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September 29

Post-Humanism and the Singularity Pt. I

The last 12-18 months have been some of the most interesting in my life to date. In that time, I have spent countless hours trying to better understand myself, and understand the world around me through the study of history, physics, biology, chemistry, sociology, and psychology.

In my young adulthood, nearly all my free time was spent understanding everything I could about design, web development and programming. In the last few years, that seems to have slowly been replaced by a desire to better understand nearly every aspect of science and technology. The fire within me was lit and I passionately desired to know everything. I now read less about new web development concepts, and more about biotechnology, particle physics, and neuroscience in my free time.

But for what reason? It is pure joy I get from learning about these subjects.

My brain is a often a sponge soaking in as much information about as many subjects as possible, often to the point of exhaustion. I get a sweet dopamine kick out of learning something new, so like a drug I keep going for it.

I think it was Einstein who said “the more I know, the more I don’t know” or something like that. I’ll fact check who actually said that later. The statement is one of absolute truth nonetheless.

I often start learning a subject only to find out that in order to truly comprehend it (in my eyes), one has to try and master all aspects of the subject. Nearly every new discovery in science shows this. When we make a new discovery, we learn that there is much more to be discovered! Science is like a tree with each subject being it’s own unique branch. It’s all connected and it keeps breaking into smaller and more detailed parts.

I hope this gives some insight on my background, and why I am writing about transhumanism and the “technological singularity”.

To swiftly and simply define our subject matter, a Google search defines transhumanism as “the belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology”.

The technological singularity (or just “singularity”) according to Wikipedia is “a hypothetical event in which artificial general intelligence (constituting, for example, intelligent computers, computer networks, or robots) would be capable of recursive self-improvement (progressively redesigning itself), or of autonomously building ever smarter and more powerful machines than itself, up to the point of a runaway effect—an intelligence explosion—that yields an intelligence surpassing all current human control or understanding”.

Wow! Wouldn’t that be something?

I’m not a scientist by degree, (design school is not computer science) and as a designer / developer (mostly front-end) it doesn’t always feel so sciencey since I am not in a lab doing measurements or submitting my papers to scientific journals for publication. Sure, there is a science to my career, but it obviously isn’t the same, and therefore does not allow me to speak on this subject as qualified scientific expert.

google-trends-transhumanism

Google Trends results comparing Posthumanism and Transhumanism search terms

However, I want to address the issue as a citizen of the United States and more largely the world. It feels tough to write this, as I think I may be one of the few people who have concerns with some of the ideas and science behind what is often branded “the next stage of mankind”.

Transhumanism is such a massive concept encompassing a vast array of unique ideas like editing our DNA to prevent disease and cell death, uploading one’s mind into a computer or the internet, or merging with our future robotic / AI creations. If you have never heard of transhumanism before, it might sound like a far out science fiction future. It is hardly fiction. It’s very real science, and it upsets me that the ABC, CNN, MSNBC, FOX etc. do not cover the topic. These are things that are in our very near future and exists beyond the Hollywood movie set.

The public might perhaps be weirded out or even frightened by such concepts, but within the transhumanism community, it is hard to find others who might share the same concerns as myself.

I find many people who I have spoken to familiar with the subject fully embrace the concepts mentioned previously without diving into potential concerns beyond resource management and overpopulation. Genetic engineering and human colonization of space seem to solve those issues for most of them. My concerns are beyond that. It may be time to fully admit now that my concerns may be metaphysical in nature, but I strongly believe that is deeply connected to our physicality – to our human likeness.

Whether it is virtual reality pornography, likes on Instagram, views on Snapchat, it seems there is no limit to what the internet has been able to provide for us in terms of entertainment and consumption of information, be it beneficial or brain rotting.

To each and every Atheist, Buddhist, Spiritualist, Jew, Christian, Wiccan, Muslim, and Hindu there is something fundamentally special about their humanity, about their consciousness or ability to perceive existence. Every one who lives, no matter how unique and different they are, all share a conscious and fully aware experience. It is my concern that the more plugged in we become, the more we lose what makes us have joy and love and life in the first place.

It’s my opinion that the more we seek artificial stimulation of our senses and emotions through technology, the further from actually reaching the true and real thing it is we seek.

Whether it is virtual reality pornography, likes on Instagram, views on Snapchat, it seems there is no limit to what the internet has been able to provide for us in terms of entertainment and consumption of information, be it beneficial or brain rotting.

And it is still only just beginning! The web is still young (as am I) and if one studies the topics I am mentioning enough, one can see the internet becoming a global consciousness or brain of sorts. Even if it the network does not have any intelligence itself like a human, it contains the sum of all human intelligence, both good and bad.

Some, such Christian & Mormon Transhumanist Associations see transhumanism as fulfillment of prophecy, of God (whatever that may or may not be) finally granting humanity eternal life, perhaps even making us “like god(s)”. Others, not necessarily spiritually inclined, see it as the potential for a utopian technocratic (decentralized?) socialism of sorts.

Throughout the ages, it has been the goal of the great rulers of the world and their science priests to find a recipe for immortality. The recipe goes by several names and accompanies numerous legends. Such names are the philosophers stone, the fountain of youth, and the elixir of life.

Eternal life and youth has been eternally sought in human history as far as we can tell. Some eastern mystics claim to have transcended the search and have realized that they already have eternal life existing eternally as a spirit moving from body to body through reincarnation. Christians seek eternal life through obeying God’s commandments and following Jesus Christ. The agnostic / atheist seeks to extend their life indefinitely or eternally through scientific and technological means. No matter where one looks, it seems as though every individual human being seeks to live forever in some fashion or another. We fear death. We rarely seek it, especially highly empathetic persons.

One thing I tirelessly come across is ridicule by others for even presenting concerns. For example, in a conversation I suggest that it is not AI or robots having some malevolent takeover that we should be concerned about, but rather us becoming one with our creations and attempting to merge our consciousness with it. Elon Musk envisions a type of neural fabric / net that we will connect to our brains, which will connect to the superintelligence in the cloud. Funny, coming from the guy who literally thinks creating superintelligence is “summoning the demon”.

Brain implants are only one of dozens of cyborg type concepts in the transhumanist “biohacking” community. Brain to brain communication is not common place yet, as that I think is still another decade or two away, but this is one of the pieces of technology that raises the most concern for myself. Computer and information security is always on the defense. Hackers find exploits and its up to the security experts / developers to patch up those exploits once its found. The largest struggle I have with brain implants that connect to the internet is the ability to literally “hack” someone’s mind / consciousness. We already do this in small forms today via advertising, social engineering and conditioning, neural linguistic programming, etc. However, I think it’s possible brain to brain communication security will be tougher than anyone dares to realize.

Even when we begin using quantum computing networks and quantum encryption for all of our communications, I still foresee potential for unwarranted parties to gain access to these implants and use them maliciously. Brain to brain communication is not far off. In fact, it is already here, just not en masse.

The possibilities with technology are nearly endless, and what I have covered just barely scratches the surface of the topic. I hope this short introduction to transhumanism and the Singularity got your brain thinking about the future, just a bit more.

It certainly has me thinking. I hope to keep getting more of these thoughts out on this blog.

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