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Implications of exponential technological trends for humanity

Objective(s)

  • Describe implications for humans in light of the exponential rate of technological change.

Summary

The trend of technological development suggests that humans are on an accelerating path toward posthumanity. We should carefully consider this possibility and its implications.

Assuming that technology continues to progress exponentially At a faster and faster rate; the later in time, the greater the change, growth or progress., humans are about to see a huge increase in our abilities. Think about how much more powerful and far reaching the internet is than Gutenberg’s press, or a nuclear weapon compared to a spear. These leaps in abilities will most likely continue at a faster and faster rate.

Along with an increase in intelligence and abilities, our technology will probably continue to integrate more and more with our bodies. Think about the advancement from glasses to contact lenses, and hearing aids to cochlear implants. As technology advances, it becomes more intimately connected with our bodies.

This combination of exponential growth and increasing integration of technology with our bodies is going to have powerful consequences for humanity. In fact, we are probably on a path towards becoming “superhuman,” or as transhumanists like to call it, post-human Human descendants with capabilities beyond current humans to such a degree as to warrant a new category—in the same way that humans differ from prehumans.. Why do we call these future people “post”-human? Because posthumans will likely be as different from you and me as we are from our “prehuman” ancestors. For example, you might have heard of homo erectus. She walked upright like a modern human and used tools like fire and stone, but her brain was about 74% smaller than ours. Thanks to our intelligence, abilities and tools, modern humans impact the world on a much larger scale and in much more powerful ways than homo erectus ever could.

Similarly, posthumans will have the power to affect the world in ways we cannot currently conceive. Imagine, for example, a world where we can transform a desert into a verdant region in a snap; where we don’t just have cochlear implants to make the deaf to hear or artificial legs to make the lame to walk but all kinds of smart, bionic body parts to enhance and extend our lives and abilities—perhaps indefinitely. What would happen if artificial intelligence is seamlessly integrated with your everyday experience so that you can’t tell where your knowledge ends and the web of information begins?

You can imagine that as our ability to use and integrate technology grows, our descendants will be incredibly powerful. When our descendants can access all knowledge in an instant, travel at unprecedented speeds, and regenerate their bodies at will, you might even describe their abilities as “god-like.” Some transhumanists call such a future being homo deus, or human become god. Christian and Mormon theology call this Theosis The religious idea that humans can become gods..

Discussion Questions

  • What are some tools that human beings are developing or could develop to become more powerful? What are the likely consequences, good or bad?
  • How do you imagine the ideal future society? What kind of people would live in that society? What kind of powers would they have? Are there things we can do today to make that kind of society more likely to happen?
  • Do you think it’s accurate to say that posthumans could be gods? Why or why not? Do you have an initial, gut level response to such an idea, either positive or negative?

Call to Action

  • Write down your opinion on what it would take to optimize for the best, most ethical ideals for our posthuman descendants. And/or what would it take to reduce the risk of undesirable ends for them?
  • Learn about, start, join or participate in a group who is working on a project that aligns with your vision of what kind of future would be best. For example, you might be concerned about the environmental impact on our planet if human beings in the future are living indefinitely, so you might find a group working on food optimization to prevent future famine.

Resources for further study/engagement: