Transhumanism and its technological allies
Transhumanism is not just a stand-alone concept; it’s tightly entwined with various branches of technology.
Genetic Engineering or Biotechnology:
Imagine if you could modify your genes to remove the risk of certain diseases or maybe enhance your natural abilities.
Genetic engineering is the modification of an organism’s genes using technology, which alters its traits and characteristics. Through the application of genetics, we can possibly edit the human genome and eliminate genetic diseases, say conditions like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia.
Bionic implants are artificial devices surgically implanted into the human body to augment or restore biological functions. Bionics has already had a huge impact on the lives of patients, especially in the areas of vision, hearing, orthopedics, and some cardiac/neurological functions. Besides restoration, such implants can also enhance physical capabilities beyond natural limits. For example, artificial exoskeletons can help increase the strength & endurance of workers who perform physically demanding tasks, as depicted in the movie Elysium (2013).
Artificial Intelligence (AI):
Artificial Intelligence refers to machines that can perform tasks requiring human intelligence. It works by combining computer science, and robust datasets, along with machine learning; the algorithms use the input data to create expert systems and make predictions.
AI can perform numerous tasks, such as problem-solving, natural language processing, and even creative work. As ‘cognitive tools’ that enhance our cognitive abilities, AI can help us achieve our goals more efficiently and accurately, which ultimately has the potential to revolutionize all aspects of our lives.
The human brain is amazing, but AI might just give it a run for its money. Imagine being able to process information at the speed of the latest supercomputer. Remember those childhood math problems you struggled with? With AI-enhanced cognitive abilities, you could solve them quicker.
Nanotechnology aims to manipulate atoms and molecules at the nanoscale, that is, things that are 100 nanometers (100 millionths of a millimeter) or less in size. Currently, it is primarily used in the information & communication sector, along with food processing and energy production.
Nanotechnology can become a boon for the medical industry; for example, it can allow us to make targeted drug delivery systems that can directly impact diseased cells. However, nanotechnology also poses health concerns, as humans have never been exposed to synthetic nanoparticles before.
Nanotech could take medical care to the next level. Tiny nanobots swimming in your bloodstream could monitor and address health problems at their earliest stage.
Cognitive Enhancement or Neurotechnology:
Cognitive enhancement is the use of drugs, devices, or other methods to improve cognitive abilities beyond normal levels. This could possibly lead to improvements in memory, creativity, attention, etc. Medications such as Ritalin or Adderall are used to treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), but they are also sometimes used by healthy people for better academic/professional performance.
There are also brain-computer interfaces, which create direct communication between the brain and an external device, say a computer or robotic limp; these have huge potential to expand cognitive/physical capabilities. Neurotech might be the answer to your problems. By interfacing directly with our brains, neurotechnology could boost our memory.
Mind uploading is a speculative technology that aims to create a digital copy of the human mind. In other words, it hopes to capture all the elements of a brain into a computer, run a simulation using it, and ultimately replicate how a conscious human would have acted in real life. The supporters of mind-uploading argue that some of the tools required for the process are already in existence, although the complete execution is still quite speculative.
Space colonization means establishing permanent human living establishments on celestial bodies other than Earth. This can be done through making space settlements or extraterrestrial mining enterprises, although none of it has been done so far. In fact, no extraterrestrial land has been legally claimed till now, as outer space is defined as a common heritage. Space colonization may eventually help us gain new insights about the universe and acquire rare resources.
Virtual reality is a simulated environment that allows users to explore and interact with an immersive world, which seems quite close to reality. It employs 3D near-eye displays (such as helmets or goggles) and pose-tracking to create this virtual world. VR can be used for entertainment (video games), education (say creating a visual tour of a historical site), and business purposes (meetings). Augmented reality is another similar field, which overlays virtual simulations onto real-world environments, as in Pokemon Go.
Technology has already helped to extend the life span of human beings, and with the integration of biotechnologies, lifespans may continue to extend beyond what is currently considered normal. Globally, anti-aging products constitute a huge industry, even though many have not been proven to be effective or safe (Holliday, 2009). However, many researchers claim that future advances in medical fields (like stem cells, regenerative medicine, molecular repair, etc.) will allow humans to have much longer lifespans, along with the potential restoration of a healthy youthful condition.
The technological singularity refers to a hypothetical event in the future when artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence. The term ‘singularity’ means we can’t see beyond it, and we don’t know what consequences this will have for humanity. As per I.J. Good, artificial intelligence will eventually enter a “runaway reaction” of self-improvement cycles.
This will lead to newer and more intelligent versions of AI appearing rapidly, which will ultimately create a “superintelligence” (Vinge, 1993). These systems could revolutionize science, medicine, and engineering. However, they could also become uncontrollable and turn on the human race.