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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.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Forget Education and Opportunities, "Where Are My Cerebral Implants, Mommy?" -- Bio, Soc

*
Joel Garreau, author of Radical Evolution, has suggested that enhancement technologies will inevitably become widespread if not the norm in society. What are you going to do, after all, when your kid comes to you to say that he or she just can't compete with the augmented students at school?

But there may be an even bigger competitive challenge making itself felt out there, one which could be eased or magnified by human augmentation. Is the world flat or is it spiky? New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has described a newly leveled global economic playing field in The World Is Flat -- essentially making the argument that in an interconnected, globalized world innovation can arise anywhere. Which means people living in wealthy Western countries (such as the United States) need to get ready for a tidal wave of competition from hungry, talented people newly able to compete in the 21st Century -- in particular, the roughly 3 billion people in China, India and the former Soviet Bloc.

Friedman argues that these people are just as capable of innovation and advanced technical work as Americans, Japanese and Western Europeans, but because they have traditionally been held back from fully utilizing their talents, they are paid far less for work often every bit as good as that provided by workers in the West.

Friedman's thesis, of course, is not without critics. A novel counterargument comes from Dr. Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, The Flight of the Creative Class and Cities and the Creative Class. As you might imagine, Florida is known for his theories regarding something he calls the Creative Class. In his own words:

"Some 38 million Americans, 30 percent of all employed people, belong to this new class. I define the core of the Creative Class to include people in science and engineering, architecture and design, education, arts, music and entertainment, whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology and/or new creative content. Around the core, the Creative Class also includes a broader group of creative professionals in business and finance, law, health care and related fields. These people engage in complex problem solving that involves a great deal of independent judgement and requires high levels of education or human capital."

In contrast to Friedman, one of Florida's chief arguments is that the place you live and work and try to innovate or launch a business is incredibly important. He insists that certain cities contain just the right mix of technology, talent and tolerance to form the ideal conditions for dynamic industries. And that cities rivaling the world's technology and innovation leaders are by no means common -- Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay area, Washington D.C., Boston, New York, etc.

He explains in "The World Is Spiky" that while cities with large populations are widely distributed throughout the world (though particularly concentrated in southern and eastern Asia, Western and Central Europe and North America), significant economic activity is far more concentrated in large minority of those cities... and the real factors driving long-term growth and competitive viability, technological innovation and scientific breakthroughs, are concentrated in a relative handful of cities, primarily in America, Western Europe and three East Asian countries (chiefly Japan).

So how do we reconcile these two positions, if at all? And why are they so tied to the looming issue of human augmentation?

First, we should realize that Friedman and Florida, despite their apparent differences, often appear to be reading from the same script. If you ask either of these men what an advanced nation like America needs most, they will tell you, like a mantra, that we need to be developing a reservoir of talent on our own shores while being more open than ever to the first class minds native to other countries. Both of them are known for sounding the alarm on issues such as the viability of modern education and barriers to work and immigration being imposed on the world's brightest scientists, artists, inventors, performers, entrepreneurs and other dynamic economic actors who have traditionally been drawn to America.

Friedman & Florida (two men who could practically go on the road as tag-team pundits for many of these issues) point out that America -- long an outlet for bright, creative people with limited opportunities in their countries of origin -- is now facing intense competition for those innovators from around the world. Not only is it now possible to found a corporation or engage in cutting edge research in India or China, but businesses, universities and governments all over the world are now keenly interested in tapping into this gold mine of global talent.

America, they insist, can no longer passively wait for the world's best people to "step off a boat" in New York, D.C., L.A. or elsewhere. Instead, we have to go out and recruit that talent before someone else gets to it. And we have to make sure that our country is the best incubator for that talent -- not only in terms of educating our own kids, or of being open to bright young graduate students from other nations, but in creating a national environment that stimulates and nurtures new ideas and new enterprises.

But even if Friedman & Florida aren't so far apart, what does any of this have to do with human augmentation? Simple, really. If education, immigration, communications and technological efficiencies in the creative process are all disruptive to the status quo of distributed wealth, productivity and talent... then what could be more disruptive than the ability to dramatically enhance human intelligence and talent, either in specific areas or across the board?

To quote an earlier piece:


Now here’s one of those breakthroughs that makes you wonder why they didn’t mark it with a screaming neon sign that says “Blatant Human Enhancement Research.” It starts out innocently enough. “A protein that's key to determining the developing brain's size and shape could be used to manipulate stem cells to rebuild the organ in adults.” But then they add, “Underscoring the protein's impact, over-expressing it in rats gave them enlarged brains with grooves and furrows similar to those in evolved mammalian brains.”

All right. I’m assuming they over-expressed this protein in very young or in-vitro rats. (Or that they would have to in order to get the fullest possible impact.) But nevertheless, we would appear to have the basic method necessary for developing superintelligent infants. Now sure, we don’t know how greatly a broad-based expansion of the brain would improve human minds, which abilities it would most effect or what drawbacks would exist. (Or how those factors would change with greater or lesser or targeted uses of this protein.) But nevertheless. We now have the means to literally create a whole generation of “superbabies.” And obviously, any applications for adult enhancement would be intriguing as well. And apparently, no one has even noticed.
The point here is that we may in fact have the ability to create new humans (or modify existing ones) who would become a "higher order species" in terms of raw intellect. Regardless of whether this particular modification proves out, we have enough research going on with regards to in-vitro genetic manipulation, adult gene therapy, nootropic nutrients and drugs, accelerated learning methods and technologies and other promising fields that it seems very likely that one of them will provide us with practical methods to produce dramatically enhanced human beings. Still, on the subject of this particular development, I had an amusing exchange:


One reader commented "Khan Noonien Singh will be born in my lifetime." (That's a eugenically engineered Star Trek superman, in case you're wondering.)

I responded...

Actually, this is one of those things I suspect could happen in the not-too-distant future. I don't think most authoritarian governments have much time left, but imagine if a tightly controlled dictatorship -- say, North Korea -- were to have thousand or tens of thousands of babies modified in vitro to have this over-expressed protein. And that they made sure the kids continued to have an excess of it in their brains growing up.

Imagine the impact such a country could have on the rest of the world if they had thousands of young adults who had been raised to be fanatically loyal to the state -- children of mid-level party loyalists, or simply orphans raised completely by the state. Imagine what would happen if their brains were as superior to ours as ours are to a mentally disadvantaged person (with no savant gifts) or a really, really high-functioning chimps.

Imagine what they could do to everyone else.

Perhaps more importantly, this protein experiment has already been pulled off in rats, just as the muscle-building trick you cited has been accomplished in mice. Which means these resources could probably be used now -- no major breakthroughs required.

To take another tack, imagine a major emerging power such as China or India testing out this method... and then altering the protein levels in their leaders', scientists' and engineers' brains. Among others. In India's case at least we (the U.S.) would be dealing with a democracy we get along fairly well with. China, on the other hand, hasn't made all of its intentions clear other than a desire to become the foremost power in Asia and, presumably, the world.

Hyper-evolved brains in the heads of the people who can do the most with them could completely alter the world's balance of power. Super-muscular troops are probably less of an issue, but physically superior ground troops never hurt anybody. And hyper-bright officers and weapons designers are apt to have an enormous impact on the capabilities of one's military.

So I ask, should democratic countries be ignoring this issue utterly?

And, for that matter, should people interested in the same issues as Friedman & Florida be ignoring them? Personally, I'm not involved in political affairs, but as an entrepreneur in a tech-heavy industry, these matters are of clear interest to me from a purely practical standpoint. If something is poised to upset the innovation applecart utterly, and its precise arrival can not be predicted but could occur at any time -- could actually have already occured, but gone unnoticed -- then as a corporate officer with fiduciary duty, I have to stay alert to these possibilities. Unfortunately, most of the business world and the "Creative Class" is not.

Just imagine, human beings whose intellect, spectrum of talents and raw creativity surpass yours and mine as that of advanced primates such as apes surpasses that of rats. And imagine that result from just one of many potential augmentations. And then imagine the further augmentations that such a "master race" might think up after thus multiplying its intelligence.

Something to reflect on. But in the meantime, ask yourself what you're going to say when the head of your research department comes to you and says that he or she just can't compete with all of the augmented scientists at the symposium. Because the researchers you work with -- or the musicians, inventors, actors, artists and writers -- may just bring this up before your children do.


You can discuss this topic here, on Betterhumans.Com. (Registration is free.)

Future Imperative

10 Comments:

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Anonymous human growth hormone said...

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January 06, 2006 12:23 AM  
Blogger hypnosis said...

The personal development industry has never been bigger! It consists of a myriad of authors basically telling us how to improve our lives. We are constantly being told self help and self improvement has never been easier. New techniques, gadgets and potions adorn the shelves of new age shops and the 1 billion dollar industry, that is personal development, offers many different approaches to help better our lives. They offer ways to increase our bounty and ultimately alter our own reality. A great example of this is how to develop a Prosperity Consciousness. But does this state really exist and if it does will it bring the effortless unlimited wealth promised?
A lot has been written about prosperity and how to attain it. We have been told by many religious traditions and every personal development guru that the Universersal Source (God, Spirit, Cosmic Mind or whatever label you chose to give it) is boundless wealth. We are also told that abundance, wealth and prosperity are our birthright! Why then are so many people ill, broke, frustrated and unfulfilled? Can a person really develop a prosperity consciousness and effortlessly attract wealth? Well as with everything in life there is only one way to find out. Test it for yourself!

Before we can attain and then test the effectiveness of having a prosperity consciousness we need to understand some basic truths. Let's start by explaining three fundamentals of personal development namely; 1. The Universal Source is all wealth, abundance and prosperity; 2. Prosperity is our birthright; 3. You get more of what you focus on.

1. Why are we told that the Universal Source is unlimited wealth? - Because the Universal Source is the consciousness of the Universe - a universe that is still expanding. It is the driving force behind physical reality. It created everything you see, hear, touch and smell as well as all that we are unaware of (microwaves, radiation, air etc.). It has been stated in religious and metaphysical traditions that this intelligence is not only the Source of everything but that it is also the substance of it! It creates the Universe from itself! It is omnipresent (everywhere present). That means that the entire seen and unseen aspects of the universe are a part of this Universal Source. Science reaffirms this theory as it states that nothing is solid and everything is just one mass of pure energy that vibrates at different frequencies and gives the illusion of separateness.
So we can now claim that the Universal Source is unlimited wealth, abundance and prosperity with some belief. For if this Source is the very substance of everything then it is all the wealth, abundance and prosperity that exists at this very moment!
Ok so far? Now lets look at the second point - prosperity is our birthright.

2. If this Universal Intelligence is the source and substance of all things then there can be only one intelligence in the Universe. Jesus said to his disciples "know ye not that you are the temple of the living God?" Buddha attained enlightenment and "oneness". The list of these religious teachings are too numerous to mention but their message remains the same - God (Universal Substance) resides within and around us. It's very substance makes up our physical body and the world around us - "For in him we live, move and have our being" Acts17:28. Therefore, if this Universal Source is at the very core of our being and is the substance from which we take physical form then it stands to reason that we are connected to everyone else and in fact everything else around us - we are a part of all the wealth, abundance and prosperity of the universe. Just as your hand or foot is a part of your body, so every grain of sand, blade of grass, wisp of wind, bar of gold and brick that is laid in a mansion is part of you. The unlimited wealth of the universe is yours for the claiming. It is already yours, always has been and always will be. It is a part of you.
Ok let's go the third point - you get more of what you focus on.

3. "It never rains but it pours", is a saying I have used myself in the past. Have you ever wondered why such a statement appears to be true? Well metaphysics and religion tell us that "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" or as Job cried out to God "For that which I greatly feared has come upon me". What we focus our conscious attention on increases! Don't believe me? Test it for yourself! If you can muster up the strength to do it then think in negative terms for a week. Judge everything that happens to you in negative terms and think only of a negative outcome and watch what happens in your world!!! This is a relatively easy experiment as we are conditioned to think negatively by the world. A word of warning though - once you prove that your focus determines your reality stop thinking negative thoughts as best you can.
I will not go into the 'hows' of why our focus has such a profound influence on our lives (that would be the subject of a book or perhaps a future article) just prove to yourself that it does. A clue can be found in the teachings of Jesus when he said "The Kingdom of heaven is within".
So now we have the three principles of the prosperity consciousness explained let's put it to work. The attainment of a prosperity consciousness is relatively simple - just think on the first two principles until you fully understand them and integrate them into your consciousness. As you focus on them you will discover that your feelings of lack disappear and you begin to feel a connection with everything around you. It is really just an attitude shift - nothing metaphysical or mystical about it at all. You begin to consciously realize that everything is a part of you. Your focus changes from poverty to wealth.
If it helps make a list of affirmations that correspond to the two principles outlined e.g. "God is the Source and substance of everything", "I am at one with everyone and everything around me", "I am a part of all the wealth, abundance and prosperity of the Universe" etc. Don't just rhyme them off in a parrot like manner, think on them and realize the scientific or spiritual truths behind them.

Will it work? Well I can say now that if you follow the above instructions a real change will happen in you. You will start to see the beauty of the world and the unlimited resources that are available within and around you. Will you attain wealth, abundance and prosperity? Test it for yourself! personal development

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