Your smartphone (connected to the internet) is your external brain. Someday it will be embedded in your internal brain and the line between digital and biological will disappear. When this happens, your privacy, already mostly gone (unless you are a total luddite), will completely disappear.
It is clear that the trajectory of computing technology has brain implants as the end game. Here is a brief history of computer technology by physical proximity:
- 60s: Massive mainframes in large institutions (far from the public)
- 70s: Medium mainframes in large and medium sized institutions (may use one at work via terminal)
- 80s: Home /desktop computers (one per household)
- 90s: Laptop computers (one per person)
- 00s: Pocket computers / smart phones (always with you)
- 10s: Wearable like Google Glass (part of your apparel)
- 20s: Implanted (part of your body)
As usual, technology rushes ahead while society takes a while to adjust with the younger generation embracing the new advances fastest.
What are the pros and cons of this? Here are my lists.
- Instant access to any and all information
- Ability to “telepathically” communicate with anyone
- Ability to “cure” the blind, deaf, mute, paralyzed, etc.
- Lucid dreaming for all via virtual reality
- Total destruction of privacy (already a problem)
- People “tuning out” reality (already a problem)
- Haves vs. have-nots (not all will be able to afford)
- Never being able to turn it off
- The likelihood of biological problems (botched operations, cancer from radiation)
But the main culprit, as always, will be the unintended / unforeseen consequences. Any new technology comes with these and the more powerful the tech, the stronger they will be. Only in retrospect will we be able to see what they were.
I like this quote from the Wait but Why guy:
The objectives of transhumanism strike me as the kind of thing a lot of people think is wrong or distasteful or unnatural…until it becomes commonplace. And then people can’t imagine what life was like before and would never want to go back.
I’m always in favor of getting rid of what’s “natural” for something that’s better. Sleeping in caves is natural, and it’s really great that we found a better way. Riding biological horses is how humans got around for along time, and driving cars is a huge upgrade for both the human and the horse. When it comes to the human body, I’m sure a lot more people thought the concept of the organ transplant was terribly unnatural before the technology became possible than they do now. So yeah, let’s go for it. I’m not at all attached to the biological body I was born with if we can find a better way.
That said, at some point you start running into the question “what makes you you?” I’ll upgrade any part of my existence in any way available until it gets to the point where doing so kills me by making me not me anymore. If science can replace my brain with a synthetic brain containing the identical data as my own, with the advantage that it’ll never age, it sounds great—unless I suspect that the new me seems like me and acts like me but I don’t actually have access to that consciousness. When an upgrade gets to the point where it’s essentially creating a synthetic clone of me to take my place in the world—that’s right where my transhumanism ends. The exception might be if I was going to die either way and creating the upgraded no-longer-me clone me can serve people on Earth somehow, like someone creating a clone of themselves so their family doesn’t have to lose them.
We don’t know when an upgrade causes you to cease to exist because there’s no clear answer to what makes you you. But we’re a long way from crossing that bridge, so for now, I’m pro-transhumanism.