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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.

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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, October 26, 2005

And More on Accelerated Learning Versus Biotech -- AL, Bio, CPS, Mind, Noo, Soc

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My thanks to "Rick" and to Jennifer Haggerty, who made the following comments in the Imagestream discussion group's discussion of the original article. I include my reply.

"I understand your point, however I'm kind of wary against any sort of human modification. The technology is risky, especially if it falls into the wrong hands. And since the techniques available here are already so very good and useful, I would say we should start by implementing them and see what the results are. With great power comes great responsibility. I don't believe the world in it's current state is ready for the power of genetic modification and other such techniques."

"Rick raises an excellent point.. And will we EVER be ready for that kind of power? Or SHOULD we? Why go looking to genetic modification when the current techniques have yet to be used to their fullest potential?"

I think you will both find Redesigning Humans: Choosing Our Children's Genes (formerly subtitled, Our Inevitable Genetic Future) by Gregory Stock to be revealing on this point. Stock argues that we are moving rapidly towards a revolution in biotech augmentation not because any particular group is actively pursuing this technology, but because breakthroughs in other areas having to do with fighting disease, improving fertility treatments and so forth are generating a host of dual-use innovations. (Alternatively, skim every post on my blog with the word "Bio" in its title. You'll get an overview. If a sketchy one. =) )

Stock insists that augmentation is the future we're moving towards given our present medical research priorities (which don't include human enhancement). Given the rush of augmentation breakthroughs we've had with rats and other test animals in recent years, I'm inclined to agree with him. How you may feel about biotech augmentation is another matter.

Having said all that, let me ask you a question, Jen. "Who's this 'we,' white man?" =) Or to put it another way, why are you asking whether or not "we" should be pursuing this technology? As I said before, this kind of research is not necessarily limited to the U.S., E.U. and G-7. There are many countries and corporations which could engage in such studies, and funding cuts and declarations of intent in other places and companies are not going to prevent such work from being done.

In other words, we're not making this decision in a vacuum. By that I don't just mean a political vacuum. We're also doing this in the context of other augmentation technologies and other threats. Do we block biotech developments and yield the field to cybernetic enhancements (externalized or invasive)? Or simply allow ourselves to be outmoded by the emergence of artificial intelligence?

And, quite frankly, there's the point that we face more than a few existential threats that don't involve human enhancement in any way whatsoever. Does Al Qaeda possess any superhuman intelligences? Apparently not. In fact, there's an open question as to whether or not someone possessed of broad based superhuman intelligence would be that aggressive or, if aggressive, whether they would pursue such crude strategies to achieve their goals. But regardless, an Al Qaeda without any transhuman warriors or inventors has managed to make itself a threat to major powers... and to become a greater threat, it does not require superhuman shock troops. Just a bit of Pakistani military technology.

There is an argument to be made that organizations which draw back from augmentation research not only lose the opportunity to insure that most such research will be carried out responsibly, but also lose the resources that could help deal with some very real threats, from existing issues of terrorism, environmental degradation, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and, in the future, potentially renegade transhumans or unfriendly artificial intelligences.

Before anyone asks, I'm presently working on mind enhancing techniques and disciplines, nootropic nutrients, and non-invasive "mindtech" such as self-hypnosis, photic/auditory stimulation, psychoactive sounds, ganzfelds, etc. But I repeat, the main point of my blog is not to blindly embrace or reject any class of technologies, but to encourage people to become fully informed about all of them.


Future Imperative

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