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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, December 28, 2005

The Freedom To Be Mediocre... -- Soc

*
Mark White recently wrote something that summed up a lot of opposition to human enhancement for me. "If people were satisfied they wouldn't need to try to improve themselves."

That's probably the harshest indictment I've ever seen of people who take an absolutist position against self-improvement. Why? Because it doesn't just apply to this pharmaceutical or that genetic augmentation. That statement seems to take a stand against all forms of human self-improvement -- arguing, in effect, that if we felt content we could not only dispense with "radical self-enhancement" using technology and cutting-edge techniques, but also traditional methods like diet, exercise and an excellent education.

The sad thing is, this level of satisfaction is arguably far more widespread in western societies that White believes. In The World Is Flat, Tom Friedman of the New York Times argues that while the populations of developed nations, particularly in North America and Western Europe, had become very satisfied with their relative prosperity, many eager, hungry young people were now able to "plug and play" and compete in an increasingly "flat" world -- a world where geography matters far less than ideas, talent and drive. As 3 billion people, from India, China and the old Soviet Bloc, are able to get more and more access to this interconnected modern world (in the wake of a century that Arnold Toynbee said was "marked by the destruction of distance"), everything will change in the face of the competition, and opportunities, they bring with them.

My point? It doesn't matter whether or not you or I feel satisfied with our present condition or not. There are billions of people out there who have never had the opportunities you and I have had, and who have never had the option of saying, "That's okay. I could do great things, but an ordinary life in the advanced world is enough for me. I think I'll just relax and enjoy what I've got."

These people haven't got much of anything, and realize they'll have to work very hard for much of their lives whether they choose to be successful or not. So you're seeing the brightest of these billions seizing every opportunity they can in order to win their way to the level of prosperity you and I may take for granted.

White adds, "But our societies are based on the concept of endless growth, so they rely on us never being satisfied."

Whatever you may think of this latter statement, remember... we may choose to be laid back, we may choose to head back to the land. But you're never going to persuade those billions to head back to the village, the ghetto or the collective. This is the 21 Century, not the 19th... or the 12th. And they're here to stay.

But good luck with all of that "Eastern" philosophy. =)


(Note: White's summary of pharmaceutical augmentation research in his larger article on pharmaceuticals is a good glimpse of how someone who holds a particular viewpoint can become antagonistic to the human enhancement field. So if you're curious, there you go. Though you may have heard this all before...)

Future Imperative

7 Comments:

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January 21, 2006 4:08 AM  
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