Original article was published by Clark Curie on Artificial Intelligence on Medium
Transhumanism: Transcendency Or A Trap?
What Is Transhumanism?
Transhumanism — the belief that the human condition can be altered through the use of technology, is an otherwise noble and future-orientated endeavour… on the surface that is. You see, like all things in the world, be it a chocolate bar, a glass of wine or even a nap in the sun, too much of ANYTHING, is certainly detrimental to you in the grand scheme of things. But how does the evolution of our very society fit into your simple analogies of sunbathing and tasty treats? You might be inclined to ask… And to that I say, the danger is in the very fabric of what transhumanism is! Much like the smooth, creamy chocolate bar that melts in your mouth, Transhumanism consists of certain ideologies that seem appealing at first; for instance, the idea that merging man with machine (thus creating cyborgs) is a great idea… And yet, that is the beginning of a slide down a very slippery slope. Where does it end? After that first block of “transhuman” chocolate, one is more likely than not, inclined to spiral further into the equivalent of self-induced diabetes.
It would so appear that those in support of this movement, are enthralled by Posthumanist ideology, which in itself seeks to undermine the natural order and usher in a new state of being altogether. And when we look at the picture as a whole, it would seem that transhumanism is a tool by which posthumanism will be attained.
The first instance of the actual term, ‘Transhumanism’, appeared in a 1957 article by one Julian Huxley, in which he argued that human beings were the appointed overseers of evolution on our planet, and whether we like it or not, are responsible for taking life as we know it into the next level of existence. In the article, he goes on to say:
“The first thing that the human species has to do to prepare itself for the cosmic office to which it finds itself appointed, is to explore human nature, to find out what are the possibilities open to it, (including, of course, its limitations, whether inherent or imposed by the facts of external nature).
This one quote, perhaps best surmises the endeavours of the past few decades, as several scientists across various fields, have been toiling to achieve this end goal — that of assessing and researching ways to ultimately ‘edit’ humanity. Their collective efforts have culminated in the three main branches of transhumanism, which are namely:
Super Longevity (Immortality through use of artificial intelligence. Their idea is to one day upload human consciousness onto servers. Theoretically, you can divide or replicate yourself into several bodies)
Super Intelligence (Through the use of microchip implants which will act as an interface to the internet. Thereby eliminating need for physical devices; a human would just ‘know all things’.
Super Well-being. (Through the use of cybernetics and turning people into cyborgs).
As far-fetched as it may seem, I believe that all these will someday actually become possible given the pace at which technology is advancing and the sheer determination with which the people involved are working.
I’m not sure whether Transhumanism as a whole can be delayed or prevented, but I do know we can choose to protect our children from the very idea of it. The media has a way of glorifying these ideologies (through science fiction and such) so it is up to you and me to dissuade the next generation from wanting to become gods unto themselves! And whether you believe in a higher spiritual entity or not, you cannot deny that the best foot forward, will be to come together and start speaking against it from wherever you may be. Because wherever technology is, abuse and attacks from hackers and other maleficent groups with ulterior motives surely awaits.
Where are we now?
In recent years, one of the most misleading statements ever uttered has to be:
“We are already in a symbiotic relationship with technology”… And then they go on to use a smartphone as an example to justify the use of microchips implanted into human beings. How do you go from, “Smartphone”, to “IMPLANTS” in the same sentence without even stopping to realise that the impact those two have on the human condition are not at all proportionate! With one, the smartphone is a device which we as humans USE on a daily basis… to communicate with friends, family, colleagues, etc. And yes, we might allow our devices to give off our gps locations every now and then, or type a search query into a browser on the cellphone, but that in no way translates to it being conscionable to implant micro-chips into people. They want to turn human beings themselves into devices which are connected both to each other, and the internet, thereby creating a race of ‘super intelligent beings’.
Transhumanists driving the agenda behind this ideology, seem to be motivated by an approaching “technological singularity”, where computing power would have doubled enough to result in an Artificial Intelligence, smart enough to outthink and outpace mankind. They go on to suggest that it will be necessary for people to alter their bodies in order to keep up with this A.I, but again fail to mention the dangers associated with such a move. We have all had at least one of the websites we use hacked, be it an email service provider, social media platform or even government department websites belonging to our countries. Cyber-attacks are the first and foremost obvious danger associated with receiving a brain implant, because regardless of what they say, if it’s online it can be hacked. Be it a disgruntled employee, a rival in the industry or a competing world power altogether, you can rest assured that any service which connects people’s mind to the internet, is a prime target for relentless attacks.
And with the advent of quantum computing, passwords which used to take centuries to crack can be undone within a matter of seconds. Can you just imagine what could happen if a hacker where to get their hands on soft / hardware powerful enough to gain access to the network hosting your minds? And it doesn’t even have to be brute force. What about the story of the Greeks and the Trojan horse. An attacker could gain access and leave a virus in the machine-interface, or even in the chip of your brain itself! I’m not a tech guru, and I don’t pretend to be such, but honestly, taking a brain implant is tantamount to playing Russian roulette with your very consciousness.
Take for instance, Neuralink.
Perhaps an age-old question that has plagued mankind from the beginning of time, and certainly more with the advent of philosophy and technology — whether humans have a soul has been the subject of much debate. Some religions have tried to explain away the question, by suggesting that people are reincarnated once they die, and depending on how they lived their current lives, will find themselves either abased or exalted in the next life here on earth. Meanwhile, others tell of ancestors whose souls live on in the great beyond, looking after the ones they left behind in this turbulent world that many call home. And yet, science, in all its splendour and fanfare, has managed to uncover a half-truth, but a truth nonetheless. You see, neuroscience claims that if humans indeed do have a soul, then that ever elusive life-force, resides within the brain; where billions of cells called neurons interconnect to create a network at junctions which in turn are called synapses. So far so good, right? And yet we can already see the potential for abuse. Without even taking a step further into the proverbial pool, one can only shudder at the very thought of what a government, an entity, or even a person can achieve once allowed access to this ‘network of neurons’ residing within the human brain. You see, these neurons inside our brains, communicate with each other through the use of chemicals called neuro-transmitters, which are released in response to electrical spikes called action potentials. And to quote from the Neuralink presentation, “When a cell receives enough of the right kind of neuro transmitter input, a chain reaction is triggered that causes an action potential to fire and the neuron to in turn, relay messages to its own downstream synapses.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is perhaps the single most straight forward explanation of how thoughts are formed, habits are retained and even new skills are learned. It doesn’t take a neuro-scientist to see that every encounter with our environments, whether good or bad, triggers these action potentials inside our brains, thereby creating even stronger neural connections in relation to that stimuli. Say for instance, you grew up shy. Schoolmates either mocking or bullying you more often than not, will only serve to exacerbate the situation, as your brain is triggered into the same self-defeating behaviours that tragically for some, have ended even in suicide; Young, precious lives lost, all because of society’s incessant need to berate and dominate whatever they might view as different. But when we take a closer look at society itself, is it not a grouping of individuals sharing a value-system? And who defines this value system? I would suggest to you that if enough people within a society are exposed to the wrong kind of stimuli (e.g videos or images trending on social media), then we will have a subsection of people within our community, all with the same action potentials firing to influence their neurons to relay certain messages.
And can we not say, this would explain how today’s problems such as racism, intolerance and hate speech are being entrenched within our societies? No one is born hating their neighbour. Take a two, three, four or even a six year old and watch as he hugs his black best friend tightly. And yet somewhere along the way, something happens… Our children are exposed to adults already living with a set of behaviours that they in turn inherited from their parents who also learned from their environments. I hope the picture is becoming clearer… If all the issues and problems we are facing in the world today, can be traced back to members of society, whose neurons where trained through action potentials to behave in a certain way, then imagine what manner of madness future societies would have to contend with once their brains have been physically altered by external devices. Apart from the obvious threats of being hacked (especially with the advent of quantum computing and accelerated networks such as 5G facilitating even wider attacks), one cannot deny that it is never in the collective human nature to always have the best of intentions at heart. Though Neuralink’s initial endeavours such as helping those suffering from loss of movement and potentially preventing strokes are noble, we really must look at the broader picture and see the sheer scale of horror awaiting behind the veil. They have suggested that transhumanism (in this case, merging man with artificial intelligence) is the only way to survive the future. But all it takes ladies and gentlemen, is one hack, or one law by a fascist leader to drive the brain implants into something sinister.
I am not a scientist, but I AM a human being.
WHAT MAKES US HUMAN:
I remember the sweet smell of freshly cut grass as I ran across the lawn to my best friend’s house up the road, tears streaming down my eyes. And the stinging pain of regret stabbing inside my chest, when my mum left that rainy day in 2002. “Travis, I’m leaving now,” she said to me. But I was a young boy. Twelve and naive. Or perhaps living under such delusion that I didn’t, no –that I COULDN’T even fathom the significance of her departure at the time. You see, one of my biggest mistakes in life is that I stayed in bed that morning. When my mum told me she was leaving, I groaned a jibberish response and rolled over in my bed, ready to get back to sleep. All these years I have been haunted by regret — why didn’t I just get out the bed and at least walk her to the bus stop? My mum, my hero, my shield, was leaving to find greener pastures and fend for her family, but me the youngest wouldn’t even get up to say goodbye. And so she left, and I spent twelve years without seeing her. Time, I will never get back.
Now, I imagine that in a world of micro-chipped people, one would be able to “erase”, override or transfer (or whatever else they claim they could do) such a memory. But that in no way turns back the clock and gives back the actual time lost. The pain of regret has taught me far too valuable a lesson, that I’m sure we all have learned one way or another. And to allow manipulated electrical signals to do away with that, would be tantamount to a tragedy.
I know its hard, but try to accept yourself as you are; the scars, the tears, the shame… All of it. It is part of who you are, and you are enough, no matter what they say.