Human enhancement

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Human Enhancement is any attempt to temporarily or permanently overcome the current limitations of the human body through natural or artificial means. It is the use of technological means to select or alter human characteristics and capacities that lie beyond the existing human range, whether or not it works. [1]


Contents

Introduction

Human Enhancement

Human Enhancement is any attempt to temporarily or permanently overcome the current limitations of the human body through natural or artificial means. It is the use of technological means to select or alter human characteristics and capacities that lie beyond the existing human range, whether or not it works. [1]

The topic refers to the general application of the convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science (NBIC) to improve human performance. Human enhancement technologies (HET) are techniques that can be use not simply for treating illness and disability, but also for enhancing human characteristics and capacities. [1]

Transhumanism

Julian Huxley

Transhumanism is an international and intellectual movement that aims to transform the human condition by developing and creating widely available technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and physiological capabilities[2].

The theoretical foundations for this movement were developed in the 20th century. Yet, early impulses could be found in ancient legends like the Epic of Gilgamesh or any myth that involved a search for immortality or superhuman ability [2]. J.B.S. Haldane developed the fundamental ideas of transhumanism in his 1923 essay "Daedalus: Science and the Future"[3]. In this essay he predicted great benefit from applying advanced science and technology towards human biology [3].

However, evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley is widely considered to be the father of transhumanism after he coined the term as the title of his influential 1957 article [4]. This article further touched on the ability to use technology to improve the human condition.

Transhumanism has further been developed greatly by science fiction film and literature. Notably by Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which a race of aliens use artifacts to grant transcendent power to its wielders [5].

Prosthesis

A prosthetic is an artificial device that replaces a missing body part, which may be lost through trauma, disease, or congenital condition. Prosthetic devices are those that attempt to replace or replicate a human body part that may be lost or missing. Prosthesis is the earliest form of human enhancement. Through thousands of years of development, they have gone from simple wood or metal replacements to technologically advanced machines.

History

Ancient Egyptian Toe

Humans have been using prosthetic enhancements for thousands of years. The earliest known written record was in the book of Vedas, a large body of Sanskrit text written in ancient India [6]. This was believed to have been compiled some time between 3500 and 1800 BC [6]. However, the earliest archaeological record of a human prosthetic was a prosthetic toe found in an Egyptian tomb that dated to be 3000 years old [7].

Prosthetic enhancements made modest improvements until the middle of the 20th century. Prior to this, the primary aim with prosthesis was to imitate the look of a severed extremity instead of replicating function [8]. These simple prosthetic body parts were usually made of wood or metal [8].

Iron prosthetic believed to be from the 16th century

However, after the second world war, the NAS (National Academy of Sciences) began to advocate for further advancement of prosthetic limbs [9]. Heavily influenced by the war [9], the NAS began working in conjunction with the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Veteran's Administration on government funded research and development programs to further prosthetic technology [9].

One of the most significant technological advancements occurred in the 1980's with the development of the Contoured Adducted Trochanteric-Controlled Alignment Method (CATCAM Methood). This method changed the morphology of socket technology for prosthetic legs. Prior to the CATCAM method sockets were square shaped, yet, with this new method, the owner of a prosthetic would enjoy greater comfort and mobility [10]. This represented an import shift towards function in prosthesis that would influence further technological development.

Another important development came in the 1990's with the microprocessor-controlled prosthetic. This implemented external sensors and processors to intake and process information on the owner's external environment [11]. This allows the prosthetic to account for changes in speed or terrain, improving safety and function for the wearer [11]. This again was an important shift in prosthetic development as it implemented computing power towards prosthetic technology; a theme that would continue to be built on in future iterations.

Current Trends

Prothetic's Past, Present, and Future

As technologies involved in robotics improve, you see some dramatic changes in the supply markets of robotics. These changes become strong signals for the direction the industry is heading towards in the future, and how the changes will affect the market of prosthetics. Changes in the prosthetics industry come from one of two types of suppliers - suppliers that enables additional functionality, and suppliers that are able to reduce the unit cost of a device. The market has been ripe for disruption for the past decade and the following will analyze technology trends that have contributed to renaissance in the prosthetics market, and how these changes will affect future products.


Industrial Manufacturing

Industrial manufacturing for 3D printing is currently dominated by a handful of companies, such as Otto Bock Healthcare, Fillauer, Ohio Willow Wood, and Hanger Orthopaedics. [1].The corporations have kept the competition at a distance and have historically controlled a large portion of the industry.The FDA contributed to entry barriers via high approval and patent costs, dissuading new entrants into the market. In the past decade there has been an increase in demand for prosthetics among consistent supply and as a result, prices per unit has increased. Innovation to reduce cost in traditional manufacturing has been dissuaded because the companies have also patented separate technologies for their manufacturing process. [2]. In contrast industrial manufacturing of prosthetics show signs of aging and comfort. Companies are not incentivized to innovate and are returning higher profits from this the short boom in demand.

Senors Market

Unannounced to consumers, the boom in the smartphone market caused a rapid increase in the demand of sensors with smartphones over the decade. The large demand caused huge incentives and price competition in the sensors market, dramatically changing the pace of innovation across multiple sensor categories.[3]. These market conditions had a dramatic effect on the cost within the prosthetic market. Since sensors have uniforms value in multiple industries, the competition in the mobile device caused a huge positive externality in linked markets, increasing the abundance of sensors, and decreasing the cost.


Projected Sensor Market Growth[4].

3D Printing

3D printing (adaptive manufacturing) is a process of making 3 dimensional objects achieved by laying down successive layers of material until the entire object is created. 3D printers now have the option of removing specific portions of the object via lasers within the manufacturing process. [5] Completing the printing process through various lucrative finishing and drying process. The reason 3D printing is considered to be a such dramatic shift for manufacturing is because it removes 3 barriers to local manufacturing: low transportation cost, high ratio of capability to cost, and multiple material options. [6]

Software

There has been a humanitarian push by non-profit organizations who adhere to open source standard for software developers to aid in the cause to help the diffusion of information within this community. IBM has reported on growth in the of 3D printed objects on the Internet and compared it with the average complexity of every project, and extrapolates the trend to see what the a future that is 3D printed might look like.[7]. IBM reports trends on a reasonable exponential curve based on the sheer number of projects, and steady increase the complexity of each project overtime. These positive trends fair well for prosthetics, as it seem that 3D printed prosthetics will become more feature rich as complexity improves. [8].


IBM Graph [9].

Nano-Technology

While nano technology has not contributed greatly in the current iteration of prosthetics, the technology's future capabilities appear to be so disruptive that we could not ignore the technology in this wiki. The goal with nanotechnology is to remove the barrier between prosthetics and realism. Scientists allow prosthetics to hit a level of realism that make them indistinguishable from real limbs.[10] An example of theoretical solutions would be to mimic the human skin to each patient, fighting infections and bacteria that get to their prosthetics to reduce the chances of infection when removing and installing the prosthetic via prosthetics covered by nano particle.[11] These nano particles fight bacteria by releasing silver ions around the surface that is poisonous to the bacteria.

Modern Age

Each year about 85,000 amputations are performed across the United States, 90% of them are limited to the lower extremities. [12] Due to the reduction of cost in the raw inputs, prosthetics are going through a resonance with researchers and consumers referring to the modern time period as a golden age. Some examples of Modern Innovations are projects and corporations like the Collectives Project, Open Bionics, Biomechatronics Group, and Endplate.


Tony Stark brings Attention to 3D Prosthetics
The Collective Project


Healthcare

Using 3D printing, healthcare firms are partnering with OEM firms to develop new product development process. The ability to rapidly prototype has shorten the timeline on future products and allowed solutions in medical agencies to be unique for each individual patient. [1]. Within the near to medium term, products for cranium, mid-face, spine, diabetic, and foot trauma are being constructed. In the long term OEMs are looking at drug eluting implants that can deliver therapeutic relieve. OEMs are extending partnership with top tier universities to focus on complex long term solutions that now have become new options.[2].

Military

Prosthetics have played a large part in the US military, since the start of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, 167 soldiers have had major limb amputations and many have chosen to stay on active duty, while other have chosen to support overseas in new roles behind enemy lines.[3]. Advancement in prosthesis have given soldiers more options, both in their active duty and after arriving home. Any progress for the fusion of prosthetics and robots will be seen as a large opportunity for the military.[4].

Sports

Prosthetics have enable previously disabled individuals to enjoy the athletics again. While this industry is a secondary market to the healthcare and military industries, athletes have been able to create their own limits such as participating at the global scale, and others creating their own local, notational, and international competition events.[5]. The Paralympics is an international sports event, involving athletes with major physical disabilities. The event attracts 45 Nations, 550 athletes, and contain all this facets of the Olympics bud on a smaller scale.

Pets

Darby's Prosthetics Limb

No one said that the benefits were limited to only the human species. Prosthetics development has been underweight for our best friends as well - below is a link to a video of dog named Darby that have been blessed with a innovative pair of new prosthetics.

Cost reduction with additional support from some engineers, used AutoCad and 3D printing to give Darby two new front legs that she can use to help with her own quality of life. The dog's reaction is an inspiring one, that technological development is spilling over to animals in a more impactful manner.

Human Enhancement

Before we move on current methodology towards humans enhancement, we want to pauses to reflect on our friend, Charles Darwin. Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection will serve has solid reference materials to be thinking about when learning about human enhancement. The key difference between prosthetics and human enhancement is that the goal of prosthetics changes from replicating lost features to gaining addition capacities.

Natural Selection

Biologist and Geologist that contributed heavily to evolution theory


Charles Darwin's most famous observation was the Theory of Natural Selection, where by the process of organisms who better adapt to their environment tend to survive and produce more offspring.[1]. This has played in humanity's favour if you take into consideration that 99.9% of all species on earth are not extinct.

An argument can be made, that we may hit a diverging point in human evolution in the next century, as we diverge into a new species. We can refer to their hypothetical evolution of human as "post-human." There is no clearly defined definition of what post human is, but we refer to it as existence of the human species after the first instance that human and technology have merged into one entity. [2] While many have concluded, that this has already been the case, the degree we refer to post-human is the moment where this new entity can reproduce but cannot mate with a normal human. [3] Darwin would describe this as a point where humans and post-humans deviate into their own evolutionary trees.

Current Technologies

Advanced Modern Prosthetics

The markets for prosthetics has deviated widely, it has become very difficult to see change in the industry as a whole. The industry is now regulated uniquely across the board and has wide variations of technology development. The realm of current applications are Limb Prosthetics, Robotic Skin & Skin Graphs, Bionic Eyes, Laser Eye Surgery, Cochleas Implants, Prescription Drug Medication, and Dental Prosthetics. While these products use different names, they all have the characteristics of modern prosthetics; repairing damage to body via artificial means.


The Blade Runner

Oscar Pistorius's is a South African track and field runner, who is competing at the world scale, with no legs.

Oscar, using a pair of prosthetics legs dubbed the "cheetah legs" competes in races. Oscar faced bureaucratic opposition, with other runners arguing that Oscar's prosthetics give him an unfair advantage in competitions, as the Cheetah Legs produce a spring like effect on the trace. Oscar was able to resolve the conflict by arguing that he runs based on effort and merit by running for officials without the use of his prosthetic. [1]

Oscar Pistorius talent and the buzz around the new story, created exciting moments when he competed in the Summer 2012 London Olympics.[2]

The World's First Visual Implant

While most research and development is completed within a country borders, some researchers see regulatory approval as a large barrier for really innovative prosthetics research. Willam Dobelle created a visual implant system and has been developing the technology to help nearly 295 million visually impaired people across the world as reported by the World Health Organization.[3]

Dobelle's prosthetic systems uses an optical camera and connects the image directly into the brains, converting bits into neural impulses. A system separated into three distinct parts; optical cameras and computer, transmitting cable, and metallic input receiver installed into the brain and skull. [4] While the surgery was found to be unethical and unsafe, Dobelle was able complete this surgery offshore with a blind patient. The surgery had concerning complications but ended up being a success, giving the patient his eyesight back. The patient, only identified as "Yens" was quoted saying, "Wow, I'm really using my brain that has been doing dick all for two decades."[5]

Dobelle had reported the impacts and shocked the visual implants community, as no one had been successful with this surgery as researchers still debated on the best visual implant system design. [6] As we enter the realm of science fiction, this surgery marks a moment that is concerning just as it is beautiful. These concerns become that it would not take as much effort to be able to see in different spectrums of light, where we would be enabled to also see in X-ray and thermal light onto a normal spectrum of light.[7]

Cognitive Super Power's & Outsourcing Memory

We see the same effect with society's use of Google as reports mention that there is less need to retain knowledge and it is the next generation of workers who have poorer memory because of it. The debate being "why bother to contribute going to my own knowledge if I can just google it." In modern times this can be seen as a natural experiment of outsourcing human memory to the net. The global population is unknowingly taking pleasure in the fact that it can order information at that press of a button, compared to old-fashioned methods of learning. We can see the vague link between the Internet, memory, and human augmentation. It won't be long until we can order cognitive performance on demand, oh wait?! We can!

As we get closer and closer to improving the condition of the impaired, these treatments are sought after to abuse. The greatest example of this trend can be seen in Ivy League universities as student use ADHD drug medication to stimulate and improve school and academic performance.[8] Students find it difficult to compete in super competitive environments and resort to drugs like Adderall and Riddlin to boost cognitive focus, juicing themselves during exam time to remain time efficient and to score well.[9]

Is this the next step to introduce drug testing for students? This abuse becomes concerning because it showcases a glimpse of what we might see in the future with human augmentation. As the first people that use it have a overwhelming advantage than the rest, and as the advantage grow in publicity, people flock towards the drugs to remind competitive. Overtime it becomes the norm, just like how Adderall and Riddlin have become at Ivy League universities.[10]

We may hit a point where natural talent and hard work are no longer good enough and the definition of playing smart is to obtain a drug prescription. It would be valid concern that government regulators would not get a grasp on the situation before this becomes a trend for the incoming workforce and people with strong morals fall victim to drug abusers.

Emerging Technologies

Bionics

MIT developed bionic leg

Leading the next step in bionic limbs is Hugh Herr, an associate MIT professor. Herr is an avid mountain climber who temporarily lost his ability to participate in this activity when he lost both of his legs in an accident 30 years ago from frostbite damage[11]. However, Herr did not accept these newly imposed limitations on his abilities. On the contrary, he remarked “I reasoned that a human being can never be “broken”. Technology is broken. Technology is inadequate”[11]. However, the technology at this point in time was largely inadequate to Herr’s expectations. These artificial limbs did not provide similar functionality to those of organic limbs. Determined to solve this, Herr joined the Media Lab’s Center for Extreme Bionics at MIT to research and build new systems to overcome this[11].

MRI mapping of muscle stiffness, used to develop custom bionic limbs
Using mapping tools such as MRIs, Herr and fellow MIT researchers have been able to discover one critical aspect of how organic muscles work – when muscles move, a mirroring of tissue rigidity occurs[11]. Using a machine to measure an individual’s unique muscle stiffness in 14 different points around the residual limb, this rigidity data is then used to manufacture a customized bionic limb for each individual[11]. With the progression of this technology, in the near future we can expect to abandon the old philosophy of a one size fit all prosthetic. Instead, the fitting and comfort of bionic limbs will be maximized with each individual in mind.

Bionic limbs are then attached to residual limbs using synthetic skin. By doing the aforementioned, the MIT team has been able to build bionic limbs that also correspond with different muscle rigidity and skin rigidity to provide movement that feels similar to organic motion[11]. Through further incorporation of this muscle mapping data into the bionic limb’s computer chip, Herr’s is able to overcome the shortcomings of past artificial limbs – these bionics can provide the user with both power and torque to assist in almost natural – like walking and running[11]. These features will allow future users a way of motion that is nearly indistinguishable from natural movement.

The current design of Herr’s bionic limbs uses the artificial skin and sensors to control the limb according to impulses created when the user moves their phantom limb[11]. Once the impulses are converted into commands for the bionic part to respond, it first becomes regulated with a chip that regulates the intensity of the movement[11]. This is meant to mimic the regulation that the spinal cord provides[11]. While this method is significantly improved over traditional bionic limbs, it still does not provide users with the same level of control has organic limbs. This is because organic limbs are controlled through a network of nerves. To once again bridge the gap between bionic limbs and organic limbs, Her and his MIT team have begun the development of transected nerves[11]. These artificial nerves will be directly connected to a user’s biological skin and muscle cells to receive spinal commands directly[11]. Nerves and coils will be attached so that the signals from the cells get translated into computer signals which are then transmitted over into a controller piece of hardware that will then move the rest of the limb, including the fingers and wrist[11]. These artificial nerves will be directly connected to a user’s biological skin and muscle cells to receive spinal commands directly[11].

System of using transected nerves to control movement

The technology being developed at MIT’s Media Lab’s has also been applied outside of rehabilitation purposes. The system has also been applied in making an exoskeleton that enhances the movement of its users. A tester of the exoskeleton has said that after using the power and torque supplied by the suit precisely to enhance his own movements, his own body movements felt extremely heavy[11]. The implications for this technology is significant. As the technology is now focused away from helping people regain their movement and into producing superhuman mobility, it may completely change how people move in the future. For example, by wearing this exoskeleton, people may travel on foot a multitude of times faster while experiencing significantly less toll on the body. As we will see with the TALOS suit, exoskeleton technology is already beginning to transform our society – even in war.

TALOS Military Suit

Promo video for Revision's military exoskeleton

With a joint effort between 56 corporations, 16 government agencies, 13 universities, and 10 national labs and a prize incentive from the pentagon, there is an effort in the United States to develop robotic exoskeletons for soldiers to use in combat [1]. Some of the build features intended to be included on this suit include 360 degree cameras with built in night vision, sensors to detect and apply sealing foam to wounds, built in air and heat supply, and liquid armor that shifts to a solid upon bullet impact [2]. Currently, there are a few companies who have developed early iterations of these suits. Yet, these do not currently include all of the intended features.

The major holdup with the development of this technology is that the power source for these suits needs to be built in[3]. There is no form of energy efficient enough that can supply enough power to the suit, while being compact enough to be built in [3]. However, as battery technology improves, the capabilities and scope of these suits will be greatly improved.

Nanomedicine

Nanotechnology discussed at the World Economic Forum
How nanotechnology can bind to diseased cells and deliver precise treatments to only affected areas

Aside from using technology to enhance human capabilities externally, there has been significant research put into the development of nanomedicine as of recent. Nanomedicine is the use of nanotechnology - devices that are 80 times smaller than the width of human hair. Whereas human hair is 50,000 – 80,000 nanometres, nanotech is anywhere from 0 – 1000nm[1]. The most significant impact of this type of emerging technology is in its ability for treating illnesses. One of the ways that has been proposed is to inject hundreds to even thousands of these particle sized machines directly into an individual’s body. Once injected, it has been proposed to prevent/fight illnesses by either acting as artificial antibodies that constantly destroy viruses/bacteria or as highly precise drug delivery system so that it can directly attack the affects areas[2].

An example of the benefits of nanomedicine is in the treatment for cancer. Currently, chemotherapy is a widely used method of treating malignant tumours. However, the treatment itself has the potential to damage healthy cells surrounding the tumour area being treated with the radiation from chemotherapy [3]. For patients with cancer, instead of going through chemotherapy and potentially kill the surrounding cells around the tumour, injected nanotechology can deliver precise dosages to affected areas by binding only to those areas and thus reduce the impact on healthy surrounding tissue[3].

The implantation of nanotechnology as a layer of defense, similar to or replacing the immune system, has the potential to greatly advance human health. For one, as it has a computer interface, it can begin to act as an “anti-virus” software within the body. Similar to anti-virus software found on computers today, these nanobots may one day to programmable to recognize and neutralize/repair different bacteria, viruses, or even genetic defects. It is possible that with the development of nanomedicine, injection of vaccinations will one day be an outdated method of fighting disease. Instead, nanotechnology “virus definitions” will be continually updated to seek and destroy threats to human health.

Neural Implants

An individual using a neural implant to control a computer

Neural implants place a computer chip into an individuals brain to leverage computing power with human behavior and decision making. These implants would allow humans to take advantage of a computer's accurate memory storage and computational power [1]. Additionally, they have been tested to allow humans to use their minds to interact with and control computers by using the chips to pickup electrical impulses in the brain that are processed and responded to by computers [2]. This technology could greatly improve prosthetic enhancements as brain-controlled prosthetic limbs would be even more fluid than what is currently available.

Further Future Technologies

Exocortexes

Exocortex used to enhance brain capabilities through machine/human interface

As neural implants and brain computer interfaces become more advanced, a conceptual idea of exocortexes has been speculated. Exocortexes are machines that integrate directly into an individual's brain to enhance its functioning. Exocortexes can be thought of as customizing and upgrading your own brain, much like how computers can have their processing power upgrades through the installation of new chips. In particular, exocortexes will supplement human processing capacity through a combination of memory chips, hard drives, processors, IO devices, and softwares [3].

The possibility of purchasing cognitive functionalities can be of major benefit to humans. For one, it may be used to counteract the effects of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. In Alzheimer’s, a person’s memory is gradually reduced and may reach the point where they can no longer remember their past experiences. However, with the use of exocortexes, people may be able to overcome this issue by simply installing hard drives. Not only will these hard drives give Alzheimer patients the ability to transfer, recover, and backup their old memories, it will also allow them to once again access their memories. However, the ability to purchase cognitive abilities also raises several major concerns. The first is the potential for a gap between to grow between different socioeconomic classes. The rich may be able to continually grow their advantages by constantly leveraging their wealth to access the newest and most powerful exocortex parts. The second major implication that the development of exocortex technology has is on the concept of being “human”. As machine and brain enhancement continually advances, the classification of “human” vs “machine” will have to be debated. This question will pose significant impacts on law and society when exocortex technology becomes increasingly mature.

Mind Uploading

Mind uploading can be thought of as the final frontier of human augmentation. Similar to what is seen in the Matrix, the concept behind mind uploading is that an individual’s mind can be uploaded into a network interconnected with other uploaded individuals [4]. In this possible future, the technology may become so advanced that it is impossible to differentiate between reality and simulation. There are currently two proposed ways for achieving this. The first is a gradual upload of an individual’s personality[4]. Essentially, part of a person’s brain (ie. different parts of an individual’s personality) is copied into the server at different times. The other proposed option is a complete one time cut and paste of a person’s entire mental state[4].

The ability to upload ones entire mind into a cyber space can be used to overcome death itself. It allows the uploaded to live forever – without the limitations of the biological world. However, if a person’s sense of self can be uploaded module by module or completely – can the entity living in cyberspace still be considered one and the same as the biological individual? It is difficult to say that one is truly overcoming death if this is not the case. In this scenario, mind uploading can no longer be thought of as a way to immortalize a person. Rather, it would be a process of creating duplicate but separate entities.

Implications

Prediction of humans in 1000 years

Transhumanists foresee a time when technological advancements in the capacities of the human body and mind will lead to extreme alterations in our society. Posthumans, as called by many, will be among us but unlike us in many ways [1]. In particular, they will live far longer lives than ordinary humans, and they will be happier and be physically advanced. An extreme variation on this idea is that we might upload our personalities into advanced and highly durable computer hardware, interfacing with the world in unthinkable ways. However, due to the fact that we foresee these technological interventions, it is important to recognize the implications that human enhancement may give birth to.

Future Implications

Humans are driven by emotional amoral egoism. They are genetically and neuro-chemically programmed to 'feel good' and are driven by a number of factors [2]. The five factors are known as the 5P's: profit, power, permanency, pride and pleasure. If a technology appears to enhance one of the factors, human instincts will push us in that direction. Having these motivators embedded in our DNA, this will lead us to inevitable transhumanism in the future.

The idea of posthumans will be open for interpretation as technology works toward transhumanism


The posthuman is still a theoretical concept and something in development. Based in science fiction, transhumanism uses the concept to illustrate a potential cyborg future. Because no one knows what will be contained in the posthuman future and the extent of human enhancement and augmentation will have on humans, it is open to different interpretations, with plenty of opportunity for theory crafting and myth-making [3]. Transhumanism offers the actual transitioning of human nature while engaging ethics and politics. It is suggested that where posthumans are headed might be irrelevant in that they may be both existent and mythic as humanity diversifies, and could further mean that the notion of posthuman is merely a metaphorical landing pad, no matter what transitional stages lead to transformations of consciousness [3].

Aside from current technologies that are pushing toward transhumanism, there are other emerging technologies that will affect the future of humanity. Technologies in development such as biotechnology, genomics, nanotechnology, materials science, artificial intelligence, computational logic, speed, and cognitive neuroscience, especially when convergent, will have a tremendous potential to impact the future of humanity [2]. Scientists are now converging technologies instead of developing and researching them separately to test compatibility. Technological convergence has the potential to fill basic human needs and improve the human quality of life, but it also raises serious concerns in the field of human, national, environmental, transnational and transcultural security [2]. With the rise of these emerging technology, a central issue will be concerning the safety of those who do not access to them and regulations regarding equality and distribution of these technology. These technology will be scarce and limited by the wealthy, so it will be likely that there will be government intervention.

Political Concerns

Transhumanism has gathered many supporters whom have confidence in technology's potential to perfect the human race. With the potential of human evolution, transhumanism is starting to get involved with politics. Transhumanist politics constitute a political ideology that expresses the belief in technology's potential to perfect the individual [4]. The transhumanist movement includes opposing perspectives on the main issue of regulating this technology. In October 2014, Zoltan Istvan, a futurist, philosopher, and transhumanist, announced his intent to runt for U.S. President in 2016 under the Transhumanist Party [5]. In his running to become a candidate, he stated that his goals would be to support scientists in "overcoming human death and aging within 15-20 years", to encourage Americans to embrace "radical technology and science", and to set up safeguards against dangers including potential abuse of such technology [5]. Zoltan Istvan claims that the transhumanism movement aims to improve humanity with technology and science such as introducing life extension and human enhancement into the mainstream as examples of transhumanists' ideas [4].

Transhumanist, futurist, and philosopher, Zoltan Istvan

In March 2015, Istvan reported progress in organizing a campaign, and explained his wish to get major candidates to address issues. He hopes to be included in some debates, at least with third parties. He himself had funded nearly all of his campaign's expenses to date, however, and he noted donations are needed in order to gain more awareness for the transhumanist party [5]. Istvan's campaign recently received attention from the media in the summer of 2015 when he drove a bus shaped like a coffin called the "Immortality Bus". This was driven to Washington, D.C and was toured to raise awareness of biological immortality [4]. Current political concerns are that transhumanism is interfering too much with human nature and that libertarian factions, who are invested in this development, would prefer emerging technologies to have the freedom to develop without government intervention [6]. Also, establishing people's safety and ensuring equal distribution among the population. Such regulating bodies would not only provide a consensual backbone to transhumanism, they would also allow individuals to feel protected from the dangers such advancements presents.

Business Implications

The transhumanist theory aims to control and hopefully eliminate aging in the near future. Many wealthy people today are very interested in their own health, their loved ones health, and the health of their species [7]. Billionaires such as Peter Thiel and Larry Ellison are openly putting money into anti-aging companies [7]. There is very convincing research and data that the human race may end up stopping death in the next few decades. There's also growing confidence that companies can make fortunes in the immortality quest. [7]. In transhumanist thinking, the number one goal has always been to use science and technology to live in optimum health indefinitely. Until recently, transhumanism was seen as something in movies. With big businesses getting involved and supporting longevity science, the conversation of transhumanism, longetivity, and human enhancement is inevitably going to go mainstream.

Transhumanism is booming and big businesses are noticing

Entrepreneurs, venture capital firms, and even business media are taking notice of how new transhumanist-oriented companies are emerging and working to overcome death. The next generation of billionaires is likely to come from the biotech industry due to the amount of investment many billionaires are making toward this industry in search of the answer of longevity [7]. Transhumanism will soon emerge as potentially the most important industry in the world. Big businesses are rushing to hire engineers and scientists who can help usher in brand new health products to accommodate our changing biological selves [7]. More jobs in this industry are likely to be created in the next few decade do the rising demand of this interest. However, with the rising interest and demand, there is a huge concern: The leading transhumanist science and technology is likely to come from large companies and elite universities, many of which are mostly controlled and administered by the uber-rich [7]. As a result, the non uber-rich will question the distribution and regulation of transhumanist technology. Much of the concern comes from who will be able to use this technology and how will it be controlled? As transhumanism starts to become more mainstream in the coming years, this issue will become more relevant and definitely an issue needed to be addressed in order to ensure fairness and safety.

Overcoming Death

With the current amount of research and data regarding anti-aging and transhumanism, the main question at hand is: how are we going to overcome death? The solution has yet to be discovered, however, there are many speculations as to what would be feasible in the next few decades. Inventors like Google's Ray Kurzweil believe it can be done with machines and mind uploading. SENS Chief Scientist and Transhumanist Party Anti-aging Advisor, Dr. Aubrey de Grey, believes it can be done with biology and medicine. Others believe big data can find out the very best ways to achieve better methods for living far longer [7]. Many fall victim to death due to organ failure as a result of old age, however with the rise of 3D Printing, doctors are looking to replace real organs with robotic ones. The National Intelligence Council (NIC) describes how implants, prosthetics, and powered exoskeletons will become regular fixtures of human life — what could result in substantial improvements to innate human capacities. By 2030, predictions are that prosthetics should reach the point where they're just as good — or even better — than organic limbs [8]. In addition, if these technologies are adopted into the mainstream, the elderly will adopt this as a life extension strategy by maintaining youth levels of engagement and energy. In turn, these strategies relieve symptoms of death by extending or prolonging the inevitable.

Ray Kurzweil has become well known for his predictions about artificial intelligence and the human race. As mentioned previously, he believes that humans will be able to overcome death with machines and mind uploading. Below is a list of predictions he has made that will happen by 2029 that will contribute to the transhumanist theory and the concept of overcoming death by these means [9]:

Futurist thinker Ray Kurzweil believes humans can overcome death with machines and mind uploading


  • Computer implants designed for direct connection to the brain are also available. They are capable of augmenting natural senses and of enhancing higher brain functions like memory, learning speed and overall intelligence
  • People with spinal cord injuries can walk and climb steps using computer-controlled nerve stimulation and exoskeletal robotic walkers
  • Computers are also found inside of some humans in the form of cybernetic implants. These are most commonly used by disabled people to regain normal physical faculties (e.g. Retinal implants allow the blind to see and spinal implants coupled with mechanical legs allow the paralyzed to walk)
  • Nanotechnology is more capable and is in use for specialized applications, yet it has not yet made it into the mainstream. "Nanoengineered machines" begin to be used in manufacturing.


Many of Ray Kurzweil's prediction have been accurate and society is coming to a point where computers will soon be smarter than the human brain. Transhumanism will be an interesting movement in the future. According to Ray Kurzweil's conclusions, this will all end with the notion of the rise of Artificial Intelligence and the rise of a 'robot movement', which would need to be regulated [9]. Also with the notion of the human brain being reverse engineered, it is likely that transhumanism will be adopted into the mainstream sooner rather later.

Additional Talks

Defcon 20 - Hacking Humanity: Human Augmentation

A Talk on Human Augmentation from the World's Best Hacker's and experimental Researcher's

Deconstructing the Brain

Ted Talk: Get ready for Hybrid Thinking

Further Readings

Book: Tommorowland by Stephen Kotler

References

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