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Technology and human biology: The singularity may not be so singular

future of humanity

Life literally inside the world wide web, it’s an interesting idea. One that has tantalized sci-fi fans since before the framework for the internet was even finished. While the idea of a seemingly eternal disembodied life through the unfiltered and raw computer consciousness that we all share a connection with, maybe we are shooting for a goal that isn’t really possible — maybe we are asking the wrong questions.

That soft sac of tissue sitting in the skull is generally considered our home sweet home. For the most part, we can be kept alive as long as our brain can keep it together. It is not pretty, but we can artificially pump the blood, breathe, and take over the work of the kidneys via dialysis. Therefore, with all the technological equivalents to our organs, it is only natural that we look to crack the secrets of the brain by treating it as a computer — thus we attempt to treat our consciousness as the program of us, one that we can crack and upload.

Nevertheless, our consciousness is looking less like an individual thing and more like a democracy. This would make the upload of a consciousness less of a software task and more of a hardware task.

However, let’s assume you could upload your consciousness to a computer right now, what do you do with your body after? You would not just jump from one platform to another; nothing would seem different to you except for the SIRI like construct you just created on your computer. So which one is you– and frankly, do you really want to argue for the computer?

What if there was a different alternative? Theoretically — and more importantly more scientifically — we could grow additions and upgrades for the brain we have. From a biology perspective, jumping through the hoops needed to make that a reality would be comparatively simpler than trying to figure out how to trade our biology for electronics.

Think about this for a second, the brain is this incredibly complex thing — that is not to say that we will never be able to float around on the internet as a disembodied computer program — but that seems like a bit of a step backwards when we could just upgrade our biology. In fact, new research is looking to create biological supercomputers. The model works like the supercomputers we have today, except that the model bio supercomputer they have created is a whole lot smaller than current supercomputers, uses much less energy, and uses proteins present in all living cells to function.

That sounds a whole lot more plug and play than trying to fit our biology to our binary. Ironically, we have people discussing the moral implications of developing technologies such as these without questioning the idea of a so-called singularity. Yes, biology upgrades would be expensive, but no more so than the technology that would be needed to make a copy of our brain on a computer — because in the end it is just a copy.

This would not always be the case however; the cost of any technology, no matter how disruptive has dropped. Look at the rise of cell phones, laptops, even supercomputer costs have dropped dramatically. While there are the performance enhancing aspects that may be cause for pause, the real question is why is there such a stigma toward the idea of biological performance enhancing?

Maybe it is fear of the unknown, or the trepidation of playing with our own biology. Maybe it is simply the idea of being a different type of human. Alternatively, it could be the fear that we will have one, or more, reason to segregate ourselves further than we already try to do now.

What if we are asking the wrong questions; maybe biology is the real future of technology. After all, I have never seen a computer repair itself, but the brain does amazing things after an injury and that alone could be used to our benefit.

Then again, maybe it is all just science fiction and the line between humanity and technology will continue to be drawn, but never to be crossed.

Nicolau, D., Lard, M., Korten, T., van Delft, F., Persson, M., Bengtsson, E., Månsson, A., Diez, S., Linke, H., & Nicolau, D. (2016). Parallel computation with molecular-motor-propelled agents in nanofabricated networks Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1510825113

Morsella, E., Godwin, C., Jantz, T., Krieger, S., & Gazzaley, A. (2015). Homing in on Consciousness in the Nervous System: An Action-Based Synthesis Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1-106 DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X15000643

Alcock, J., Maley, C., & Aktipis, C. (2014). Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms BioEssays, 36 (10), 940-949 DOI: 10.1002/bies.201400071

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