“The greatest industry of the 21st Century will probably be to upgrade human beings” – Yuval Harari, author of “Homo Deus”.
Here’s how science and technology are upgrading humanity.
By Michael Megarit
Here’s How Science and Technology are Upgrading Humanity
Imagine being able to modify your DNA to prevent disease-causing mutations or having a chip implanted into your skull allowing you to access the internet and communicate telepathically.
It sounds insane, but these scenarios are becoming a reality.
That’s right: scientists are researching ways to ‘upgrade’ humanity by enhancing our cognitive and physical abilities, extending life expectancy and, ultimately, enabling us to control our own evolution.
As it stands, the upgrading of humanity will follow any of three paths: biological engineering, cyborg engineering and the engineering of non-organic beings.
Let’s explore each one of these in detail.
1 – Biological Engineering is Upgrading Humanity
The first way to upgrade humanity is through Biological Engineering.
Biological Engineering is a field of study that applies engineering principles to biological systems in order to enhance their natural biological processes.
By analyzing molecular and genetic structures, scientists can control, modify and improve them. For example, a team of researchers studying gene sequencing successfully used embryos to modify DNA and prevent disease-causing mutations.
This is a major breakthrough.
Indeed, not only does it mean we can modify our DNA to prevent illness; it also opens up the possibility of modifying our DNA in a number of ways.
In agriculture, scientists are able to transfer genes across species to create Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), such as fatter, juicier breeds of tomatoes and corn that grow faster with less water.
If scientists can transfer genes across vegetable species, what is stopping them from doing the same thing with humans? Can we ‘upgrade’ someone by transferring someone else’s genes into their DNA? Is it possible to go one step further and transfer animal genes into human genes?
These scenarios are all being studied and some could materialize in the coming years.
2 – Cyborg Engineering
The second way to upgrade humanity is through Cyborg Engineering.
A cyborg is an organic being that uses biomechanic or electronic parts integrated with its biological ones. In short, a cyborg is anything that is part biological and part machine. For example, someone with a pacemaker or an artificial leg is technically considered a cyborg.
However, the cyborg revolution has greater ambition than replacing body parts: it aims to extend natural abilities well beyond normal human limitations.
For example, Tesla-founder Elon Musk claims that humans must augment their capabilities through a “merger of biological intelligence and machine intelligence” to stay relevant in the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI). He believes that creating a brain-computer interface is best way to do this.
This would allow humans to communicate complex ideas telepathically and give them additional cognitive and sensory abilities. Musk’s company Neurolink is working on injectable mesh-like ‘neural laces’ that can be implanted into your brain to give it digital computing capabilities.
This means you won’t have to type your ideas or speak them – they’ll be instantly transmitted to other people via electromagnetic frequencies.
Although still in its infancy, the cyborg revolution will ultimately create a class of virtually all-knowing and perfectly healthy “superhumans”.
3 – Engineering non-organic beings
The third way to upgrade humanity is by engineering non-organic beings.
Imagine 100% non-organic being that can evolve, develop and learn independently.
Is it human?
Deep Learning is a field of AI that designs intelligent machines capable of learning on their own, without human intervention. While these machines learn independently, they are limited to performing specific tasks; they do not evolve beyond what they were programmed to do.
The next logical step of AI development is designing machines that able to learn and evolve on their own.
Believe it or not, these artificial intelligent beings are currently being developed.
In 2005, a team of computer scientists launched the Blue Brain Project, an ambitious endeavor which seeks to replicate the human brain inside a computer. To do this, they program a complex system of Artificial Neural Networks to reproduce the brain’s architecture and mimic its flexibility and computational power.
The goal of is to create a “supercomputer” than can think and act like a human being.
If the project is successful, can we consider this non-organic being a real life form? Or is it merely sophisticated software? Should we feel guilty about turning the machine off and effectively “killing” it? Or is it the same thing as uninstalling a piece of software?
For the time being, the Blue Brain Project has not achieved its goal of creating a perfectly human-like computer. However, it is beyond doubt that non-organic beings will become a reality in the not so distant future.
What are the Social Implications of Upgrading Humanity?
The main criticism aimed at the attempt to upgrade humanity is that it will generate a new form of inequality: biological inequality.
Indeed, access to this technology will be costly and only the elites will be able to benefit from it.
This means there will be one class of ‘upgraded’ humans with perfect health and superhuman abilities and another class of ‘normal’ humans with a regular lifespan and normal abilities.
Is this ethical? Who will regulate access to this technology? Will it eventually become accessible for all or will it be used to gain power and dominate people?
For now, nobody knows the answers to these questions.
However, one thing is certain: the search to upgrade humanity is on.
About the Author
Michael Megarit is a partner with Cebron Group.
With over 25 years of domestic and international corporate finance experience,
he provides M&A and capital advisory to high-growth technology companies.