01 February 2006

Transhumanism hits the Mainstream

In a grudging acknowledgement to the inevitable, the Guardian newspaper printed an article about cognitive enhancing technologies.

The pace of development in four distinct disciplines - neuroscience, biotechnology such as genetics, computing and nanoscience - is such that many envisage dramatic breakthroughs in how we can modify ourselves, our physical and mental capabilities. We could live much longer and be much stronger and cleverer - even be much happier. A whole new meaning to "Be all you can be".

The Washington Post journalist and author of Radical Evolution, Joel Garreau, argues that we are at a pivotal point in human development. Having directed our technological ingenuity on the world around us, human beings are now turning it on to their own bodies and minds. From here on in, we will have the tools to engineer our own evolution.

... So we're not talking about radical new steps, only an acceleration of existing trends. For example, if you can have Viagra for an enhanced sexual life, why not a Viagra for the mind? Is there a meaningful difference? If we show such enthusiasm for "improving" our noses and breasts with cosmetic surgery, why not also improve our brains? As computers continue to increase in power and shrink in size, why shouldn't we come to use them as prostheses, a kind of artificial limb for the brain? If we have successfully lengthened life expectancy with good sanitation and diet, why can't we lengthen it with new drugs? Ritalin is already being traded in the classroom by US students to help improve their concentration.

There's no stop button available. Much of the research that could be ultimately used for human enhancement is urgently needed to counter such neuro-degenerative diseases as Alzheimer's.

There is more at the original link, with the typical Guardian spin. They may be Luddites, but they try to be trendy Luddites.

Hat tip Mindhack.

The general public will never get a grasp of what is happening as long as the mainstream information sources are studiously looking the other way. If thousands of high school students are taking ritalin so as to score higher on their SAT, there is no doubt that many of them will carry this approach to self enhancement with them into adulthood. As I mentioned in "Smart Drugs", the pharmacology is only getting better.
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