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    Problems of Transhumanism - Augmenting Intelligence
    By Gerhard Adam | September 5th 2009 01:39 PM | 10 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    One of the favorite themes in transhumanist discussions is considering the melding of human intellect with "machine intelligence" to arrive at superhuman abilities.  

    Right from the beginning we have a few problems.  We don't really know what human intelligence is and we aren't capable of building intelligent machines.  However, lest that obstacle prevent us from moving forward, let's consider what such a thing really means.

    If we take the normal distributions of IQ, then it would suggest that about 0.13% of the population has an IQ aboe 145 and 0.003% has an IQ over 160.  Using the latter value suggests that in a world population of 6.7 Billion people, we have 201,000 geniuses living among us.  Now before we go any farther, can anyone reading this, name one?  Can you name what contribution they may or may not have made to human progress?

    My point is not to trivialize whatever work they may be doing, but rather to suggest that such high intelligence isn't automatically recognizable except within a very narrow sphere of influence and despite the claims of transhumanists, the bulk of human progress occurs with normally well-educated people that simply work hard.

    However, the real problem with the transhumanist perspective is that at the core, they want to eliminate normal human variation from intelligence.  If augmentation can be artificially gained, then ultimately everyone would be the same intellectually.  

    At this point, all human development would stop. The complete uniformity of intellect would create an environment where there can be no meaningful use for teachers.  What would be the point in writing a book about any new development, because it would be knowable to everyone without effort.  There would be no skill that someone could have that couldn't be artificially gained, so there is absolute equality among all people.

    Since we don't actually have a working definition of intelligence, the problem of creativity and emotion still exists, so we have to presume that some people may be more creative than others, so how that fits into superhuman intelligence isn't clear.  But, if creativity and insight is the missing ingredient that produces genius, then transhumanism will have failed in successfully augmenting intelligence.

    The role of emotions is even more difficult to assess, since humans are not a logical species.  While people are certainly capable of being logical, they operate as much from an emotional and belief systems base than anything else.  This can be seen by our cultural, political, and religious differences, each of which would still be intact.

    Of course, this raises the question of any nation that actually achieved such a capability being altruistic enough to share this technology rather than simply exploit it.  Similarly, among individuals, it would require a level of altruism to avoid exploiting those than don't have such augmentation.

    However, let's consider what implementation of this would actually mean.  Gaining worldwide cooperation for the eradication of smallpox, was not trivial and was often quite heavy-handed in achieving its goals.  Would such augmentation be mandated?  What would it mean for those that elect to not participate?

    I would suggest that an even more fundamental problem exists in describing intelligence, namely what does it mean to comprehend an idea?  It's easy to toss off the notion as something that will be taken care of by technology, but it begs the question about what kind of intellectual capacity actually creates comprehension?  It certainly isn't access to information.  Perhaps it's some element of creativity, but in truth we don't know.

    This leads me to conclude that even if transhumanists could successfully bring together the technology and human intellect, ironically it wouldn't change anything in any meaningful way.  The primary reason, is because we already have all the information we need.  It's in books (or pick your favorite medium).  We can look up anything we like and determine an answer or obtain an opinion, or review current work.  However, unless we have the comprehension of the subject, it doesn't help much and, as such, neither will any artificial technology that primarily looks like it will be a data storage device.

    At the end of the day, the point is that there is no technology that will ever allow me to share my thoughts with someone else.  I can try and express my ideas and viewpoints, but I can never convey the essences, the history, the multitude of factors that gave rise to my perspective because that's what makes me a person.  When someone else hears or reads my ideas, they will integrate those into their own sense of "personhood" and the idea will have "evolved" just a bit.  

    Transhumanism's desire to augment intelligence isn't about improving human beings.  It's about quick, easy answers to the complexities that have motivated and driven humans to achieve what they have.  In effect, it's the lazy approach to the future and, for myself, I think its a cop-out.

    Comments

    Winston Smith
    As this comes close to the kind of transhumanism that I stand for, I feel that I should try give you a good answer. "We don't really know what human intelligence is and we aren't capable of building intelligent machines." However we do know lot of different parts of the intelligence. Different brain functions are located in specific parts of the brain. But many of them, like memory, are not located in a single part of the brain. Still we can pinpoint different parts of the cortex that are related to different kind of intelligence. By mimicking the neural structure of the brain we have made computer programs that can learn. They are called artificial neural networks. "If we take the normal distributions of IQ, then it would suggest that about 0.13% of the population has an IQ aboe 145 and 0.003% has an IQ over 160. Using the latter value suggests that in a world population of 6.7 Billion people, we have 201,000 geniuses living among us. Now before we go any farther, can anyone reading this, name one? Can you name what contribution they may or may not have made to human progress?" IQ is the most cliché and unreliable way of measuring intelligence. It basicly measures mathematical, logical and dimensional intelligence. These huge IQ persons are probably not artist or psychologist or sociologist. "My point is not to trivialize whatever work they may be doing, but rather to suggest that such high intelligence isn't automatically recognizable except within a very narrow sphere of influence and despite the claims of transhumanists, the bulk of human progress occurs with normally well-educated people that simply work hard." Emphasis on the well educated. Completing education needs some basic intelligence. Lazynes or productivity is also influenced by our genes. So, same technology that can shape our intelligence, can be used to increase human productivity. "However, the real problem with the transhumanist perspective is that at the core, they want to eliminate normal human variation from intelligence." No more than prison system tries to eliminate normal human variation from temperance. And what do you suggest that already intelligent person would look like if he/she would eat brain boost medicine or attach math or memory chip in the brain? "If augmentation can be artificially gained, then ultimately everyone would be the same intellectually." No. We don’t ride the same cars. Different technologies compete with each others. New technologies emerge and some are better and more expensive. Some are better and also cheaper. There’s no way that everybody would be using same product from the same company or that one-size would fit all. "At this point, all human development would stop." The opposite. By definition human intelligence would increase over time as new products and enhancements would mature to safe products. "The complete uniformity of intellect would create an environment where there can be no meaningful use for teachers." Teachers are for kids and adolescents. Because we can have children there’s no “uniform intelligence”. Teachers are needed. On the other hand what are the ethical arguments that say that world without teachers is evil? If we can learn some other way more efficiently I don’t think this is issue. "What would be the point in writing a book about any new development, because it would be knowable to everyone without effort." Hello, this is not practically possible! If you don’t write it down, nobody can read it. Though we are in the internet, we are writing all the time. It’s not like you could learn anything about quantum physics without reading a single article or book. Even if they come in some kind of brain-implantable chip, they have to be downloaded and probably in text format. The form of the information doesn’t change the fact that somebody has to put the information into file of some kind. "Since we don't actually have a working definition of intelligence, the problem of creativity and emotion still exists, so we have to presume that some people may be more creative than others, so how that fits into superhuman intelligence isn't clear. But, if creativity and insight is the missing ingredient that produces genius, then transhumanism will have failed in successfully augmenting intelligence." Only if you understand intelligence as mathematical intelligence or as good memory. I think creativity is one aspect of intelligence and it is regulated by genes to some point. As we don’t know for sure the neural basics of creativity, your assumption don’t have a bottom. It Is just your opinion, not a justified argument. If creativity can be enhanced also it would increase the quality of life and be made into very successful product. "The role of emotions is even more difficult to assess, since humans are not a logical species." Unfortunately some of us are more logical than others. Another point that can be affected by our genes, hence it can be modified. One dream of transhumanist is to not to be dictated by our born personality or moods. As I am transhumanist, products that increase my control over my emotions (medicines, brain implants, genetic modification/ therapy) would be first products to access. "This can be seen by our cultural, political, and religious differences, each of which would still be intact." Once again, only if intelligence is synonymous with good memory. Otherwise I think that intelligent people tend to avoid extreme or radical movements. "It's easy to toss off the notion as something that will be taken care of by technology, but it begs the question about what kind of intellectual capacity actually creates comprehension? It certainly isn't access to information. Perhaps it's some element of creativity, but in truth we don't know." Yes! We don’t know but we science that studies this is neurology. It has advanced a lot in last three decades and this is not “universal mystery” rather than question to be answered. "This leads me to conclude that even if transhumanists could successfully bring together the technology and human intellect, ironically it wouldn't change anything in any meaningful way. The primary reason, is because we already have all the information we need..." Ha ha! Bollocks! If we would already have all the information we need, we wouldn’t have cancer and we wouldn’t have built the Large Hadron Collider. And again: Transhumanist are not going to come with technology or science. Scientists are going to come with knowledge and business is going to come with the applications and engineers come with the products. We transhumanists are going BUY the products. "...It's in books (or pick your favorite medium)." Brain implant thank you! "At the end of the day, the point is that there is no technology that will ever allow me to share my thoughts with someone else." Never say never. We know for example the area where pictures are formed in the brain. We have successfully made a first video from cat’s brain that shows what the cat is seeing at the time. "When someone else hears or reads my ideas, they will integrate those into their own sense of "personhood" and the idea will have "evolved" just a bit." That is true, but it’s not going to change with these new enhancement technologies. "Transhumanism's desire to augment intelligence isn't about improving human beings." By definition this is wrong. Yoga isn’t about improving human being, because it’s not doing anything to person. Transhumanist’s desire to enhance his/hers self is nothing but improvement. Airbags are improvement of a car, contact lenses are improvement of vision and brain implant chips could be improvement of the self of an individual. Not answer to world peace, end hunger or climate change, but little personal improvement. "It's about quick, easy answers to the complexities that have motivated and driven humans to achieve what they have." Complexities that have motivated and driven humans like wars and famine? I don’t think that crime in the society is motivation in any positive meaning. It is definitely a motivation to build prisons and give more rights to law enforcements. As human enhancement technologies are not yet here I refuse to think that transhumanism gives quick answers to any these questions. Nor it is easy answer as we already see. "In effect, it's the lazy approach to the future and, for myself, I think its a cop-out." Everything but lazy. Praying for world peace is lazy. Yoga for personal enlightment is lazy. Belief in 6000 year old earth is lazy. Censoring rock music or radical literature is lazy. Banning safe sex in favour of restraint is lazy. Science is not answer of the lazy person. In science there are no easy answers to explain this all and there are no shortcuts to wisdom.
    Gerhard Adam
    If we would already have all the information we need, we wouldn’t have cancer and we wouldn’t have built the Large Hadron Collider.
    I have to disagree.  My point was that we already possess far more information than can reasonably be absorbed and consequently it creates the variety of people's varied interests and motivations.  It is the lack of knowledge that motivates us to persevere and move forward.  The human race would die the day it has nothing left to explore or learn.

    You indicated that not all human intelligence would be identical since people would choose different implementations and that leads me to the primary contradiction.  The reason I mentioned that everyone would be the same is because without it we would create worse competitions and problems than before.  In the first place, it is very clear that any such augmentation would be disproportionate across societies and countries.  The political ramifications alone could lead to the most destructive wars to date.  In addition, once a radical advantage accrued to any specific group, it would be impossible to stem the desire to deny it to others.  This would occur because, in effect, humans would have technologically engineered a speciation event in themselves and I don't believe that any such advantage would ever be altruistically bestowed on others.

    In addition, since the differences would still persist, we could expect that everything we have in modern society would continue to exist albeit with potentially more intelligent people.  Therefore if such augmentation was truly valuable, it would also be beyond the economic reach of most people.  This would simply strengthen the status quo that could afford such technology.  

    More importantly the differences would suggest that we would still have crimes, and all the unpleasant aspects of society that we currently have.  These would continue to exist because crimes aren't a by-product of low intelligence. 

    In other words, when I look at all the problems in the world and everything that needs to be addressed, the issue of intelligence in humans doesn't even make the list.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Winston Smith
    “I have to disagree. My point was that we already possess far more information than can reasonably be absorbed and consequently it creates the variety of people's varied interests and motivations. It is the lack of knowledge that motivates us to persevere and move forward.” If you visit factories and meet basic macho worker type, go to church tomorrow or google white power you might find yourself wrong. On the other hand lack of knowledge motives people like me and you, but not MOST of the people. The lot want’s to get along with their life, pay their mortgage and live in nice neighbourhood. That’s all. They don’t want change and by definition science a kind of change. “The human race would die the day it has nothing left to explore or learn.” Boosting our intelligence would not end science. Science is based on experiments and research, it can not be deduced logically a priori. And Human race won’t die when science dies. Most of average people are more or less fed up with science. They wan’t easy answers, socialism, Jesus Christ, liberalism, nationalism, Muhammed, capitalism, environmentalism etc. I agree with you a lot with the risk issues. But I don’t think that these technologies are a priori destructive. I think we have to study every solution and determinate their actual risks and potentials when they begin to come realistic options. We just can’t put our heads in the bush and say that these things are taboo and should not be studied. Without concrete solutions we can’t really say anything sure about the risks or the gains of these technologies. For now uncertainty goes both ways. “More importantly the differences would suggest that we would still have crimes, and all the unpleasant aspects of society that we currently have. These would continue to exist because crimes aren't a by-product of low intelligence.” They are by product of temperance and self control. These are to some extent controlled by genes, though childhood and upbringing plays significant role. “In other words, when I look at all the problems in the world and everything that needs to be addressed, the issue of intelligence in humans doesn't even make the list.” As I look our leaders, international and national, human intelligence issue comes to my top five. Common people are so unfamiliar with scientific method and results of our science that by it self this is top ten issue for me. Our system depends on informed voters who attend the state of society and focus on possible solutions to our problems. We have our creationists, political extremists, CAM-quakeries etc. today and that makes me think informed voter is not the state of things today. On the other hand totaliatarism depends on ignorance of people. Because we are at the edge of understanding of common people, it’s coming to be questioned, if scientific progress can be put to serve mankind much longer. Science can improve, but if it marginalizes because of ignorance of the lot, we are denied some of solutions it can offer to our problems. (present day examples: stem cell research, safe sex and vaccinations)
    Adding machine intelligence to people's brains could not make us all equally intelligent, nor could it provide unlimited access to information and subsequently destroy our desire to learn more. First, it would enable inquisitive minds to learn more by quicker access to information. Second, human brains (and therefore minds) vary; supplementing variation with technology cannot destroy that variation. People would still have underlying differing personalities - they would simply have greater and faster access to information and information processing tools.

    Gerhard Adam
    ...it would enable inquisitive minds to learn more by quicker access to information...
    Are you suggesting that learning is simply a problem of access to information?  This seems to be the point that most of the AI folks and transhumanist "enhancers" fail to see.  Access to information is NOT the problem.  We already have far more information than we know what to do with.  In addition, the more information we have, the more time we have to spend verifying it and the sources.

    After all that, even with 100% confirmed and verified information, there isn't anything that would equip someone to know how to incorporate or integrate that information into a real world situation.  Books are filled with information, but if you don't actually understand it, then having it makes little difference.  Similarly, having a chip with the information planted in your head, only makes for a very fast library.  It doesn't convey knowledge.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    If you visit factories and meet basic macho worker type, go to church tomorrow or google white power you might find yourself wrong. On the other hand lack of knowledge motives people like me and you, but not MOST of the people.
    Agreed, which then forces the question about what good transhumanism would do if the majority of people aren't motivated towards that end.
    And Human race won’t die when science dies. Most of average people are more or less fed up with science.
    Once again, so how does transhumanism address this reality?
    We just can’t put our heads in the bush and say that these things are taboo and should not be studied.
    This brings up one of the problems I have with the transhumanist argument.  Who ever said that research should stop or that anyone's putting their heads "in the bush"?  I'm quite content to let research take its course and for normal technological development progress.  Why does such a position require a name like "transhumanism"?  The transhumanist issue is that of trying to become more than human without having defined it or determining what such a thing would mean.

    As you've pointed out, this is an objective that may well be appealing to a small minority of people, so how does this square with 6.7 billion people?
    As I look our leaders, international and national, human intelligence issue comes to my top five. Common people are so unfamiliar with scientific method and results of our science that by it self this is top ten issue for me. Our system depends on informed voters who attend the state of society and focus on possible solutions to our problems.
    I have to disagree.  There are plenty of intelligent people and there are certainly plenty of possible solutions to problems.  The difficulty isn't that the problems are hard to solve, but rather that people don't want to face reality, vested interests want to maintain the status quo, and most people are willing to allow themselves to be distracted against real discussions.  None of this changes with intelligence, because that isn't the problem.

    In addition, even if certain problems are solved scientifically what makes anyone believe that there aren't subsequent problems that are more intractable and just as bad?  In other words, there may never be enough time and/or intelligence to address the varied problems and interests people want to pursue.  So, in the end, it's the same old thing only at a different level.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Winston Smith
    I took same time to answer. I didn't want to give fast ad hoc answers. Yet I find unwillingly replying my self, so my appologies about that. Also I found it hard to keep focus. Duh...

    Augmented human intelligence isn’t only a favourite theme in transhumanism. It and human genetic engineering can be thought as necessities in every transhumanist scenario.

    You say that: “The bulk of human progress occurs with normally well-educated people that simply work hard.” I think these are the people who are going to benefit most of the transhumanism applications. The richest “class” is going to be able to use these applications first but when prices come down it these well educates hard working people or upper middle class who’s going to be the first main consumer group.

    You also say that: “It would require a level of altruism to avoid exploiting those than don't have such augmentation.” I don’t believe we see such altruism. But that is one of the driving forces of selling these applications to the rest of the lot.
    I would suggest that an even more fundamental problem exists in describing intelligence, namely what does it mean to comprehend an idea?
    This leads me to conclude that even if transhumanists could successfully bring together the technology and human intellect, ironically it wouldn't change anything in any meaningful way…
    …However, unless we have the comprehension of the subject, it doesn't help much and, as such, neither will any artificial technology that primarily looks like it will be a data storage device.
    These are problems of engineers and scientist. User want’s to know is it safe (May reguire brain surgery!) and what are the benefits. I admit it’s also problem for those who try to extrapolate modern technology in to the future, like Ray Kurzweil. You are right that these are issues that have to be solved before real human artificial intelligence is possible. Probably the first applications can’t offer real intelligence. Only extra memory or calculator applications. Genetic applications have larger probability to increase real human intelligence.
    You indicated that not all human intelligence would be identical since people would choose different implementations and that leads me to the primary contradiction. The reason I mentioned that everyone would be the same is because without it we would create worse competitions and problems than before. In the first place, it is very clear that any such augmentation would be disproportionate across societies and countries. The political ramifications alone could lead to the most destructive wars to date. In addition, once a radical advantage accrued to any specific group, it would be impossible to stem the desire to deny it to others.
    And yet you said that majority of people would not be interested in transhumanist agenda? Maby not willingly, but the advantages it would give would make people jealous. And that makes it easy to sell on.
    [On the other hand lack of knowledge motives people like me and you, but not
    MOST of the people.] Agreed, which then forces the question about what good transhumanism would do if the majority of people aren't motivated towards that end.
    Extreme transhumanism wouldn’t give a F. In extreme form transhumanism wouldn’t need masses. New transhumanist elite would not be perfect nor it would try to solve every problem we might encounter.

    Technoprogressivism would make compromises and focus on medical research. It would also try to legitimise safe technology. It would also try to make socially dangerous or morally suspicious applications unlegal.

    Transhumanims VS technoprogressivism:
    http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/treder20090625/

    Once again, so how does transhumanism address this reality? [Most of average people are more or less fed up with science.]
    Only by existing, transhumanism as a movement forces masses to come in tough with science, whether they like it or not. As we both have said, when artificial human improvements are introduced they create pressure to upper middle-class to use them. They may not be helpful in a simple industrial work but they are in higher education and business.

    Transhumanism is force by it self that makes people to get interested in science. Science offers benefits that overpower the biological human. The way to popularise transhumanism is human greed. The same thing that makes capitalism so successful economic system. On the other hand most capitalistic nations use some regulation of the markets for a good reason. Without elitist pioneering period I don’t thin transhumanist solutions become cheap enough to be implemented in population wide.
    This brings up one of the problems I have with the transhumanist argument. Who ever said that research should stop or that anyone's putting their heads "in the bush"? I'm quite content to let research take its course and for normal technological development progress. Why does such a position require a name like "transhumanism"? The transhumanist issue is that of trying to become more than human without having defined it or determining what such a thing would mean.
    Then again what name would you give to this position? After all it’s strongly related to progress of technology and wasn’t imaginable in the ancient days. (I take that Golem etc. stories are related more to magic than technology) I think this position is new and unique so it deserves own name and proper definition. It is also related to Darwins theory, because it is defined to trends and philosophies that tend to or want to change the human evolution over natural selection.

    The point is that artificial human modification is going to be possible. That is transhumanism as a technological trend. And we both agree that this is pretty certain in the far future.

    As a philosophy transhumanism is not going to be very popular in the close future. It doesn't mean that these human modifications are not going to become popular. Then what we should call this kind of fence sitter who is not interrested in philosophy of transhumanism but is willing to participate in the transhumanist trend if there's clear personal benefit?

    Yoga for enlightment or ascension to a higher being is trying to become more than human. But because it has wrong definition of human It doesn’t work. Transhumanism defines human as a biological entity, more precisely an animal race. Because this definition is true it is possible to be more than human in sense we are defined as animal race.

    There’s only one single transhumanist argument but no single definition of human condition. Only common argument is that humanity must take control of their evolution. Different sub-movements have different ways to implement this. Also there are many reasons why this should happen. These reasons are not compatible and they don’t produce single transhumanist philosophy. Different transhumanist views have also their own definitions of human condition. The transhumanist movement is only common agenda of many different political movements that want technological possibilities to be used to change the human condition. It doesn’t mean that it is uniform or that there would be single goal for all of us. One current movement is called democratic transhumanism but I believe there’s also those of us who support totaliatarism of some kind.

    Some currents in transhumanism (not all of them, not in logical way to allocate the movement):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism#Currents

    Then again what word shall we use to entity we describe as transhuman or posthuman? As I said different transhumanist views define human in different way. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have inner logic in their own philosophy. I think that singularitarianism is pretty clear in how it defines more than human. Our current debate is about human artificial improvements of intelligence. By definition there’s already two human conditions “human” and “transhuman” or “modified human” in our debate. But they are very different than in singularitarianism.
    You say that: “may well be appealing to a small minority of people, so how does this square with 6.7 billion people?”
    Vaccines, sanitation and clean water don’t square with 6,7 billion people. Doesn’t mean that they have not been progress. Hunger and superstitions don’t square with 6,7 billion people. Tell me something other than birth and death that does?
    There are plenty of intelligent people and there are certainly plenty of possible solutions to problems. The difficulty isn't that the problems are hard to solve, but rather that people don't want to face reality, vested interests want to maintain the status quo, and most people are willing to allow themselves to be distracted against real discussions. None of this changes with intelligence, because that isn't the problem.
    See we have very different view of human intelligence. I don’t think that person who allows him/her self to follow red herring as intelligent person. From where I stand the issue that people don’t want to face reality is stupidity itself. We probably both agree that there’s more of intelligence than mathematics or superb memory alone.
    In addition, even if certain problems are solved scientifically what makes anyone believe that there aren't subsequent problems that are more intractable and just as bad?
    I think there are problems we can't even solve! Doesn’t make it any less important to solve the problems we can solve.
    In other words, there may never be enough time and/or intelligence to address the varied problems and interests people want to pursue. So, in the end, it's the same old thing only at a different level.
    Still intelligence of human race is our best hope. Religion and totalitarian movements have had their change and failed. It will be pretty much the same thing only at different level but I’m fed up with this level and I wan’t to see if the next level can bring us any solutions. That makes me transhumanist. Like you, I also wan’t the technology and science to improve at their own speed. I just don’t draw any line in the changing of human condition artificially.

    I have to admit that I don’t support extremist politics of any kind. In the other hand transhumanism can be understood as extremist movement. But what is name for people that are not as enthusiastic about transhumanist technology but are not afraid of human enhancements or gene technology? I think technoprogressivist is possible term. In the other hand many transhumanist are technoprogresivists but some are not. There has to be more shades of the colour than you are or you are not.

    And your question about what contributes as a transhumanist is serious issue. It’s not only practical question, but also philosophical. For now people tend to choose them selves. This is practical answer. That makes it possible to people who think the same call them selves transhumanist or not.

    Another way to define transhumanist in practical point of view, is person who is not afraid of human enhancements, singularity or other technological advancements over biological human. So I think it’s possible to be a transhumanist without claiming that
    transhumanism will be answer to all of our problems. There’s plenty of
    room to choose your position. One does not have to believe everything in
    star trek or choose a Yedi religion to have transhumanist identity.

    I don’t have all the answers and I don’t want to give ad hoc answers. Basically I’m looking forward to these applications but I’m not blind to the risks. People on the street are not aware of that the transhumanist trend is going on. Nor are they interested about philosophy of science. If I don’t as a transhumanist try to raise awarnes I will lose all the possibilities technology will be put in good use. It’s not only my responsibility to try to find solutions to use these technologies for good. I’m no dictator and it’s OUR responsibility. If these things are not thought through before they emerge their risks are going to be realised too late. That is why not just leave the technology take it’s path. That is why transhumanist are starting institutions like IEET. We may be optimistic but without public debate and proper ethical conduct for technology, I don’t feel that these technologies can ever be used to increase liberty and democracy.


    Unfortunately I find my self thinking a lot like Gregory Stock. My not going to be anybodys fan but I think you should watch this video about Gregory Stock, if you haven’t already:

    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/gregory_stock_to_upgrade_is_human.html
    Winston Smith
    This kind of act I'm looking forward. I haven't read this yet myself. Study made for Europarlament about human enhancements. http://www.itas.fzk.de/eng/etag/document/2009/coua09a.pdf
    Gerhard Adam
    Winston,

    I think your responses are quite reasonable and I can understand how we might have a slight difference of perspective without substantively vastly different opinions.  While I recognize that you appreciate the problems and difficulties, let me offer a couple of ideas up for consideration as to why I'm not as optimistic about a directed human solution.
    Probably the first applications can’t offer real intelligence. Only extra memory or calculator applications. Genetic applications have larger probability to increase real human intelligence.
    It's interesting to consider how many people (that have an interest and apply themselves) actually come across something that they actually lack the intelligence to master.  It's easy to see if the motivation isn't really there, and I can certainly appreciate that some topics can be difficult to integrate.  However, it seems to me that it is impossible to augment human intelligence artificially without being able to do it externally first. 

    More importantly, one of the problems I've considered is whether too dramatic an increase in human "brain power" could lead to conditions like autism or savant syndrome.  In other words, we still don't have any idea whether augmenting intelligence is a good thing when compared to all the other psychological elements that it must coexist with.

    However, I realize that you also appreciate some of the problems associated with this, so I won't dwell on it.  Similarly, I do agree with you that the consideration of ethical and philosophical problems needs to be addressed well in advance of such technology becoming available.

    I guess one of the main philosophical/technical problems that needs to be considered is whether directing our own "evolution" is desirable.  In particular, if we consider the artificial selection of domesticated animals, we can see that for every change made there may be a tradeoff in health or propensity towards certain ailments.  Also, we have no real sense that a "directed" approach actually advances us to our goal (such as it is).

    While I don't want to make these comparisons in a literal sense, just consider the broader analogy.  The failure of communism as an economic system (coupled with totalitarianism) is an attempt to direct specific human activities and recapture the economic attitude of older tribal societies.  In other words, Marx didn't describe anything new in his ideas, but rather he simply described the collective behavior of smaller human groups that are all "in the same boat".  By attempting to scale this up to larger societies the idea of communism failed to take into account the consequences of such artificial behavior.  Basically the point is that what may initially sound like a good idea, has all kinds of unintended and unanticipated results.

    This leads me to consider that should humans actually be able to direct their evolution in any significant way, we will similarly face such unintended and unanticipated results.  However, in this case, they will be uncorrectable.  If such augmentation either intellectually or biologically would occur, we would effectively have created a new species of human.  In that case, we need to seriously ponder whether coexistence with unchanged humans can actually occur.

    I realize you don't have the answers any more than I do, but perhaps that can explain why I'm so pessimistic about the entire concept.
    Mundus vult decipi
    YEEEEEEHAAAAAH!!