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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.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Irresponsibility, Technology and Their Consequences... -- Bio, Gov, Soc

Bill Joy (co-founder of Apple Computers) and Ray Kurzweil (author of The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology) have co-written an op-ed piece for the New York Times, "Recipe for Destruction." They warn of the existential threat posed by a carefree attitude towards the technology behind weapons of mass destruction -- in specific, the publishing of the genetic code for the 1918 influenza pandemic in the name of scientific openness.

Their united front on this issue seems surprising at first glance. Bill Joy is well remembered for his article in Wired magazine, "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us Anymore," and Ray Kurzweil for his paeans to the glorious techno-future before us, as described in SIN and The Age of Spiritual Machines. But they're raising an absolutely vital point for anyone who plans to live in the future... and who hopes to live long enough to enjoy it.

Given the technology increasingly available to human beings, particularly those with advanced technical knowledge and/or considerable wealth, we either have to control potential weapons of mass destruction and other cataclysmically powerful innovations, or stand by and wait until we are consumed by them. Because anything that can be used as a devastatingly powerful weapon in today's world sooner or later will be.

This point in particularly well taken for those of us who are aware of not only the present rate of accelerating technological change, but also the potential for radically enhancing human intelligence and creativity (a potential that has already begun to be realized). The easier these technologies are to use, and the easier it is for people to think up new ones, the harder it will be to contain such potential threats. Which means we need to be extremely forward looking and to "lean forward" in confronting such dangers early. In the case of a potentially loose virus, now would be the time to develop a robust vaccine and pharmaceutical production capacity capable of either churning out cures for likely bioweapons (such as avian flu) very, very fast, or better still, stockpiling such cures and treatments and developing the capacity to make them at blinding speed as well.

Ambitious? Yes. But when faced with an existential threat of reasonable likelihood, the question ceases to be political or even economic and becomes one of simple survival. Do you want to survive a major plague such as avian flu or the Spanish Influenza virus? Then you need to be as prepared as possible, which, depending on your resources, make include stockpiling a few doses of a known vaccine (if commercially available) or an antibiotic known to help in resisting infection. As well as more conventional tactics.

While you're at it, feel free to weigh just how you would survive a natural disaster such as Katrina also, or a terrorist attack against some devastating target (such as a chemical plant or nuclear power plant) in your own back yard.

After all, it's the smart thing to do. Ask yourself: What would a nascent posthuman do? =)


Future Imperative

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