On the 21st of July 1969, at 02:56 UTC, humanity left a footprint on another world.
Our species, as one, craned our necks to see better the most impressive feat of exploration of the modern era.
Men had set foot on the moon. Strapped to a bomb, using science bred in war, a vehicle left this world and despite all setbacks the world watched as one as we stood on a place no human had ever been before. What it meant to be human was exalted that day. 600 million people viewed this event. It remains a pinnacle of human achievement.
I was lucky enough to attend an evening event presented by Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson and it was incredible. Not only to hear the passion and verve in the man’s voice, but to recognise it from myself, and my passion for science and the stars. He was asked many questions, but one stuck out to me. He was asked what advancement he would like to see
“I would like to become a part of a higher dimension, to become active in time like we are active in three dimensions. I want to see the span of my life all at once, to be there when I died, when I was born, live the greatest hits all over again.”
The reason I mention Dr. Tyson and the moon landings is what human augmentation is all about.
Exploration of the self, of the world, of time and space, of the stars, of the infinite universe, of consciousness (mine and others).
We live alone in our fleshy selves, briefly touching the lives of others with the tiny bubble of our mind that interludes with another’s.
Everyone is unique, we have inspirations, moments of pure beauty and passion, expression and emotions that strike the core of us, but they fade when we die, with no other having experienced it just like us.
We are all afraid, of the dark, of pain, of loss and loneliness. We don’t need to be, now unlike in previous eras we can begin to enhance ourselves from the conditions of our evolution. Become less tribal and more tolerant, less afraid of change, more inclusive of differences. Less prone to hatred and intolerance.
Here we have the desire for enhancement. The response to ongoing evolution, improve it, the fear of death, don’t die.
But there is fear. Many groups, including President Bush’s Council on Bioethics, The American Christian league, and others. Those who don’t understand the technology may become fearful of it, fearful of individuals improved by direct intervention. Though perhaps rightly so, we have little idea of the long-term sociological consequences of improving the human condition. Currently, we lack the technology to leave our home planet, and the population is already problematic, what happens if we start living even longer?
Genetic manipulation of humans is synonymous with enhancement given the available technologies, and horizontal migration of genes could lead to increases in disease and infective vectors. Opponents use imagery of science run amok, genetic monsters made from scientists without ethics.
We will explore some more of the issues next time.