid bio-electronic devices, thus creating a new IT revolution and will make all kinds of superimpositions of electronic and biological systems possible.
Creation of a computer model of the brain and human consciousness with the subsequent development of means to transfer individual consciousness onto an artificial carrier. This development will profoundly change the world, it will not only give everyone the possibility of cybernetic immortality but will also create a friendly artificial intelligence, expand human capabilities and provide opportunities for ordinary people to restore or modify their own brain multiple times. The final result at this stage can be a real revolution in the understanding of human nature that will completely change the human and technical prospects for humanity.
This is the time when substance-independent minds will receive new bodies with capacities far exceeding those of ordinary humans. A new era for humanity will arrive! Changes will occur in all spheres of human activity – energy generation, transportation, politics, medicine, psychology, sciences, and so on.
Today it is hard to imagine a future when bodies consisting of nanorobots will become affordable and capable of taking any form. It is also hard to imagine body holograms featuring controlled matter. One thing is clear however: humanity, for the first time in its history, will make a fully managed evolutionary transition and eventually become a new species. Moreover, prerequisites for a large-scale expansion into outer space will be created as well.
– creation of the first version of a human-like robot with a remote control and a telepresence effect
– launch of a laboratory for research and development of Micro-Neuro-Interfaces
– completion of the preliminary stage of designing the human brain life support system
– the preliminary stage of the human brain reverse engineering (Rebrain)
– create infrastructure for a charitable foundation in Russia and the United States
– creation of a social online network Immortal.me
– organize and carry out Congress’ Global Future 2045 “-2013 in New York City
– organize and carry out ‘2045’ master classes, workshops and courses on neuroscience, robotics, artificial intelligence theory, etc.
– competition for student theses in the context of ‘Avatar’ project at the leading universities in Russia
– creation of an analytical center for monitoring and analysis of advanced projects in the areas of NBIC convergence
– creation of an international ranking of countries and projects, either directly or indirectly related to the the development of cybernetic immortality technologies
– filming a documentary about ”2045″ strategy.
Key elements of the project in the future
• International social movement
• social network immortal.me
• charitable foundation “Global Future 2045″ (Foundation 2045)
• scientific research centre “Immortality”
• business incubator
• University of “Immortality”
• annual award for contribution to the realization of the project of “Immortality”.
Visit 2045.com for more in-depth info.
2) Immortality for Humans by 2045 by Alyssa Danigelis @ http://news.discovery.com/tech/human-immortality-2045-120727.html
3) Image Credit: 2045 Initiative Group