In the classic 1989 movie Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, Jones is on a quest to find the Holy Grail, a cup with miraculous power that if you drink water from the chalice and it will grant you the power of immortality.
The movie ends with the hero picking up the right cup and healing his wounded father and off he goes for another quest.
While the knights from history are known to have perished in their long and arduous journey to locate the Holy Grail, researchers circa 2019 are looking at artificial intelligence and its various subsets to grant humanity the power of immortality.
What is Transhumanism?
With precision medicine using AI and machine learning are gaining momentum steadily, more and more lives are now being saved even before the symptoms of a particular disease arise. AI and ML with their capability to identify patterns and make accurate predictions are now being used by medical practitioners widely.
But, humans beings will never be okay with a year or two longer, we with our advanced brain and technological capabilities wants to live longer. Researchers and activists are now pitching for what is called transhumanism, an augmented version of humans that want to rely on technology to tweak the existing human condition to achieve higher-level of intelligence and physiology.
Though this version of human are to be designed and might sound like we have bought ourselves the one-way ticket to our doom, even scarier part is the staunch belief of trans humanist philosophers in the ability of the technology to eradicate disease, poverty and even natural calamities
The acclaimed Irish author Mark O’Connell in his book To Be a Machine, sums up the vision of transhumanist, “It is their belief that we can and should eradicate ageing as a cause of death; that we can and should use technology to augment our bodies and our minds; that we can and should merge with machines, remaking ourselves, finally, in the image of our own higher ideals.”
How Is AI Aiding This Process?
The advancement in the field of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science will greatly towards this goal as envisioned by the Transhumanist.
With existing tools like gene editing and engineering along with AI, human researchers believe that human can be easily augmented. Nanobots can be released into our bloodstream to control and monitor our emotions and activate feeling as we please, writes a researcher in an article.
In a recently concluded summit in Spain, experts from various fields debated the need for Transhumanism at the wake of increasing automation and advancement in the field of AI and ML.
For the session, one of the researchers predicted that AI will soon have the capability to make humans live forever, notes a leading website.
Another concept that was discussed was the ability of the human to be present virtually forever by downloading the brain of the person and storing the information it contains digitally.
Elaborating more on the concept, Stephen Dunne, a digital therapeutics and panellist said, “If we do invent artificial general intelligence, it might figure out all we need to know about the brain to do this within the next 30 years.”
Organisations like Humanity+ have been set up exclusively for promoting transhumanism and it claims that it has 6000 followers across 100 counties,”We aim to deeply influence a new generation of thinkers who dare to envision humanity’s next steps. Our programs combine unique insights into the development of emerging and speculative technologies that focus on the well-being of our species and the changes that we are and will be facing,” reads the objective of the organisation.
In their H+ Magazine, which observes the development in science and technology which could have a significant bearing on transhumanism, Ben Goertzel, founder and CEO of SingularityNET, writes that brain-computer interfacing (BCI) can significantly help in augmenting humans.
This he says is achievable by understanding the electrochemical signals by which our brains encode thoughts and feelings and by applying statistics and AI tools to comprehend complex data.
Goertzel further states that another big possibility for BCI is telepathy chips- a neural implant that helps users to project emotions and thoughts onto others and receive the same from them. All these developments can further lead to a new form of intelligence called mindplexes — which he describes as “ independent human minds, yet also possessing a coherent self and consciousness at the higher level of the telepathically-interlinked human group.”
According to Goertzel, AI can play a vital role in developing mind plexes by reading from telepathy chips and projecting original ideas conceived by the AIs, which the system believed will benefit humans.
“Humans who reject telepathic interplay with AIs could be at a significant disadvantage both socially and economically. Nearly any job requiring insight and creativity would benefit from a stream of “push technology” input from a savvy AI,” he writes.
Though scientists and researchers are taking a step at a time to tweak human intelligence and anatomy, we have come a long way in our search for immortality and the Holy Grail.
Despite the staunch believers of the supporters of transhumanism in helping humanity at a large scale, opponents of the movement believe that it is the largest threat to humanity
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Akshaya Asokan works as a Technology Journalist at Analytics India Magazine. She has previously worked with IDG Media and The New Indian Express. When not writing, she can be seen either reading or staring at a flower.