Future life forms among posthumans by jose luis cordeiro world future society venezuela


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Future Life Forms among Posthumans by Jose Luis Cordeiro World Future Society Venezuela

As we begin to ride the wave into human redesign, the destination is still largely unknown. But despite all the unanswered
questions, we have a number of clues that can help us speculate as to what we truly mean by the posthuman organism - including
the striking acknowledgement that in all likelihood not just one type of posthuman awaits us, but several.
We will re-engineer our biological constitutions, and introduce silicon, steel, and microchips into ourselves. Some may choose
to reside in computers as conscious wave patterns, while others will convert themselves into durable robots and venture out into
space. Simultaneously, we will create entirely new forms of life, including artificial intelligence and perhaps even a global consciousness.
Humanity's monopoly as the only advanced sentient life form on the planet will soon come to an end, supplemented by a
number of posthuman incarnations. Moreover, how we re-engineer ourselves could fundamentally change the ways in which our
society functions, and raise crucial questions about our identities and moral status as human beings.

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Future life forms among posthumans by jose luis cordeiro world future society venezuela

  1. 1. E S S A Y .65Future Life Forms among Posthumans Jose Luis Cordeiro World Future Society Venezuela As we begin to ride the wave into human redesign, the destination is still largely unknown. But despite all the unansweredquestions, we have a number of clues that can help us speculate as to what we truly mean by the posthuman organism - includingthe striking acknowledgement that in all likelihood not just one type of posthuman awaits us, but several. We will re-engineer our biological constitutions, and introduce silicon, steel, and microchips into ourselves. Some may chooseto reside in computers as conscious wave patterns, while others will convert themselves into durable robots and venture out intospace. Simultaneously, we will create entirely new forms of life, including artificial intelligence and perhaps even a global con-sciousness. Humanitys monopoly as the only advanced sentient life form on the planet will soon come to an end, supplemented by anumber of posthuman incarnations. Moreover, how we re-engineer ourselves could fundamentally change the ways in which oursociety functions, and raise crucial questions about our identities and moral status as human beings. Popular culture is abuzz with new terminology. transcendental change has been described by someGenetic engineering. Cyborgs. Artificial intelligence. experts as analogous to when apes evolved into humans.Consciousness (mind) uploading. Nanotechnology.Singularity. Transhumanism. Posthumanism. In particu-larly, the terms "transhuman" and "posthuman" seem to Transhumanismbe gaining more and more currency with each passing As the possibility for conscious human redesign hasyear - especially in the media and academia, and among emerged, so too has a philosophical movement that con-the techno-intelligentsia. siders the implications. This approach to future-oriented Yet, as futurists make these grand prognostications, thinking, known as transhumanism, works on the prem-do we really know whats in store for Homo sapiens? Just ise that the human species does not represent the end ofhow will we "improve" ourselves? What do we really human evolution but, rather, its beginning (see, formean when we refer to the posthuman physical condi- example, www.transhumanism.org). Transhumanism istion? Just what, exactly, is the grand potential for intelli- an interdisciplinary approach to understanding and eval-gent life? What does advanced intelligence look like? uating the possibilities for overcoming biological limita- The world is moving fast towards a fourth wave (fol- tions through scientific progress. Ultimately, transhu-lowing the terminology of US futurist Alvin Toffler) in manists hope to see technological opportunities expand-which humans will become transhumans, and then ed for people, so that they may live longer and healthierposthumans, thanks to the multiple and simultaneous lives and enhance their intellectual, physical and emo-advances of technology. We could redesign ourselves in tional capacities.any number of ways, and we have to examine radical Transhumanism emphasizes that we have thescenarios for the evolution of the human species. Such a potential not just to "be" but to "become." Not only can Journal of Futures Studies, November 2003, 8(2): 65 - 72
  2. 2. Journal of Futures Studies we use rational means to improve the human In the biological sciences, similar achieve- condition and the external world; we can also ments have been made since the discovery of use them to improve ourselves, the human the DNA structure in 1953, including new medi- organism. And we are not limited only to the cines, bioengineering and cloning technologies. methods, such as education, which humanism In 2002 a living creature - polio virus - was (its philosophical precursor) normally espouses. assembled piece by piece with several bio-chem- Rather, transhumanists argue, we will have the icals by US scientists J. Cello, A. Pauli and E. means that will eventually enable us to move Wimmer in the New York State University. beyond what most would describe as human. Cryonics and nanotechnology, for example, were Transhumanists believe that, through the also totally unknown just a few decades ago. accelerating pace of technological development Indeed, many years ago, British scientist and and scientific understanding, we are entering a writer Arthur C. Clarke said that "any sufficiently whole new stage in the history of the sapient advanced technology is undistinguishable from species. Advances in artificial intelligence, robot- magic." ics, bioengineering, cloning, cryonics, nanotech- The pace of change is not only very fast but nology, new energies, mind uploading, dietary it is also accelerating. Some experts like US engi- restriction, "designer babies", cyborgs, molecular neer Ray Kurzweil even talk about a coming "sin- chemistry, telecommunications, space explo- gularity" where artificial intelligence and artificial ration, virtual reality, life extension and immor- life forms will overtake human intelligence and tality will lead to substantial physical and mental human life in the coming decades. Slow biologi- augmentation, possibly converging at a "singular- cal evolution seems to be approaching fast a ity" point. dead end: our species will continue changing but The historical human desire to transcend not through the old and slow biological evolu- bodily and mental limitations is deeply inter- tion but through the new and fast technological twined with a human fascination with new evolution. knowledge, which might be both inspiring and Today many boundaries are blurring. frightening. How these technologies are used Boundaries between birth and death, between could fundamentally change the ways in which virtual and real, between morality and immorali- our society functions, and raises crucial ques- ty, between truth and falsity, between inner and tions about our identities and moral status as outer worlds, between me and "non" me, human beings. between life and "non" life, even between natural and "non" natural. What is life? What is death? What is "non" life? What is natural life? What is Advancing Technologies, Advancing "non" natural life? What is artificial life? Possibilities These are all deep questions for a new deep world of transhumanism and subsequent New developments in science and technol- posthumanism. The answers are complicated ogy are occurring so fast that some might begin and they might be so difficult for us to compre- to overwhelm our capacities to adapt to change. hend as many of our current problems might Personal computers did not exist 30 years ago, seem to monkeys, or even to ants. British writer cell phones did not exist 20 years ago, and the H.G. Wells said it very well about a hundred Internet (actually, the World Wide Web, www) years ago: "all that the human mind has ever did not exist 10 years ago. What will come in the accomplished is but the dream before the awak- next 10 years? And in the next 20 years? And ening." beyond that? The British-born engineer and sci- ence fiction writer Arthur. C. Clarke claimed that: "people tend to overestimate the short term Many New Emerging Species impact of new technologies and to underesti- If we believe that biological evolution has66 mate the long term impact." reached a limit, what will come next? Finnish
  3. 3. Future Life Forms among Posthumansengineer Pentti Malaska tried to answer this the pipeline of evolution. Malaska described twoquestion in 1997 during a speech in Brisbane, major kinds of species (carbon-based humiesAustralia, while he was president of the World and silicon/information-based high techies, as aFutures Studies Federation (WFSF). He talked rough simplification) and four minor kinds ofabout human-made non-human generations in global persona sapiens, as can be seen below: In such a posthuman world beings of other active member of the WFSF, further talks aboutkinds, different from us (bio-orgs of Homo sapi- terrestrial and non terrestrial Forms Of Life (FOL).ens), may well be within the bounds of human Wildman uses the concept "borg" in its historicalinvention. Malaska defined the other intelligent and generic sense to identify a "Bionic" (i.e.and conscious beings as: human made) "ORGanism", and defines five such Bio-orgs or Homo sapiens - a protein- terrestrial FOL borgs: coded bio-organism in the earthly infra- Orgoborgs - organic FOL, including "tradi- structure as their "natural" surrounding. tional" Humborgs (like Homo sapiens) and Cyborgs - a cybernetic organism - a combi- new and hybrid bioengineered Bioborgs. nation of techniques and human biology GEborgs - Genetically Engineered FOL. mainly for the earthly infrastructure and Cyborgs - human/machine composite FOL. the near space. Symborgs - symbolical and symbological Silorgs - a silicon organism - a humanlike FOL, including Conscious/External (such non-human, fashioned by coding artificial as cultures and corporations) and DNA onto silicon compounds with ammo- Unconscious/Internal (such as myths and nium as a solvent and aimed basically for archetypes) FOL. outer space infrastructure. Technoborgs - technological FOL, includ- Symborgs - a symbolic organism - self- ing Exoskeletalborgs (with an external reflective, self-reproducing, self-conscious, insect like skeleton) and Siliborgs (silicon- "living programs" within the Internet as based FOL). their "natural" infrastructure with According to Wildman, some of these new advanced interface functions with the FOL already exist in a technical sense, since 12% other species. of the current USA population could be consid- According to Malaska, Cyborgs of ered incipient "cyborgs" that use electronic pace-Cyborgkind, Silorgs of Silorgkind, and Symborgs makers, artificial joints, drug implant systems,of Symborgkind are "gestating, waiting to be implanted corneal lenses, artificial skin, etc. Allbrought to life." Finally, there is the Grand the previous FOL are our creations and will bePa&Ma Internet - a global mind with superior populating our world and remaking us genetical-intelligence and wisdom. This Grand Pa&Ma ly and mechanically and thereby changing ourInternet could be a Quantum Global Brain. consciousness forever. Australian economist Paul Wildman, also an Wildman also briefly described other four 67
  4. 4. Journal of Futures Studies non terrestrial FOL. They are Macrorgs (macro- quences. cosmic FOL), MVorgs (Micro Vita - microscopic The FFF is also doing some important work FOL), ETorgs (Extra-Terrestrial FOL), and Psyorgs on the future evolution of humankind through (psychic FOL). Obviously, these exotic FOL its seminars Humanity 3000 and the preparation depend very much on what definition of life is of its television series "The Next Thousand being used; but several unknown or not yet cre- Years," which is expected to be broadcasted in ated intelligent and conscious entities will defi- 2006 with biannual program updates thereafter. nitely pass the test of being "alive," and will satis- While the opportunities and possibilities fy most criteria under several concepts of "life." for the future are mind boggling, the risks and Other authors have written about even threats to life itself are also very real. World more life forms in a possible posthuman future, renowned scientists like Albert Einstein and from the very physical to the very ethereal. A Robert Oppenheimer were once deeply con- simple classification between carbon-based and cerned about the perils of a nuclear holocaust, silicon-based organisms seems like a good place which we have managed to escape from so far. where to start. Such concise system allows to Those were the days of the Cold War, but many incorporate not just humans but also several of those concerns are reappearing now with the types of robots, cyborgs and symborgs (includ- rise of global crime and terrorism. ing different logical entities, both physical and There is always the possibility of a complete non physical). collapse due to global warming, a new Ice Age, an Asteroid collision or major Gamma Ray bursts, among many real threats to civilization. Into the Future Several science fiction works and the scientific US futurists Jerome Glenn and Theodore literature and also cite other existential threats Gordon review possible scenarios for humanity to humankind, like the development of a non- in the year 3000 in the "State of the Future 2000" friendly artificial intelligence or the "gray goo" published by the Millennium Project (of the effect caused by nanobots spreading out without American Council for the United Nations any control. All these challenges have to be seri- University). They reviewed six scenarios with the ously considered by both current and future sen- following names: tient life forms in order to survive and thrive. In 1. Still Alive at 3000. fact, UK scientist Stephen Hawking has warned 2. End of Humanity and the Rise of the that we need to consider moving to space if we Phoenix. want to avoid the extinction of human knowl- 3. Its About Time. edge. 4. The Great Divides. New technologies certainly bring new risks. 5. The Rise and Fall of the Robot Empire. On the one hand, US scientist Bill Joy wrote a 6. ETI Disappoints After Nine Centuries. controversial article "Why The Future Doesnt These fascinating scenarios include fright- Need Us," where he worries about robotics, ening possibilities like the collapse of the human genetic engineering and nanotechnology. His civilization to intriguing comments about the answer is to relinquish and stop the develop- expansion of different forms of intelligent life to ment of these new technologies. On the other the rest of the universe. The scenarios were hand, US engineer K. Eric Drexel, usually called developed through a two-round questionnaire the "father" of nanotechnology, argues just the sent to a special panel selected by the opposite: in order to avoid the problems of Millennium Project nodes and the Foundation emerging technologies, we have to do more for the Future (FFF). Several factors were consid- research and understand them better. ered (from, for example, a global ethical system The debate is open, but one thing is cer- to the ability to destroy humanity) and their tra- tain: humanity has always advanced thanks to jectory over the next 100, 500 and 1000 years, science and technology. In fact, what makes68 with special attention to "unexpected" conse- humans different from other animals is the
  5. 5. Future Life Forms among Posthumansdevelopment of different technologies. This has "upload" a mind into a robot. Similarly, US scien-been true since the very early prehistoric times tist Marvin Minsky, one of the fathers of artificialwhen fire, the wheel, agriculture and primitive intelligence at MIT, wrote his very famous 1994writing first appeared on the face of our planet. article "Will robots inherit the Earth?" in Scientific American, where he concludes: "Yes, but they will be our children. We owe our minds to theMoral Implications deaths and lives of all the creatures that were While humanity will undoubtedly express ever engaged in the struggle called Evolution.itself in a number of different incarnations, it will Our job is to see that all this work shall not endsubsequently give birth to an entirely new form up in meaningless waste."of life: Artificial intelligence. The future will be More recently, UK cybernetics professorpopulated by several different forms of intelli- Kevin Warwick has been implanting his owngent life, and humanity is already attempting to body with several microchip devices and pub-reconcile the implications, particularly those in lished in 2003 a book titled I, Cyborg explainingthe moral realm. his experiments. Warwick is a cybernetics pio- The word "robot" was created in 1921 by neer who claims that "I was born human. But thisthe Czech playwright Karel Capek in his book was an accident of fate - a condition merely ofR.U.R.: Rossums Universal Robots. It was immor- time and place. I believe its something we havetalized in 1950 by Russian-American scientist the power to change... The future is out there; Iand writer Isaac Asimov in his book I, Robot am eager to see what it holds. I want to dowhere he created the Three Laws of Robotics: something with my life: I want to be a cyborg." 1. A robot may not injure a human being, As these authors and thinkers suggest, weor, through inaction, allow a human being to need to start preparing ourselves for the comingcome to harm. robot and artificial intelligence realities. To ease 2. A robot must obey orders given it by the transition into a posthuman condition, wehuman beings except where such orders would must ready ourselves for the distinct possibilityconflict with the First Law. that Earth will be inherited by not one, but sever- 3. A robot must protect its own existence al forms of highly intelligent and sentient lifeas long as such protection does not conflict with forms.the First or Second Law. Asimov eventually improved his system and The Human Seedextrapolated the Zeroth Law: A robot may notinjure humanity or, through inaction, allow The human body is a good beginning, buthumanity to come to harm. He also modified the we can certainly improve it, upgrade it, and tran-other Three Laws accordingly. scend it. Biological evolution through natural On a separate front, US futurist Phil McNally selection might be ending, but technologicaland Pakistani-born futurist Sohail Inayatullah evolution is only accelerating now. Technology,wrote The Rights of Robots in 1987, and US femi- which started to exhibit some dominance overnist Donna Haraway published A Cyborg biological processes for the first time someManifesto in 1991. Both are important docu- 100.000 years ago, is finally overtaking biologyments that defend robots and cyborgs on their as the science of life.own right. These concepts imply a continuum As US fuzzy logic theorist Bart Kosko hasbased on previous ideas concerning animal and said: "biology is not destiny. It was never morehuman rights. than tendency. It was just natures first quick and US robotics expert Hans Moravec wrote dirty way to compute with meat. Chips are des-two books about robots and our/their future: tiny." And photo-qubits might come soon afterMind Children in 1988 and Robot in 1998. standard silicon-based chips, but even that isMoravec argues that robots will be our rightful only an intermediate means for eternal intelli-descendants and he explains several ways to gent life in the universe. 69
  6. 6. Journal of Futures Studies Humans are the first species which is con- British Telecom. 2002. Technology Timeline. scious of its own evolution and limitations, and London: British Telecom. www.btexact. humans will eventually transcend these con- com/white_papers/downloads/WP106.pdf straints to become posthumans. It might be a Capek, Karel. [1921] 2001. R.U.R. New York: rapid process like caterpillars becoming butter- Dover. flies, as opposed to the slow evolutionary pas- Clarke, Arthur C. 1984 (revised). Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the sage from apes to humans. Future intelligent life Possible. New York: Henry Holt and forms might not even resemble human beings at Company. all, and carbon-based organisms will mix with a Cordeiro, Jose Luis. 1998. Benesuela vs. Venezuela: plethora of other organisms. These posthumans El Combate Educativo del Siglo. Caracas: will depend not only on carbon-based systems Cedice. www.cordeiro.org but also on silicon and other "platforms" which Drexler, K. Eric. 1987. Engines of Creation. New might be more convenient for different environ- York: Anchor Books. www.foresight. ments, like outer space. org/EOC Eventually, all these new sentient life forms Foundation for the Future. 2002. The Next might be connected to become a global brain, a Thousand Years. Bellevue, Washington: large interplanetary brain and even a larger inter- Foundation for the Future. www.future- foundation.org/documents/nty_projde- galactic brain. The ultimate scientific, religious sc.pdf and philosophical queries will continue to be Glenn, Jerome and Gordon, Theodore. 2000. tackled by these posthuman life forms. State of the Future 2000: At the Intelligence will keep on evolving and will try to Millennium. Washington: Millennium answer the old-age questions of life, the universe Project. www.StateOfTheFuture.org and everything. Haraway, Donna. 1991. "A Cyborg Manifesto" in In order become permanent rational "demi- Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The urgi" of the known universe of space and time, it Reinvention of Nature. New York; is vital to be aware that even more important Routledge. http://www.stanford.edu/ than to create is not to destroy. With ethics and dept/HPS/Haraway/CyborgManifesto.html wisdom, humans will become posthumans, as Hawking, Stephen. 2002. The Theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the US science fiction writer David Zindell suggest- Universe. New York: New Millennium ed: Press. "What is a human being, then?" Inayatullah, Sohail. 2000."Science, Civilization "A seed." and Global Ethics: Can We Understand "A ... seed?" the Next 1000 Years?" Journal of Futures "An acorn that is unafraid to destroy itself in Studies. Volume 5, Number 2, November growing into a tree." 2000. Taipei, Taiwan: Tamkang University. Joy, Bill. 2000. "Why The Future Doesnt Need Correspondence Us." Wired. April 2000. www.wired.com/ wired/archive/8.04/joy.html (www.cordeiro.org) is president of the World Kurian, George T. and Molitor, Graham T.T. Future Society Venezuela (www.Futuro 1996. Encyclopedia of the Future. New Venezuela.org), co-founder of the Venezuelan York: Macmillan. Transhumanist Association (www.Trans Kurzweil, Raymond. 1999. The Age of Spiritual HumanismO.org), director of the Millennium Machines. New York: Penguin Books. Project (Venezuela Node) and the Club of Rome www.kurzweilai.net (Venezuela Chapter). jose@cordeiro.org Malaska, Pentti. 1997. Inventing Futures. Opening Address: WFSF XV World Conference. Brisbane, Australia: World Futures Studies References Federation. McNally, Phil and Inayatullah, Sohail. 1988.70 Asimov, Isaac. [1950] 1994. I, Robot. New York: Bantam Books. "Rights of Robots." Futures, 20(2), pp. 119-
  7. 7. Future Life Forms among Posthumans 136. http://www.metafuture.org/Articles/ TheRightsofRobots.htmMinsky, Marvin. 1994. "Will robots inherit the Earth?" Scientific American, October 1994: www.ai.mit.edu/people/minsky/ papers/sciam.inherit.txt____. 1987. The Society of Mind. New York: Simon and Schuster.Moravec, Hans. 1998. Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press. www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/ ~hpm/book97____. 1988. Mind Children. Boston: Harvard University Press.Pearson, Ian. 1998. Atlas of the Future. New York: Macmillan.Paul, Gregory S. and Cox, Earl. 1996. Beyond Humanity: Cyberevolution and Future Minds. Hingham, Massachusetts: Charles River Media.Regis, Edward. 1991. Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition: Science Slightly over the Edge. New York: Perseus Publishing.Toffler, Alvin and Heidi. 1995. Creating a New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave. Atlanta: Turner Publishing Inc.Warwick, Kevin. 2003. I, Cyborg. London: Garnders.Wells, H.G. 1902. "The Discovery of the Future." Nature, 65: www.geocities.com/yokel- craig/hgwells1.htmlWildman, Paul. Life Futures: an initial taxonomy of Terrestrial and Non Terrestrial Forms of Life. Brisbane, Australia: Metafuture. www.metafuture.org/articlesbycol- leagues.htmWorld Transhumanist Association. 2002. The Transhumanist Declaration. New York: World Transhumanist Association. www.transhumanism.org/declaration.htmZindell, David. 1994. The Broken God. New York: Acacia Press. 71
  8. 8. Journal of Futures Studies72