Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX has a new dream. Beyond technology for the earth and the stars, he wants to redesign humankind. If we don’t use our know-how to enhance ourselves, he believes artificial intelligence will conquer humanity. (“Hacking mortality,” The Week, March 29, 2019, pg. 11.) Many people in Sweden seem to agree . Thousand have lined up to become Grinders, a term adapted from a futuristic comic book. It describes people who have allowed radio-frequency identification devices,(REIDs) to be implanted in their bodies for the purpose of eliminating the need for keys, passwords and the like.
This willingness to embrace technology has ushered in a movement that goes beyond making life convenient. Transhumanism asks the question, how long can life expectancy exceed its alloted 125 years? Having charted the human genome, and with scientists’ ability to alter CRISPRs, the dream of enhancing the human body beyond its present capabilities seems possible. Aided with nootropics, smart drugs that forestall the effects of age on the brain, some think the horizon is limitless.
Despite these aspirations of a few dreamers, a 2016 poll reveals the public is wary of such goals. Most Americans oppose inserting chips into the brain to enhance its function. They disapprove of prescribing synthetic blood to make a person physically stronger than others. Perhaps money and marketing will overcome these reservations. Nonetheless, we have reason to be wary. Consider a world where the rich can afford enhancements while the poor cannot . Soon, we might find ourselves plunged into the world of Elois and Morlocks.
Consider this, too. As the earth exceeds its capacity to sustain human life, given climate change and overpopulation, where will the long-lived go? Or, do we plan to murder our young to keep the earth habitable?
“We are very, very small, but are profoundly capable of very, very big things,” Stephen Hawking once said. His words were meant to be laudatory. But, as we move into the future, we have reason to fear he may be right.