In a world of abstractions…

It was in Douglas Rushkoff’s Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus that I first became really aware of how much of an abstraction money is. Just to clarify what ‘abstraction’ is in this context, vegetables, meat, human labour etc all have clear, tangible value. Money is a transactional device with many advantages but it has no inherent value. Its common acceptance is its value. The exercise on 8th November 2016 is a great example to illustrate this –  those pieces of paper we thought were valuable until a minute ago suddenly became worthless. In fact, at one point, there was a chance that after Dec 31st, they would even be harmful!

At some point, I started thinking of abstraction with respect to consciousness. At a very broad level, I think of consciousness as having three basic fluid forces at play – sensations, emotions, and thoughts. We tend to use the adjacent ones (sensation/emotion and emotion/thought) interchangeably but if you think about it, nuances separate them. They all have a role to play, but I also see them as a hierarchy with respect to their influence on consciousness – thoughts at the top. More

The man.. the machine

A while ago, I’d written about my fascination for lifestreaming, and the role it could play in storing our memories and giving it context. In fact memories and the possibility of losing them have always been food for thought for me.  One memory from a long time back, when I was an avid reader of Doctor Who books,  is of one of the Doctor’s villain sets – Cybermen – a fictional race of cyborgs. From Wikipedia

Cybermen were originally a wholly organic species of humanoids originating on Earth’s twin planet Mondas that began to implant more and more artificial parts into their bodies as a means of self-preservation. This led to the race becoming coldly logical and calculating, with emotions usually only shown when naked aggression was called for.

The connection. I saw an article recently on what has been called Homo Evolutis (original video here). Human beings have been the dominant species on the planet for a short while now, and as the author explains, there’s no guarantee that the current situation is a stable one. And in this context is seen the beginnings of speciation, in broad terms the evolution of our own species.

The author talks about three different tracks of speciation -prosthetics (from limbs to hearing aids and beyond), stem cell and tissue engineering (where we are reaching a stage when a single cell can be rebooted back to its original factory settings and can rebuild any part of our body,  and lastly, a track to improve the brain. The author says that the last track will be the slowest to evolve, but the one with the maximum impact.

And these tracks would create a new race or races- in fact a prosthetic body part, a plastic surgery etc are all the common manifestations of this process. As technology becomes more advanced, it will become affordable to a lot more people. From a physical perspective, who wouldn’t like body parts whose wear and tear can be controlled, an end to pain and suffering. And it doesn’t stop there, because we’d like to have the best physical abilities that any species has in terms of moving, seeing, hearing, strength etc. From the mind’s perspective, an organ that could upgrade itself to store more, to experience more, to work faster, to be more accurate. And it doesn’t stop there – reading others’ minds, telepathy…

We will see the beginning of all this in our lifetime. The progress might be slow, so slow that perhaps later generations wouldn’t realise how we’d lived without most of the artificial things that they would be taking for granted. How would this affect the experiences of life that we go through now – joy, sorrow, pain, ecstasy, spirituality?  How long before what we call human would give way to a being that would probably exist forever, possibly without living? Will they even realise it when it happens?

until next time, a man made man….