Re: Beyond Human : the PBS Series

From: Emlyn (
Date: Wed May 23 2001 - 18:11:13 MDT

Adrian Tymes wrote:
> Randy Smith wrote:
> >
> > There were 2 one-hour PBS programs airing here in Houston last night
> > both dealt with how the future of humanity was bascially a cyborg
> > Great stuff. I saw some interviews: Moravec, and yes, Bill Joy got his
> And he was even in favor of these technologies. Which got me thinking:
> of all the possible forms that the Singularity may take, might the
> cyborg one, where humans uplift themselves via augmentation rather than
> engineering only their kids or building advanced AIs, be the most
> publically acceptable one (since it best deals with currently existing
> human beings)?

Singularity has a few different possible alternatives, as far as I am aware.

- There's the AI path, in which an alien super intelligence comes from a
self modifying seed.

- There's the nanotech path, where super nanotech allows us to brute-force
intelligence by a combination of pure simulation of the human brain+body,
and some hoopy simulated evolutionary approaches to improving on it (as well
as just making it a lot faster than a real human brain, by throwing hardware
at it. This is basically the upload approach.

- There's the intelligence augmentation approach, where we add things to our
heads to make ourselves smarter, and those things allow us to conceive more
mods to make which will make us smarter still, loop. Note that this could be
biotech/nanotech enhancements, resulting in a purely biological being,
rather than the traditional cyborg concept.

I don't think genetic engineering of the kids can lead to singularity in any
hurry, because of our long generation time (which only looks set to get a
lot longer). Gene "therapy" on living individuals is another story entirely,
but that belongs in the category of biotech enhancements.

Having just been on the telly to talk about how damn great cyborg technology
would be, I must raise a reservation that I have about it. Particularly, it
seems to me that it requires either full blown nanotech, or else some pretty
risky invasive surgical procedures. For the surgical version, the advantages
would want to be pretty great to attract people to it over the wearable

Also, as far as I am aware, we are not even remotely close to understanding
enough about the brain, that we would want to go in an make mods, except
where the subject is so screwed up already that there is little to lose. I
get the impression that we are at least 20 years from the level of
understanding required to add useful things to our heads. On this subject,
does anyone know what has been happening with Dr Theodore Berger's research
of late? There seems to be a lot of relatively old hyped-up press about it,
then nothing recent. I mention him because, if the press about his work is
not all bullshit, he is positive about brain modifications (implanting chips
and whatnot) sometime this decade.

So, I'd have said that we were still a long way from mental mods, and that
most less tightly integrated modifications would have safer wearable
versions which would be available before the full-blown cyborg options.

And, if we have to wait for nanotech before we can do really hoopy mental
modifications, we'll well and truly be in a post biotech revolution world
where there are already some mindblowing things that we can do without
adding non-biological stuff to ourselves.

So is it likely that we will have socially significant cyborg tech in the
next few decades? If it is possible sooner rather than later, the enabling
technologies would appear to lead to singularity in any case, and past that
point you start talking about SIs and posthumans rather than cyborgs. If it
takes longer, either we still have technological singularity upon us before
we can really get started on cyborg tech (because we are relying on nanotech
& godawlmity computational resources), or else we've had a long time to
develop wearables that do just about anything we'd want to do, without
having to crack the skull.

I feel as though it's going to be one of those ideas which is a driver now,
but might look a bit embarrassing 20 years down the track... very Jetsons.


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