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The next stage in human evolution - Part III: The moral and social questions

Will the technological developments in various fields leading to our ability to empower ourselves bring us to the singularity? The final chapter in the series will describe the ethical implications of human empowerment

human empowerment. Illustration: shutterstock
human empowerment. Illustration: shutterstock

to the first part of the article - Where is the technology?

to the second part of the article – Human Machine Interface

If when you read parts A and B of the article, a feeling of discomfort arose in you regarding the possibilities and predictions about the improvement of human ability, you are not the only one. In the survey conducted in the United States, it turned out that about two-thirds of Americans do not want to have a chip implanted in them that will improve their cognitive abilities or connect them to the Internet and are disturbed by the possibility that it will be possible to genetically engineer children. This finding comes from the most technological and capitalist country in the world, which sanctifies excellence.

The survey also expresses to a large extent the existing attitude of the institutions in the United States and perhaps in the entire world towards research that deals with improving the abilities of the healthy. The funding mechanisms for research in such fields are built mainly from public grants and investments from pharmaceutical companies whose products are supervised and subsidized by government authorities. This entire mechanism operates from the rationale of developing drugs for diseases, and has no interest in funding human empowerment. Thus, for example, modifinil was developed as a drug for narcolepsy and sleep disorders and can be obtained by prescription only (or on a very thriving black market in the prestigious universities of the United States). This border between treating problems, deficiencies and diseases and developing technologies for human empowerment accompanies the field of human empowerment regularly. Some of the existing predictions about human empowerment, such as that of Ray Kurzweil mentioned in the previous article or that of Michio Kaku, rely on the advances that have taken place in the medical and rehabilitation field and assume that it will be possible to expand them.

The actual policy expresses the concept of the economic-political thinker Francis Fukuyama. In his book "Our Posthuman future" he expressed deep concern for the fate of humanity if a series of technologies, primarily genetic engineering, develop in a way that will put us in a phase of "unnatural selection" (the continuation of human evolution not due to long-term genetic processes, but out of planning and conscious choice) . According to Fukuyama, a genetic change may create small changes in basic instincts that define our being human, such as the pain threshold or the way we perceive time given about 80 years of life. On these instincts and their consequences, the entire humanistic culture, the system of morality and law is built. If they change, even a small change, the accumulation of the small changes among many people will be the end of the age of humanism. Fukuyama calls on countries to implement increased and strict regulation that will limit the development of technology and genetic engineering to applications that go beyond the alleviation of suffering and medical treatment. As we have seen, to some extent this is indeed what is happening. However, the state seems to have limited ability to prevent private individuals or companies from developing such technologies if they have an interest in doing so.

Next to Fukuyama also stands the philosopher Nicolas Agar. In his book "Humanity's End: Why we should reject radical enhancement" he enumerates other serious dangers inherent in human empowerment, including the military use of these capabilities, as can be surmised from the large resources poured into the field by the Advanced Research Agency of the US Department of Defense - DARPA. Another danger is the connection between capitalism and human empowerment: most medical advances (as well as other technologies) at the beginning are very expensive and available to a limited group of people with means, and it takes a significant number of years before they can be produced and distributed at costs that make them relatively accessible to a large part of the population. What would happen if the ability to "engineer" a baby with an IQ of 250, self-confidence and the physical abilities of Usain Bolt cost a million and a half dollars? That genetic therapy that guarantees eternal youth will cost 20 million dollars? An implanted chip that will make you someone who is able to calculate market fluctuations in a fraction of a second will cost 8 million dollars? The possibility that a small group of people will obtain this technology, turn themselves into "supermen" and turn all the rest of humanity into B-type people, is an existing possibility. Yuval Noah Harari also described a similar scenario in his book "The History of Tomorrow". He pointed out that this group might gain complete control over the human and even material world, that their willpower would become the driving force of existence. This is an ability that until now has been attributed mainly to the gods. Noah Harari claims that this is the continuation of humanism, as the ideology placed the will of man at the center, and calls it "evolutionary humanism". What will happen to us, the "ordinary" people, when such a scenario materializes? Noah Harari mentions that the last prominent evolutionary humanist ideology was Nazism. That is, if we find ourselves to be an inferior species, it is possible that we will be perceived by the stronger species of humans as unnecessary, perhaps even as a nuisance. In the best case we will be pets, in the worst case we will be destroyed like we did to many other species including the Neanderthal man who was "a little less" than us (mainly cognitively).

Agar, despite the decisive title of his book, says that in fact we can no longer ask ourselves whether to enter an era of human empowerment, since we are already in it. Personally, as I also wrote in the previous part of the article, I believe that we have not yet reached the real breakthrough, but agree that it is mainly a question of time.

Opposite Fukuyama there is a whole school of thought that claims that human empowerment is not only legitimate, it may even be necessary. This school includes people like Elon Musk, Ray Kurzweil and philosophers like Nick Bostrom (Director of the Institute for the Future of Humanity in Oxford) and Julian Savalescu (Director of the Center for Applied Ethics in Oxford). People of this school of thought, who encourage the trend of human empowerment, are called "transhumanists". Their general argument is that technology has consistently led throughout history to a decrease in violent struggle and a reduction in inequality, and that technologies of human empowerment will be no different. The choice whether to use such technology, when it exists, should be free and informed. Savalescu, for example, says that if a mother knows that the fetus in her womb carries an anti-social gene (the one that increases the chances of the person possessing it to become a criminal and murderer, or a CEO...), she has the full right to choose whether to give birth or not. Embryo selection is a very basic form of human empowerment, but according to Savelescu the underlying ethical principle also applies to other forms of genetic engineering.

Beyond the idea of ​​free choice there are also arguments according to which human empowerment is necessary for the survival of the human race. The assumption is that the human species is vulnerable and can only exist under very specific and rare conditions in the universe. Any "mishap", like the one that happened to the dinosaurs and many others, and our existence will disappear. Elon Musk predicts that such a "mishap" will happen to us quite soon with the rise of artificial intelligence. So it is very worthwhile for us to engage in our unnatural improvement as a species, to make ourselves smarter and stronger, in order to find the solutions to the existential dangers that await us.

However, Savalescu and Bostrom are also aware of the possibility that man may abuse the technologies, as he has done in the past, and especially of a scenario in which a small group will take advantage of its opportunity to use technology in a way that will create irreversible inequality and even a "splitting" of the human race. They call for the creation of mechanisms and laws that will direct human empowerment so that it advances the human race, the quality of life, and does not substantially harm the distribution of equal opportunities that exists today (according to them, opportunity gaps stemming from means and genetic background already exist).

About a year ago Fukuyama and Savelescu were interviewed and the interviewer asked them to open a small box. There was a pill in the box. The interviewer told them that the pill would give them superpowers, give them endless mental and physical abilities. Will you take the pill, he asked. Fukuyama said no. He also said that he was anxious because at the private level everyone's interest would ultimately be to take the pill and improve their condition. However, the "improvement of the situation" will be done with the assumption that the world will continue to run as it is today, but everyone who takes the pill will contribute to the world changing. Savalescu said he would take it and encourage others to do so as well, as long as it could be ensured that the pill would be available to other people as well and not immediately used to promote evil.

Would you take the pill? Will you give it to your children? Most likely it will not be a pill but something else, but apparently the people who will face such a decision have already been born.

4 תגובות

  1. If there is no upgrade we will lose to artificial intelligence in the long run. Because the rate of development of intelligence in quality is exponential and currently stands at about a year, while biological evolution stands at least a million years.
    If there is an upgrade - we will face a new Hitler and moral problems and injustices - and these will be tests that we are not sure we will be able to pass. Cultural development on the technological side is very difficult. Probabilistically, perhaps most cultures destroy themselves.
    But you have to be optimistic. The series of articles is very interesting.

  2. I liked the description of the "Loram Ipsum" cell phone transplant, it's quite similar to what happened to me on my way to becoming a cyborg junkie, a small settlement on the outskirts with no television except for one in a central location and also a landline in a central location and in the offices similar to most of Israel, there must be some here who also remember The waiting times even in the city for a landline phone, not to mention the outskirts 🙂 (anti-deletion, etc...),
    So one day they came and they installed a landline phone for me. This was perceived by me as breaking the walls of privacy at home,
    After that came the stage that describes "Loram Ipsum" where I am thrown in all kinds of junctions in the reserves for hours until I manage to reach/locate the company base, so my first mobile was a Mango for those who remember, then came the last stage of my upgrade to a cyborg and it was from work at first I refused But you simply become irrelevant, until one day a mobile phone is thrown on my desk at work, and today I am either on my way to becoming a cyborg junkie, one who feels that a part of his body is missing without the technological means of connection,

  3. The betterment of humanity is not only legitimate, and not only necessary, it is inevitable. At the time I didn't want to have a cell phone implanted in my pocket either, but then the year 2000 came with another reserve order, and I realized that the alternative was chasing an unreliable public phone with a bunch of faulty telecards, so I put up with the evil of the system.

    In addition to this, we must understand that there will indeed be a slippery slope between "legitimate" medical uses, and human enhancement uses, which will also be perceived as more and more legitimate. After they implant chips that monitor and produce insulin for diabetics, and chips that monitor and manage Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease, and chips for hyperactive children and those with learning disabilities, and means to manage pleasant sleep for those with sleep disorders, and chips for schizophrenics, along with all kinds of breakthroughs in understanding and treating the brain, surely "normal" people They will also be happy to receive their chip, which will include everything and a little more entertainment options and will not see any abnormalities or strangeness in this. On the contrary, the weirdos will be like those snoozers who still don't have a cell phone and can't be reached on WhatsApp.

  4. The series of articles describe well what will probably be the expected reality
    Once human upgrade capabilities exist it will be unstoppable,
    If this is not possible for everyone then there will be a struggle in which those who have the means will do everything to upgrade themselves,
    Those left behind for the upgraded will be useless at best, more likely they will be seen as a pest species that takes up resources and is unable to contribute anything, if man is an indication of what may be then in the human niche there is only room for one type of free animal the size of a man and that is us. Another free thing of our magnitude does not circulate among us,
    If the mobile and the internet is an example of what will be in the future then to get the benefits of technological empowerment
    We will have to pay privately and this issue will worsen in the future because connecting will not come for free,
    In addition to all this, other questions arise
    Who decides in which directions the human race will be upgraded, will there be a tyrannical majority that will dictate to the minority how it will be shaped?
    There will be different design concepts between the Far East, the West, Africa, the Middle East, India, etc...
    Will it intensify the difference to a situation where there will be different species of man or will it increase the diversity of the human race?
    There are many groups of people who are not really happy if what fate has dictated to them, will they change themselves to an ideal that is perceived as desirable by them until the name that was created for them naturally disappears from the human map,
    Perhaps there will also be changes that will take the person out of his natural balance, for example a species with a larger brain that can no longer be born naturally. In addition, the peripheral systems of the person (sweating, heart, lungs, etc.) will not be able to support such a brain in extreme situations, i.e. heat, running, etc.. so that a person Such will be limited to air-conditioned areas more than a room with air conditioning any extreme situation
    that an ordinary person today successfully deals with will lead that upgraded person to a life-threatening situation,
    Of course, the advantages of such a person can be a mental level that leaves us in the dust behind,
    Reaching such a state is not in one day, but in a series of upgrades in which each system, whether biological or machine
    It is a sequence of compromises and balances where you get something at the price of something else.

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