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Thread: Transhumanism

  1. #1 Transhumanism 
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    I watched a very interesting documentary called technocalyps a while back and have been thinking about it again. I highly recommend seeing it. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0899298/) It deals with the ever increasing acceleration of the advancement of technology and how it will be further integrated into our lives and bodies in the future.

    Many experts are saying that when artificial intelligence becomes only slightly smarter than humans, they will be able to improve themselves much faster than we can program them, and a sort of technological singularity will be reached. When this happens, the only way to keep up with them is to basically become cyborgs. Like using implants to increase our memory and intelligence, and to interface with this super computer that will have been created. Even creating specialized bodies for ourselves after cracking DNA.

    The movie also goes into a lot of the complicated ethics surrounding this, seeing how it would almost be a voluntary evolutionary step to something transhuman and not everyone would be willing to go forward with it. But those who didn't want it would possibly become extinct. It was kind of terrifying and exciting at the same time to watch. Has anyone else seen this? Or any comments on the subject?


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    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    Transhumanism is usually the word used to describe the philosophical view that there is a moral imperitive to enhance human beings as much as possible.

    Julian Savulescu uses a compelling argument to promote transhumanism. He proposes an example where there are two children, one is a naturally gifted genius that would become retarded without a certain dietary supplement, the other is of normal intelligence, but could be made a genius with some form of simple enhancement. Savulescu argues that these two cases are morally equivalent, in either case he says it would be neglect not to do the utmost possible to improve the child.


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    That's an interesting example and it made me think of two issues right off the bat. One is the relative benignity of dietary supplements versus what could be possible with the addition of cybernetic implants. If it's a moral imperative to improve the child (or adult for that matter) as much as possible, the distinction between man and machine starts to get a little fuzzy.

    If it's ok to take vitamins for good physical and mental health, then what about injecting nanobots to clean out our arteries? Since we now already have devices in our blood, why not get devices in our brains too for more memory and intelligence? Or why even bother with brains anyhow? If computers are going to be infinitely more advanced than us, why not just transfer everything to silicon and walk around with artificial gray matter? In other words, at what point is the individual no longer human? This is what I was saying about it being terrifying and exciting. I would never assume that homo sapiens were the pinnacle of evolution and would love to see us better ourselves, but something about the way it's headed is just creepy.

    The other thing I was thinking of was the cost of getting these manipulations. With emerging technology like this, only the super rich will be able to afford it. This would set up a social dichotomy that would give a whole new meaning to "privileged and unprivileged".
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feifer
    If it's a moral imperative to improve the child (or adult for that matter) as much as possible, the distinction between man and machine starts to get a little fuzzy. ... In other words, at what point is the individual no longer human? This is what I was saying about it being terrifying and exciting. I would never assume that homo sapiens were the pinnacle of evolution and would love to see us better ourselves, but something about the way it's headed is just creepy.
    I think a lot of this "creepy" feeling comes from the desire to distinguish ourselves from machines. I think it helps to realize that we are machines, made more of carbon and water than we are of plastic or metal, and designed by natural selection and evolutionary history instead of by another human, but machines none the less. Our bodies are tools to a purpose dictated by our genes. When you think of it that way, humans vs. computers isn't really that big of a dichotomy (except perhaps in how advanced each one currently is).

    The other thing I was thinking of was the cost of getting these manipulations. With emerging technology like this, only the super rich will be able to afford it. This would set up a social dichotomy that would give a whole new meaning to "privileged and unprivileged".
    Costs will be high at first, but like most technology, it will become much, much cheaper over time. Today you can get a nice desktop computer for a couple hundred bucks, plus a nice monitor if you catch a good sale. How much do you think that same computer deal would have cost twenty years ago? If there's a lasting social divide because of this technology it will be because one group is actively keeping it from the other. Which is certainly possible.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
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    I have no problem replacing my body with a mechanical one, if it works even the same as the one I've got; it will last a lot longer.

    The question I have is the old ARGO one: as the Argo's wood pieces rotted and went bad at different rates, they were replaced by new wood pieces. Eventually, you had an Argo made up of nothing but replacement parts. Is it the same Argo?

    I don't mind nanites replacing Neurons as they die off - but will I be the same ME when they are eventually replaced? I'm not talking about a soul, because that's pure fantasy. Maybe I'm talking about some quantum state? I would appear to be exactly the same guy to everyone else - but will my consciousness be the same thing, or merely a copy?

    That's why I don't want to download a copy of me to a computer - that's only a copy.
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    That question has always interested me as well, C_Sensei. For example, I would never ascribe to the idea where you copy my memories and then put then in a replicated body should my current one die. That copy may be exact, but it isn't me, I died, my experience ended, and someone just like me with my experiences is what lived on, not me. Yet like the Argo, at my age my current body has probably been piece by piece completely replaced once or twice already. So what's the difference? What makes one form of replacement a continuous me and the other form not? A continuity of consciousness, perhaps? I'm not sure.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
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    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    I think a lot of this "creepy" feeling comes from the desire to distinguish ourselves from machines.
    I think this is definitively part of it, but more than this is that it would be the first time that a major evolutionary step would take place by artificial means. I guess I have a lot of faith in evolution by natural selection (the old fashion way) because there's not any intelligence behind it. Whatever works is going to be what flourishes. But us humans obviously have the potential for being too curious for our own good and see if things can be done before we ask if they should be done. To error is human, and this could be one hell of an error. Or it could be a fantastic achievement. There's just no way of knowing, which I guess is why I like talking about it.

    Costs will be high at first, but like most technology, it will become much, much cheaper over time. Today you can get a nice desktop computer for a couple hundred bucks, plus a nice monitor if you catch a good sale. How much do you think that same computer deal would have cost twenty years ago?
    About the same as top of the line, pimped out computer today. Cutting edge technology will always be expensive and most of the time, out of reach to the common man. Just listen to how hard core computer geeks talk about their rigs. It's either the latest model or it's obsolete. And so will be with people. The elite (1337.. sorry I couldn't resist) and the rest. The best jobs will go to those on top, effectively keeping them on top.

    What makes one form of replacement a continuous me and the other form not? A continuity of consciousness, perhaps? I'm not sure.
    Could be something like acclimation time. Small changes over a period would integrate into your consciousness faster than more drastic ones. [/quote]
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feifer
    I think this is definitively part of it, but more than this is that it would be the first time that a major evolutionary step would take place by artificial means. I guess I have a lot of faith in evolution by natural selection (the old fashion way) because there's not any intelligence behind it. Whatever works is going to be what flourishes. But us humans obviously have the potential for being too curious for our own good and see if things can be done before we ask if they should be done. To error is human, and this could be one hell of an error. Or it could be a fantastic achievement. There's just no way of knowing, which I guess is why I like talking about it.
    I don't really see how design by natural selection is any less scary than design by humans. When something really goes wrong with an organism by "natural" means, it can die. If we do something really wrong to an organism, it can die.

    About the same as top of the line, pimped out computer today. Cutting edge technology will always be expensive and most of the time, out of reach to the common man. Just listen to how hard core computer geeks talk about their rigs. It's either the latest model or it's obsolete. And so will be with people. The elite (1337.. sorry I couldn't resist) and the rest. The best jobs will go to those on top, effectively keeping them on top.
    And when immortality is achieved via technology, eventually, everyone will be immortal. Where's the elitism in that? That nice couple hundred dollar desktop will do everything most people need it to do; if you're a hard core gamer or a programmer, then yes, you need something higher end. But if you're not, then what you have is fine. Anything beyond that is the typical usage of expensive things to show off wealth and status, and does not really give any functional advantages.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
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  10. #9  
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    To see human beings as an error or abnormality requires to have a divinity and normality vision for natural processes. We simply follow the basic instinct of all systems: To exist, and continue to exist. But doing this with our way; not the way of a bacteria, or a planet.

    The second law of thermodynamics tell us that we (as conscious beings in DNA coded and earth based creatures) are doomed to dissolve among our environment like any other thermodynamic system in the known universe as long as we do not find shortcuts.

    They are the natural forces and rules that we depend on, yes, we did not come from another universe. We are neither error nor an anomaly; we are simply the product of this environment. However, unlike other systems, "we know" and continue to know more about everything in a controlled and calculatable fashion. If nature has given us the ability to observe, to think and to dream, we will try to protect these faculties with every possible mean. Future minds would get maximum gain from minimum physical energy, time and space occupation. Future minds would become thinking machines for broader range of nature instead of being stuck into the size, shape and the fate of a group of apes...
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feifer
    I have a lot of faith in evolution by natural selection (the old fashion way) because there's not any intelligence behind it.
    One can't reason with it. No intelligence can. There are many hard laws of existence that neither us nor any superhuman sentience can escape. So in many ways nothing can surpass us. I don't buy technological singularity, if that means breaking rules.

    I do expect we'll fail to fathom sentience emerging from a sum of parts, if those parts are us. Much as genes can't fathom a body.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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    Re comments on the ethics.

    One needs to break out of the mentality that western societies will lead the charge. Whose ethics are we speaking of?

    There are just tover 200 independent states in the UN and technologies such as stem cell research, cloning, human artificial intelligence, etc. are just as likely to be developed in China and India as they are in the USA and Europe.

    Today a country like North Korea can develop a nuclear weapon, etc....Is N.Korea restrained by western ethics? We have had many kooks as leaders in the last hundred years and will have just as many in the next hundred.

    Biochemistry is just chemistry. Matter and energy have the same properties regardless if they are part of an organism or not. Our nervous system is a product of natural selection and restricted by gene replication. Artificial intelligence has no such biochemical restriction. Today's living organisms will be eclipsed ...just a matter of time.
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    Like Zaphod said "You'd be programmed not to notice it."

    Good ol' Doug A.

    he knew, even back then.
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  14. #13  
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    Should we mind comprising something's building blocks so long as it replicates us in the bargain?

    Would it notice us?
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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    Ya, I mind. I don't mind building upon the brain I have evolved so far - science knows it's small enough and could sure use alot more reliable computing power!

    I just want to make sure the core self-identity of MOI is retained. I don't mind working for some collective - but as an autonomous unit, with the ability to leave whenever I like.

    "You will adapt to service us" is not for me.
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard icewendigo's Avatar
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    I have a Transhumanism question,

    Scenario A) if a terrorist group could use a mutagenic virus able to morph human beings into pigs, where the human victim kept its brain, personality, intelligence and memory, but otherwise would have the body of a pig, should these victims have the same rights as human beings?

    Scenario B) two weeks after this incident, a scientist declares that he has created pigs with human brains, and that these beings have learned english watched tv and so on but that hes now bankrupt(and possibly facing charges) and he sold those pigs to a farmer (which means they could become bacon) should these pigs have human rights because their brains have human DNA?


    Scenario C) In a freak accident in which the transportation of both group A) collided with group B) creates a situation where all these pigs are mixed up and all pigs say(through signals) they are the legitimate humans and want an atorney not to go to the bacon farm, what happens then? (beyond the media circus)
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    ....

    What's with the pig fetish?

    ....
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  18. #17  
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    Pork is a glaring hypocrisy many simply refuse to think about. It spawns bother.

    We could approach these problems alternately through human evolution. Did your sapiens ancestors interbreed with neanderthalensis?

    Or, if we find floresiensis in the jungle, shaking spears at us, do we snare them and put them in zoos?
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  19. #18  
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    About the same as top of the line, pimped out computer today. Cutting edge technology will always be expensive and most of the time, out of reach to the common man. Just listen to how hard core computer geeks talk about their rigs. It's either the latest model or it's obsolete. And so will be with people. The elite (1337.. sorry I couldn't resist) and the rest. The best jobs will go to those on top, effectively keeping them on top.


    This is nothing new. Oligarchy has always been around since the beginning taking different forms. Take the Roman Empire for example, but there is no need to go that far back to prove the point.
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