Unfortunately, as mere humans, we’re not immortal. Though we’re the smartest beings this side of the universe (TBD), we’re still at the mercy of our surroundings. It seems fit that one of our primary missions on this world is to keep living and learning for as long as possible.
Since Letter #9 was about using our human intuition to build better computers, I thought it was only right to parallel with talk of our own ambitions of human betterment―that is, using the technology we continue to develop and what we learn from it to pseudo-biologically build better humans.
Something genetically enhanced.
CRISPR, the groundbreaking genome editing method discovered by experts only a few years ago, is opening a new world of possibilities for the health and longevity of our species. This genetic technology is able to single out the bad genes and literally cut & paste to potentially eliminate them from future generations. By bad genes, I mean those that cause major genetic ailments like cancer, Alzheimer’s, Autism, Down Syndrome, etc., as well as those that make us susceptible to other serious diseases and conditions. Though, at this stage, CRISPR technology is premature — meaning primetime human gene editing probably won’t become a thing any time soon; however, scientists are working diligently to make this possibility a reality. Just a few months ago, during the International Summit on Human Gene Editing, the organizing committee announced their approval of human genome editing (as long as testing does not establish pregnancy). That means human gene trials are well underway, genetically enhancing human embryos to study their biology and germline cells, as well as to identify potential benefits and risks of proposed uses of genetic editing.
Nevertheless, genetically enhanced humans don’t come without a few caveats. Along with the hopes of building better humans, this decision also brings to light a debate of ethics and morals. Is it morally acceptable to select which traits you want in your baby? How would this affect society, culture, and ultimately the future of our species? Are we even ready to accept the idea of designer babies?
Implants today don’t come as much of a surprise anymore, with people implanting NFC chips in their hands and arms to open car doors, or turn on their phones without touching any buttons (aka Biohacking). But neural implants are still especially ambitious, considering the fact that we don’t fully understand how the brain works. That didn’t stop Phil Kennedy in 1998 when he implanted neurotransmitters into the brain of a paralyzed 52-year-old Vietnam vet and it didn’t stop him in 2014 when he tried it on himself and almost lost his own mind in the process. Kennedy’s overall goal since the beginning of this project is to integrate mind and machine — to communicate with computers just by thinking. Real-life cyborgs. This whole story seems like it was ripped straight out of a Sci-Fi novel, probably because the second half of it was. Imagine not having to type or write anymore, just think and the cursor will do all the work. Then again, how would we efficiently control a computer with our mind if we don’t even have complete control over our thoughts? Especially in a world where our average attention span is a whopping 8.25 seconds.
Something all encompassing.
The YouTube documentary specialists, VPRO International, have an entire playlist dedicated to the advancement of the human condition called The Perfect Human Being Series. This series really encompasses every angle of what it means to be a human in this modern age, and what will become of us in the future. Discover different ideas on the future of our species through the minds of modern philosophers, technologists, and scientists from around the world.
The Internet Traveler
P.S. — I’d love to hear about the interesting things you’ve found on your own Internet travels. Tweet your finds to @cjdarnault with the link and a few words on the topic. I might include it in a future letter!