Friday, February 22, 2013

Transhumanist values or are they?

The more I read and watch, the more questions I seem to have. 
While reading Transhumanist Values and Transhumanist Declaration, I kept on wondering whether we are going to become some form of a robot. Do we really want to be viewed as species that can be "remold in desirable ways"? I don't really think I want to. Why do we need to apply medicine and technology to overcome our basic biological limits? Aren't these limitations what makes us who we are? Are we trying to become superheroes or something? Isn't this going to create more problems for us than solve any? If we all start living longer or dying later (which is the same thing), where are we all going to be living? I am not really sure but, I think, transhumanism raises more questions than answers any. The idea of "uploading our consciousness onto computers and leaving our body behind" is terrifying.   
Now if we view Robbie in a transhumanist sense then we can say that it/he (nor sure which one) is more human than non-human. But is it/he really? So, it/he feels lonely, it/he misses his friends, it/he wants to 'die' on Earth (motherland). Does this make it/him human? It/He has a body of metal (basically, not made of meat) and a metal mind. Is this what we are going to become in the future? Robbie wasn't born, it/he was made/created - that already doesn't make it/him human, does it? It/He claims it/he made a choice of religion, but why would it/he choose religion? Possibly as a gratitude to its/his creator(s) who perhaps was(were) a Catholic? I don't believe that it/he could have made the choice consciously. The interesting part for me in the film was Robbie made-up world, where it/he invented friends of its/his kind and they together fix things and learn from each other. An AI understanding the importance of collaboration and learning from others - that's amazing! Not all humans understand that, so is Robbie better? 

                   Robbie - A Short Film By Neil Harvey from Neil Harvey on Vimeo.

Now Gumdrop is a bit different because she doesn't have the metallic voice of Robbie. If I was just listening to the film, not watching it, I would have thought that it was a human being being interviewed.

 Ok we may have new kind of species living around us, but I still wouldn't say that they are human beings. Well, for me they are not. We will have to learn to live with them and treat them fairly as stated in the Transhumanist Declaration. But will we be saying that they are human? Gumdrop is funny with a great sense of humour, but she is still a robot. I would like to befriend her, but I am afraid with the appearance of her species, many people would want to enslave them.

The next film actually made me depressed.

TRUE SKIN from H1 on Vimeo.
As far as I understand, there are more problems with the idea of transhumanism in this video than solutions. "Nobody wants to be entirely organic (oh, really?!), or get old, or die". In my opinion, it is OK to use transplants if one lost a limb and needs a replacement to be mobile, but using artificial legs or arms because they are non-organic is beyond my understanding, I am  afraid. Are we going to make artificial 'spare parts' fashionable and continue the present trend of judging people by their possessions? But it is not simply some gadgets, it is going to be parts that people have installed? What is better about that?
It is interesting or depressing to see that even in this transhumanist vision of the world, there are still homeless and sick people who do not seem to have a hope for a better life. Does that mean that even in this new world we are not going to address these serious problems?
"...for whatever you can afford" - which, to me, means that not everybody is going to be able to afford these parts which will widen the gap between the poor and the rich even more. In addition, people in this society look horrifying and utterly unreal to me, so are the ones who decide not to have these implants (possibly because they want to be 'organic') going to become outcasts? That doesn't sound like an improvement, does it? Or is it just me?
The ability to "back up your memories and implant them back into new you" may be useful in education because many things that we learn at school are forgotten if not used and the ability to remember what you have learnt may be good. But that sounds very much like a computer which backs up the data to restore it if it crashes. If we are going to live forever, can't we study the same subject again?

Avatar Days - World of Warcraft has been one of the most popular  games for quite a while (it aparently surpassed 10mln registered users in 2011) and, I think, many people play it to escape the reality. One of the players actually says that he is the same in the game as in real life, but some others I think would choose to act differently from what they do in real life. The other players in this video talk about making decisions that they are unlikely to make in real life. So maybe this is what they want to experience and the game gives them that chance.
And it's not just that. There is also a mention of recognition and reward which are so rare in real life. And this is true. Games provide this opportunity thus making people want to play more and more. They also seem to allow people feel better about themselves. Although I am not really very keen on non-stop gaming, I think that playing a bit a day will not do any harm.
Jane McGonigal actually believes that if we play 3 hours a day, we may be able to make the world a better place. Her talk is really thought-provoking and she claims that it is possible to save the world by turning the task into a game.

I would also like to share Seth Priebatsch's talk because he talks about the application of game dynamics to life situations, such as schools. Accrding to him school is a game but it's not very well designed.

The game layer on the top of the world

I would like to believe that if well thought-out and thoroughly planned education will be possible to improve to cater to the needs of modern children by making it more desirable for them. I hope that it would also help to eradicate bullying  and stop favoritism. The system wouldn't favour one kid over the other. It would just give fair rewards and progression. 

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