Re: Extropian bodies

From: Helen Fowle (
Date: Tue Jul 24 2001 - 08:28:56 MDT

Thanks for replying to my questions Robert,

You’ve given some good explanations of how the body can be seen as machine etc, this is similar to how I feel about the body also, but I’m trying to be objective so that people will tell me honestly what they feel about this issue. I hope that by posing reasonable simple questions to the people who are against engineering the human body through technology, then I won’t annoy them, and they will open up about what really scares them. 

You’re right by saying that I’m more interested in the physically observant changes in the body from integrating with technology. The body form of the human is particularly distinctive from other species, and I believe that what scares the ‘anti’ people is based in the fact that we ‘look’ human, and that our humanness is linked to our body image. This is a strong argument in that it suggests our identity as a person is linked very closely to how we, and others, see the body. What they are suggesting is that by changing the appearance of the human body then we are consequently changing our human identity. This seems pretty logical, and it bypasses in some way, the argument that our ‘identity’, or rather our ‘human identity’ is just contained within the brain. They’d argue that although the information may be stored in the brain, it is still connected to how we see the body, therefore what effects the body effects the mind.

What would be your answer to this response? I suppose it doesn’t really counter anything that you’re saying, as you’re admitting that, by changing the body, identity will indeed change, and society along with it. The difference remains however in that you are excited (or so it seems) by this possibility, while others are scared of it. Any thoughts on why this might be? What do you may be different in the way that you think about identity, image, technology and the future, and how they do?

Anyone who would like to commetnfurther on what Robert or myslef have said are welcome to. Please....


>From: "Robert J. Bradbury"
>To: Extropy List
>Subject: Re: Extropian bodies
>Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2001 13:12:24 -0700 (PDT)
>I'll comment on Helen's queries.
>Helen asked:
> > Part of my work concerns the preachings of people who argue about the
> > ethics of combining the human body with machine parts.
>The problem is those "preachings" fail to recognize that the body
>*is* already a collection of machine parts. I like to point out
>to people that since every human has on or in them ~40 trillion
>bacteria, each "body" hosts more copies of programs for autonomous
>self-replicating machines than copies of its own genetic program
>(i.e. the bacterial cells outnumber our cells). A mitochondria
>is a machine. A cell is a machine. A heart is a machine.
>We are machines (bodies) made up of machines (organs) made up
>of machines (cells) made up in part of machines (mitochondria)
>made up in part of machines (proteins) made up of atoms.
>The problem arises from a mistaken concept that you can only build
>machines out of steel. If I build a machine out of plastic is
>it any less of a machine? What about nanotechnology research
>being done at Cornell or the University of Washington where the
>"machines" that are used in the experiments as "motors" are
>the very same proteins our own body uses?
> > What are your responses to these attacks on human enhancement.
>We are already enhanced. My face would have to be ~3 inches from
>my computer screen for me to read the text without my "enhancements".
>Someday, I'll get that enhancement made permanent with laser surgery.
> > What are your feelings regarding what 'human' actually is?
>Human is a "suitcase" term, its used to describe both our biological
>bodies as well as the way we interact with each other as well as
>our intelligence. If you want to explore the topic, one way to
>start is to start with a definition of 'human' straight out of
>the dictionary and then start to break it down into its
>different meanings.
> > Is it really possible to compare the human body to a mechanical system,
>Ask almost any doctor, esp. for example, surgeons. It *is* a mechanical
>system. There is an entire scientific field called "biomechanics".
>The field of "biopysics" explains how our cells work on the basis of
>physical laws while "biochemistry" explores how our cells function
>according to chemical laws.
> > and if so, then what's so important about enhancing as humans,
>Human longevity is fundentally limited by the hazard function
>(our exposure to things that kill us). Unenhanced humans have
>a higher hazard function (shorter life-span) than enhanced
>humans who would be more resistant to diseases, automobile
>accidents, gunshot wounds, etc.
>A fundamental principle, spoken by a Rabbi at the Templeton
>Foundation "Extended Life, Eternal life" conference,
>"Life is GOOD. Death is bad."
> > shouldn't we try to enhance beyond the human state?
>I may not understand this part of the question. I believe that
>enhancing beyond the currently evolved human state is what
>we are heading towards. The difference is that in the past
>the evolution was done by natural selection, in the future
>it will be done by design and intent. The problem is that
>people have never had this capability before so it scares
>some people.
> > What do you think will happen to people's identity as 'humans' once
> > they have been so integrated with technology that they physically
> > no longer resemble the human bodily form?
>We *are* already integrated with the pre-evolved technology,
>so you have to mean "engineered" technology. Further you have
>to imply that "engineered" technology would somehow make us
>appear "different" from the way we appear now. Engineereed
>technology does not have to necessarily make us look different.
>I could completely replace my bio-brain with a much better nanobot
>derived brain and still have the same geeky look I have today.
>I suspect you will see women making much more radical alterations
>to their appearances than men, because they are either genetically
>wired to do so and/or have much greater societal training for that.
>Now, assuming you mean that people evolve in the direction
>of radically different appearances, one thing that may be
>needed is some brain engineering to dampen our fight-or-flight
>response and/or "tribal" instincts. As people become increasingly
>different those deeply rooted emotional survival strategies
>are likely to be less benificial, perhaps even becoming harmful.
>You don't want people crashing their cars because a human who
>has adopted the form of a gorilla jumps out into the middle
>of the street. A fully engineered "nanobody" can certainly
>withstand the impact of a moderately fast automobile, so the
>presumably adolescent, "human" can probably do this relatively
>fearlessly just to jerk around the car driver. Not unlike
>behaviors you see today where teenagers driving by in cars will
>unexpectedly scream at a pedestrian just to make them jump.
>There may need to be some legal or societal restrictions
>placed on the modifications you are allowed to make to
>oneself if only for reasons of public safety. An alternative
>would be the developement of "zones" where specific
>modifications were permitted (and so can crank up
>the volume on your way to the nightclub).
>People's pre-programmed concept of "humans" which presumably
>is linked to a number of pre-wired brain "features" -- face
>recognition, hard-wired emotional expressions, nurturing triggers,
>companionship needs, soothing voices, etc. is going to have to
>expand (A LOT!).
>We might, in the long run speciate into a number of new and
>different species adapted to certain specific environmental
>niches. But my money is on everyone deciding to upload.
>At that point appearance is entirely virtual and therefore
>serves only as a form of entertainment. You can explore
>the world of "avatars" to see what that is like.
>For an interesting view of what humans are, one of the
>finest I've ever seen, see Ka-Ping Lee's explanation:
>which is part of his documentation on his "Shad Valley" experience.
>Hope that helps,
>Refs for Avatars:
>For the Templeton conference:

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