We can change our own biology. But is society ready for this?

Improvement of our own biology may seem like something from the category of science fiction, but attempts to improve humanity, in fact, were made thousands of years ago. Every day we improve ourselves with painstaking exercises, meditation or taking energetics, for example, coffee or popular nootropics among students. At the same time, the tools with which we improve our biology are improving, becoming more and more invasive and effective.

Over the past ten to twenty years, we have developed many powerful techniques, such as genetic engineering and neurocomputer interfaces, which redefine our humanity. In the short term such methods of improvement will find application in medicine and will become a cure for a variety of diseases and ailments. In addition to this, in the coming decades they can allow us to improve our own physical abilities or even digitize human consciousness.

What’s new?

Many futurists claim that our devices, such as smartphones, have already to some extent become a continuation of our cerebral cortex and an abstract form of improvement. According to philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers, we use technology to expand the boundaries of human consciousness beyond the skulls.

It can be argued that access to a smartphone enhances a person’s cognitive abilities and is an indirect form of self-improvement. You can treat it as an abstract form of the neurocomputer interface. In addition, wearable devices and computers are available on the market, and people – for example, athletes – use them to improve their progress.

However, these interfaces become less abstract.

Not so long ago, Ilon Mask announced the creation of a new company Neuralink, whose goal will be the fusion of the human mind with artificial intelligence. Over the past few years, in the field of hardware and software of the neurocomputer interfaces, there have been striking changes. Specialists design new electrodes and program the best algorithms for interpreting neural signals. Scientists have already managed to give paralyzed patients the opportunity to type the text with the power of thought and even communicate the thought of one brain to another using only brain waves.

Ethical issues of improvement

Of course, such improvements have many social and ethical consequences.

One of the most fundamental problems of cognitive and physical improvement is that they come into conflict with the very definition of the merits and successes that society has relied upon for millennia. Many forms of performance-enhancing drugs have been considered and are considered taboo.

Perhaps we should reconsider our attitude to such things.

For example, we used to evaluate hard work and talent properly, so that a person worked in a certain way and earned his reward. If you are talented and successful, this is usually due to the fact that you worked hard and tried not to miss the opportunity when it appeared. But according to such standards, how many achievements can we really consider to be honest?

For example, a genetic lottery can have a huge impact on a person’s predisposition and personality, which in turn can affect factors such as motivation, reasoning and other mental abilities. Many people are born with natural skills or physical abilities that give them advantages in a certain field or give them the opportunity to learn quickly. But how honest will a person’s outstanding work be judged if most of the genes are made?

In addition, there are already many ways in which we use “short strokes” to improve mental performance. It would seem that ordinary habits or actions – coffee, meditation, gymnastics or sleep – in fact significantly increase productivity in any area and are quite normally perceived by society. Even a language can have a positive physical and psychological impact on the human brain. Let us also not forget that some of us are born with greater access to literacy development than others.

Given all these reasons, it can be argued that cognitive abilities and talents now derive more from uncontrolled factors and luck than we would like to acknowledge. In any case, neurocomputer interfaces can increase individual autonomy and enable the choice of abilities.

As Karim Jebari points out, if a certain characteristic or feature is required to perform a certain role, and a person does not have this feature, would it be wrong to implement this feature through neurocomputer interfaces or genetic engineering? How will this differ from any traditional form of learning and skill acquisition? This will remove the limitations of the individual, which arose involuntarily, for example, due to biological factors (or even traumatic experience).

Another important ethical issue is equality. As with any other new technology, there are strong concerns that cognitive improvement technologies will benefit only the rich, thereby exacerbating existing inequalities. It is here that public policies and regulations can play a key role in the impact of technology on society.

Technology improvement can either add inequalities, or help us solve this issue altogether. Education and assistance for the countries of the third world will proceed at an accelerated pace, helping in general human progress. Change in the “normal range” of human abilities and intelligence can significantly change the movement toward positive trends.

Many also express concerns about the negative uses of biological improvements by governments, including eugenics and the creation of a super-soldier. Security issues will always be, especially in the early stages of experimenting with methods of improvement.

Neurocomputer interfaces, for example, can influence autonomy. Such an interface uses information extracted from the brain to stimulate or modify systems to achieve certain goals. This part of the process can be strengthened by introducing an artificial intelligence system into an interface that will allow a third party to potentially manipulate the habits, emotions and desires of a person through manipulation with the interface.

The key to transcendence

It is important to discuss these risks without giving up technology, and gradually move forward, minimizing harm and optimizing the benefits.

Stephen Hawking notes that “with the help of genetic engineering we will be able to increase the complexity of our DNA and improve the human race.” The potential benefits of biological modifications are unquestionably revolutionary. Doctors will have access to a powerful tool to fight disease, which will allow us to live longer and healthier. We could extend our lives and solve the problem of aging by taking an important step towards becoming a cosmic species. We can begin to modify the bricks of the brain to become a more intelligent species capable of solving great problems.

Perhaps evolution in the future will no longer be conditioned by natural processes. It will be conditioned by human choice and non-random mutations. Improving man will allow us to take control of evolution and shape the future of our species.Tell us in our telegram channel, how do you feel about this?

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