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David Underwood

 

 

Since the dawn of the Human Being, Man has skewed survivalism in his favour, via the use of intellect and/or tools. To date, mankind has been effectively dominating nature and other beasts using the power of tools to overcome humans' inherent physical weaknesses. A modern phenomenon of linking or syncing these said tools with the human physique (and psyche) has transpired into a movement (albeit essentially for the elite, as the vast majority of people will not be able to afford such things). As defined in Wikipedia:  

 

'Transhumanism is an international and intellectual movement that aims to transform the human condition by developing and creating widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. Transhumanist thinkers study the potential benefits and dangers of emerging technologies that could overcome fundamental human limitations, as well as the ethics of using such technologies. The most common thesis is that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into different beings with abilities so greatly expanded from the natural condition as to merit the label of posthuman beings.'  

 

It drives the point home when, as of 15/04/2016, on the RSS feed from the MIT Technology Review website, 3 out of 5 of the headlines are related to transhumanism. This shows that the brainscape is certainly concentrating on this topic, for better or for worse.   

 

 

Pharmaceuticals  

 

Transhumanism is very much within the field of big pharma, so it isn't surprising that the 500 pound gorilla of the pharmaceutical industry, GlaxoSmithKline (from here on known as GSK) is concentrating on this field, termed by GSK as BioElectronics, with cerebral time and money. As explained on their website:  

 

'We describe the research we’re doing in bioelectronics as like learning a new language – the electrical language of the body. Through learning to read and write the electrical signals that travel between the brain and the body’s organs, we believe we can open up a whole new frontier in treating disease. It may sound like science fiction, but we’re edging closer to a future where precision electronic therapies sit alongside the medicines and vaccines we use today.'  

 

GSK seems to be concentrating on the medical aspects of the transhumanist movement, but that is only what is portrayed publicly. Assuredly, what they have cooked up in their skunk works would probably be at least 10 years more advanced. In researching for this subject, this author came across this website which gives a few medical examples of the present and future use of transhumanistic technology. Strangely, the name of the organization is presently more well known as an extremist terrorist organization! Some of the examples given:  

 

- Jerry Lewis (the comedian) given a permanently implanted neuro-stimulation device to alleviate his back pain.

- BrainGate, a brain implant which interfaces with electronics, helps a 25 year old quadriplegic to check his emails and play computer games by just thinking.

- Four people put on an electrode-studded "thinking cap" and were able to control a computer with their thoughts.

- In 2004, Applied Digital Solutions in Delray Beach, developers of VeriChip, got the green light to implant a chip in a person's arms that can give instant access to the individual's medical records.   

 

 

This is present day technology, not something from the distant future. Note that the website article was dated 2004. Undoubtedly, ethical questions were raised about this Big Brother technology. As quoted directly from the article:  

 

'But brain-computer interface raises new concerns. Could employers or government agents or the police make people wear thinking caps while being interviewed so their very thoughts could be revealed? Could a disloyal, thought about one's boss cost a job? And further down the line, could a death wish, be literally used to kill people you don,t like? Could an evil warlord set off an atomic missile attack just by thinking? Or enslave the entire world via the internet, when people could be tagged and implanted with nano-devices without their knowledge?'  

 

'But critics point out that tagged bracelets or cards carrying medical information are just as effective as an implanted chip. They warn that the chips might be used to compulsorily tag and track prisoners, or even foreigners visiting a country in the name of fighting terrorism. (Some of us have had our fingerprints and iris patterns recorded at immigration visiting the United States recently.) "They've crossed a line by placing it under people's skin," says Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a civil liberties group in Washington DC.'  

 

Of great concern, that bastion of Human Rights and the Right to Privacy, the UK Government (sarcasm), actually intended to implant prisoners in 2008, going as far as trials with VeriChip. Another company plans deeper implants that could vibrate, electroshock the implantee, broadcast a message, or serve as a microphone to transmit conversations. As succinctly stated by consumer privacy expert Liz McIntyre, "Some folks might foolishly discount all of these downsides and futuristic nightmares since the tagging is proposed for criminals like rapists and murderers. The rest of us could be next."  

 

Bionic Prosthetics  

 

In the closing scene of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker is shown with a medical droid testing his new prosthetic hand, as at some part of the movie, Darth Vader, his father, lopped his hand off with a light sabre. This film was released in 1980, which means that circa 2016, this technology SHOULD have become common place, what with continuous warring in the Middle East and soldiers getting limbs blown off. Well, although not as advanced as one would like, bionic prosthetics has progressed towards practical solutions and implementations.   In September 2013, Touch Bionics released the i-limb. Touch Bionics  have developed functioning prototypes of artificial organs that can take the place of one’s spleen, pancreas or lungs. And an experimental implant that wires the brain to a computer holds the promise of giving quadriplegics control over artificial limbs. At the time, the University of Zurich had been gathering prosthetic limbs and artificial organs from around the world to be assembled into a single, artificial structure named the Bionic Man. Yes the Robo-Apocalypse is nigh!  

 

Exoskeletons 

 

From the Powered Exoskeleton Wikipedia page:  

 

'A powered exoskeleton (also known as powered armor, exoframe, hardsuit or exosuit) is a wearable mobile machine that is powered by a system of motors, pneumatics, levers or hydraulics that allow for limb movement, increased strength and endurance.'  

 

Exoskeletons have been a mainstay of comic book heroes since the early 1900s (arguably Batman comics since 1939). Apart from firing the imaginations of youngsters and propelling them into the sciences to oversee the developments of these imaginary hero outfits, comic books provide a template for future society, dictated by the social chaos that usually surrounds these heroes. Gotham city, apparently needs a 'hero' as do large metropolitan areas around the real world. As to who the heroes are or will be, is determined by the amount of chaos that can be constructed. The 9/11 incident and subsequent invasion of Iraq propelled the US government into 'hero' territory, enabling the leaders to justify their profligate warmongering and spiralling debt. The more up to date exoskeleton example belongs to Iron Man, to which modern researchers aspire to.  

 

ESKO Bionics provides a robotic exoskeleton (EksoGT) for use with patients suffering strokes or spinal cord injuries below Cervical Vertebra C7. Their devices can help stroke patients during rehabilitation learn to walk again and provide those with spinal cord injuries the chance to stand and walk. EKSO Bionics also make products that support and protect industrial and construction workers. These devices are probably the most practical use of exoskeletons for the general public, though presumably, they cost an arm and a leg (pun intended). So who potentially can benefit from them? The insanely rich and or the heavily insured. Which brings us back to the point that transhumanism in its public application is largely reserved for the 'haves' of the world. The flip side to this is that the general public can also be used to pay for and trial its development, which can then be used within the context of the Military Industrial Complex (war).  

 

Is it any wonder that Tony Stark's Iron Man suit was developed as a consequence of war?  

 

 

Transhumanism: The End Goal 

 

Any student of modern technocracy will conclude that tools to enhance the human capability will ultimately be competed for, resulting in a 'haves' and 'have nots' disconnect, one side wishing to be the other and the other side working hard to prevent themselves from being the 'have nots'. Transhumanism and social justice do not mix, and electronics cannot be construed to result in the betterment of mankind as a whole. This is this authors opinion but a more detailed argument for transhumanism can be found here.

 

Creative Commons Licence

Blood and Chips - A Review Of The Transhumanist Movement by David Underwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International LicensePermissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Life Science Power.

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