Transhumanist

TRANSHUMANISM: CYBORG TISSUES COMING TO A HOSPITAL NEAR YOU

I continue to be astonished - though I know I shouldn't be - by the pace at which scientists are dreaming up the bizarre and potentially humanity-ending technologies of transhumanism. But before I get to that, a word about how I tend to see transhumanism. It will be evident from the title of the book which I co-authored with my friend of many years, Dr. Scott D de Hart, that he and I see it not only as an alchemical process but as an alchemical strategy. The implicit philosophical premise of transhumanism is that mankindis the Philosophers' Stone, an essence - so to speak - to be transformed by a variety of techniques and technologies, introduced or induced in him at the right time, in order to effect a transformation of consciousness, and with it, a transformation of human culture and civilization.

With this in mind, I found in my email boxes over the course of a few days this article, and similar ones like it, being sent to me:

Harvard researchers create cyborg tissues

Well, this one conjured justall sorts of possibilities in my mind, so I did a little more surfing and found this one at phys.org:

Merging bioengineering and electronics: Scientists grow artificial tissues with embedded nanoscale sensors Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-08-merging-bioengineering-electronics-scientists-artificial.html#jCp

Behind all the bland "not-to-worry-nothing-to-see-here-move-along" prose of the phys.org article, there are a numbers of things that disturbed me, as I allowed my mind for a moment to "think like an (power-crazed power hungry insane) western oligarch" (no need to mention any names, you know who they are). What touched off this frenzy of transhumanist thought was this statement in the phys.org article:

"'In the body, the autonomic nervous system keeps track of pH, chemistry, oxygen and other factors, and triggers responses as needed,' Kohane explained. 'We need to be able to mimic the kind of intrinsic feedback loops the body has evolved in order to maintain fine control at the cellular and tissue level.'"
Maintaining "fine control at the cellular and tissue level..."  Uh huh...uhm...great. Wow. Gee whiz.  And then there was this one:
"'Ultimately, this is about merging tissue with electronics in a way that it becomes difficult to determine where the tissue ends and the electronics begin.'"
Yes, that is indeed "what this is about." Even the TechEye article sees this:

"This makes them half living cells, half electronics and jolly confused. The cells think that they are normal but the electronic side actually acts as a sensor network, allowing a computer to interface directly with them

"For example  the researchers have already used the embedded nanowires to measure the contractions (heart rate) of the cells."

Now, I don't know about you, but in reading these articles, my mind immediately went to two places. Place number one: suppose this technique were perfected to the point that scientists could literally grow a cyborg-robot, sort of a a sophisticated Frankenstein creature from Percy Shelley's novel of the same name (and yes, folks, I said Percy Shelley's novel, not Mary Shelley's!...another case for another time, but suffice it to say, my friend Dr de Hart disabused me of the standard academic line there!). Suppose this cyborg-robot (whatever would one call it?) were to become unruly? Why, one could perhaps just send out a convenient EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) of a certain frequency, and shut it (and perhaps, all "models" synchronized to that frequency) down. OK...cool...the ultimate method of oligarchical crowd control (and besides, they can probably do that already anyway).

Place number two, however, is for me the more interesting, and urgent one, and is evidenced by my own difficulties in describing such an entity (and recall, Shelley in his genius foresaw the same difficulty in his novel): what is this creation? Is it human? Or something else? The achievement of the scientists at Harvard, in other words, opens up again the need for a profound and deep philosophical discussion over what "humanity" is. As I've blogged here before about this topic, there is in our society a group of people - predominantly dangerous in my opinion - who would on the basis of some fundamentalism of the left or right, on pseudo-religious or pseudo-scientific grounds (take your pick) - define this creation as being less than human, and ipso facto, a kind of slave, with limited rights. IN my view, the world technology is opening up is a world fraught with moral and ethical dangers... I am not, far from it, sanctioning the use utility or creation of such entities. But rest assured, someone, somewhere, will do this, sooner or later.

The real question is, how will we as a society respond to it? My personal view, at the moment anyway, is that we must err on the side of maximum ethical caution: treat such things as human until proven otherwise... and there, of course, is the rub: what would constitute proof? Proof requires an implicit understanding, and a deep philosophical understanding, of that mysterious thing we call human nature (and yes, I am using "nature" here in the technical sense connoted by the Greek word "physis").

All philosophical musings aside, however, the cyborg is coming. It may not be tomorrow or even in our generation. But it is coming. Rest assured of that, for scientists have now taking the first step towards its confection.

See you on the flip side...

 

19 thoughts on “TRANSHUMANISM: CYBORG TISSUES COMING TO A HOSPITAL NEAR YOU”

  1. Here’s a scary thought:

    http://io9.com/5940068/neuroscientists-successfully-control-the-dreams-of-rats-could-humans-be-next

    MIT claims they can “know” what a rat is dreaming about??? Personally, I think that claim needs to be taken with a massive dose of skepticism. This is a short article with links to the original journal article.

    Epistemologically they are probably lying through their teeth. And yet, they probably do have some sort of knowledge here and the ability to manipulate dreams to some extent (and if they can do it to rats, you can be sure they can do it to humans).

  2. this will be my third try to give my own 25 cents worth to this posting- don’t know why the last two have been axed- maybe because the provided link is too hot to handle or maybe it has been infiltrated by a virus to keep it inaccessible-

    “the cyborg is coming”- it’s already here- check out peterdavidbeter (now add .com after the name) and his reports about very famous people already being replaced by what he deemed “robotoids”- and this was way back in the late 70’s/early 80’s

  3. auuuhhh!! its just a pace maker on steroids.no priblem…kidding aside.about as heavy as it gets.thanks for the insight doc.

  4. My guess is that the ethical status of any so-called cyborgs is not going to be the real issue.

    My guess is that the true cyborg as portrayed in scifi movies, just is not going to happen. It seems like cost would be the major factor here: why spend so much money on cyborgs “from scratch” when a tiny modification to cheap humans gives you most of the benefits without the astronomical cost?

    The real issue is going to be FORCED injection of this technology (no matter how minor the extent) into the general population.

    Again, must my guess.

  5. It will not be human – it will be a corporate owned machine, regardless of its true biological status. The business world is already trying to make us “biologicals” their property, and they would have much less trouble with the creation you are describing.

    Even if these cyborgs were somehow able to achieve “human” status, the huge burden of the cost of their creation would be added to their health care plan, and they would be virtual slaves anyway.

  6. Robert Barricklow

    There is Slavery today.
    There are at least 27 million slaves alive today.
    They are under VIOLENT control.

      1. Robert Barricklow

        I hear that Entrepreneurial Violence
        is a great field to get into.
        Plenty of room for advancement &
        the Booty is:
        to die for.

    1. It may be hard to believe slavery is still in existence but it’s true. Right in the Great USA?

      Slaves are “Terrorized” into submission through the use of Violence. Yes, I agree!

      I remember a newspaper story about a sic “Compound” (clothing manufacturer) in LA holding chinese women captives until they paid their debt for illegal entry in Los Angelos.( 40 or 50 thousand dollars I think it was?) The place had barbed wire at the top of the walls surrounding the factory.. Hard to believe. I don’t recall how long this ‘compound” was in existence. (I’m glad someone had enough decency to “BLOW THE WHISTLE!”)

      1. On second thought if one wanted to get ‘FINIKY” on this ABOVE post of mine about LABOR these captives could be called a post-modern form of INDENTURE SERVITUDE.

        I wonder what these chinese wages were or if there was anything left over from their paychecks after paying for the slop and bunks they were probably living in? I bet the exit doors were bolted and to me that ‘constitutes” SLAVERY and not Indentured servitude? ( I am suprised there were no fires and 50 people were burnt alive? That’s about the only time we usually hear stuff like this?)

  7. Have you ever tried your hand at the horror sci-fi
    that is so prevalent today, Joseph?

    You’re good at it. All you need is a plot.
    Just one would probably give you a much better income
    and more freedom to persue your true research.

    [It takes the place of genuine sci-fi because the
    tech is real and they don’t want anyone to know]

    1. I know that you are only prognosticating, after all;
      but how many ‘futures’ have been stopped dead in their
      tracks by unexpected events in the so-called past?

    2. I second Hal’s suggestion at trying your hand at Horror Sci-Fi. We could then read between the lines of your fictions and decipher the truth rather than read between the lines of what you write to decipher the fictions, Ha, ha!

      We fellow investigators are a ‘real cynical bunch? Can you blame us?

  8. Don’t worry, the Democratic party will make sure the cyborgs are treated more than equally, are given voting rights, driver’s licenses, food stamps, welfare. The good thing is the cyborb children will most likely set a new standard in school with their computer like brains and the public school kids will have to be “dumbed” up. Which means once again, the biggest victim of any new group introduced into the US will be African-Americans who will have just one more genus of citizens to compete against for a piece of the pie. When non-electronic humans start criticizing the cyborgs, the ADL can come to their rescue and can use the opportunity to finally ban all “hate” speech. Big rock festivals will be set up to rally the masses for the persecuted cyborgs. Thoughtful musicians will write songs about the sad cyborgs. Hipsters will start acting like them, trendies will start dancing like them. I won’t weep for the cyborgs. You can be certain their needs will be addressed at the expense of the taxpayer. Electronic upgrades as part of Obamma Care? Mandatory cyborg boot up terminals in all public buildings?

    The silver lining would be– the pleasure cyborgs would keep the citizenry so preoccupied, they would have less time for reality shows, professional sports, and info-tainment. Bad TV may just go by the wayside. Other social problems would be addressed because now abused housewives could have cyborg bodyguards. Of course, this would open up an entirely new set of social problems, certainly in the divorce courts, and a new definition of infidelity would have to determined. If a President was having an affair with a cyborg, should we care?

    Anything with electronic circuitry can be shut off. The only thing we will ever have to really worry about the western oligarch dragging out of the laboratory are dragons.

    Movie recommendations about a cyborg world:

    Blade Runner
    Westworld

  9. What is Human? A very basic, simple much over-looked, underated question. One that may in the end be Unexplanable? But people can try and history has some of it’s own explanations that are worthy of thought.

    Use “maxmum ethical caution?” If only they would but You and I know that isn’t going to happen. The trend is “If we can do it – Lets Do IT! Think about the consequences later?

    Insanity, but who’s there to stop it? I like to know?

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