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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, December 05, 2005

Feedback II on... Posthuman Dreams, or Being Both More and Less than Human... -- Dark, SF, Soc, Super

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I posted my
He's using the Aeon Flux movie to start up a philosophical discussion on transhumanism, a pet fascination of Dry Observer's, though also an area of interest to Warren Ellis and particularly Grant Morrison (whose New X-Men run was shot through with some transhumanist ideas).

Either way I'll get to this tomorrow, though scanning through his post I find the title misleading since the Aeon Flux film is only tangential to the actual discussion.

Thanks, DJ, though I'd take issue with the thought that the film is really tangential to my argument. Admittedly, I didn't describe everything Charlize Theron did to prepare for that movie -- at the end of that initial training period she hurt her neck, and then had to spend a long time in rehab, followed by yet more training. And all to prepare for a single part she may never revisit.

My point? How many people do you know who are that devoted to self-improvement? Even with a particular goal in mind? Even among those who might talk about being a great athlete, a great artist or writer or scientist or musician, or even about transcending their human limits? Ms. Theron is one of many people who happens to be working very hard at improving her own talents and abilities. She and others like her may not know about extraordinary tech for self-enhancement now... but when they do, who do you think will be at the head of that pack as well?

I ask this question not to annoy, but to point out that most people want to achieve more, but it's often hard for people to focus on how to become better themselves. Or how important these "little choices" could be to my future, and to yours. =)

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Two other posters pointed out some individuals who also work hard (a couple celebrities, and Ordinary Working People). I responded:

Actually, my point isn't that we all need to bow down before Charlize Theron as a living god(ess). Rather, that a lot of people who are big on human potential (not everyone on this list, I know) or who expect one day to be something "more" (whether in the transcendant sense or just in terms of remarkable achievement) are remarkably resistant to doing anything that might substantially improve their circumstances.

I welcome these other examples you guys have given, because they're making much the same point. (All right, maybe Jessica Simpson wasn't making the same degree of effort, but oh well. =) ) Many of the folks who like to talk about these "revolutionary technologies" (nanotech, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, cybernetics) like to imply that "when the Revolution comes," all the folks who used to be on top will be pushed aside by a new, godlike elite (usually the hobbyists themselves, or the researchers), or else the playing field will be leveled for everyone, regardless of personal effort.

I'm suggesting that indeed, things might not go that way. Actually, we could easily end up with a reinforced elite in which only the richest can afford to pay for genetic modifications for themselves or their kids. F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, "The rich are different from you and I." In that world, his words would finally be literally true.

On the other hand, a more egalitarian society might offer enhancements of proven safety and benefit to everyone, allowing us all to rise together.

But the point is -- on the one hand, society probably won't make very good choices on these subjects if it doesn't know it's making a decision. And individuals may be forfeiting their opportunity to make decisions altogether. Including, ironically, those who should be keenly aware that there is a choice to be made.

What's your choice? There's a ton of accelerated learning techniques available for free on the Net. There's non-invasive technology designed to stimulate human intelligence. And this is all without getting into more controversial things, like nootropics (Piracetam, Modafinil, CX717, etc), genetic modifications, other biotech augmentations, or even cybernetics. And it's also without getting into really well known, accepted methods of self-improvement, like exercise, eating right and reading informative books. (Despite popular folklore, your librarian won't actually eat you. Not even if you forget to return books. =) )

Sure, it's one thing to say, "I don't know about all that hi-tech stuff," or "I don't have the time or energy to be working on those things." There are plenty of folks for whom those are legitimate arguments. But I originally wrote this article for that sliver of the population which does know about at least some of them, and which mostly has the resources to pursue them.

You've got to admit, if you know about techniques that don't alter you biologically, but do make you smarter or more creative, then you might ask, "Why don't I use these methods to achieve my own goals? Wouldn't that make more sense than waiting for someone else to do it for me?"

9 Comments:

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