(This commentary is Copyright 2014 by protonius.wordpress.com.)
(Dateline: Planet Earth, 07/18/2014) —
HUMANITY, uncertain yet hopeful, being prodded by a complex of furtive forces from behind while being lured forward by thoughts of technological enchantments ahead, is already dipping its toe over the precipice, and hoping — on faith, hubris, ignorance, or deception — that instead of this step leading to a terrifying plummet toward a dark and foreboding oblivion, the marvels of technology will materialize a magnificent life-saving bridge beneath the strider’s feet, and that the future, toward which the strider is ever-more rapidly striding, will be glorious.
But glorious, in the usually hoped-for sense of the word?
Or “glorious” in the way that the future of the “civilized world” was predicted to soon become, via the marvels of technology, as envisioned in the World’s Fair of 1939 — just as the horrors of World War II were instead about to dawn?
Ah, but a bridge of technological marvels: wouldn’t that be a saviour to the future of Humankind?
Or would it?
And what might happen if no such bridge appears?
Would there perhaps be an errant sapling branch, or a jutting rock-ledge, or a miraculously-appearing “safety-net” — comprised of some other “new technology” — reaching out from the cliff’s craggy slopes to rescue the faller and save Humanity from a disaster of Humanity’s own making?
It would seem that a carefully wrought, journey across that bridge could indeed lead to the development of wondrous technological advances meant to serve the needs of Humanity.
But is it possible that this journey may also bring something else — something technologically terrifying — to life?
After all, it’s not as though such a possibility is something new. Rather, it’s happened before — many, many, times before.
Consider one such example that ought to resonate with everyone on Planet Earth: the threat of human extinction, whether via global pandemic, global biological warfare, or via the planet-encompassing ravages of a global nuclear war:
And what, if again faced with the threat of such an eventuality, should Humanity do then, to save itself?
In the 13th Century, St. Thomas Aquinas crafted a learned treatise that explored the question of how many angels could dance on the head of a pin — an issue that was considered to have great meaning for Humanity’s place in the scheme of things.
Today, or perhaps at some point in the not too distant future, and hopefully with just a bit more of what we consider as “science” on our side, |Humanity may well be faced with a similar dilemma:
Whether as a consequence of “happenstance” or of our own doing, we may be faced with the urgency of answering this riddle:
How many humans will be able to escape Planet Earth — and be able to escape while escaping is still possible — to survive and thrive elsewhere?
And in such a situation, to what degree will technology — or the issues of who holds technology’s reins and of how well or poorly the technology is understood — be the deciding factor in Humanity’s fate?
Too, the potential benefits of tapping into “atomic energy”, such as for power-plants or for the use of radioactive isotopes in medical studies and cancer-treatments, have generally been seen as holding great promise “for the benefit of all mankind”.
Yet, clearly, there has also developed along with the probing of the atom’s energetic core a monstrous, potentially life-threatening, danger:
As with the Cold War threat of widespread destruction, even human extinction, via nuclear war — or, perhaps, even via the potential and actual dangers of a Chernobyl or a Fukushima or of hundreds of nukes falling into the hands of murderous terrorists — one need only look at how these and related technology-based situations have altered the fabric of our lives and, in many cases, opened the door to an uncomfortable truth: that positive, uplifting, beneficial-to-Humanity discoveries emerging from technology may also have a flip-side — one that may well be employed, by accident or intention, to threaten the survival of all Humankind.
True, without much of what we call “modern technology”, we would probably be living before the Stone Age — not in it, because the use of stones in those times was considered (but not in so many words) high-tech, and our lives would have been brutal, loaded with illnesses, hardships, and suffering, and short. So please understand that I am NOT railing against technology or efforts to “push the envelope” to new and exciting heights. What I AM trying to illuminate is the potential danger to Humanity as whole if requisite caution is NOT employed in those efforts along the way.
For example, consider the positive potentials — and also the potential dangers — that may yet emerge from the ambitious research that is currently underway in such areas as:
— the development of autonomous, i.e., self-controlled, decision-making, military robots and missile-firing drones. (NOTE: Want to gain a deeper insight into what this expansion of “drone” technology may mean to us all? See my commentary titled “Of Drones, Terrorism, Freedom — And Lazarus“, at this URL:
— the laboratory-generated creation of new, virulent, and deadly, species of viral and bacterial life-forms; think of the potentials of these developments helping scientists create more effective “biological shields” against terrible diseases — but consider too what the accidental or intentional release, into the human environment, of such organisms as these, may do to the human race: think SARS, think N1H1, think MERS, think Dengue, think Ebola, think fear, think manipulation, think “Pandemic”;
— the laboratory-generated designing and structuring of new forms and qualities of DNA, a process commonly known as “genetic manipulation” and “genetic engineering” — a process whose impact may be both negative and positive and which has been generating tremendous controversy, both in the U.S. and abroad, as to the underlying motivations behind these developments and as to these developments’ impacts on agriculture, livestock, human health and survival, and on the human genome itself;
— developments in biocybernetics and brain-biochip-implantation, including, in part, the bioelectronic melding of (and perhaps alteration of and control of) a person’s “consciousness” with implanted or external computer-linked systems and networks; imagine, too, not only the personal and societal implications of technologies that allow a person’s “consciousness” to leave the biological body and take up residence in a distributed computer-system — but imagine also the question of which persons, which sectors of society, might be allowed that possibility and for whom that possibility might be refused;
— the projected design, construction, and injection, of microscopic psychology-physiology-altering nanobots into a recipient’s bloodstream, the nanobots allegedly being intended for purposes of improving the recipient’s health — but some observers wonder if, in some cases, there might be other intentions or unintended outcomes involved;
— and more:
All these developments stand to transmogrify what, at the journey’s start, was “today’s” version of Humanity (as we currently identify it), into something significantly different, even as the journey is yet underway: into a species of living beings — unless extinction intervenes — that are no longer what we, today, might classify as being exclusively — or perhaps even recognizably — “Human”.
These are legitimate concerns, because, in government, corporate, and academic science laboratories, this transmogrification process has already begun.
But there’s more:
What if the journey so transforms Humanity that, due to the process itself — as well as due to the economic, societal, cultural, corporate, national, international, military, political, and other “special interest”, forces behind the process — the Transmogrified become, by the very nature of the Transmogrification, the ultimate mind-controlled slaves in an absolute and possibly unbreakable master-slave relationship?
In such a scenario — which is no longer limited to the realm of “science fiction” — the following truly foundational issues arise and cry out for answers:
What roles would a person’s ability — or inability — to access and process information, such as via a brain-link to storehouses of digital knowledge and rapidly-provided calculations — or even to be digitally approved for a given process — play a role in that person’s position in society or even in that person’s ability to survive?
As a direct or indirect consequence of what these new technologies come to be and as a consequence of how these new technologies may be applied, who of these future categories of human beings — current Humanity’s descendants — may be the slaves, and who may be the masters?
And who, or what forces, should have the right — or the power — to make that determination?
And what if, as some observers are asserting is the case in regard to the application of some technologies, the “Plan” is to use those technologies to bring Earth’s human population — which now numbers in the 7-billion range — down to a “more manageable” number: 500,000?
And is any of this the path that Humanity, which, for whatever the reasons, should — at least at this stage — inadvertently allow to happen or intentionally seek to take?
And, ultimately, this question:
These, in my view, are incredibly important issues that, even within the next few years, appear to be destined to gain an even more powerful — and well-founded — sense of urgency — IF the “powers-that-be” allow it — because these issues impinge directly on how the advance of a range of technologies, and the motivations of the forces behind developing and applying them, are leading to a major transformation of our future — and to a fantastic, and concerning, and yet-to-be-fully-comprehended, TRANSMOGRIFICATION of the Human Race.
And THAT, in my view, should concern us all.
I rest my case! …
… but only for the moment!
— Protonius (my pen-name).
ADDENDUM: I’ve also researched and written on this topic elsewhere — but the for moment I’ll just note, for those who are interested, that I found a very informative current article (not written by me) about how a number of these various Humanity-transformative technologies are progressing, that I think you might like to read; make of its findings what you will. The URL is: http://tinyurl.com/m3lhhmu
At that site, I also added a comment on these points; I herewith reproduce that comment (with some revisions) below. Hopefully it can offer some additional insights as to this issue of where an incautious pursuit of various transformative technologies may, in my view, possibly be leading us:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> (THAT COMMENT:)<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
These (Note the use of the plural) diverse and multifaceted tech-developments, according to my understanding of the trends involved, are not only are being conceptualized and pursued by diverse sources with diverse interests -– and progressing forward at an increasingly rapid rate –but the potential application of these technologies also portend whatever impacts their designers and implementers want (or don’t want) them to produce.
And what THOSE eventualities may encompass is anybody’s guess.
But this issue, of how any particular technological development might be employed – such as “for good” or “for evil”, and including the issues of whether or not the actual impact is “intended” or “accidental” – has probably been with Humanity ever since our progenitors were able to make conscious choices.
However, in my view, what is different in the current instance, by orders of magnitude, is that what is being predicted here is not just a question of the survival or extinction of all Earth-based Humanity in Humanity’s current form – an issue which has been with us since the start of “Atomic Era” and global concerns over the threat of chemical-biological warfare.
What is new is that these projected trends, in the design and application of implantable “brain-chips”, injectable “nanobots”, the projected ability to upload a person’s very “consciousness” into digital networks and systems, to add an ever-expanding capacity to transform humans into biocybernetic organisms, and the like (because, of course, there’s so much more to come), stand to massively TRANSMOGRIFY – whether for “good” or for “evil” – the very structure, design, capabilities, survivability, destiny, and identity, of Humanity itself.
Decades ago, I attended a high-level science conference at which one of the speakers warned that some of these developments – such as the “computerization” of the human brain, replete with implants to allegedly expand the implantee’s access to (or subservience to or control by) a vast array of informational and decision-making resources – were already on the way. He specifically warned of, in his view, the tremendous DANGERS of letting these trends develop without Humanity FIRST EXTENSIVELY EXPLORING AND BUILDING SAFEGUARDS into how these technologies should – or should not – be allowed to be applied.
Yet here we are today, edging ever more rapidly toward the possibility of a technological “Nirvana” – after all, for example, some “direct-brain-stimulation” “brain-chip implant technologies” are already offering the promise of tremendous physical relief to some Parkinson’s patients, and there is research underway to evaluate the use of such implants in persons suffering from Epilepsy.
But, at the same time, we have also entered a potentially frightening age – which some observers say is “only the beginning” – in which certain elements, utilizing the leading-edge of various technologies, are reportedly aiming at – and achieving a substantial level of effectiveness at – attaining “total awareness” of every living Human’s digital (or otherwise identifiable) personal information, for purposes that are under debate.
I.e., “security” – and of what or of whom?
Control – and of what or of whom?
And a subset of those two parameters:
“manipulation” – and of what or of whom”?
Control the information, and thus control the views of the recipient of that information.
Control the processes by which a person’s mind/brain functions, and thus potentially control the person’s decision-making processes and other psychological/physiological functions.
Control the psychophysiological structure and design of the person, and thus control … Well, maybe you get the idea.
Cure illnesses, generate previously undreamed of physical and psychological capabilities, upload consciousness into external systems for longevity and processing, create potentially endless life-spans, bring a new “Nirvana”, to those who are thusly Transmogrified — or, via those same systems, deliver the Transmogrified to a new and frightening version of “Hell”. Which shall it be?
So as Humanity, such as it currently identifies itself, juggernauts ever more rapidly toward generating, “sophisticating”, and implementing these Human-transformative technologies — and as the forces that are empowering these transformative developments may have their OWN motivations in mind — how can we Humans be certain – if at all – that these developments are 100 percent “for our benefit” as WE define “for our benefit”?
Is that which is currently being called “Transcendence” – i.e., the predicted outcome of the design and application of these and other technologies that may forever alter the identity of the Human Race – something that we, “The People”, should all rush to embrace?
Or is the truth of the matter more close, perhaps, to the views held by the fictional Chief Scientist in the original film “Planet of the Apes”, “Dr. Zaius”?
When asked what Astronaut Taylor – who had escaped and was riding into the distance – would find, Dr. Zaius grimly replied with two simple but hugely portentous words: