Sunday, November 12, 2006

Coffee Talk: Transhumanism

This week's discussion deals with the concept of transhumanism. This is the theory that humans can transition to a higher level of thinking, living and general well being through technological enhancements. The link above takes you to a website that has much more information on the subject, but basically they "foresee the feasibility of redesigning the human condition, including such parameters as the inevitability of aging, limitations on human and artificial intellects, unchosen psychology, suffering, and our confinement to the planet earth."

A cybernetics professor at the University of Reading, UK, Kevin Warwick, has started a project called Project Cyborg. He first had an RFID implant into his wrist in 1998, and in 2002 "a one hundred electrode array was surgically implanted into the median nerve fibers of his left arm". These electrodes have been able to control an electric wheelchair and an "AI" hand. The ultimate plan for this technology, in conjuction with the internet, is the ability for humans to communicate mentally.

Concerns/Questions:
1. When someone becomes posthuman are they held to the same society structure as humans?

2. As you intelligence is enhanced does your moral code change as well?

3. What will be the effect on the human race as the posthumans or transhumans increase in number and technological capability?

Warwick put it like this "What we need to ask now is, will such an individual exhibit different moral and ethical values to those of a human and what effects might this have on society?"

Talk amongst yourselves.

2 comments:

Dan said...

Without reading a whole lot, I get the general idea that the Transhumanists believe they can evolve by using technology. Apparently this dates back 50 years to the author of "A Brave New World," Aldous Huxley's brother. That is interesting enough and if anyone would care to research the Huxley's, I'm fairly certain that they would have some interesting findings. I have not, I am just guessing that.

So the idea is not very old, and yet they claim to be able to date a form of this idea back to the 1700's.

What I find most interesting about this topic is the evolution part. First off, I don't believe the evolution exist on a macro level, being that species can create arms, legs, fins, tails, etc. I believe that is valid on a micro level. i.e. adaptation of skin color, weight, height, breathing in different climates, etc. What transhumanism claims is that by using technology, we can chose to evolve to the next level of conscience and being. I think this is bunk.

The simple fact being, if you take something, like a cpu chip, or something mechanical and add it to your person, you are utilizing a tool, not making yourself a higher individual in humankind. That would be like saying a person gets a prosthetic limb amd claiming they have evolved. That's ridiculous because they claim evolution is when creatures "evolve" by natural selection and survival of the fittest. Using technology completely defeats the whole premise of evolving.

Let's say it didn't. Would humankind evolve as a race? I don't think they would. At least not on the macro level. They probably would be 100% evolving on a micro level though. But humans could not pass on this mechanical perfection onto their children. That breakes simple laws of biology and how human reproduce.

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