There comes a time supermen?

September 4, 2012 22:46

As soon as bioengineers are exploring ways to overcome our human limitations, we are faced with the question — whether our species is on the verge of a global upgrade of humanity as a species?

Hugh Herr lost both legs below the knee as a teenager, when regular rock climbing ended in tragedy. But if you ask yourself the question, "Poor guy, how he dealt with this?", Then you may be too worried about him. Herr feels just fine.

The head of the research team of bionics MIT Herr developed high-tech artificial legs, which are superior to potential natural bodies. Now he chooses his feet like most people choose shoes. He has one set of dentures for walking, a long set for running, and a lot of special pairs of legs for climbing, including one set that extends its growth over two meters and ten centimeters, and one with integrated aluminum claws that allow it to move on various surfaces like Spider-Man. "I can climbing on quite another level with the help of artificial legs. I take it as a good opportunity, a palette with which I can do, "he says of his audience before the end with a small demonstration of Irish dancing.

And take a look at the amazing Aimee Mullins, a gifted athlete and model (as well as the girl with two amputated legs), which took part in the London marathon on foot in 1999, with a pair of carved wooden artificial leg with integrated boots from fashion designer Alexander McQueen.

Herr and Mullins not only extraordinary people: they walk and climbing, challenging the conventional view of disability. They ask us to imagine a time, by the way, is not as far as high technology and our physical body unite in ways that people are endowed with a completely new abilities. Super-powers, which people dream for a long time.
With its elegant artificial members of the body, Herr and Mullins embody what Steve Fuller, a professor at the University of Warwick, called Humanity 2.0: "the human condition, when the concept of" normal human body "is no longer taken for granted." Organizer of various performances by the name Stelarc interprets it differently: "We can no longer think of our body as a mere shell, covered with leather and contain only I … Now we are much flesh, metal and software at the same time." In his work he emphasizes this in many dramatic ways, such as by using cells grown from the ear, which is surgically implanted in his left hand and has a built-in microphone, broadcasting everything that it "hears" the Internet wirelessly.

People — it's just a bag of flesh, bones and internal organs? So it was … until yesterday. But today, human improvement across the border territory of science fiction. All that we can conceive of the human imagination, the technology is increasingly able to realize.

So: you want to be effective, such abilities of Spider-Man? Develop military exoskeletons that envelop the human body and are able to lift enormous weights. Soldiers in the field are usually the weight of up to forty pounds. Exoskeletons can do such a load is much less severe, reducing also the back injury — the scourge of the field army. You want to get rid of the severe consequences of forced sleep deprivation? Or how about to sleep only four hours a day? Technology called transcranial magnetic stimulation can help you with this. Or maybe you want to move objects using only the power of your mind? It is also possible — and for this you do not need to be Uri Geller. In 2011, the World Guinness Book of Records gave the award to the unit «NeuroSky MindWave», brain-wave analyzer, with the wording "for the very heavy car, shifted by brain control interface". The winning team was able to make such an interface using a crane to lift the car off the ground Volkswagen.

And soon, the same company that developed the «MindWave», is preparing to introduce the world electrocardiographic chip, which will allow a person to control their electronics with energy heartbeat. Yes, that's right, your cell phone will feel your love.

And this is just the beginning. With the acceleration of progress in areas such as materials science, robotics, neuroscience, biology, artificial intelligence, genomics, and a number of other disciplines, human capabilities can achieve what today seems absolutely fantastic.

Meanwhile, in front of us there is such a thing as a crisis of sustainability, which requires our attention. Until today, we have pursued two different ways to solve problems. First — it is an effective use of resources. You know the pattern: reduce, reuse, recycling, reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The second — the one to which we are bound to come when the first fall — is geoengineering: the manipulation of natural systems of the planet in order to remove carbon dioxide from them, or learn to reflect solar radiation on a global scale.

People like Guerra, Mullins and Stelarc point us to a third way. Rather than alter the planet, let us try to convert people! Worried about the impact that the man? Reduce it — literally. This is not a play on words. In an article published in the journal «Ethics, Policy and the Environment» Scientists S. Matthew Liao, Anders Sandberg and Rebecca Roach offer push response to climate change in the form of reduction of man. "We need a certain amount of food and nutrients to support each kilogram of the body … The larger people also consume power less obvious ways. For example, a car has to use more fuel to move heavier person, to suit a larger person, it takes more fabric "- and so on.

The authors offer a short list of ways to solve this problem, including the decrease in human growth hormone. Dr Liao said: "People may resist this idea because they think that there is a certain optimum — for example, the average growth for the community. But I think we should remember how changeable human characteristics — for example, the same growth. A century ago, people were on average much lower, and from a medical point of view there was nothing unnatural. "

And in fact, we came to our current growth due in part to the success of consumption: but we have had an unprecedented pressure on natural resources.

However, if the "shrinkage" sounds too fantastic or doubtful, there are other possibilities for human engineering, which the authors argue. They include chemically induced intolerance of meat to reduce the consumption of beef, declining fertility with cognitive improvement ("appears to be a relationship between knowledge and a low birth rate," says Professor Liao), and pharmacological strengthening capacity for altruism and empathy.

And then there are possibilities that they do not mention. What about people who can resist the heat? Or people with advanced digestion, which can get more energy from each of the calories derived from food? Both of these features are being actively studied by the U.S. military, and not in order to save the planet, but in order to create a better soldier. And why stop there? What if the neuro-computer interfaces allow people to have a completely authentic experience of the world without ever leaving your room? This may allow to preserve the nature of the world in its natural state, not to mention reducing the extent of sea and air transport.

Bioengineering sustainable human system can be technically far unattainable, but at the same time and is far from an unattainable fantasy. It is also represented as sending man to the moon in the distant 1950 — and we all know how that story turned. What is needed at the moment, so is the cultural rate — and dialogue on these issues has already started. Many people, of course, feel the terror of that prospect. When an interview with Professor Liao University of New York, dedicated to his work, Twitter channel publishing exploded violent screams. But we should at least carefully examine the proposed method, especially given the fact that the existing methods do not work obviously. Should also take into account that the Bioengineering of the environment is an extremely risky business — in fact, the strategy of the last chance. As far as we can judge from the standpoint of our knowledge today — human change is more secure. (It is better to have mutated people than mutant planet …)

And this is not a fad phenomenon, as many would think. We will be improving themselves for centuries — take for example at least ordinary reading glasses — and this trend has begun to grow significantly in the past few decades. You want to improve your athletic, academic status, or sexual? Take this. Your knees are worn out? Try Titanium model, they will last another thirty years.

Improvements in our day allow those who had previously been disabled, is completely capable, or even superpowers. About a quarter of a million people around the world now have a cochlear implant, which reproduce sounds outside, directly affecting the auditory nerves with surgically implanted electrodes. South African athlete Oscar Pistorius shows the results of the level of the Olympic Games on his artificial legs. And this whole process and did not think to stop …

And there is also an operational justification. As noted by Anders Sandberg, one of the authors we are discussing the article: "Climate change and many other issues are upstream and downstream solutions. For example: 1. Human consumption leads to 2. Increased demand for products and energy, which leads to 3. Growth of the industry, which leads to 4. Increase in greenhouse gas emissions that lead to 5. Overheating of the planetary system, which leads to 6. Terrible consequences. " The most effective intervention points are as high as possible, at the level of consumption — and this is where there is the idea of bioinzhiringe person.

In addition, there is the argument of a higher justice. Mankind has created crisis and we ought to take full responsibility for the decision, up to a change of our own bodies. This is our bodily karma.

But not necessarily good karma. Take for example the consumption of resources. History is replete with examples of efforts to address the problem in one place led to the emergence of new problems elsewhere. Take, for example, ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons, originally developed as an environmentally friendly alternative to his fellow-toxic refrigerants. There is always the possibility that technological improvements will create a burden on nature, which will exceed all of its environmental benefits. This could occur, for example, if large amounts of rare precious metals were used to make improvements in many areas of human life. Or if such a move just launched the notorious opposite effect — when resources, savings in one place, create an opportunity to increase consumption elsewhere.

The two biggest issues that arise in this context — it is certainly a question of management and equality. Will human Bioengineering prerogative solely of the rich? Will those who can not get access to it, members of the new underclass in the world, designed for perfect people? Who will determine which technologies are acceptable and will be distributed as products of these technologies? Huge work by governments around the world to even just begin to address these issues.

As noted by Dr. Liao, we kind of creatures that are in constant motion. Forget the fixed points of the final phases, or completed anything. Humanity — it is a process, and how it flows — this is sustainability.

We tend to think of the problem as items in the checklist. We solve one problem, put a check "Done" and go to the next one. But resistance works is not so. We make some progress and we face new challenges. Any progress is an iterative process. Says futurist Yamas Casio, "Transformational vision and great technology can save us from the problems of sustainable development, we are facing right now, but it is likely that they will lead us to new dilemmas sustainability. Sustainable development is not an end point, it is a fragile dynamics ".

Human Bioengineering possible is our salvation: but it can also lead to unexpected levels of our existence with the knowledge and unintended consequences. Most likely, he will decide some issues, creating a few new ones — with which we will also have to deal with moving on the road of time.

Sustainable development is a story, and now it appears the new hero and a new storyline. Mankind 2.0: hero or villain? Read a further Matilda.

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