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Sci-Fi Science

Using Technology to Enhance Humans 293

Roland Piquepaille writes "It's a well-known fact that technology can improve our lives. For example, we can reach anyone and anywhere with our cellphones. And people who can't walk after an accident now can have smart prosthesis to help them. But what about designing our children on a computer or having a chip inside our brain to answer our email messages? Are we ready for such a future? In 'Robo-quandary,' the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that many researchers are working on the subject. And as a professor of neuroscience said, "We can grow neurons on silicone plates; we can make the blind see; the deaf hear; we can read minds." So will all we become cyborgs one day?"
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Using Technology to Enhance Humans

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  • by digitalderbs ( 718388 ) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @10:29PM (#19108685)

    For example, we can reach anyone and anywhere with our cellphones
    Depends how you define an "improvement."
    • by AoMoe ( 1095449 )
      I would have to agree. There have been technological advantages that have made life more convenient, but has also made life less convenient. Where we have become to depend on the technology. However, there have been improvements to the quality of our live. Have we become the slaves to technology?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ozmanjusri ( 601766 )
        Have we become the slaves to technology?

        I haven't.

        I use technology for fun and profit. If you choose to make yourself a slave, that's your decision.

    • Oh great, here comes the "The next fucker who interrupts my evening out by yammering on their cellphone..." flame war.
    • Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rix ( 54095 ) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:41PM (#19109231)
      We can reach anyone anywhere who wants to be contacted with our cellphones.

      When you don't want to be contacted, turn it off. When someone you don't want contacting you calls, hit the ignore button, or ban them on your phone. It isn't that hard.
      • Re:Correction (Score:4, Interesting)

        by digitalderbs ( 718388 ) on Monday May 14, 2007 @12:00AM (#19109369)
        Fair enough. However, when people know that you have a cellphone and you don't return their call within a reasonable amount of time (a day?), they know you're ignoring them. I intentionally tell friends/work that I don't have a cell phone, and I sometimes check my home voicemail. I return calls on my time, and people don't feel snubbed by my inaccessibility. Granted, I'm an academic and not many people can do this -- but many of my colleagues with cellphones envy me.
        • Re:Correction (Score:5, Interesting)

          by metlin ( 258108 ) on Monday May 14, 2007 @12:40AM (#19109645) Journal
          You could always be busy with other things - I mean, if someone thinks that you definitely should call back within a "reasonable" amount of time, obviously you answering the phone regularly (or returning calls regularly) has prompted that belief.

          Me? I usually just leave my phone on silent, and people know that if I do not answer during the day I am at work and there is a good reason. And if it is my day off - well they have no reason to be calling me, do they?

          Expectations are what *you* set. If you answer the phone every damn time and call back ten minutes after, people will begin to expect that of you. If you don't, people won't.

        • I make it clear that I answer and return calls at my own convenience. I almost never answer my cell phone if I'm physically with other people, because they get first priority. If they want a call back, they can leave a message. If it's important, they can send me a text message telling so. Otherwise, I assume it can just wait until the next time I see them.

          Technology, like everything else, can only control you if you choose to allow it to.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          Three persons have one cellphone on average in China.That meas 455 million users in all. I used to sit down with countless calls and short messages.So I am a heavy supporter of a new-style cellphone. When the people who you don't want contacting you calls,he will be informed that you are busy or out-of-order.When you don't want to be contacted,hit the ignore button.Only the VIP you set can reach you.
    • Whatever happens, it will probably progress slowly and isn't anything we need to be worried about. We will find ways to link our brains with machines, we will invent new ways to communicate, which is something humans always have done, and we will slightly mesh our brains and bodies with implanted neural tissue and sometimes electrical devices, but I don't think there will be a demand for things that are too invasive to our lives and our ability to stabilize and control ourselves. We might have the ability t
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jcgf ( 688310 )

        think it's something that is unnecessary and isn't something we should be too worried about. Besides, with the rising risk of oil running out, global warming, and nuclear warfare, I think we'd be better off spending this money enjoying life while it still exists, or helping people in other countries stabilize their economies and educational systems.

        Why is it whenever something cool comes along someone has to say "the money could be better spent blah blah blah"? Just because you don't see a need for it doesn't mean that people shouldn't spend money on it, it's not like we don't have enough to spend on this and fuel alternatives. Besides, if you are so sure the world is going to end, why spend money on educational systems etc at all?

        I for one would love to have the ability to download documents to a chip connected to my brain. Just think of how

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Tama00 ( 967104 )
      Techonolgy also created weapons that can kill people in mass amounts.

      Improving lifes?
  • And its already been answered.

    Yes, of course! [] Its not complete without the robots [] though.
  • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @10:31PM (#19108713) Journal
    Contact lenses, hearing aids, artificial limbs... tattoos, botox, piercings, breast augmentation... we've been modifying the crap out of ourselves ever since we invented clothing.

    While I doubt we'll end up in some Ghost In The Shell - like world anytime soon, the urge to improve ourselves to the point of modification and beyond is a part of our own adaptability.


    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by aichpvee ( 631243 )
      Wake me up when I can get my eyes shined for a couple packs of Kool menthols.
    • You forgot the greatest augmentation of all. How would anybody survive without society and social interaction? Living in a cabin in Montana and purchasing bullets does not count!

      My take is that we are going to go through an enormous re-urbanization soon for a variety of reasons. Cities are already the engines that drive entire regions. We may find ourselves increasingly relying on others' intellectual specializations. Think of a city as a giant brain and you as a neuron.

      We are not nature.
    • "Will we remain human?" isn't really an interesting question, because we will always consider "human" whatever happens to be accepted as normal at the time.

      Today we don't regard a person with breast implants or metal+plastic hip replacements as anything other than human, and this trend will continue as replacement technology improves and our rather crappy protein organs get upgraded bit by bit.

      A far better question though is ... "Can we afford not to upgrade?", once a particular replacement has become very
  • by geek ( 5680 ) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @10:32PM (#19108717)
    I was a hardcore geek for a long time. I've been using less and less the last few years however due to personal choice and quality of life choices. The more technology we seem to use these days the less social we seem to become. Answer honestly, when was the last time you had a chat with your neighbor? Do you even know their names? In my sociology class less than 5% of the students could answer yes to that last question or remember the last conversation they had. In most countries it's normal to know those around you, to have a sense of community. Here in America we're becoming estranged from one another, not completely because of technology, but it's a large contributing factor. I'll pass on the transplants. I prefer the natural me. These all seem like breast implants for technology nerds anyway.
    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @10:53PM (#19108897)
      I'd attribute this more to urban lifestyle. Think it was different before the advent of the 'net?

      In a village, everyone knows everyone. It's a small world and people know their neighbors, help them, gather together, whatever. Since the distance between villages also tend to be rather large, and mass transport usually is either nonexistant or laughable, kids also tend to form friendships in the neighborhood.

      In larger towns, you usually have the luxury to choose your "neighborhood". You can pick your friends, simply because the pool is larger. The need to know your neighbor because, well, he's the most accessable person around, is not there.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Growing up I spent some time in my grandma's village of about 20 houses. Of course those guys knew each other, what else were they going to do? It occured to me that they were like coworkers in this weird, geographically-induced corporation. Their work days were out in the fields, then they came home to the families.

        And think about how many people you know at work-- they just don't happen to live next door.
        • Pretty much.

          It actually doesn't have to deal with working close to each other. In the village I come from, everyone knows everyone (ok, not that bad, but close). There's one single elementary school nearby, so kids are kinda "forced" to find friends from the vicinity. This in turn automatically forces parents to know each other. There are only so many places to shop or hang out, so people automatically come together.

          Towns are generally more impersonal, simply because you can't, even if you wanted, know a mi
      • There are very few neighborhood social activities. Schools, churches, sporting events... there are a few other ways to get to know your neighbors. Kids tend to form friendships because they go to school together, parents also sometimes make friends with other parents with similar interests.
    • by lawaetf1 ( 613291 ) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:25PM (#19109127)
      I have read that schizophrenics in less wealthy countries have a better prognosis than those in the US. One of the theorized reasons is that a stronger social fabric in the 2nd and 3rd world means a "crazy" person is still included in life in whatever ostracized way. "That's Uncle Yung, he talks to the palm trees a lot, it sure is funny." Here we lock them up and try to fix the issue on a molecular level (gross over generalization, I know). Ditto for a lot of depression and anxiety. What other country is so fascinated with yet removed from genuine "happiness" that we have written libraries about the subject and created an entirely new discipline - "positive psychology." Meanwhile the TV would have me believe that I can wake with a smile if I just throw down some ambien before I sleep.

      Personally I think the borg issue is still more in the realm of philosophy than technology. Morbidity for cancer remains largely unchanged, half the nation is still eating itself to death, and leeches are still used in even the most advanced hospitals. Speech recognition is better but still clumsy and my brand-new Blackberry 7200c just rebooted tonight when I tried to delete an email. The world of tomorrow is today.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rgaginol ( 950787 )

      These all seem like breast implants for technology nerds anyway.

      You mean I can get a breast implant which is also a wireless network interface? Bring it on...

      Seriously though, I foresee these kinds of things coming on (maybe not in the next 50 years though), but they'll be either completely external to the body (like a watch, mobile), or seamlessly integrated (like a pacemaker). No interface will be bought by consumers en-mass until it's aesthetically pleasing too - no one, except borg fetishists would want wires sticking out of them.

      Being able to access search engines

      • "I guess all this just re-iterates the need for moderation..."

        Yes, we all want moderated. But we always want it to be up.
      • Being able to access search engines or things like maps at will is going to be too irritableness for most people. Think about the difference the Internet has made to the learning process for those who have it - no more heading to libraries for books which are loaned out. Similarly I'd imagine being able to access a news update like a normal memory would be a similar jump.

        The big downside to this is it will further increase the divide between people who are plugged in and those who aren't.

        It will have other consequences, too. There will always be people, perhaps even whole professions, that choose to not "plug in" because possible outages would deprive them of more than it ever offers them in the first place.

        Since the advent of the 'net, "just Google(tm) it" has become a common phrase, displacing "good ole actually knowing stuff" in a manner that is surely less than intellectually wholesome. I don't need to know the postal code for the city my father lives in, or my doctor's phone number, b

    • "These all seem like breast implants for technology nerds anyway."

      Tell that to me when your daughter is born blind or a boy is born autistic and there is no way for you to communicate to him, but with human augmentation we can make him healthy again or enable him to communicate directly with you via telepathic technology.

      The next great advance will be the direct linking of human minds, imagine having access to a minds eye that you can both share when connected together, you can manipulate the data in the mi
      • The next great advance will be the direct linking of human minds, imagine having access to a minds eye that you can both share when connected together, you can manipulate the data in the minds eye vis space of the other persons imagination and vice versa, it opens up a whole new level of personal and professional communication, not only that I have no doubt it would bring people closer together as they would have direct access to each others thoughts if they so allowed.

        This will suck. Those who do will n
        • "This will suck. Those who do will never know a moments peace, being connected to everyone else 24/7. And those who don't will feel or be 'left behind'."

          Note you are reading way too much into this, obviously the technology would be designed so that you can disconnected it or turn it off.

          "Distribute 10 $10 million fortunes (a good size fortune) equally among the residents of a medium size city, and everyone gets $100. Whee! Now everyone is poor."

          Again you read into what I was saying, there are many easy ways
      • Tell that to me when your daughter is born blind or a boy is born autistic and there is no way for you to communicate to him, but with human augmentation we can make him healthy again or enable him to communicate directly with you via telepathic technology.

        Ah, and this brings up the discussion on eugenics []. Should we improve the daughter or son so that they might live and be able to produce more offspring, that might also be genetically abnormal?

        Of course, then comes the counter discussion on what is norm

      • imagine having access to a minds eye that you can both share when connected together,

        You know, telepathic communication seems like such a great evolutionary advantage that I'm surprised no major organism can do it. In particular, how come RF communication didn't evolve?

        • by juuri ( 7678 )
          Didn't evolve?

          Are you sure about that? It looks like us humans are about to implement many other world technologies into our bodies/brains. Evolution isn't just what happens within a physical body but also an entities ability to change, utilize and gain unforseen advantages out of its environment. Humans are evolving augmentation as the next step to removing the environmental defects that plague us today... ie witness the ability for even the most infertile to produce offspring.
          • Maybe so, but my question still stands. Look at eyes-- such awesome sensors with amazing optics, and present across so many species. Why not RF?
        • by TheLink ( 130905 )
          The elephants already have their long distance infrasonic comms. Similar for whales. Where sound and sight is good enough the selection pressure for the development of RF is not very high.

          Evolution is usually comes up with "good enough" solutions.

          It takes a long time for evolution to do stuff, and some stuff may never get done even if possible. If in the early days you had creatures that evolved an ability for easy mutual mind reading, they'd probably get killed/eaten pretty quickly. There aren't very many
    • Choice is great (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rix ( 54095 ) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:44PM (#19109239)
      We're no longer forced to socialize only with those in close proximity to me. I don't like my neighbours. I don't particularity want to socialize with them. They're fine people and I occasionally chat with them, but we have nothing in common aside from location, and they aren't terribly interesting.
    • The more technology we seem to use these days the less social we seem to become. Answer honestly, when was the last time you had a chat with your neighbor? Do you even know their names?

      But why does not knowing my neighbor's name make me less social? Why doesn't discussing on slashdot with people like you make me more social?

      In other words, what makes my neighbor weigh more - way more - than those I interact with in the virtual world when it gets to deciding my "social karma"?

      If technologies have enabl

    • That's a great point, IMHO, regarding community. I've lived in the same house for 11 years, and only recently started making a real effort to know my neighbors. It's been interesting. Some really appreciate it, while others seem a bit weirded out -- as if living in physical proximity is no good reason to socialize.

      I still use a lot of tech, but have grown to prefer it when it enables communication -- like this exchange ;^) I'd have to say that ceasing to use one tech in particular has helped in the last
    • by KanSer ( 558891 )
      Have you met my neighbours? An amazing collection of assholes.

      Between the Swedish sexaganarian dog trainer who encourages her dogs to bark by going AIEEIEIEEEIEEIEEIEE at 8:15 on an otherwise beautiful vancouver island summer morning, or the three new houses that mow their new lawns religiously and all too frequently.

      Perhaps the new age musician up the way?

      Welcome to America. Neighbour's suck.

      (Settle down canadians, I use the term continentally.)

      (On-topic, I would certainly sign up for some form of optical
  • by Wonko the Sane ( 25252 ) * on Sunday May 13, 2007 @10:35PM (#19108743) Journal
    will almost certainly involve adult entertainment.
    • If it's an implant, they can bypass all the naughty bits and just stimulate your happy-cells. Wire addicts will probably die within a week or two if the experiments with the mice are anything to go by.
      • by Wonko the Sane ( 25252 ) * on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:00PM (#19108935) Journal

        Wire addicts will probably die within a week or two if the experiments with the mice are anything to go by
        But they'll die happy
        • by dj_tla ( 1048764 )
          I think the most interesting part of transhumanism is life extension. Trying out new modifications is risky no doubt, but if I can upload my mind [] before that, I might be a lot more cavalier in what I decide to do with my squishier vessel. It would bring me one step close to fulfilling my life-long dream of being able to save my game in real life.
          • It would bring me one step close to fulfilling my life-long dream of being able to save my game in real life.
            Have you ever made a real-life mistake where your first instinct was "undo!"?
          • by rts008 ( 812749 )
            Yeah, kinda what I was thinking also.

            When I saw the title, all I could think of was the book 'Necromancer' and the AI telling him that it was "just a concern of the meat, boyo."
  • Scientists are saying that in the future we will be able to have sex with robots. I tried that once. It was horrible. Right in the middle I had to call tech support.
    • {elevator music} [support]: Hello dearie {chewing gum sound} my name is Regina, {chewing gum sound} how may I help you?

      [lonely geek]: Hello? Are you human?

      [support]: Yes dearie, I am human...

      [lonely geek]: Oh good, I'm speaking with a real techie girl! My LoverBot v6.2 beta just crashed in the middle of some awesome robolovin', and I can't get her rebooted. Can you help me?

      [support]: {chewing gum sound} Have you tried plugging her in, givin' her some juice?

      [lonely geek]: Oh yes, Lots!! but, for some

  • eyeglasses (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mangu ( 126918 ) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @10:38PM (#19108779)
    Without artificial enhancement, my eyes can't focus on anything beyond 20 centimeters in front of my nose.

    Now, what was that question, again?

  • Who owns my head? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @10:49PM (#19108871)
    In theory, a nice idea. I mean, interfacing easier with the computer, all good and fine.

    But when I look at today's systems and the surveillance surrounding them, who wants to tell me that whatever is plugged into my cranium is really "mine"? And the manufacturer doesn't think that he's still the one owning it?

    We have operating systems that require you to let them phone home to see if you're no crook. We got content restricted with DRM (or DCE or whatever the buzzword of the week is). We even got corporations that don't even consider infecting your computer with a trojan to protect their precious.

    And I should trust them with my thoughts? In today's society, I'd be wary with such an idea.

    • But when I look at today's systems and the surveillance surrounding them, who wants to tell me that whatever is plugged into my cranium is really "mine"? And the manufacturer doesn't think that he's still the one owning it?

      1: The fucking United States of America. The first corporation to try and exert copyright control over thoughts will be the first one to have their corporate charter revoked. (Not to say that you won't be bugged, but if you're ok with that, you'll be fine.)

      2: Christianity. Believe or n
    • If you own a house, it's only really at the "OK" of the government.

      Actually, if you own "stuff" just generally, it's only really at the OK of the government.

      We may think we own our bodies, but I doubt that we do. We can be induced to war and probably labor as well. We can certainly be plugged into a jail, and we know for certain it can happen unjustly.

      Our cybernetic attachment to all the other people out there is a well established fact, as of at least a few millenia.

      So, clearly, there should be no resist
  • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:00PM (#19108937) Journal
    Thinking about this in relation to the previous story, what will happen if MS or some other company has tons of patents on the technology that helps you? What happens when patents restrict innovations in that area? What happens if your prosthetic arm BSOD's and causes you to veer into oncoming traffic but the EULA you signed to wear it means you can't sue MS?

    That's exaggerating what role MS might play, but the question is valid.
    • On a more disturbing note: what happens if your prosthetic arm gets a kernel corruption and begins trying to murder people? Then it might accidentally wipe itself before you get to court so the judge has no proof it wasn't your arm.

  • We are The Borg. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bragador ( 1036480 ) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:02PM (#19108969)
    I dont' know about you but I find this thrilling. If you do not want such technology to "enhance" humans I don't care but don't stop me from improving my abilities.

    I have always been fascinated by the notion of hive mind and I truly wish that one day, humans will have their brains connected to the net by wifi or something. Each time we have a question, instead of thinking we could access the net of minds. We could have one big hive mind with all of the knowledge or have a distributed system where the knowledge is distributed among our brains. Also, only the most advanced researchers could access the core to change the official knowledge database. We could always have a core that works like the current Wikipedia too. Who knows what's the best way to manage a hive mind?

    I'm already answering tons of queries in my job thanks to Wikipedia and Google. I just wish we could go one step further...

    • Who knows what's the best way to manage a hive mind?

      I'm sure some corporation would be rather eager to see if they happen to know, if the likes of Sony, Microsoft, et al are any indicator. Or, even worse... someone w/ the scruples and ideology of the RIAA.


    • by Patrik_AKA_RedX ( 624423 ) on Monday May 14, 2007 @01:50AM (#19110093) Journal
      Just wait until someone decides to think about See if you still like the hive mind connection then...
  • Tag 'boycottroland'
  • No. There will always be reformists and there will always be purists. I prefer to have technology outside my body, not inside. Thank you.
    • The Amish can get away with it now, but I imagine there will come a time were depriving children of technology will be considered abuse.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hereisnowhy ( 710189 )
      Theorist Donna Haraway argues that we are already cyborgs, inextricably intertwined with our technologies. Some would say that cyborgism began with the invention of the first tools. Tools change the user into a different being capable of different behaviour. A carrier bag changed us from foragers to gatherers; a spear turned us into hunters. When your identity is altered by technology are you not a cyborg? Transforming ourselves is something we have always done.
    • I prefer to have technology outside my body, not inside. Thank you.

      So, um, you take any drugs lately? (I don't mean the 'fun' kind, I mean of the CVS kind.) If you have, I know a couple of good ChemE's who'd like to have a word with you about chemicals not being "technology."

      If you really are consistent and don't ingest any type of technology (well, you're going to have to bite the bullet and accept some level of hypocrisy somewhere -- there aren't enough unmodified edible plant species left for most people
  • This reminds me of a popular Japanese anime movie called Ghost in the Shell, which already raised these questions. The setting is futuristic Japan, where many people are full cyborgs or have cybernetic implants. One of the central issues in the movie is the main character's struggle for an identity: She is fully cybernetic, with only something called a "ghost" to distinguish her from a robot. Throughout the movie, she asks herself if she is still human, The question is never fully resolved, and I think the
  • except we can't (Score:4, Informative)

    by SmokeyTheBalrog ( 996551 ) on Sunday May 13, 2007 @11:22PM (#19109103)

    we can make the blind see; the deaf hear; we can read minds.
    Except for the slight detail we can't do those things.

    People don't realize how primitive medicine is. 90% of medicine is, "We kept tried random things and found some things that work. Half of this stuff we don't even know why it works, but it does. So we use it."

    And /. ought to know that computers are incredible simple and dumb.

    There is no such things as a flashing LED that makes everything better controlled by an AI that knows you need treatment before you do.
    • by Tuoqui ( 1091447 )
      Actually there is some primitive cybernetic implants for the eyes that as long as your brain possesses a visual cortex its like having a pretty low resolution camera that allows you to see vague shapes and some colors... Not exactly the type of vision you'd want to poke your eye out for but I seen it on one of those science news shows a year or two ago.
    • We most certainly are able to make the deaf hear with cochlear implants []. This isn't even uncommon; a friend of mine who adopted a child who was deaf at birth already has a cochlear implant. The quality supposedly about as good as a fuzzy AM radio, but it works!

      As for making the blind see, this is not yet FDA approved, but it has been put through FDA testing. It's pretty impressive actually check it out [].

      I understand the frustration with medicine, but don't be too cynical. There is a lot of pretty unbe

  • Why do people thing that timeliness and quantity is the same as quality when it comes to human-to-human communication? People have only so much capacity to take in information - why would I want to fill my life with junk. One well reasoned, concise and consistent message (be it email, phone, or face to face) is usually priceless compared to hundreds of unfinished ideas, mumbles or rants.
  • "In the year 2000" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eebra82 ( 907996 ) on Monday May 14, 2007 @12:05AM (#19109403) Homepage
    Technology is kind of scary, because you have to realize that the unthinkable will eventually become real.

    If you asked a scientist who worked with ENIAC some 50 years ago if he believed that you could put a billion transistors into a 1cm^2 chip, would he believe you? After all, a single transistor was the size of a light bulb back then.

    This is why we have to think the unthinkable when speaking of technology. We all know that having a chip inside our head sounds weird and kind of repulsive, but once we have 10 guys doing this, we will have 100 following them, and 10,000 following the first 110.

    I personally don't know or care what the outcome will be, but I am sure that we can eventually create organic computers. For example, your left finger nail could in fact be a small computer.
    • I personally don't know or care what the outcome will be, but I am sure that we can eventually create organic computers. For example, your left finger nail could in fact be a small computer.

      Woe betide the first stupid mofo who tries to overclock his fingernails... ain't no amount of anti-fungal creme or pill that's gonna clean that out.


    • "once we have 10 guys doing this, we will have 100 following them, and 10,000 following the first 110"

      Are you counting in decimal or binary?
  • Understanding nature (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Monday May 14, 2007 @12:18AM (#19109485) Homepage Journal
    One thing we do is assume that we understand everything as soon as we understand a little bit. At one time it was thought that if we had enough weather stations, we could predict the weather perfectly. We now know that there are extremely small perturbations that cause effects which are extremely difficult to predict. It was thought with enough pesticides and monocultures and cross fertilization we could end world hunger with few other negative side effects. We now have repeatedly seen the negative side effects of such patterns. Orange trees that were not resistant to novel pests and had to be replaced with old growth, contamination of the water supply to the point that the fish are unsuitable for regular ingestion. Red apples that are very pretty but quite horrible in every other respect.

    Then we get to our assumptions about animals. It was thought that if we sequence a genome, all would be revealed. We now know that the story is very much more complex that simply saying this gene sequence does this. The orientation of the genes seems to be an issue. Genes seem to activate or not depending on the presence of other genes. The high school analysis of genetics seems quite inadequate, and the old yarns about improvement through cross pollination seems as antiquated as staying home to make sure one doesn't miss a phone call.

    I don't think we are anywhere near the point where we can predict the side effects of messing with complex natural systems. We can't even predict the side effects of delivering psychotropic drugs to kids. We do so because we want our kids to be 'normal' and succeed in school and life, and then get angry when the negative side effects emerge. Of course they will be negative side effects. Nothing is free. Entropy is always increasing, and nature will have her way. I have no doubt we will engineer our children. I just hope that our courts are not tied up by the whiny parents with fantastic dreams of the perfect kid, and we approach the process to create a more holistic child, and not just to further the Aryan state.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Yes,yes. Our ancestors didn't know as much as we and we not as much as our progeny will. The world as it has and will be.

      Yet despite the gloomy prose, it is a better place now than then. I certainly wouldn't want to live a hundred years ago, what with hardly any refrigeration, biomedicine, etc. And, it will be a better place in the future.

      "Entropy is always increasing, and nature will have her way."
      Meaningless. Entropy is physics, not social or biological.

      "...and we approach the proces
  • by suv4x4 ( 956391 ) on Monday May 14, 2007 @12:22AM (#19109523)
    It's funny to read an article like this after reading how technology makes people drive their cars off a cliff or into a speeding train.

    I can imagine the news:

    Suzy, 23, said her bionic implants made her drink boiling water until her jaw dropped. "The implant said it's room temperature, and I have absolute trust in my bionic implants".
  • When things really take off (they've obviously already begun) there won't just be simple enhancements like integrated email and genetic corrections. There are so many other possibilities that the article hasn't brought up. Once nanomachines become practical, they could become part of us, reconstructing any damaged DNA, destroying cancer cells and unwanted pathogens, reversing aging, and augmenting the brain or even replacing biological neurons and synapses as the substrate of our minds. As computers increas
  • by dircha ( 893383 ) on Monday May 14, 2007 @12:35AM (#19109595)
    There's a great deal of concern for enchancing our capacity for experiencing the world, or durability to experience it longer, but very little for enhancing our internal mental experience, which is what this all seems to be about in the end.

    We know that all of our experiences are the result of the workings of and inputs into our nervous and sensory systems, and ultimately our brains. If the goal is to enhance our own experience, it seems that ultimately direct input to our nervous and sensory systems and even the brain by electrical signals is the most effective, most efficient, most sustainable means of enchancing our own experiences.

    There is no jet fuel to pollute our water and air when you fly across the world in an airplane in your mind. There are no natural disasters in this world if you do not want there to be. There is no death to see or experience if you do not want there to be.

    And there is no reason to believe that experiences grounded in physical reality are the most enjoyable experiences to have. Evolution and geological processes are not directed to enchancing the quality of human mental experience, and to the extent they have enhanced it, by no means do we have reason to believe they have maximized it. And it may be technically very difficult to simulate the fullness of experience of the real sensory world to the mind. But perhaps raw emotions and sensations coupled with abtract realities can be every bit or more enjoyable.

    There is also the matter of induced dreaming. Dreaming is a very cheap way to simulate experiencing the world - or some other - in a way that often seems very enjoyable to many people. If we could find ways through technology to induce and enhance the dreaming experience, we could relatively cheaply improve the quality of experience for many people.

    Dreaming seems to consist in very real and compelling experiences, or at least the sense of having had real and compelling experiences. I retain very little of what I dream about, but at the moment I awake or perhaps just before, if I have had a dramatic dream, I have the very real experience of remembering having just had real and compelling experiences (whether I have or not I do not know).

    If enhancing quality and duration of experience is our aim, then I think these will be ultimately the most rewarding courses to pursue.

    Unfortunately, perhaps, I stubbornly believe there is much more to life than enhancing the quality and duration of experience.
  • by mOdQuArK! ( 87332 ) on Monday May 14, 2007 @12:47AM (#19109709)
    I haven't seen a comment on this viewpoint yet:

    At some point in the near future, people will figure out how to make a machine that can learn. At that point, it will only be a matter of time before there are machines that will be more intelligent than a typical human, and will be able to build bodies for themselves which are far superior to our biological bodies.

    If we haven't learned how to evolve ourselves, either through genetics and/or cybernetics at that stage, we _will_ be replaced as the dominant life form in this region of space.
  • I'll take one. (Score:2, Interesting)

    MILLIE in Oath of Fealty. Supercomputer that people (executives of the arcology in this case) connect to via wireless network from an implant to have instant access to whatever information they might need. Just as people can pretend to be more intelligent than they really are online by pulling information off the net, I would now be able to do the same so long as I have connectivity. Oh, and an push button off switch located just behind my ear, just in case of the equivalent goatse or white noise hack that
  • Why is bad being a cyborg, anyway? Why is everyone scared of losing the so-called human nature? Do you lose it when you place a heart pacemaker if you have arrhythmias or a metal plate after a head trauma? Are we sure we will become less human because we would use technology [let's say] to monitor our physiological or other parameters or interface with other humans and machines around us?

    This IS evolution fellows, not "natural" evolution, mind you, but still evolution.

    Thus... assimilate or perish!
    (if being

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.