Special thanks go out to a friend, Ms. P.H., for sending me this one. When I first saw the subject, I was a little skeptical, but as I read, the importance of the subject matter, and the reasons for it, became all too clear:
So why my concern here?
Well, stop and consider.
Regular readers here will know of my interest in transhumanism as a cultural phenomenon. Indeed, my co-author Scott D. de Hart and I were most taken not only with the ability of transhumanism to transform individual lives, but as we attempted to show in our book Transhumanism: A Grimoire of Alchemical Agendas, the phenomenon may be the most significant culturally transformative and sweeping paradigm change in all of recorded human history (at least, the kind of human history one learns in colleges and universities). As I’ve said many times, we appear to be entering one of those 500 year periodic cycles, at the same time as new technologies and new ways of viewing the world and mankind’s place in it are transforming human society and culture. Like the last five hundred year periodic shift, this change is being driven in large part by physics and physicists. Then it was Copernicus and Kepler and eventually the alchemist (!) Newton and the hermeticist Leibniz that transformed the culture. Now it is quantum mechanics and non-locality and John Stuart Bell and Heisenberg and Schroedinger and a host of others. Biology, however, and more specifically, genetics have also entered the picture, and both of these sciences are driving a revolution in world view and culture.
Much of this is, of course, being driven by technologies that Dr. de Hart and I could only qualify as alchemical in t heir significance, for they herald an attempt at the transmutation of the essence of man in all its aspects: physical, emotional, and intellectual. Perhaps, even spiritual. We wrote in our book, and I have written here, about the promises of nanotechnology and genetics for wholly new kinds of medicine and even of the prospect of massively enhanced longevity. Robotic and cybernetic technologies hold the implication, for some transhumanists, of enhancing human intellectual capabilities and memory, and for some, even the prospect of “downloading and uploading” a person’s entire memory, in a kind of virtual immortality. And as I have also detailed here on this site, and as Dr. de Hart and I wrote in our book, agencies such as DARPA are exploring a variety of transhumanist technologies to create the super-soldier, i.e., soldiers with enhanced endurance and physical capabilities, able to carry more, travel farther, on less sleep and less food, and to significantly outperform their “mundane” counterparts, i.e., the natural man or woman.
These enhancements have encompassed everything from drug-enhancements, to cyber-implants, and even, as a reader of this site even suggested in a comment, bio-engineered computer and information processing “hardware” that would conceivably be completely undetectable. Other technologies include exoskeletons to magnify muscle performance, and so on. It is the fusion of man, and machine, to produce a new kind of transhumanist “super man” with “super powers.”
Now, none of this, as the above article makes clear, will occur in a vacuum. It will have an effect on humans, and on human society, and on the way humans interact with each other. Inevitably, studies will have to be done to determine what the psychological and social impact of all of this will be. Will humans use these new capabilities for good, or ill? Imagine being given to leap tall buildings in a single bound, as it were. How would one use such capabilities. If the above study is reliable and similar results are obtained elsewhere, then it would suggest that most humans, given the ability, would attempt to use them for the benefit of others.
That, at least, is a hopeful sign. But let’s not send up the fireworks in celebration just yet. After all, the fact that DARPA and similar agencies are talking about all this should give one pause. And one might also ask, where are the studies of what decadent power-mongerers might do with it?
…See you on the flip side.