Posthuman future: who will replace the obsolete Homo Sapiens

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Posthuman future: who will replace the obsolete Homo Sapiens
Posthuman future: who will replace the obsolete Homo Sapiens
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Transhumanism is a scientific and philosophical movement that a person should be replaced by a more perfect posthuman, or superman. In recent years, nanotechnology, the Oculus Rift and other technologies have brought the posthuman future closer in several forms at once; it cannot be ruled out that in any form a person will gain immortality. All this is quite impressive, but what pitfalls does it carry with it?

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The editorial staff of Naked Science decided to understand the history and essence of modern concepts of the posthuman, as well as the arguments of the supporters of the onset of the posthuman future and its ardent opponents.

In the beginning there was death

There is hardly a more influential factor in a person's life than the awareness of one's own mortality. Man received it along with his mind, and for this reason he bears this burden all alone.

The knowledge of death permeates human nature through and through and underlies the entire diversity of human culture. Human disagreement with the naturalness of death and the desire for immortality is reflected in the most ancient beliefs. Many religions have played and continue to play on this deep, archetypal fear, promising an eternal afterlife in a new, often attractive reality - from gloomy underground Hades to paradise gardens and the blissful embrace of hundreds of black-eyed virgins.

Other beliefs - in particular in Hinduism and Buddhism - also postulate the finiteness of the body, but the immortality of the soul. However, there is no gingerbread in the form of the otherworldly world, beautiful in its symbolism, but there is the concept of transmigration of souls, according to which each person, depending on his life affairs, moves after death to a new body, which ensures immortality.

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It is noteworthy that science, theoretically, can translate into reality both scenarios, but we will not get ahead of ourselves.

The unbearable biologicality of being

In addition to mortality, a burden for a person is also his biological past, which he always carries with him. After all, what modern man is is the result of hundreds of millions of years of evolution and layering of various genes.

Moreover, evolution is too "conservative", that is, it relies on old and not always the best bioengineering solutions. It is for this reason, for example, that our eyes are designed in an absurd way - with receptors that are directed to the brain, and not to light. This happened because the human eye evolved from the light-sensitive spot of the lancelet, the receptors of which were turned into its almost transparent body. Because of this nuance, light has to pass through several layers of neurons before reaching the inverted receptors and finally transmitting a visual signal to the brain.

The blindness of the evolutionary process is explained by the fact that it adapts exclusively to immediate tasks and uses solutions that may lose any efficiency in the future, and even more so - become harmful.

For example, this solution is the ridiculously long recurrent laryngeal nerve in mammals, which, instead of connecting the larynx and brain in the simplest way, descends to the heart, bends around the arch of the aorta and returns to the larynx. Because of this, aortic aneurysm, for example, can lead to paralysis of the vocal cords.We also inherited this decision from the times when our ancestors were fish - they simply did not have a neck, and the solution that was effective then began to do harm after millions of years.

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Evolution, of course, could not predict that man will become erect, move to cities and fly into space. The body that we now have is designed to solve highly specialized and outdated tasks - to escape from predators in the jungle, or to hunt. Therefore, for example, a sedentary lifestyle, unnatural for our ancestors, brings so many health problems.

All this, of course, leaves an imprint on our psychology, which, judging by many factors such as the characteristics of sexual attraction and social hierarchy in some countries, is also imperfect and corresponds, rather, to our animal past than to the human present.

On all this ground - both on the fear of death and on frustration from the limitations of one's own body and the irrelevance of its device for the tasks of modern civilization - a desire was born to make a person something more than he became as a result of natural evolution.

Something that could be called superhuman - or posthuman.

Longing for a superman

The most vividly scientific and philosophical idea that man is only an intermediate link on the path from animal to superman was developed in his works at the end of the 19th century by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

For example, in his work Thus Spoke Zarathustra, he writes: “Man is something that must surpass … What is an ape in relation to man? A laughing stock or an excruciating shame. And the same should be a man for a superman: a laughing stock or a painful shame."

Without belittling the importance of man, Nietzsche postulates a whole worldview, according to which all human efforts should be aimed at preparing the world and man himself for the arrival of a truly free superman devoid of the shackles of morality. "Man," he writes, must be "longing and an arrow for the superman."

Nietzsche, however, did not mention technology in this context. He believed that a person should evolve into a perfect form himself, using self-development.

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This, however, did not prevent the "superhuman" aspect of Nietzscheanism from pouring out in the 20th century into a new technocratic form - transhumanism. Transhumanists usually dismiss links with Nietzscheism, but the influence of the philosopher, if one reads the manifestos of the transhumanist movement, becomes more than obvious.

Humanity +

Transhumanism is currently the largest and most developed international movement, directly aimed at achieving a posthuman future. It was transhumanists - scientists, philosophers and futurologists - who managed to introduce the concept of "posthuman" into circulation and popularize it.

Having started back in the late 1920s, transhumanism developed into several internal currents at once, but the ideological foundation laid by the founders of this movement remained intact: every assistance to the development of technologies in order to use them to turn a person into a more perfect being - a posthuman.

People who share transhumanist views and seek to bring a posthuman future closer are called transhumanists, emphasizing the transitional nature of modern human nature.

Transhumanism concerns very many areas of science: cybernetics, nanotechnology, bioengineering, genetics, and others. Among the goals are not only the achievement of immortality, but also a significant increase in the physical and intellectual abilities of a person, the improvement of his sense organs (or even the addition of new ones).

Among the most popular modern transhumanists, whose movement has now embraced almost all technologically developed countries (including Russia), one can single out the famous futurologist and inventor Raymond Kurzweil.

He managed to develop and substantiate the concept of technological singularity - the point after which scientific and technological progress will become so rapid that its further development will be simply impossible to predict.According to Kurzweil, the technological singularity may occur as early as 2045 due to the emergence of powerful artificial intelligence and active cyborgization of people, that is, replacing parts of the human body with artificial, but more effective analogs.

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Central to the predictions of Kurzweil, who now heads the NASA-Google-funded Singularity University in California, is nanotechnology. In his opinion, thanks to the evolution of nanotechnology, medicine and industry will develop rapidly (already in the 2020s), which will gradually not only make a person immortal, but also significantly reduce the cost of production of various products, actually solving once and for all the food security problem.

At the moment, the World Association of Transhumanists is called Humanity +. This renaming is likely in order to rebrand the movement under pressure from critics who accused transhumanists of seeking too radical a change in the person. Transhumanists now focus on the ethical use of science and technology to improve the human body.

Posthuman faces

The transition from human to posthuman can take place in several forms at once. Each of them, one way or another, will inevitably lead to some kind of social conflict, which can range from temporary discomfort with the emergence of a new type of person to an all-out war that will devastate the planet.

For this reason, this theme is a stunning dramatic material that has been used more than once in science fiction. Some writers have been able to develop the theme and conflicts of the posthuman future in a rather original way. Not all of these scenarios will come true, but each of them is possible to some extent. Let's take a look at what major themes dominate this context in various artistic worlds.

"Classical" posthumans can be found, for example, in the novels of the American writer Dan Simmons "Hyperion" and "Ilion". In the first case, this is the race of Vagrants - former Homo Sapiens, who, through genetic engineering, evolved for space travel (since the human body, as has long been known, is ineffective and extremely vulnerable in conditions of weightlessness and prolonged exposure to cosmic radiation).

In "Ilion" (and its sequel - "Olympus") the topic of posthumans is revealed in more detail. On the one hand, this is a group of posthumans pumped up by nanotechnology who have settled on the Martian Olympus. In the course of the plot, it becomes clear that they forgot their human past and believed that they really are the Olympic gods (from Zeus to Hephaestus), and then began a grandiose multi-year performance of divine intervention in the siege of the legendary Troy in an alternative universe, which they periodically visited with the help of teleportation.

On the other hand, this is a group of the very first posthumans who settled in the Earth's orbit (in order to avoid conflicts with ordinary people who remained on the planet) and chose the appearance of exclusively female bodies with an ideal and ageless physiology.

Another classic type of posthuman is an artificial body-avatar, into which human consciousness can be “transplanted” (both digitally and with the help of an organic brain transplant), thus achieving immortality through the embodiment of the ancient idea of ​​transmigration of souls.

The concept of an avatar body varies greatly - from a vessel in the face of an alien organism (for example, the movie "Avatar") to completely identical copies of one's body, which are resettled after the death of the previous shell (the series "Battlestar Galactica"). Sometimes the body-avatar is used only temporarily, having connected to it through the brain-computer interface (for example, the movie "Surrogates").

It should be noted that it is in this plane - the creation of an avatar body - that the Russian project "Russia 2045" is currently working.

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The next type of posthuman found in science fiction is about digital immortality. For example, the novel "False Blindness" by American writer Peter Watts describes the not so distant future in which humanity is on the verge of migrating to digital reality - in fact, to a computer, in which the digitized consciousness can practically forever exist in an individual virtual paradise. Philip Dick wrote about the same thing in his novel "Ubik". Given the current pace of development of virtual reality technology, this prospect seems to be the least fantastical of those presented.

There are also such posthuman concepts that do not touch upon the topic of technology at all. For example, in the "Ugly Swans" by the Strugatsky brothers, we get acquainted with the "biting midge" who teach human children to reveal their huge, previously hidden potential, inaccessible to adults. Children then, exclusively through self-development, become a kind of supermen, significantly superior intellectually and morally to their parents, which leads to a dramatic conflict.

Of course, these are not all possible concepts of the posthuman future described in science fiction and futurology. If you wish, you can find a dozen more original concepts, but we have selected, in our opinion, the most curious of them.

Human versus posthuman

Not everyone, however, shares the enthusiasm of transhumanists and futurists. The posthuman future - whatever it may be - is certainly approaching thanks to advances in technology. However, when the concepts are transferred to real socio-political conditions, a number of insoluble, sometimes catastrophic in their potential, pitfalls is revealed.

The most consistent and influential critic of transhumanism is the renowned American political scientist Francis Fukuyama. Having analyzed in detail the possible consequences of the ideological victory of transhumanists over the governments of the world, Fukuyama comes to a number of conclusions that call into question not only transhumanist values, but also the vector of movement of modern science as such.

In particular, in his book "Our Posthuman Future" he notes that "science by itself is not capable of setting the goals and limits for which it is intended" (Stanislav Lem also wrote about the dangers of uncontrolled technological progress in his work "The Sum of Technology ").

In the same book, Fukuyama (briefly with the theses of the political scientist can be found in his article published in 2004 in the journal Foreign Policy) makes a number of logical, supported by arguments inferences about why transhumanism can be dangerous to humanity.

Among them, two main theses can be distinguished. Firstly, man has evolved for a very long time and contains many both positive and negative traits - but it is this complex combination that makes us human and allows us to develop as a species. Radical interference in this process with the help of technology may not elevate a person, but rather dehumanize him, the political scientist believes.

Secondly - and this problem is most obvious - the emergence of the first posthumans will automatically divide people according to a previously unprecedented principle and create a huge potential for conflict in the social, economic and political spheres. In other words, this will create unpredictable inequality and confusion in the field of law (what rights does a person have, and what are posthumans? Is a posthuman a person, and so on).

The consequences of this artificially created inequality will be unprecedented, because earlier, despite all the differences, people were united by one important circumstance - they were a single species of Homo Sapiens. Now humanity will split into two (or even more) species. It is not excluded that on a financial basis, because the technology of "posthumanization" may be too expensive for ordinary people.

In fact, this will destroy the entire system of liberal democracy that currently exists in Western countries and is based on a certain philosophical foundation - for example, on the concept of natural law (all people are born equal in rights and are endowed with certain rights from birth), which will simply lose all meaning with the appearance of the first posthuman. How can such ideas be postulated if people are divided into several species and do not share a common human nature?

At a time when a person has just got out of the inequality that reigned throughout almost all of his previous history, he risks ending up in an even more unfair world than ever before - and all this thanks to biotechnology and transhumanists, no matter how good their intentions may be., says Fukuyama.

The Russian transhumanist movement, for example, responds to such criticism as follows: “Such fabrications are based either on an incomplete idea of ​​the future, or on an arbitrary preference of the author. As a rule, the general tendency to reduce the cost of various kinds of services, including medical services, the development of robotics and the acquisition of surplus value through robotization, the possibility of redistribution of this income by state structures in favor of the population is not taken into account, the development of nanotechnology and - especially - the predicted emergence of nanofactories and nanoassembly is not taken into account. … Also, the possibility of an intellectual upgrade of each person is not taken into account."

In the rhetoric of supporters of transhumanism, one can also find such counterarguments as the presence of a technological component in the modification of human life for several centuries - for example, medicine - medicines for diseases, antibiotics, which have long intervened and significantly changed the natural course of human evolution (now they survive even initially weak and sick, which completely negates natural selection).

The greatest achievements of science and technology, according to transhumanists, have always been perceived by society as a perversion and an insult to nature, before settling among the masses. Therefore, one can notice such a strong rejection of technological interference in the human body (especially in a religious environment), which, on the other hand, has been going on for a long time with all kinds of implants and transplanted (or even artificial) organs.

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Who will be right, apparently, only time will show, which inexorably brings posthuman reality closer simultaneously in several of its potential forms. The power of computers is growing - a "quantum revolution" is expected in this area; nanotechnology is advancing by leaps and bounds, and in the coming years we will probably be able to see high-precision drug delivery to a specific cell using a nanodevice; Life extension techniques are gaining more and more success in mice, and technologies like the Oculus Rift are taking the virtual world deeper than ever before.

It is unlikely that all these processes can be slowed down, let alone stopped. It remains only to enjoy the benefits of technological progress and follow the development of events.

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