IMPORTANT SKYWATCH NOTICE: This series is being offered in the leadup to THE UNVEILING—an urgent Defender Virtual Conference event (May 13) wherein experts from around the world will update the public on swiftly developing Human Enhancement / Hybrid Age advances directly tied to ancient prophecy and a coming seven years of Great Tribulation. Are you aware governments are enacting legislation NOW to protect the rights of the coming Human-Non-Human genetically engineered entities? (Early registration discount here).
The presentation by Mihail Roco in the last entry to which Dr. Hook refers is contained in the 482-page report, Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance, commissioned by the U.S. National Science Foundation and Department of Commerce. Among other things, the report discusses planned applications of human enhancement technologies in the military (and in rationalization of the human-machine interface in industrial settings) wherein Darpa is devising “Nano, Bio, Info, and Cogno” scenarios “focused on enhancing human performance.”[i] For those of eschatological persuasion, the plan echoes a Mephistophelian bargain (a deal with the devil) in which “a golden age” merges technological and human cognition into “a single, distributed and interconnected brain.”[ii] Just visiting the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Web site is dizzying in this regard, with its cascading pages of super-soldier technology categories including molecular genetics and genomics; biochemistry, microbiology and biodegradation; and neurophysiology and cognitive neurosciences. If we can so easily discover such facts on the Web, one can only imagine what may be happening in Special Access Programs (saps) where, according to the Senate’s own Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, there are hundreds of “waived saps”—the blackest of black programs—functioning at any given time beyond congressional oversight. Because of this, and given the seriousness of weaponized biology and human enhancement technology blossoming so quickly, on May 24, 2010, a wide range of experts from the military, the private sector, and academia gathered in Washington DC for an important conference titled “Warring Futures: A Future Tense Event: How Biotech and Robotics are Transforming Today’s Military—and How That Will Change the Rest of Us.” Participants explored how human enhancement and related technologies are unfolding as an emerging battlefield strategy that will inevitably migrate to the broader culture, and what that means for the future of humanity. As the conference Web site noted:
New technologies are changing warfare as profoundly as did gunpowder. How are everything from flying robots as small as birds to “peak warrior performance” biology [human enhancement] altering the nature of the military as an institution, as well as the ethics and strategy of combat? How will the adoption of emerging technologies by our forces or others affect our understanding of asymmetrical conflict? New technologies are always embraced wherever there is the greatest competition for advantage, but quickly move out to the rest of us not engaged in sport or warfare.[iii]
The impressive list of speakers at the DC conference included Vice Admiral Joseph W. Dyer (U.S. Navy, retired), president of the Government and Industrial Robots Division at iRobot; Major General Robert E. Schmidle Jr., United States Marine Corps lead for the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review; Robert Wright, author of The Evolution of God and a Global Governance Fellow; P. W. Singer, Senior Fellow and director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution; Stephen Tillery from the Harrington Department of Bioengineering at Arizona State University; and Jon Mogford, acting deputy director of the Defense Sciences Office at Darpa.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO
Dr. Thomas Horn and Jimmy Evans Explain The Greatest Threat Transhumanism Poses To Humanity On Daystar
Having taken the lead in human enhancement studies as a U.S. military objective decades ago, Darpa saw the writing on the wall and, in scenes reminiscent of Saruman the wizard creating monstrous Uruk-Hai to wage unending, merciless war (from J. R. R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings), began investing billions of tax dollars into the Pentagon’s Frankensteinian dream of “super-soldiers” and “extended performance war fighter” programs. Related to these developments and unknown to most Americans was a series of hushed events following the sacking of Admiral John Poindexter (who served as the director of the Darpa Information Awareness Office from 2002 to 2003) during a series of flaps, which resulted in public interest into the goings-on at the agency and brief discovery of Darpa’s advanced human enhancement research. When the ensuing political pressure led the Senate Appropriations Committee to take a deeper look into just how money was flowing through Darpa, the staffers were shocked to find unstoppable super-soldiers—enhanced warriors with extra-human physical, physiological, and cognitive abilities that even allowed for “communication by thought alone” on the drawing board. Prof. Joel Garreau, investigative journalist, provided a summary of what happened next:
The staffers went down the list of Darpa’s projects, found the ones with titles that sounded frighteningly as though they involved the creation of a master race of superhumans, and zeroed out their budgets from the defense appropriations bill. There is scant evidence they knew much, if anything, about these projects. But we will probably never know the details, because significant people are determined that the whole affair be forever shrouded in mystery. The levels of secrecy were remarkable even for Darpa; they were astounding by the standards of the notoriously leaky Senate. Even insiders said it was hard to get a feel for what the facts really were. It took months of reporting and questioning, poking, and prodding even to get a formal “no comment” either from the leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee or from Anthony J. Tether, the director of Darpa.
A careful study of Darpa’s programs a year later, however, showed little change. Considerable creative budgetary maneuvering ensued. The peas of quite a few programs now reside under new, and much better camouflaged, shells. “They’re saying, ‘Okay, this is the second strike. Do we have to go three strikes?’” one manager said. “It doesn’t stop anything. We’ll be smarter about how we position things.” Meanwhile, he said, new human enhancement programs are in the pipeline, “as bold or bolder” than the ones that preceded them.[iv]
Recent hints at Darpa’s “bold or bolder” investment in human enhancement as part of an emerging arms race is reflected in two of its newest projects (launched July 2010), titled “Biochronicity and Temporal Mechanisms Arising in Nature” and “Robustness of Biologically-Inspired Networks,” in which the express intention of transforming “biology from a descriptive to a predictive field of science” in order to boost “biological design principles” in troop performance is made.[v] Darpa’s Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2011 President’s Budget also includes funding for science that will lead to “editing a soldier’s DNA”[vi] while more exotically providing millions of dollars for the creation of “BioDesign,” a mysterious artificial life project with military applications in which Darpa plans to eliminate the randomness of natural evolution “by advanced genetic engineering and molecular biology technologies,” the budget report states. The language in this section of the document actually speaks of eliminating “cell death” through creation of “a new generation of regenerative cells that could ultimately be programmed to live indefinitely.”[vii] In other words, whatever this synthetic life application is (Wired Magazine described it as “living, breathing creatures”), the plan is to make it immortal.
Not everybody likes the imperatives espoused by Darpa and other national agencies, and from the dreamy fantasies of Star Trek to the dismal vision of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, some have come to believe there are demons hiding inside transhumanism’s mystical (or mythical?) “Shangri-la.”
“Many of the writers [of the U.S. National Science Foundation and Department of Commerce Commissioned Report: Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance, cited above] share a faith in technology which borders on religiosity, boasting of miracles once thought to be the province of the Almighty,” write the editors of The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society. “[But] without any serious reflection about the hazards of technically manipulating our brains and our consciousness…a different sort of catastrophe is nearer at hand. Without honestly and seriously assessing the consequences associated with these powerful new [GRIN] technologies, we are certain, in our enthusiasm and fantasy and pride, to rush headlong into disaster.”[viii]
Early on, few people would have been more qualified than computer scientist Bill Joy to annunciate these dangers, or to outline the “hell scenario” that could unfold as a result of GRIN. Yet it must have come as a real surprise to some of those who remembered him as the level-headed Silicon Valley scientist and co-founder of Sun Microsystems (SM) when, as chief scientist for the corporation, he released a vast and now-famous essay, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us,”[ix] arguing how GRIN would threaten to obliterate mankind in the very near future. What was extraordinary about Joy’s prophecy was how he saw himself—and people like him—as responsible for building the very machines that “will enable the construction of the technology that may replace our species.”
“From the moment I became involved in the creation of new technologies, their ethical dimensions have concerned me,” he begins. But it was not until the autumn of 1998 that he became “anxiously aware of how great are the dangers facing us in the 21st century.” Joy dates his “awakening” to a chance meeting with Ray Kurzweil, whom he talked with in a hotel bar during a conference at which they both spoke. Kurzweil was finishing his book, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intellegence, and the powerful descriptions of sentient robots and near-term enhanced humans left Joy taken aback, “especially given Ray’s proven ability to imagine and create the future,” Joy wrote. “I already knew that new technologies like genetic engineering and nanotechnology were giving us the power to remake the world, but a realistic and imminent scenario for intelligent robots surprised me.”
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FLASHBACK: Dr. Thomas Horn Discusses Prophetic Implications Of Transhumanism At Strategic Perspectives Conference
Over the weeks and months following the hotel conversation, Joy puzzled over Kurzweil’s vision of the future until it finally dawned on him that genetic engineering, robotics, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology posed “a different threat than the technologies that have come before. Specifically, robots, engineered organisms, and nanobots share a dangerous amplifying factor: They can self-replicate. A bomb is blown up only once—but one bot can become many, and quickly get out of control.” The unprecedented threat of self-replication particularly burdened Joy because, as a computer scientist, he thoroughly understood the concept of out-of-control replication or viruses leading to machine systems or computer networks being disabled. Uncontrolled self-replication of nanobots or engineered organisms would run “a much greater risk of substantial damage in the physical world,” Joy concluded before adding his deeper fear:
What was different in the 20th century? Certainly, the technologies underlying the weapons of mass destruction (WMD)—nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC)—were powerful, and the weapons an enormous threat. But building nuclear weapons required…highly protected information; biological and chemical weapons programs also tended to require large-scale activities.
The 21st-century technologies—genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics…are so powerful that they can spawn whole new classes of accidents and abuses. Most dangerously, for the first time, these accidents and abuses are widely within the reach of individuals or small groups. They will not require large facilities or rare raw materials. Knowledge alone will enable the use of them.
Thus we have the possibility not just of weapons of mass destruction but of knowledge-enabled mass destruction (KMD), this destructiveness hugely amplified by the power of self-replication.
I think it is no exaggeration to say we are on the cusp of the further perfection of extreme evil, an evil whose possibility spreads well beyond that which weapons of mass destruction bequeathed to the nation states, on to a surprising and terrible empowerment.[x]
Joy’s prophecy about self-replicating “extreme evil” as an imminent and enormous transformative power that threatens to rewrite the laws of nature and permanently alter the course of life as we know it was frighteningly revived in 2010 in the creation of Venter’s “self-replicating” Synthia species (Venter’s description). Parasites such as the mycoplasma mycoides that Venter modified to create Synthia can be resistant to antibiotics and acquire and smuggle DNA from one species to another, causing a variety of diseases. The dangers represented by Synthia’s self-replicating parasitism has thus refueled Joy’s opus and given experts in the field of counter-terrorism sleepless nights over how extremists could use open-source information to create a Frankenstein version of Synthia in fulfillment of Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, which Joy quoted as, “the first moment in the history of our planet when any species, by its own voluntary actions, has become a danger to itself.”[xi] As a dire example of the possibilities this represents, a genetically modified version of mouse pox was created not long ago that immediately reached 100 percent lethality. If such pathogens were unleashed into population centers, the results would be catastrophic. This is why Joy and others were hoping a few years ago that a universal moratorium or voluntary relinquishment of GRIN developments would be initiated by national laboratories and governments. However, the genie is so far out of the bottle today that even college students are attending annual synthetic biology contests (such as the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition, or IGEM) where nature-altering witches’ brews are being concocted by the scores, splicing and dicing DNA into task-fulfilling living entities. For instance, the IGEM 2009 winners built “E. chromi”—a programmable version of the bacteria that often leads to food poisoning, Escherichia coli (commonly abbreviated E. coli). A growing list of similar DNA sequences are readily available over the Internet, exasperating security experts who see the absence of universal rules for controlling what is increasingly available through information networks as threatening to unleash a “runaway sorcerer’s apprentice” with unavoidable biological fallout. Venter and his collaborators say they recognize this danger—that self-replicating biological systems like the ones they are building—hold peril as well as hope, and they have joined in calling on Congress to enact laws to attempt to control the flow of information and synthetic “recipes” that could provide lethal new pathogens for terrorists. The problem, as always, is getting all of the governments in the world to voluntarily follow a firm set of ethics or rules. This is wishful thinking at best. It is far more likely that the world is racing toward what Joel Garreau was first to call the “hell scenario”—a moment in which human-driven GRIN technologies place earth and its inhabitants on course to self-eradication.
Ironically, some advocates of posthumanity are now using the same threat scenario to advocate for transhumanism as the best way to deal with the inevitable extinction of mankind via GRIN. At the global interdisciplinary institute Metanexus (www.metanexus.net/), Mark Walker, assistant professor at New Mexico State University (who holds the Richard L. Hedden of Advanced Philosophical Studies Chair) concludes, like Bill Joy, that “technological advances mean that there is a high probability that a human-only future will end in extinction.” From this he makes a paradoxical argument:
In a nutshell, the argument is that even though creating posthumans may be a very dangerous social experiment, it is even more dangerous not to attempt it…
I suspect that those who think the transhumanist future is risky often have something like the following reasoning in mind: (1) If we alter human nature then we will be conducting an experiment whose outcome we cannot be sure of. (2) We should not conduct experiments of great magnitude if we do not know the outcome. (3) We do not know the outcome of the transhumanist experiment. (4) So, we ought not to alter human nature.
The problem with the argument is… Because genetic engineering is already with us, and it has the potential to destroy civilization and create posthumans, we are already entering uncharted waters, so we must experiment. The question is not whether to experiment, but only the residual question of which social experiment will we conduct. Will we try relinquishment? This would be an unparalleled social experiment to eradicate knowledge and technology. Will it be the steady-as-she-goes experiment where for the first time governments, organizations and private citizens will have access to knowledge and technology that (accidently or intentionally) could be turned to civilization ending purposes? Or finally, will it be the transhumanist social experiment where we attempt to make beings brighter and more virtuous to deal with these powerful technologies?
I have tried to make at least a prima facie case that transhumanism promises the safest passage through 21st century technologies.[xii]
NEXT: ESCHATOLOGICAL POSSIBILITIES
[i] “Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance,” on several pages throughout, first seen on page xii.
[ii] Hook, Human Dignity in the Biotech Century, 93.
[iii] “Warring Futures: A Future Tense Event: How Biotech and Robotics are Transforming Today’s Military—and How That Will Change the Rest of Us,” New America Foundation, accessed April 25, 2011, http://www.newamerica.net/events/2010/warring_futures_a_future_tense_event.
[iv] Garreau, Radical Evolution, 269–270.
[v] Katie Drummond, “Holy Acronym, Darpa! ‘Batman & Robin’ to Master Biology, Outdo Evolution,” Wired Magazine, July 6, 2010, http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/07/holy-acronym-darpa-batman-robin-to-master-biology-outdo-evolution/.
[vi] Katie Drummond, “Darpa’s News Plans: Crowdsource Intel, Edit DNA,” Wired Magazine, February 2, 2010, http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/02/darpas-new-plans-crowdsource-intel-immunize-nets-edit-dna/.
[vii] Katie Drummond, “Pentagon Looks to Breed Immortal ‘Synthetic Organisms,’ Molecular Kill-Switch Included,” Wired Magazine, February 5, 2010, http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/02/pentagon-looks-to-breed-immortal-synthetic-organisms-molecular-kill-switch-included/.
[viii] “Carried Away with Convergence,” The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology & Society (Summer 2003), accessed April 25, 2011, http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/carried-away-with-convergence.
[ix] Bill Joy, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us,” Wired Magazine, April 1, 2000, http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy.html.
[x] Ibid, emphasis added.
[xii] Mark Walker, “Ship of Fools: Why Transhumanism is the Best Bet to Prevent the Extinction of Civilization,” Metanexus Institute, February 5, 2009, http://www.metanexus.net/magazine/tabid/68/id/10682/Default.aspx.