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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.


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.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Human Stem Cells Used to Help Ailing Rats...

The Washington Post notes this work by stem cell researchers:

Researchers will report today that cells grown from human embryonic stem cells slowed vision loss when injected into the eyes of rats with a disease similar to macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people older than 55.

The experiments do not prove that the cells, obtained through the destruction of human embryos, will work in people. But by showing that the cells have the potential to fill in for failing cells in the retina, experts said, the work may help justify trying the technique in humans.

It will not come as a great shock to regular readers of this site that I find this work -- important though it is for its medical promise -- yet another bellweather for emerging human enhancement technologies. On the one hand you have "the slippery slope" of inventing therapies that have potential human augmentation applications. And on the other, the sooner we eliminate these terrible diseases and infirmities that have been holding humanity back for thousands of years, the faster we'll be able to shift our resources towards more productive work, such as enhancing the overall quality of human life, or even permanently improving the human condition.

Something which we are increasingly in a position to do with our relentlessly advancing technology. With stem cells, for example, it's not a stretch to imagine new, vital cells that can "fill in" almost anywhere in the body being used to enhance muscles, connective tissue or organs... not only in recovering patients and the elderly, but in healthy, younger people who want to optimize their health or abilities.

This process seems to be moving relentlessly forward, despite active opposition in a number of quarters, and it's not hard to see why. After all, this isn't an explicit human enhancement project being reported on, but medical research with no ulterior motive. And the only way to stop such de facto research is to stop studies that have nothing to do with enhancement technologies, but which merely advance our knowledge of medicine to "unacceptable level." All of that may sound reasonable to some "bio-conservatives," but is unlikely to go over well with the population at large.

Future Imperative

Worlds in Collision

Reuters offers this article on the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN complex near Geneva. Researchers intend to duplicate a miniature version of the events of the Big Bang in this 27-kilometer particle supercollider.
"These beams will have the kinetic energy of an aircraft carrier slammed into the size of a zero on a 20 pence piece," Brian Cox of Manchester University told the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

"We are going to make mini Big Bangs. There has never been such a jump in particle physics. It will go into an area that we don't really understand," he added.

Scientists plan to use this device to try to discover how matter was created when the universe began. But there are a number of other exciting applications. If their theories hold up, then the collider should generate tiny black holes that will evaporate away. They may also find evidence of other dimensions, possibly including evidence of alternate universes.

"For the first time in many decades we have built a machine that exceeds our powers of prediction. New processes are bound to be discovered," he added. "We are truly journeying into unknown territory."

Cox dismissed worries that by adventuring into the unknown and creating tiny Black Holes, the machine could even threaten to destroy the planet.

"The probability is at the level of 10 to the minus 40," he said.

Well, that's a relief. Now if only that mission to Mars -- or better still, that mission to Alpha Centauri -- were ready to go. Never fear, I'd be willing to get my report on the collider results by email.

*Note: The odds they're talking about for global destruction are about 10 duodecillion to one. Or 10 thousand trillion trillion trillion to one.

Future Imperative