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Transhuman Week: exploring the frontiers of human enhancement

Wired UK is running a series of of articles this week exploring transhumanism.  Here's the topic hub: http://www.wired.co.uk/topics/transhuman-week

Practical transhumanism: five living cyborgs
Implants, brain-computer interface, eyeball camera, USB finger:
http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-09/04/cyborgs

Would you swap a healthy eye for a bionic one with additional functionality?
By +Luke Robert Mason (writer and speaker on augmented reality and posthuman possibilities):
http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-09/04/seeing-beyond-human-transhumanism

#transhumanism   #cyborg   #humanityplus  
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Drew Sowersby's profile photoDavid Jacobs's profile photoJustin Iiams's profile photoSemen Frish's profile photo
33 comments
 
quite the double edged sword here...  robots that do our job means lower overhead for employers but job reduction for employees.

Also, as sad as it may seem, one day people will say "Robots deserve benefits too!" and then we'll have to pay the robots wages.  full circle.

on the other hand...  if we can replace human parts with robotic parts, there's no limit to the length of life a person can have.  there's also no limit to what we as humans can do then either.

Either way, I'm looking forward to seeing where this all goes :)
 
I would totally swap out a healthy eye if I could get a bionic one!  The only question would be what complications are involved.  For instance, in Star Trek, Geordi's VISOR gives him incredible migraines, and that would be something to weigh.  But if the only change were increased functionality, I would do it in an instant.
 
+Jeremy Wolfe We replace all of our parts every couple years, i believe.  It is years to replace all the brain cells/nerves.  

This paradox is moot, all my parts have been replaced many times and I am still me.
 
+Alex Bynum In this case, the paradox isn't "Are you still you?", but rather, "Are you still human?"

If you can replace your biological components with electronic ones, at what point do we have to change the definition of who's human? If I do the opposite, and start with a robot, how many biological parts do I have to add until they're human? What would either of these concepts say about the idea of "the human soul"?
 
What's the point of staying "human," +Jeremy Wolfe, if I can retain my current personality and thought patterns and in every other way be better that human?  Why should I, as a cyborg, let's say, be subject to different laws/ethics/etc. than other "sentient/intelligent" beings?
 
I can see a massive debate starting up here.  I was having a similar discussion about immortality the other day.  If I could transfer all of my consciousness into another body (be it biological or technological, or even a conglomeration) would I still be me?  Could I not then become immortal simply by transferring to another body each time the first wore out?

Anyway, personally I would not replace a good organ with a bionic/cybernetic prosthesis, even if it was an improvement over the original.  If the original becomes damaged or defective, then I would relish the opportunity to replace it with an upgrade (just like if a component in my car or PC breaks, I'll replace it with a better one) but I stand by the philosophy that 'if it ain't broke don't mend it' on this one.
 
It's not necessarily the point of "staying human", per se. It's defining what being human and conscious being means.

As a human (which, for the purposes of this argument is the only advanced consciousness with applicable laws/ethics/etc.) and a "person", I'm bound by different ethics than "things."  

I can go home and take apart my laptop and no one minds; if I tried to do the same thing with my girlfriend, it's capital murder. We need to have some sort of measurement of "humanity" (for lack of a better term) to define at what point consciousness begins or ends so we can form our ethics around it.

If we take this idea to extreme levels, it becomes absurd. We enter a world where we must respect the ethical rights of digital watches. We find ourselves viewing people as being just as disposable as AA batteries. 

This is what I suggesting that we, as humanity, define. 
 
+Jeremy Wolfe The thing that makes us human is the "Ghost in the Shell" (the movie, not the stupid tv show.)
 
In answer to the +David Jacobs's starting question: yes, I would change certain organs at first. For several years I wondered if I will dare to change my bones for titanium substitutes. And my answer to that is a big yes (yeah, I know that not all the bones are candidates for the substitution, because the bone marrow). My eyeballs too (I'm shortsighted), and maybe my teeth, my lungs, my heart and, call me a loon, my entire digestive system for some-kind-of-batteries-plugable-on-USB. But my brain is out of the question right now. Perhaps I will agree to implant on me some brain-enhancement, some device to store memory and some co-processor, but I'm not ready to do the big jump yet (even if the technology of quantum processors was very, very advanced).

In answer to +Jeremy Wolfe for his question about the paradox, I am sure that all the electrons with which I was born are not mine anymore, but that is a silly answer to the paradox. I think that "humanity" is more an attribute by itself than a collection of them. So, if Science can define precisely the "humanity" attribute I have no problem to accept it on a watch or a robot.

But prepare ourselves for the war against the church, and the inevitable question about your sexual organs...

P. S.: certainly I will implant on me a device that could give me the ability to communicate telepathically with others; good-bye telcos!

P. S. 2: sorry for my bad english.
 
Very interesting topic, thank you for it, +David Jacobs 
I'm so glad I stumbled upon your account here in G+, it's quite riveting.
Too bad some of the links in the post don't work, I'll try to check them later.
Speaking of replacing biological parts for electronic ones discussed here, I think the current develompment leans heavily on genetic engineering, biochemical alterations and those living biological tissues with embedded nanoelectronics. So it will be not a camera in an eyesocket or cranial extensions with microcircuitry, but altering and updating our living tissues in vivo.
 
It's good to see transhumanism gain greater coverage and exposure in the media every year, gaining more supporters in the process - even if at the expense of more detractors too. Theme weeks like this one in Wired give a pretty good exposure of current possibilities and realities to a possibly naive audience.

For me, the key tipping point will be when these prostheses (sensory and load-bearing) become as good as the part they are intended to replace. Then I would seriously consider acquiring them; key factors would include future upgradeability to improved versions. For example, once we have a reliable bus that can interface with your optic nerve to provide input signals at the maximum possible rate that biological neurons are capable of, then I don't see any reason why you wouldn't get it? (Of course we're assuming the thing is as reliable and robust as the part it replaces). Once you have a bus functioning as well as what you had then upgrading your parts (eyes for example) in future is as easy as plug-n-play.

I also don't see "biological parts" as a defining feature of the human condition; a quadruple amputee with an artificial heart is no less human for having lost some of his parts.  
 
+Ariel Sebastián Becker, no need to apologise for your English - it's better than some of my English friends!

Regarding the telepathy point, I reckon telcos will find a way to monetise that as well!

Professor Warwick - mentioned in the article - also had some kind of implant that allowed him to feel what his wife was feeling, if I remember correctly.  This could be called a form of telepathy, I suppose.  He had some profound words to say about it at the time, but they elude me now.
 
As long as it has a brain, it can remain somewhat human +Mark Bruce. At some point it would be necessary to make a distinction of a new species. The human mind is the attribute I most associate with being human. The body is just a device that houses, nourishes, and protects it while it's doing it's work...awesome creative and logistical things. In other words, if you put a rat brain in the human cranium it would be a rat.
 
+Drew Sowersby, what if you start replacing neurons in the human brain with electrodes? At what point is it no longer human? By what do we judge it?

I think what we're really discussing is "Techno-Solipsism". How can I know if your mind is really a mind at all, or just a computer program emulating one?
 
I am not one for the philosophy of it all. I just look for results which are offered in this article to some extent. We will know when a significant change has occured
 
+Jeremy Wolfe, the way I see it, "human" will expand to encompass more and more non-biological parts, and "machines" will incorporate more and more biological components, and the distinctions will blur and become meaningless.

My guess is that this is a good thing, and will help avert potential wars between humans and machines. Instead, there can be a symbiotic relationship of mutual evolution.
 
From my perspective if the electrodes or program is functionally equivalent (a possibly loaded term) then they are human, no question.

If the change is such that they go far beyond the human norm for capability in that area then they're still in the human group even if we recognise that they have gone beyond many of their brethren in some way.
 
I would say by definition, if language is worth anything at all, a transhuman has to be different than a human. They reach beyond the human state, and beyond the human condition. They seek to move beyond the biological state of what has been defined as human. If not, then we can easily be called apes or monkeys. 
 
Well, in a way you're obviously right of course - if at some point the accumulated changes become glaringly obvious (especially concerning divergence from the norm of human emotion / cognition) then people may naturally want to classify them as "other". It's just that I'll always hesitate before assigning the term "other" to anyone or anything that is or came from a human being. The most I might do is introduce a different race of humans (Caucasians, Asians, Transhumans, ... ;) ) but expect that to encounter resistance for all the usual reasons too. 

Many people have of course discussed the expected splintering of humanity into different species - e.g. normal biological humans, genetically engineered humans, cyborg enhanced humans, and genuine uploaded / post-humans - and I've always had a certain sympathy with that prediction. But at their core these should all share the same inalienable human rights. 
 
No argument there +Mark Bruce. This all simply feeds into my war on semantics itself I guess ^^. As soon as we start classifying, the rules are bound to change. I have seen postulated latin terms for our next form. Maybe the Google like + is all we actually need though +David Jacobs.  
 
I kind of see a future like the one imagined by Alastair Reynolds in his Revelation Space series of books, where humans are divided up into different sub-species with short descriptive names like 'ultras' who are heavily technologically modified transhumans and 'conjoiners' who are mentally augmented (both by technology and by other means) and essentially develop a hive mind.
 
The term I have decided fit for a transhuman intermediate is metacogg ^^ 
 
The first points:

2013 to 2014
Wireless file storage
Subdermal navigation system
Brain-only control of temperature of my house

I'd definitely opt-in for the first and second and would like to see how the third was implemented before considering it. But number three, for me, could really be extending the boundary of the "self" for the first time with the local home environment linked to your whim and desire. 
 
I thought a lot about that one as well, +Mark Bruce.  At first, it would take conscious effort to control the room temperature, but eventually it would likely become second nature and subconscious.  In fact, it would probably end up just being an extension of homoeostasis!  It could easily be extended to other private domains, such as your car.
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