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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.


The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

To Augment or Not to Augment... -- AL, Bio, CPS, Plan, Psych, Soc

A chap I occasionally discuss augmentation with brought up the old "make the Internet an AI" plan, and also mentioned these following concerns about human enhancement studies.

"There's a lot of ways intelligence can be augmented, even now, but the danger is always that if we screw around with bits we don't know about, we can shut off important brain areas by accident."

"That's the one thing I'm nervous about as far as government testing goes..."

So, naturally, I offered a relatively short and simple reply...


Actually, these are both good points, Daniel, but I look at things from a slightly different perspective.

First, you do want to cautious about causing harm to the brain/ mind/ personality/ soul/ etc. But there's plenty you can do to expand human capabilities without destroying the person -- in fact, much of what you might do will only improve people. Smarter, stronger, faster, healthier, better looking -- who could complain? =)

Think about the commonly accepted ways for improving a human being in the real world. Exercise, healthy food, reading, work demanding advanced physical or mental skills, martial arts, sports. Etc.

These kinds of lifestyle choices don't destroy a human being -- though embracing them may change you radically. Remember, there are lots of disciplined people out there who never went through Marine boot camp, but being highly disciplined would be a huge change to a lot of people's lifestyles. You could even argue that some highly gifted people wouldn't be nearly as productive if they were that focused and goal-oriented (some artistic, musical, literary and other creative types, for example).

On the other hand, most people could benefit from some improvement in their personal sense of discipline -- less of a tendency to procrastinate, for example.

The trick is, most of these "conventional" skills and virtues don't suddenly multiply with an injection or a pill in the modern-day world. So people can get nervous about a major improvement. Even one with no real side-effects.

But think of it this way -- if we start using all the tech and techniques that are already out there for improving human beings now...

Then when something comes along like your superintelligent computer network, or North Korean supersoldiers, or that protein that enhances rat brains (and maybe human brains)...
We won't have to jump into a huge crash program to develop supers of our own, "just to keep up." Instead, we'll have the time to consider each augmentation in turn, looking at the advantages/disadvantages, whether something can be pushed further, whether we've pushed it too far.

Cool stuff, if you're not rushing to get it done.

That's why taking a proactive stance, not just with using existing tech, but researching new enhancements, is such a good idea. We need smarter people just to solve the world's existing problems, but we don't need a small cabal super-augmenting itself while the rest of us are sleeping, and then taking over with absolutely no one having the requisite talents to oppose them.

One of the advantages about distributing exceptional abilities as widely as possible is that you get far more of your population actively involved in looking at issues and solving problems -- something that too many people leave to others. I want to get away from having an "elite" run our lives, be it "super" or otherwise.


Future Imperative


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