Should We Be Hesitant to Embrace Transhumanism?
The human body has somewhere in the vicinity of 50 to 100 trillion cells, depending on who you ask. Each of these cells has .07 volts of electrical energy potential — a relatively small number you might say. But when you multiply those .07 volts times 50 to 100 trillion, you get somewhere between two and a half, to five trillion volts. We are powerhouses of electrical energy potential.
Yet for some, this potential isn’t enough. In the minds of transhumanists, the body is a work in progress — one in which we must actively improve toward some perceived ideal. In some circumstances they may be right; our bodies are not all created equally, some face deformities and defects, or aren’t built as sturdy as others, making a good argument for the need to artificially augment.
But according to researcher and author Gregg Braden, this is a slippery slope — one in which we must tread with caution while appreciating the truly high-tech construction of the biological suits we’ve found ourselves born into.
“All of the technology that is now being developed in the world around us, and I worked in the Cold War years in the defense industry, space-based lasers, ‘Star Wars’ Defense Initiative… and I have yet to this moment, seen any tech in the world around us that does not mimic what we already do in our cells, except our cells do it better,” Braden said in a recent interview with Regina Meredith on Open Minds.
With advancements in microchip technology, futurists envision a world in which we begin to work toward almost complete integration with technology and computers. Some even go so far as to believe we will one day be capable of transferring our consciousness onto a hard drive composed of microscopic silicon chips, experiencing the world through that mechanistic, binary scope of the computer — potentially allowing humans to achieve something that looks like immortality.
But this reductionist mindset of the materialist, scientific lens is incredibly arrogant, Braden said.
Firstly, science’s “hard problem of consciousness” currently limits it from understanding what exactly consciousness is and where it comes from. And secondly, would this really even be the same kind of consciousness? Can you separate consciousness from our biological nature? And if you could, why would you?
Those are the two trains of thought when it comes to the views of our advancing technology and the transhumanist movement, Braden said.
One side views it as, “If we were never supposed to learn how to achieve such a feat, why have we gotten this far?”
While the other side says, “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.”
This leads Braden and Meredith into a perceived bifurcation of thought in our society and the extremes it appears to be leaning toward. On one end of the spectrum, the technocratic/futurist worldview sees the inevitability of our advancements and the near-utopian future it brings as the best possible outcome. While the other end harkens back for a more Luddite or parochial return to past lifestyles where economies were more decentralized and humans lived closer to nature.
Could it be possible to find a middle ground? This should be a consideration of those at the forefront of the movement developing technology that is setting the framework for a transhumanist future.
Braden mentions the work of Elon Musk’s Neuralink project, which is working on developing a neural mesh that can be implanted in the brain allowing it to interface with a microchip and supplant damaged systems within a neural network. Neuralink’s initial efforts are aimed at helping those with issues such as paralysis and severe brain injuries to regain function of nervous networks within the body— a noble endeavor that takes prosthetics one step further. But eventually, this technology will advance and become cheaper to produce, opening it up to consumer markets for uses beyond medical reasons, such as advanced cognitive abilities or even just the ability to control digital devices semi-telepathically. But Musk has even admitted he fears what this future may portend.
This is when things begin to get strange — when the human body and our digital devices begin to blur. It becomes a step in the direction of what futurists and transhumanists call “the singularity;” a point at which all human consciousness coalesces into one collective consciousness inside a computer. But again, is this even possible, and would we ever let it get to that point?
Listen to Braden’s further thoughts on the matter in his interview on Open Minds titled “Facing Our Transhuman Future.”
Scientists Just Inserted a Human Intelligence Gene Into Monkeys
A team of Chinese scientists recently inserted copies of a human gene believed to be associated with intelligence, into the brains of rhesus monkeys in an attempt to narrow the intellectual evolutionary gap. And according to their results, monkeys who were introduced to MCPH1 showed “remarkable” improvements in short-term memory.
The experiment sparked similar ethical concerns as when a Chinese scientist modified the genes of a human baby late last year, using CRISPR technology to give it HIV immunity.
But despite the dreadful image of an ape with near-human sentience, à la Cornelius from Planet of the Apes, the study arouses some interesting relevance to the ancient astronaut theory that humans may have been seeded by an advanced species from elsewhere in the cosmos.