H+ TRANSHUMANISM

Several months ago, I realized I needed to learn more about the field of Artificial Intelligence and so I decided to do some research on the subject. I read Hugo De Garis’s book “The Artilect War – Cosmists vs. Terrans.” It was written for the general public and was a great place to start to learn the language and concepts being used in the AI field today. Because I read it, now when I read articles about AI written by Bill Gates or Elon Musk, I am now more able to readily assimilate the information and contextualize it.

Another area that overlaps part of the AI field is the field of Transhumanism. So, what exactly is Transhumanism? Transhumanism is the enhancement of the human body through technological, genetic, mechanical or synthetic means. It is a broad field with scientists and researchers moving forward to actualize their goals to move human beings past their biological limitations and create a “new and improved human.” This human will not be fully human, but will have enhancements in one form or another in their bodies, brains, or genetic makeup. It will literally be a Human 2.0.

If we have an artificial hip or shoulder, have we become a Transhuman? Technically, no. Anything we do to our bodies in order to bring them back to a normal functioning level is not Transhumanism. Although, while reading this book,  I did call my husband a Cyborg because he had an artificial hip. Needless to say, he was not amused! In other words, just replacing worn out body parts is not Transhumanism. A person is still a Human 1.0 who has had this kind of surgery.

Just as I needed a primer on AI, I needed a primer on Transhumanism to begin to understand the concepts and where the scientific research is taking us. I chose the book, “The Milieu,” by Dr. Thomas R. Horn for my initial introduction into the subject. 

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This book has nine other contributing authors who tackle the bioethical concerns relating to this subject. The authors give the reader the historical context of where the idea of Transhumanism originated and how the scientists got where they are today. They each take a different area of this vast subject and share their view of how this research will affect us in the future. When does a person move from being a human to being a Transhuman? If we allow animal DNA to be implanted in our bodies, have we ceased being human? Will an animal/human hybrid still have a soul? What are the societal implications of Transhumanism? These and many more questions are explored in the book.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in this emerging field. Although many in our society are not discussing this subject, all of the leading nations of the earth are moving forward with their research in this area. The hope of producing a “super soldier” through genetic mutation, mechanical augmentation and brain implantation is no longer in the realm of science fiction. It is being played out in laboratories throughout the world every day of the week.

When I started this book, I was concerned that I wouldn’t understand it and that it would be too technical for me. Yes, I did have to look up several words in order to understand the initial concepts in the first few chapters, but after that it was pretty much smooth sailing. By the time I was about at page 80, I had moved from being concerned that I wouldn’t understand it to being concerned that I did understand it as I was becoming more aware of where the scientific research is taking us as a human race.

Transhumanism is quickly moving from the realm of science fiction to real science and I would hope we would all become educated about the biological, societal and spiritual implications that come with it. Better to begin to be aware of what is coming than wake up one day and have to try to form some sort of bioethical groundwork for how this will affect us societally. After all, most of us are still  Humans 1.0.

Why “The Artilect War – Cosmists vs. Terrans” by Hugo de Garis is a Must Read

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About a month ago, a man discussing artificial intelligence referred to the book, “The Artilect War” by Hugo de Garis Ph.D. He stated that anyone interested in the subject of artificial intelligence and its future would do well to read this book. It sparked my interest so I decided to try to procure a copy. The book was published in 2005 by ETC Publications and is available on Amazon for $65.00. Not wanting to spend part of the weekly food budget on the book, I went to the library to borrow a copy. They needed to get it though an interlibrary loan from a college in Michigan and I received it within a few days. Not being a techie, I was hesitant to give the book a read, but I was appreciative that Dr. de Garis had written the book for non-techies like me. 

Dr. de Garis has worked in the A/I field for over twenty years and puts forth his vision of where he thinks that A/I will take the societies of the world during the latter part of the twenty-first century. He believes science will continue to build machines with higher and higher A/I quotients, until they surpass human intelligence and eventually become sentient. He labels these super-intelligent machines “Artilects,” a shortened version of artificial intellects. He believes their development will cause humanity to divide into two groups, the Cosmists and the Terrans.

The Cosmists will consist of those who want to develop the Artilects. “To the Cosmists, building Artilects will be like a religion, the destiny of the human species; something magnificent and worthy of worship.” For the Cosmists, not building the Artilects would be a human tragedy. The Terrans, on the other hand, will fear the Arilects and will believe that the risk involved in developing them should not be taken. They believe that scientists should not build Artilects with AIQ’s billions of times smarter than humans. 

Dr. de Garis then lays out in the proceeding chapters the arguments for and against building these god-like machines. His belief is that artificial intelligence is a dual-use technology, not unlike nuclear fission. It can benefit humanity, or if in the wrong hands, will be used to destroy humanity.

He believes that ultimately a major war will develop between the Cosmists and the Terrans when the Cosmists refuse to stop developing smarter and smarter Artilects. He concludes that the Cosmists will win the war because of their fanatical religious fervor. He believes that millions of people will be killed during this future war. 

Dr. de Garis wonders if perhaps after humans have developed these god-like machines, that their own creations will destroy humanity. He reasons that Artilects will view humans in a way similar to how we view mosquitos i.e. simply a pest to be destroyed. He fears that this will result in the extinction of the human species and refers to this phenomenon as “Gigadeath.”

Why is this book a must read for thinking people of all religions and races? Is this non-fiction book just so much science-fiction theory? I thought so until I started to do a little research into the field of artificial intelligence. 

I first read an article by Jason Barrat of the Huffington Post. The article, “Why Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates are Terrified of Artificial Intelligence,” states that Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking are starting to warn us about what they believe will soon end life on earth as we know it, i.e. super-intelligent machines. These men believe humans will lose control of the machines and that humans will eventually be enslaved or exterminated by them. Their words sound eerily similar to those of Dr. de Garis.

For anyone who thinks this technology is decades away, a look at a YouTube video produced by Boston Dynamics is a wake-up call. Their video highlights the capabilities of the Atlas Robot they are developing. It has been designed to look like a Storm Trooper and can walk, open a door, proceed into the woods, maintain its balance on uneven surfaces, fall down, right itself and get back up. At this point in time, it is guided by humans but at what point in its development will it become autonomous?

Should we be concerned about the safety and ethical concerns in the development of Artilects? At the moment, the US government, under the umbrella of the Defense Department and its DARPA program, is currently working on the development of super-soldiers. One area of their research involves developing battlefield robots. When fully functional, they will be autonomous killing machines that will be programmed to make the kill-decision on their own in the field of battle. Is anyone minding the store when it comes to the ethical and safety decisions regarding these battle bots?

As thinking individuals, we would do well to read Dr. de Garis’s book and realize that it is truly prescient. We cannot hide our heads in the sand and hope that these Artilects will not be developed. They are already being developed and sooner rather than later we will have to address the kind of safety and ethical considerations that go along with this kind of research and development. 

Note: Dr. de Gares’s book is now available as a free download pdf.

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