Educator, technologist and writer Steve Regan guest blogs his thoughts about Transhumanism, the future of humankind and how man and machine will be indistinct in the far future
Dennis Sorensen lost his hand in a fireworks accident some 10 years ago and the Dane has just completed a one-month trial with a bionic hand which is capable of restoring a sense of touch to amputees. The trail was a success with Mr Sorensen reporting that “the sensory feedback was incredible. I could feel things that I hadn’t been able to feel in over nine years”. Progress in this area of ‘bionics’ is accelerating. Enhancing human performance whether or not you have a medical issue to be addressed is a major area of research and development.
This has led many futurologists to predict that the future of mankind lies in the merging of man and machine, leading to an ‘upgrade’ of the human race, or humans’ version 2.0. This area of thinking is called Transhumanism. Essentially Transhumanism is both a cultural and an intellectual movement that believes that we are duty bound to improve the human condition through the use of advanced technologies. This merging will enable us to be faster, stronger and much, much more ‘intelligent’. We are also bound to live longer through genetic engineering, nanotech, cloning, and other emerging technologies.
As an educator and a technologist, I advocate and train the next generation to work with and invent the technologies that will help take this movement forward. Every day I work with bright young people some of whom will become involved with innovations that I cannot begin to conceive at present. They will be working with people whose lives will have been greatly enhanced by the imaginative use of technologies.
I have no doubt that transhumanism will happen. We can see the trend emerging now and we will undoubtedly see a merging of man and with the machine. Augmentation to enhance body functions, cognitive abilities and longevity in order to explore outside of our own planet I think will be the focus. There’s no doubt that this movement will disenfranchise many people that don’t want to follow this path and it may lead to a two-tier species, humans and human ++, as we eradicate illness and infertility etc.
The trend will put more pressure on our resources as we live much longer lives and will leave us with no choice but to seek them elsewhere. No doubt there will be a widening of the gap between rich and poor, as in the short term wealthier individuals will upgrade themselves and live longer, with the poor dying sooner, and perhaps dying out. We may become the victims of our own ingenuity and success, it is both intriguing and a little scary, there will be no doubt casualties and winners. Take our communication systems and knowledge bases which are getting extremely complex, as is the global geopolitical landscape. How are our current political systems supposed to lead us down the ‘right’ path?
Technological advancements and movements like transhumanism raise many questions. What does it mean for the world of work? What kind of work will we do in the future, will we work at all? In the short term, how do businesses deal with a mixed ‘enhanced’ and ‘vanilla’ work force? In the UK there’s a consensus that less abled bodied people should find self-actualisation in the workforce, which will add a commercial imperative to supporting them in the workplace.
There are obvious impacts in terms of politics and governance. The question has to be asked, do we need governments at a national level? as ever no doubt there will be a huge effort to control the emergence of these technologies. To some extent we are seeing this with self-driving cars. Governments all over the world are struggling to understand the implications.
The future is very bright for human kind, but there are challenges. AI and automation are challenging the world of work right now, and we are seeing severe resistance to these developments as they displace the workforce. The next stage is human augmentation, the impact of which will be much more profound.
My only hope is as a species, like Cockroaches, we will survive…