In this piece I will continue to examine the "big" problems identified in the TEDTalk. It is this third point that begins to illustrate what the underlying objective of all the other pieces truly is.
Problem #3: Life Isn't Usually as Wonderful as it Could Be is a BIG problem
In this final section, we begin to considering the basic notion that why can't life be wonderful all the time. Certain points are made regarding how we might feel at particular times, and then asking the question of why it can't be like this always. It is interesting that it is never questioned whether this is a reasonable question to ask, it is simply assumed that it is a desirable objective.
The point is made that we can readily identify those things that we find unpleasant or painful in our lives, so if we assume that these can all be "fixed", the question is raised as to whether we still couldn't do better than this.
A list is provided that indicates:
1. Much longer, healthier lives
2. Greater subjective well-being
3. Enhanced cognitive capacities, more knowledge and understanding
4. Unlimited opportunity for personal growth beyond our current biological limits
5. Better relationships
6. Unbounded potential for spirtual/moral/intellectual development
At the very least, this was indicated as being Nick Bostrom's list, but it is intended to be a beginning.
What is disturbing about this list, is that while we can all relate to it in our personal lives, there isn't a single objective definition that could be applied to the lot. Even more so, item number 5 regarding "better relationships", depends on other people's behaviors, to the degree that one wonders how this could be improved.
The means by which these improvements can be achieved, while not detailed, is a bit disturbing. What is being advocated is nothing short of total mind control, albeit voluntarily induced, although there doesn't seem to be any prohibition nor protection against having an external agency establish what is programmed.
"Ability to choose one's emotions. e.g. preserve your romantic attachment to your partner undiminished through time."
Nick Bostrom - TEDTalk
In other words, apparently its OK to brainwash yourself. It doesn't have to be a genuine emotion, or desire. Virtual is apparently fine, and if we can artificially induce "love", then TECHNOLOGY RULES!!!
Of course, this ability to control one's emotions will also create the probability that someone else can control those same emotions. So this power will be more addictive that crack cocaine and you can bet that whatever lifespan increases may have been achieved, they will be rapidly decimated in the mad power struggle to control this ability.
Incredibly, he actually says that this control probably isn't that difficult and perhaps involves a simple hormone.
A common theme throughout this lecture is that anything to do with biology is arbitrarily wrong and only human technology can fix it so that we are no longer "prisoners" of this process. Despite a long history of humans demonstrating how truly "wrong" they can be, it seems that there is an unabashed faith in human beings and their technology that defies all reasonable explanations. So the only conclusion that I can arrive at is that this is little more than the traditional "Peter Pan" fantasy, where one never has to grow up and grow old, and where one never has to take responsibility for themselves. Unfortunately, it also speaks to a more sinister element, since it is clear that the speaker doesn't even trust himself and looks for external technology to provide better control for his moods and emotions.
Transhumanism is simply eugenics dressed up in 21st century garb. This isn't simply "name-calling" to disparage transhumanism, but instead it is recognizing that all the premises of eugenics are explicitly being used as the pillars on which the transhumanist philosophy are being built.
Eugenics is based on improving the human gene pool to promote a positive direction to human development. There are certainly many ways in which it could be approached from a heavy-handed governmental policy process or through voluntary participation by individuals that believe the same way. The end is supposed to result in producing superior human beings through positive artificial selection.
In the past, such programs are littered with the atrocities of the Nazi's and others that attempted to force such efforts, and consequently eugenics was discredited. It isn't that people don't ultimately believe in the premise, but rather in the manner in which it was pursued, it has left most feeling that it is an unreasonable strategy to pursue.
Transhumanists have solved many of the PR problems that eugenics has. In the first, place it is advocated as being voluntary and is invariably presented as a positive force to improve one's life. However, it is equally clear that those that choose not to participate will eventually become some sort of second-class citizen and be left behind. This is made abundantly clear by some of the statements made by transhumanist "visionaries".
This is justified by the fact that it is not coercive, so therefore people have voluntarily left themselves behind. In this way, instead of rationalizing the killing of such individuals as practiced by eugenics programs, we can now justify that whatever happens to such people is of their own doing. The following quotes from Kevin Warwick sum up these thoughts rather well.
"The humanists that want to stay human, the Terrans, maybe as Hugo would call them. I can't see them ultimately having much power, because at the end of the day, their intellectual capabilities will be so inferior to the cyborgs, those that have implants and upgrades, that the cyborgs will be able to out-think the subspecies that is still human."In addition, it is easy to voice platitudes about how such technology should be available to all humans, but surely no one is naive enough to believe that such tremendous technological advancements would be the subject of a worldwide effort to ensure everyone had access without regard for their financial ability to pay. In this case, again the transhumanists simply argue that it isn't their fault if some humans or their societies are corrupt and restrict such technological implementation.
Kevin Warwick (Professor - Cybernetics, Reading University)
"So the future for an everyday ordinary human, I guess they'll be some sort of subspecies. Just like we have cows now, so we'll have humans in the future."
"...and as a cyborg, if a human came to see me and it starts making silly noises a bit like a cow does now. If a cow comes to me and says 'Moo, moo, moo', I'm not going to say, 'Yeah, that's a great idea, I'm going to do what you tell me', so it will be with a human. They'll come in and start making these silly noises we call speech and human language and so on. And with these trivial noises, I'm not going to do those silly things. Why should I? This creature's absolutely stupid in comparison to me."
However, the biggest difficulty also occurs when considering human nature. Our propensity to take advantage, or lie/cheat, or even commit crimes. Basically there is no human social model that can assure that humans will behave decently, regardless of incentives. Therefore, the biggest point that in transhumanism that is glossed over, is the need to absolutely be able to control human behavior through external means. This would involve controlling thoughts as well as emotions. In effect, truly making humans into machines without any ability to respond according to their own instincts or beliefs.
The obvious problem is that it requires some external group of humans to be responsible for managing the technology itself (unless this is to be turned over to machines), at which point it is clear that the end result of transhumanism is the ability to fully exploit an entire species of humans, and make them enjoy the prospect of being ruled by someone proclaiming themselves their superior. It's the ultimate ant farm.
In the end, the only difference between transhumanism and eugenics is that the former uses technology instead of genetics to rationalize the basis for improvement. The end of such a path still ends in the same place with the subjugation of all other people to such power.
So I have to conclude that there is simply no argument to be made for a person that is so willing to give up his freedoms and himself in such a question. He is truly advocating that the Matrix is a good idea. He's obviously swallowed the blue pill.