Transhumanism Will Change Everything

This is spooky stuff, but it’s real and it’s already happening.

Humans are augmenting themselves with computers and technology that will expand their abilities, and it’s going to get more advanced and morally complex as time passes.

Imagine transplanting your entire consciousness into a computer. That’s a new type of immortality. Imagine having a robotic exoskeleton that’s not just part of your body — it is your body. That’s a new type of existence entirely.

An excellent documentary called “Bionics, Transhumanism, And The End Of Evolution” takes a look at the endless wonder and potential of what happens when blood-and-meat humanity meets steel-and-silicon technology. The results are amazing, but what’s even more compelling is where this stuff goes down the road as it gets more and more advanced.

Meet Dr. Robert J. White. He's a neurosurgeon at Cleveland Medical Hospital in Ohio.

As a neurosurgeon, he specialises in the study of the brain.

He famously transplanted one monkey's head onto another monkey's body. It lived for seven days, and even its personality was intact.

Dr. White argues that this is proof that consciousness and personality can be transplanted, just like a kidney.

White says that a person such as Stephen Hawking could survive his diseased body with his mind intact by way of a total body transplant.

'But where does this bring us as far as the human spirit or soul goes?' said Dr. White. 'I guess you could argue that it could be transplanted.'

'We are going to remake ourselves,' says biophysicist and science writer Gregory Stock. 'It will rip free all of the anchors that have, until now, told us who we are as human beings.'

Our DNA is made up of four different molecules -- A, C, T, and G. Nothing else! Looked at in this way, it's not much of a stretch to say that we are digital.

Eric Green is the scientific director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, the team that cracked the 3-billion-letter code of A's, C's, T's, and G's that make us human.

Buried inside that code is all the information necessary for making a brain, a body, anything we want.

When you pair this with our rapidly developing computer technology, the potentials become nearly limitless.

Imagine human abilities as peaks -- things we do well and have done for millenia -- and valleys, things we're less skilled at, newer concepts.

Computers are different -- with an efficient program, they can do all these things equally well. It's like a rising water level, and it's rising faster and faster.

Ray Kurzweil is a famous thinker on the topic of the singularity, an indeterminate point in the future when machine and computer capabilities will overtake that of humans. 'Non-biological intelligence is growing exponentially,' he says. 'Biological intelligence isn't really growing at all.'

Mark Tilden builds robots that run without programming. His robots operate on a 'neural topolgy' that resembles the human nervous system -- they 'think' and learn for themselves.

Here one of Tilden's creations teaches itself how to walk.

Karl Sims, a computer graphics artist and researcher, wrote a program that simulates life by way of cubic creatures.

He had them compete for 'food' -- a green cube. As further iterations of cubic creatures evolved, they started exhibiting behaviour that wasn't programmed into them and began attacking each other in competition for the cube.

What if we could build a computer that operates in conjunction with brain cells?

Scientists are already doing this, taking brain cells apart and letting them grow into a computer chip. By outlining the circuits they want the brain cells to build with a product that the brain cells 'eat,' they grow directly in line to build a perfect circuit.

Thomas de Marse is an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Florida. He taught his brain-cell powered computer chips an impressive trick.

They can pilot an aeroplane in a flight simulator, even responding to and compensating for environmental changes like a crosswind.

But you don't need to involve organic matter for a computer to simulate brain behaviour. This computer chip was built from the ground-up to recreate the behaviour of the human hippocampus (the part of your brain that consolidates information from long- and short-term memory).

These chips are in use today in cities like Chicago, where they 'listen' for gunshots as an effort to ward off crime and more quickly dispatch law enforcement to the proper location.

It's not just about what you can add to the outside of our bodies, however. With our ability to shape and place individual atoms, there is boundless potential for what we can do inside of our bodies too.

One day, we will swallow 'nanobots,' microscopic robots that travel throughout our body to fight disease and prevent infection. Some will even be self-replicating!

Still-smaller devices could latch on to our neurons to enhance our cognitive functions or even make a complete copy of our brain.

The future will bring changes to mind and body! Are you ready?

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