December 13, 2012
The eugenicists at The Royal Society, in conjunction with Academy of Medical Sciences, British Academy and Royal Academy of Engineering came together this month to discuss the potentials, opportunities and challenges of the melding of man with machine (i.e. transhumanism) under the guise of augmentation technologies.
At the Human Enhancement and the Future of Work conference, and further expanded upon in their published report, explains how science and ethics are coming into conflict as technology promises to replace the faulty human body with an eternal, mechanical replacement.
These transhumanists define human enhancement as everything that “encompasses a range of approaches that may be used to improve aspects of human function (e.g. memory, hearing, mobility). This may either be for the purpose of restoring an impaired function to previous or average levels, or to raise function to a level considered to be ‘beyond the norm’ for humans.”
Rebuilding the human body is being researched in institutions such as Stanford University in California has recently devised a mathematical algorithm, called ReFIT that can decipher neurological signals in the brain that convey movement, speed and accuracy. The public justification for this study is to improve “prosthetic system performance and robustness in paralyzed people”, yet the implications could serve to create super humans and super soldiers.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved ReFIT for human clinical trials as the researchers endeavor to create neuroprosthetics where mind – controlled robotic limbs will become a viable future.
One working prototype is the Bebionic3 myoelectric hand, formed from aluminum with alloy knuckles that mimic real human hand movements. This neuroprosthetic sends electro-signals to the human brain and helps the mind operate and control the function of the prosthetic.
The replacement of bio-mechanical creations in “the nature of work” for the future is expected to improve society by:
• Using autonomous robots in the workplace
• Altering the global temperament of work and business
• Transition robotic workforce to provide goods and services
• Structure organizations that influence international understanding of robotic advancements
• Utilize robotics in medical care to advert disease, change illnesses and add to the progress of medicine
• Promote a new sense of physical well-being
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has a $2 billion yearly budget for research into creating a super solider as well as developing a synthetic police force. Working with the human genome, DARPA hopes to manipulate certain gene expressions. In experimentation, DARPA and the military industrial pharmaceutical complex are using natural abilities that are enhanced through genetic engineering.
Some of the medical feats DARPA would like to enhance are the ability of military soldiers to regrow limbs destroyed in battle.
By eliminating empathy, the Department of Defense (DoD) hopes to “enhance” a soldier’s ability to “kill without care or remorse, shows no fear, can fight battle after battle without fatigue and generally behave more like a machine than a man.”
Scientists are researching the construction of soldiers that feel no pain, terror and do not suffer from fatigue as tests on the wiring of the human brain are furthered by Jonathan Moreno, professor of bioethics at Pennsylvania State University. Moreno is working with the DoD in understanding neuroscience. The Pentagon allocated $400 million to this research.
Further study could be passed onto the general public in order to maximize profits as well as enhance the drug’s effectiveness. According to Joel Garreau, professor at Arizona University, DARPA is learning how to genetically modify human fat into pure energy by rewiring the metabolic switch which would create soldiers that require less food. By using gene therapy and combining enhancements to alter the color of the human eye is a blending of mutations that have no basis in the natural world.
Many transhumanist groups can be found throughout the world, such as the UK Transhumanist Association who believes that scientific research must be applied to answer questions of the human condition and bring substantial benefit to society. The Oxford Transhumanists promote “radical life extension, artificial intelligence, cognitive enhancement, existential risks and mind – uploading.”
The Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford endeavors to answer the “big – picture questions about humanity and its prospects.”
These transhumanists favor the Singularity Summit, an annual extension of the Singularity Institute wherein robotics, artificial intelligence, brain – computer interfacing and [various] emerging technologies” into genetics and regenerative medicine are examined under the perspective of transhumanism.