Cyborgs

Part 3 of 5 in the series Biotech

Science has given us a whole new toolbox for tinkering with life, and we have the power to modify animals in profound new ways. — Frankenstein’s Cat (2013)

Programmable baby - Committed
 
 

“Some people think of cybernetics as the artificial construction of human beings, whether by artificial seeds that grow into an embryo and then a human being, or directly,” writes F.H. George in Cybernetics.42

The game Warhammer introduces players to the concept of gene-seeds which are:

germ cells and viral machines that have been genetically-engineered to develop into the various organs that are implanted into a normal human adolescent male to transform him into a Space Marine.… The gene-seed itself is encoded with all the genetic information needed to reshape ordinary human cell clusters into the special organs.43

Like today’s technology seeding a decellularized organ scaffold to become an ear or a heart “without the risk of rejection by the recipient’s immune system,” writes Brendan Maher for Nature,44 humans of tomorrow may regularly upgrade their original parts for genetically enhanced models.

But “not everyone is thrilled at the prospect of a post-human future populated by cyborgs, designer children, conscious computers, immortals and disembodied minds roaming the Internet,” worries Margie Wylie for the Religion News Service:

[Critics] think this could be the worst calamity to befall us, both as individuals and as a species. And they argue we should be taking steps to prevent it. 45

Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading, sees a future of possibilities. “Whilst some of his research has focused on restoring functions that people taken away by illness and disability, other projects give powers humans have never had,” it says of his cyborg experiments.46

Marvin Minsky, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence, “celebrates a future when humans will be able to ‘upload’ the contents of their brains into computers or robot brains”, continues Wylie.

Ray Kurzweil “recently called for replacing the body’s often imperfect molecular blueprint, DNA, with software”:

“Transhumanists want to use technology to enhance and fulfill human potential,” [James Hughes, executive director of the World Transhumanist Association based in Willington, Conn.,] said. “That’s very hard to do if you die after only 70 years.” 47

“Humanity’s ability to alter its own brain function might well shape history as powerfully as the development of metallurgy in the Iron Age,” cognitive neuroscientist Martha Farah and eight co-authors write in a[n]…issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience.48

Professor Kevin Warwick contemplates the future of humanity in his book I, Cyborg:

If cyborgs are created with superhuman capabilities from a normal human start point, then it certainly brings about a threat to humanity itself. Perhaps the development of direct, military-style cyborgs might be possible to avoid. After all, when cyborgs exhibiting an intelligence that far surpasses that of humans are brought about, it will surely be the cyborgs themselves that make any decisions about how they treat humans.49, ii

“Coupled with exponentially advancing technologies, an enhanced knowledge of brain function will allow us to develop brain implants that have the speed, power, and memory to replicate the functionality of the entire human brain,” notes Stephen S. Wu and Marc Goodman for the American Bar Association:

Moreover, there is no reason why the brain must be limited to onboard devices. If we can connect devices to off-board devices, we will have potentially unlimited processing power and memory. In addition, the next logical step is to connect our neural devices to the Internet so that we can share, add to, and manipulate the entire world’s information.

One well-known futurist, Ray Kurzweil, has predicted that around midcentury, computers and artificial intelligence will be so powerful, humans will be able to transfer their lifetime’s worth of memories to computers and carry on their thought processes and remember information using computers so that their thinking can be independent from their organic brains.50

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ii Decision making, like memory, is a multifaceted process that involves many neural circuits, depending on the decision being made.
– Benedict Carey, “Brain Implant Improves Thinking in Monkeys, First Such Demonstration in Primates,” The New York Times, 14 September 2012, at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/14/health/research/brain-implant-improves-thinking-in-monkeys.html (retrieved: 31 December 2012).


42 F.H. George, Cybernetics (London: Teach Yourself Books, 1971), p. 6.

43 “Gene-Seed,” Warhammer 40,000 Wiki, at http://warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Gene-Seed (retrieved: 21 March 2015).

44 Brenden Maher, “Tissue engineering: How to build a heart,” Nature, 3 July 2013, at http://www.nature.com/news/tissue-engineering-how-to-build-a-heart-1.13327 (retrieved: 21 March 2015).

45 Margie Wylie (Religion News Service), “Transhumanists put their faith in technology,” Chicago Tribune, 28 May 2004, at http://www.chicagotribune.com/technology/chi-0405280142may28,1,5924459.story (retrieved: 2004).

46 Kevin Warwick – The Cyborg Experiments, The University of Warwick, at http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/knowledge/themes/virtualfutures/kevinwarwick/ (retrieved: 7 July 2013).

47 Wylie, “Transhumanists.”

48 Tom Siegfried, “Creating brain boosters demands smart approach,” DallasNews.com, 6 June 2004, at http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/healthscience/columnists/tsiegfried/stories/060704dnlivsiegfried.13d92.html (retrieved: 2004).

49 Warwick, http://www.hermes-press.com/altstates.htm (retrieved: 25 March 2011); See also: Professor Kevin Warwick, I, Cyborg (London: Century, 2002), p. 239.

50 Stephen S. Wu and Marc Goodman, “SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY LAW: Neural Implants and Their Legal Implications,” American Bar Association, Vol. 30, No. 1, at http://www.americanbar.org/publications/gp_solo/2013/january_februaryscience_technology_law_neural_implants_legal_implications.html (retrieved: 2 January 2014); See also The SciTech Lawyer, Winter 2012 (8:3), p. 14.

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  • January 30, 2014 - 11:47 am | Permalink

    “Such findings were one reason Delgado set up a testing area on a one-and-a-half acre island in the Bermudas.” — Vance Packard, People Shapers (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1977), p. 45.

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