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Polytopia
(M, 30)
Davis, US
Immortal since Mar 8, 2010
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    The Human Condition in the future
    Project: Polytopia
    Just a quick thought, I agree with the video series on Spacecollective that in the next ~100 years homo sapiens will be done as a species. By done I mean basically extinct. There may be small amounts of people who decided not to modify themselves, the last sapiens. But then, we don't evolve into another species - we evolve into many species. We're at a branching point on the evolutionary tree. One species will be those humans who choose to genetically engineer themselves to make them physically and mentally superior. Another species, though, will be the people who alter themselves mechanically, making themselves "cyborgs". They will each have their own completely distinct cultures and societies. Maybe a third species could be those who mix the two, and I'm sure there are other ways humans will change themselves; that technology is arriving NOW.Obviously, it will happen slowly at first. When the technology is introduced, say in 2020, there might be laws against human modifications internationally. But over time, as the technology becomes cheaper, more efficient, more commonplace... the laws will be relaxed, more people will be entitled (possibly because of cost) to alteration, etc...by 2050 you'd have widespread modification. I really think this will happen, and will drastically alter the nature of the human condition.

    Wed, Mar 31, 2010  Permanent link

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    AsylumSeaker     Wed, Mar 31, 2010  Permanent link
    The way I see it, we'll probably have stopped seeing things in terms of 'species' by then.

    In a holistic approach towards the biosphere it makes sense to think of it as a 'gene swarm' in which a variety of linguistic possibilities (gene combinations) express themselves temporarily depending on the circumstances. You can call those expressions lifeforms, and you can group those lifeforms on a horizontal scale and call those groups species, but once you add the vertical scale of time there's not really any way to make that grouping.. The species analogy is only really useful for describing genetic divisions between organisms at a given point in time. Take all the individual lifeforms which have ever existed and place them all in one spot and you won't so easily be able to draw a line between one species and the next..

    Technological and social evolution has such a different set of rules that I don't think the old biological terms are very useful any more.

    I agree with you on a fundamental level though.. In fact I think we've already passed the point where different humans can be considered members of different species. For example, the behaviour of a tibetan monk is vastly different to the behaviour of a wall street stockbroker, probably more different than that of two genetically divided species of non human primates. This will come into a radical focus once it crystalises in the form of physical augmentation, but fact is we've been augmenting our minds on an individual scale for millenia.

    But different 'species'? I don't see how the term is relevant.
    alok subbarao     Thu, Apr 1, 2010  Permanent link
    Asylum, you're probably right, we will have stopped seeing things in terms of species by then. I'm sure biology will move on, however I just meant in terms of to what we consider, today in 2010 as a species, homo sapiens is at an evolutionary branching point. But I do not doubt that classification will have changed in the future.
    shiftctrlesc     Thu, Apr 1, 2010  Permanent link
    Did Asylum's comment point to a change in the way we classify lifeforms or the end of classification itself?



    alok subbarao     Fri, Apr 2, 2010  Permanent link
    My interpretation of it is that he is suggesting that classification of humans or whatever we become, will end. It doesn't seem consistent that due to our own radical evolution, we would stop classifying "traditional" lifeforms as we do now, though. Perhaps we will need an entirely new classification scheme for digital/binary "life forms", I'm not sure if that would be in the realm of biology, though...
    luke-tudor     Sat, Apr 3, 2010  Permanent link
    Surely we would not become a different species. Especially in the case of a "cyborg" (a very trekky word), which would be a dominantly technological change. You could have breast enlargements, glass eyes, and metal arms, but your child would just be a normal child with normal human genes. I understand if humans became GM, but as a rationalist, I feel that in practice, it would be a much watered down and diluted example of the suggested above.
    michaelerule     Sun, Apr 4, 2010  Permanent link
    lets see... I hesitate to be too optimistic about advances in genetic engineering or the mechanization of man. 100 years... there is so much that could go wrong. In some sense we are already cybernetic, and in some sense we're not that much different than the first humans with the technology or writing. I think modern humans are already taxonomically distinguished from early (pre civilization) humans as a separate subspecies ? I'd agree that widespread, heritable, genetic engineering should mark the end of Homo Sapiens Sapiens, but can we get the technology right ? Can we get around the practical and legal hurdles ? Will the genetic luddites legislate the technology out of existence, for "the integrity of our species" ?

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/bernal/works/1920s/soul/
    also, Schismatrix.

    probably others too.
    alok subbarao     Thu, Apr 15, 2010  Permanent link
    It's very true that a lot of my post depends on how "right" society gets genetic engineering. Can we get around the practical and legal hurdles? Not for a while, I think. I think in 2030 we will have the power to genetically modify ourselves, but the legal obstacles will keep it as a scientific endeavor only. However, a few decades after that, many of the legal obstacles/ ethical arguments against it will have shifted, and the pace of technology will probably remove many of the practical hurdles. I would bet that GM starts with our soldiers - governments will all want to have their own ubermensch, which scares me but realistically I think that would be the first place it happens on humans. Athletes and criminals, I would think, would be the next to modify themselves, whether or not at the time it is deemed right or ethical. It's sort of the same thing plaguing, for example, professional baseball right now: when all of your teammates and competition are juicing themself up on steroids, how do you compete without changing yourself? (answer: you can't) I forgot, scientists will be keeping pace with them too. Right now we have psychostimulants like amphetamines, methylphenidate, and we are developing new, less-harmful (hopefully) ones like modafinil. A stepping stone to GM in my opinion is nootropics... in a decades time, how would a normal academic compete with his fellow scientist, mentally jucied on nootropics? clearly, i'm beginning to digress... maybe i should create another post about athletes and scientists by themselves.
    Also luke-tudor, you are right in that "cybernetic" humans will have the same genes and therefore be the same species. But our definition of 'species' has continually changed over time, and I think it will have to change again to accomodate a bunch of Terminators running around (i say that tongue-in-cheek).

    michaelerule     Fri, Apr 16, 2010  Permanent link
    The first people to be genetically modified will be the sick and the dying. Experimental treatments for genetic disorders are already underway. Society does not seem to object to modification for purposes of correction : ritalin if you have ADD, false legs if yours have gone missing, genetic modification if you can't make a critical enzyme. It is unclear if society can integrate the concept of "enhancement".

    One genetic modification that I think would actually be useful to soldiers would be inserting additional photopsins for extending the spectral range of vision.

    Furthermore, and as always, rights to reproduction and rights to self-determination conflict. Perhaps it is your right to insert a trait into your genome, but are you at the same time infringing on the rights of self-determination by imposing these traits on offspring ? This is the hardware version of a very old problem : you would retain the rights to indoctrinate your children, as much as is possible, with your philosophies, but would want to prevent similar indoctrination of others with [insert radical militant philosophy you happen to dislike].

    alok subbarao     Thu, Apr 29, 2010  Permanent link
    US Military Wants to Super-Charge Troop Smarts
    sonicport+techfolder     Fri, Apr 30, 2010  Permanent link
    Erm maybe if people froze their sperm and eggs before gene treatment they wouldn't pass on their experiments, not that hard to save a backup. They'd probably have to be neutered too though, a life choice we make for many of our pets. I'd be very afraid if beings were immortal but kept on breeding, growing and taking up space. How many versions of disaster could we create? Or perhaps intelligence will evolve to live in pods in the sea, the size of plankton, shrinking constantly.

    Anyway, that's not my intended point. It is that as we move towards a philosophy where the building blocks of life eradicate the need for any so called biological classifications we are actually once again expanding on a state of minimalism based on neo-avoidance of pre conceived threshold boundaries in our quest for newness. If this even makes any sense, it won't cause potential growth.

    I thought it was about time our architecture had a renaissance period and aimed at developing complexity on purpose, revealing the many creative ethical possibilities. But we're in danger of crating some pretty big mistakes. Wouldn't it be better to empower animals to our levels of technology before separating ourselves further? Does a whale need to evolve to escape our pollution levels?

    If homo sapiens become extinct it'll not be through choice that's for sure. My mum had to teach a 7 year old to read who was a technophobe and no-one's going to wipe him out.
    Mariana Soffer     Mon, May 3, 2010  Permanent link
    I love the post content, I often think a lot arround those issues myself. So let me copy something I wrote in my blog long time ago regarding this subject, that I think you might all find relevant and interesting:

    According to Carr information technology is best understood as the latest in a series of broadly adopted technologies that have reshaped industry over the past two centuries - from the railroad to the telegraph to the electric generator.
    Nowadays explaining the difference between the brain and a technology device is pretty difficult. It became so confusing that some people consider that they are almost the same. thing.

    And by the way let me state that I do belive we are cybors already, we live with artificial extensions of ourselves.
     
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