“[Examples of payoffs may include improving work efficiency and learning, revolutionary changes in healthcare, highly effective communication techniques including brain-to-brain interaction, perfecting human machine interfaces including neuromorphic engineering, sustainable and “intelligent” environments including neuro-ergonomics, reaching sustainable development using NBIC tools, and ameliorating the physical and cognitive decline that is common to the aging mind.]”
(Note: I have edited the zeal for scientific excess from the NBIC Report’s Executive Summary).
Converging Technologies, for Improving Human, Performance, NANOTECHNOLOGY, BIOTECHNOLOGY, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCE, NSF/DOC-sponsored report, Edited by Mihail C. Roco and William Sims Bainbridge, National Science Foundation, 2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers (currently Springer), Dordrecht, The Netherlands.
The Matrix may be upon us. Hollywood has matured from the fantasy of the Kryptonite of Marvel comics and Christopher Reeve’s Superman to the virtuality of The Matrix. The point is to use The Matrix to get to the Kryptonite, for empirical technical modernity sees the inadequacy of being human as an impediment to physically transcending the hurdles of the universe to survive: the pathos of the imperfection of the human condition seeks deliverance in the metaphysics of the perfection of the universe-as-information to consummate modernity in its natural ending, unbeknownst that this is a delusion because both the pathos and the metaphysics are human and the metaphysics and the physics are constrained by human perception.
The National Science Foundation (NSF), the Departments of Commerce and Defense are expending tax payer funds to converge four technologies of the future: nano or 10 (exp -9) as a scientific calculator would define it, bio (what god gave us all), information (what we gather through our perception), and cognitive (how we process the information we perceive) to enhance human performance to be able to sense and process what we sense better. To raise productivity. To be more efficient in consuming everything from food to natural resources. LSD since Woodstock has come a long way in its craving for nirvana.
Never mind that we may need a law at some point to self-terminate, Kevorkian-style, when we get bored of it all surrounded by the artificiality of the teeming augmented-humanity, as if the apotheosis of humanity is post-modern feudalist machinedom. Open markets would then even offer a choice between sexual and asexual reproduction to maximize the joy of sex without reproduction, between races by design (Gattaca, an anagram of ATCG, the constituent chemicals of the DNA) and among the various specializations of Adam Smith at will through education technology plugged in directly into the brain, and always monitored to be honest and virtuous, as if “god” is watching us in a world where God is dead. Shiller and Beethoven would never have imagined that this would be the Ode to Joy that Gutenberg’s printing press would wrought upon the planet. They were thinking of moving humanity through the exaltation of unaugmented intellectualism out of Plato’s Cave, where culture (or nurture) itself is the conceptual prison (inability to self-reflect on nurture), into light.
The fact of biology is that life is the most optimized, organic footprint of order in an entropic universe of ever increasing disorder, but subject to these very same forces of disorder. Death is an unavoidable thermodynamic consequence. Therefore, the natural evolution of the various species on earth, has produced the necessary and sufficient sentient and cognitive capacities to survive as the earth itself changed geologically over time. The purpose of speciation, thus, is to augment what is natural to survive elsewhere when the earth becomes inhospitable, for our cognition is limited to who we are: that is, intrinsic limits to human capacities are bound by evolutionary logic and design in response to the changing environmental conditions. Manipulating it with convergence carries with it an opportunity cost. And that could be the slavery of The Matrix.
It would, therefore, instead be best if convergence research is applied to imagine and test human survival in alternative environments rather than augmenting the body and mind in the existing environment. And this cannot happen without understanding the mechanics of the origin of species and the descent of man as a space-time function of climate and geological change (for example, can evolution be sped up technologically to fit changing space or can space be transformed to suit what has already evolved?), the final frontiers in the game of species survival. This is the kind of research that I argue for in the forthcoming paper “Understanding Life: A New Approach to Thinking About Living Systems.”
The Great Game is about species perpetuation, not performance enhancement, for to adapt performance to changing conditions, the species itself may (the evolution of the races, for example, is not speciation but a form of intra-species adaptation to the environment) have to evolve and that outcome is not a machine. It is adaptation inanticipation not enhancement, for performance enhancement may not always be necessary to adapt. For example, speechless brain-to-brain or thought-spectrum communication or technological telepathy would be extremely beneficial in environments where sound cannot propagate and it would be useful to know if the United States space program is already experimenting with this during extra-vehicular activity or as is already known, it is being used to help the disabled through performance substitution.
It is not that the battery of human life powers The Matrix but that life is a battery. The arrow of convergence is all about the arrow of time (not the NBIC convergence arrow), not performance enhancement. And the arrow of time is about light and the electromagnetic spectrum.
Humanity needs a pill to transcend the homo sapien hubris. The purple one, to like itself for what it is when it sees its reflection in the mirror, in all its kaleidoscopic complexity and value judgements of itself. And this, is not in The Matrix.