In 2011, Nita and I released a book called Forbidden Gates, which outlined the future of humanity in light of a dangerous collection of scientific disciplines we call GRIN technology. The acronym refers to Genetics, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Nanotechnology, a quartet of scientific imperatives that seek to reshape what it is to be human. Yet even though the book was a best-seller, most Christians I meet are still unaware of the shifting genetic sands beneath our collective feet. But ignorance is no excuse. Every believer should know what their children and grandchildren are about to face, and we have a duty to stand against it. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul explains the church’s responsibility as the agent of God’s wisdom, concluding this was by divine intention. “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 3:10). Making known the “righteous” and manifold wisdom of God must include human-affirming virtues of Christian morality that are intrinsic to His divine order and the Great Commission. Christian leaders must be actively engaged in ideological warfare for the mind of a generation especially in an age where people are seeking reasons to believe, despite everything they are being told, that the church remains relevant… (READ MORE)
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EDITOR’S NOTE: In the countdown to the release of the highly anticipated documentary “INHUMAN: THE NEXT AND FINAL PHASE OF MAN IS HERE”(scheduled for release August-September), SkyWatch TV is running this exclusive online series on transhumanism and the dawn of the Human Hybrid Age.
As transhumanist philosophy and Grin technology become integrated within society and national and private laboratories with their corporate allies provide increasingly sophisticated arguments for its widest adoption, those of us who treasure the meaning of life and human nature as defined by Judeo-Christian values will progressively find ourselves engaged in deepening spiritual conflicts over maintaining our humanity in the midst of what the producers of the upcoming documentary INHUMAN believe is fundamentally a supernatural conflict.
Just as the fictional exercise with the seventeen-year-old “Michelle” in the last entry illustrates, intensifying techno-spiritual issues, which Christian families will face this century, will escalate simultaneously at both spiritual and scientific levels. This material/immaterial struggle, which philosopher and theologian Francis Schaeffer once described as always at war “in the thought-world,” is difficult for some to grasp. The idea that human-transforming technology that mingles the dna of natural and synthetic beings and merges man with machines could somehow be used or even inspired by evilsupernaturalism to foment destruction within the material world is for some people so exotic as to be inconceivable. Yet nothing should be more fundamentally clear, as students of spiritual warfare will understand. We are body (physical form), mind (soul, will, emotions), and spirit, thus everything in the material and immaterial world has potential to influence our psychosomatic existence and decisions. “There is no conflict in our lives that is strictly a spiritual issue,” writes Robert Jeffress in his book, The Divine Defense. This is because “there is never a time when the spirit is divorced from the body. Likewise, there is no turmoil in our lives that is solely psychological or physical, because our spirit, along with God’s Spirit within us and demonic spirits around us, is always present as well.”[i] Jeffress’ point that material stimulus cannot be divorced from spiritual conditions conveys why the Bible is so concerned with the antitheses of transhumanism; the integrity of our bodies and minds. The goal is to bring both into obedience to Christ (2 Chronicles 10:5) because this is where the battle is first fought and won. No marriage breakup ever transpired that did not start there—no murder, no theft, no idolatry—but that the contest was staged in the imagination, then married to the senses, and the decision to act given to the victor.
How technology is now poised to raise this mind-body-spirit game is hidden in the shadows of the National Institute of Health and Darpa, which for more than three decades have invested hundreds of millions of dollars not only designing new dna constructs but crafting arrays of microelectrodes, supercomputers, and algorithms to analyze and decipher the brain’s neural code, the complex “syntax” and communication rules that transform electrical neuron pulses in the brain into specific digital and analog information that we ultimately perceive as decisions, memories, and emotions. Understanding how this secret brain language functions, then parsing it down into digital computer code (strings of ones and zeros) where it can be reassembled into words and commands and then manipulated is at the center of military neurobiology, artificial intelligence research, and cybernetics.
While significant studies in neurosciences have been conducted with “neuro-prostheses” in mind to help the handicapped—for instance, the artificial cochlear implant that approximately 188,000 people worldwide have received thus far—Darpa “is less interested in treating the disabled than in enhancing the cognitive capacities of soldiers,” says former senior writer at Scientific American, John Horgan. “Darpa officials have breached the prospect of cyborg warriors downloading complex fighting procedures directly into their brains, like the heroes of the Matrix,” and has “interest in the development of techniques that can survey and possibly manipulate the mental processes of potential enemies [by] recording signals from the brains of enemy personnel at a distance, in order to ‘read their minds and to control them.”[ii] Because what develops within military technology eventually migrates into the broader culture, where it is quickly embraced for competitive or mutual advantages, the ramifications of neurobiology has not escaped international interests in both public and private agencies. Entire fields of research are now under development worldwide based on the notion that breakthroughs will provide unprecedented opportunities for reading, influencing, and even controlling human minds this century. The implications from this field are so staggering that France, in 2010, became the first nation to establish a behavioral research unit specifically designed to study and set “neuropolicy” to govern how such things as “neuromarketing” (a new field of marketing that analyzes consumers’ sensorimotor and cognitive responses to stimuli in order to decode what part of the brain is telling consumers to make certain buying decisions) may be used in the future to access unconscious decision-making elements of the brain to produce desired responses. This precedent for government neuropolicy comes not a second too soon, as the world’s largest semiconductor chip maker, Intel Corp., wants brain communicators on the market and “in its customers’ heads” before the year 2020. In what can only be described as Matrix creep, researchers at Intel Labs Pittsburgh are designing what it bets will be “the next big thing”—brain chips that allow consumers to control a host of new electronic and communication gadgets by way of neural commands. Developers at Toyota and the University of Utah are also working on brain transmitters, which they hope will contribute to building a global “hive mind.”
From these developments comes the distant groaning of a “fearful unknown” in which the architecture of the human brain—as transformed by current and future cybernetic inventions—begins to act in ways that borderline the supernatural. Consider experimental telepathy, which involves mind-to-mind thought transference that allows people to communicate without the use of speaking audibly. Most do not know that Hans Berger, the inventor of electroencephalography (eeg, the recording of electrical activity along the scalp produced by the firing of neurons within the brain) was a strong believer in psychic phenomena and wanted to decode brain signals in order to establish nonverbal transmission between people. Grin technology proposes to fulfill his dream.
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Another example is telekinesis (psychokinesis), which involves the movement or manipulation of physical matter via direct influence of the mind. As incredible as it may seem, both this idea and the one above are under research by Darpa and other national laboratories as no pipe dream. In fact, recent experiments have provided “proof of concept” more than once. Such brain-to-brain transmission between distant persons as well as mind-to-computer communication was first demonstrated at the University of Southampton’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research using electrodes and an Internet connection. The experiment at the institute went farther than most brain-to-machine interfacing (bmi) technology at that time, actually demonstrating brain-to-brain (B2B) communication between persons at a distance. Dr. Christopher James, who oversaw the experiment, commented: “Whilst bci [brain-computer interface] is no longer a new thing and person-to-person communication via the nervous system was shown previously in work by Prof. Kevin Warwick from the University of Reading, here we show, for the first time, true brain to brain interfacing. We have yet to grasp the full implications of this.” The experiment allowed one person using bci to transmit thoughts, translated as a series of binary digits, over the Internet to another person whose computer received the digits and transmitted them to the second user’s brain.[iii]
The real danger is how these accomplishments within human-mind-to-synthetic intelligence may take the proverbial “ghost in the machine” where no modern man has gone before, bridging a gap between unknown entities (both virtual and real), perhaps even inviting takeover of our species by malevolent intelligence. Note that the experiments above are being conducted at Southampton’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research. Some years ago, scientist Vic Tandy’s research into sound, vibration frequencies, and eyeball resonation led to a thesis (actually titled “Ghosts in the Machine”) that was published in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. Tandy’s findings outlined what he thought were “natural causes” for particular cases of specter materialization. Tandy found that 19-Hz standing air waves could, under some circumstances, create sensory phenomena in an open environment suggestive of a ghost. He actually produced a frightening manifested entity resembling contemporary descriptions of “alien grays.” A similar phenomenon was discovered in 2006 by neurologist Olaf Blanke of the Brain Mind Institute in Lausanne, Switzerland, while working with a team to discover the source of epileptic seizures in a young woman. They were applying electrical currents through surgically implanted electrodes to various regions of her brain, when upon reaching her left temporoparietal junction (tpj, located roughly above the left ear) she suddenly reported feeling the presence of a shadow person standing behind her. The phantom started imitating her body posture, lying down beneath her when she was on the bed, sitting behind her, and later even attempting to take a test card away from her during a language exercise. While the scientists interpreted the activity as a natural, though mysterious, biological function of the brain, is it possible they were actually discovering gateways of perception into the spirit world that were closed by God following the fall of man? Were Tandy’s “ghost” and Blanke’s “shadow person” living unknowns? If so, is it not troubling that advocates of human-mind-to-machine intelligence may produce permanent conditions similar to Tandy and Blanke’s findings, giving rise to simulated or real relationships between humans and “entities”? At the thirteenth European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research at the University of Vienna in Austria, an original paper submitted by Charles Ostman seemed to echo this possibility:
As this threshold of development is crossed, as an index of our human /Internet symbiosis becoming more pronounced, and irreversible, we begin to develop communication modalities which are quite “nonhuman” by nature, but are “socio-operative” norms of the near future. Our collective development and deployment of complex metasystems of artificial entities and synthetic life-forms, and acceptance of them as an integral component of the operational “culture norm” of the near future, is in fact the precursory developmental increment, as an enabling procedure, to gain effective communicative access to a contiguous collection of myriad “species” and entity types (synthetic and “real”) functioning as process brokeraging agents.[iv]
A similar issue that “pinged” in our memories from past experience with exorcism and the connection between sound resonance and contact with supernaturalism has to do with people who claim to have become possessed or “demonized” after attempting to open mind gateways through vibratory chanting at New Age vortices or “Mother Earth” energy sites such as Sedona, Arizona, where a light entity was recently captured on film during research for the book “On the Path of the Immortals” (get the 2.5 hour Special Investigative Report with a clip of the “orb” shooting around above our investigators heads FREE here). When we queried Christian paranormal expert expert Sue Bradley on this subject before she passed away, asking if she believed a connection could exist between acoustics, harmonics, sound resonance, and spirit gateways, she e-mailed this lengthy and interesting response:
Tom and Nita:
From the ancients to the New Age, resonance and harmonics have long been recognized as vehicles of communication and manifestation. Ancient rock outcroppings, sacred temples, and monuments have for millennia been used as gathering places for the so-called spiritually enlightened. Through recent understanding of quantum entanglement and the high energy physics of sound and light, both with adaptable vibratory characteristics, these popular sites for gatherings with ritual chants and offerings, often employing ancient spells and mathematical harmonic codes in various sets of tandem frequencies, may well have measurable and far greater esoteric effects than even recently believed.
Note what New Ager and modern shaman Zacciah Blackburn of Sacred Sound, Sound the Codes says he came in contact with at such sites:
It is not mere coincidence many of the ancient stone temples of the world were made with crystalline embedded stones, such as granite, which are known for their properties to pass or store energy. Through Sacred Sound and awareness practices, the unseen “wisdom keepers” and guardians of these sacred temples have communed with me, and showed me how to hold frequency of awareness in the heart and mind, and combine them into sound codes to create a “key” which opens the “libraries” of these temples of ancient star beings and wisdom keepers to the modern way traveler whom comes with pure intent.[v]
With this in mind, also consider how the word “ear” appears 120 times in Scripture, “ears” 151 times, and is important with regard to sound connected to spiritual hearing. First used in Exodus 15:26, the ear is linked to a covenant relationship for those that hearken to the voice of the Lord and keep His statutes. The right ear is repeatedly described in the Levitical instructions: “Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his blood, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons” (Exodus 29:20; [Leviticus 8:23 and 24; 14:14, 17, 25, and 28].
Subsequent references to the ear and hearing are presented as petitions to God from His servants as well as from God as counsel, forewarning and rebukes.
The ear as a spiritual gateway termed “Ear-Gate” first appeared in English usage through an allegory penned by John Bunyan in 1682. Bunyan’s classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, was the most widely read and translated book in the English language apart from the Bible: it was also an educational staple and considered to be required reading in the U.S. from colonial times through World War II. While The Pilgrim’s Progress allegorizes the encounters and obstacles of a man seeking salvation, Bunyan’s The Holy War or The Losing and Taking Again of the Town of Mansoul recounts the cosmic conflict for the souls of mankind with Peretti-like descriptions and precision.
The town of Mansoul, designed in the image of the almighty, Shaddai, is the target of the deceptive and malevolent giant, Diabolus. Mansoul is a city of five gates: the Ear-Gate, Eye-Gate, Mouth-Gate, Nose-Gate and Feel-Gate. The first and most strategic gate is the first gate breached: the Ear-Gate.
Nineteenth-century theologian, Rev. Robert Maguire, comments on the importance of the Ear-Gate:
This was the gate of audience, and through this gate the words of the tempter must penetrate, if the temptation is to be successful. Into the ears of our first mother did the wily serpent whisper the glozing words of his seductive wiles and through the Ear-Gate, he assailed her heart and won it. To give audience to the tempter is the next step to yielding up obedience to his will.[vi]
One of the two principal powers in Mansoul, Resistance, quickly succumbs to an arrow from the army of Diabolus. The promises of Diabolus are familiar: to enlarge the town of man-soul, to augment their freedom and in the subtlety of pattern identical to Eden,challenging the prohibition of the Tree of Knowledge itself.
Dr. Maguire continues to describe this initial incursion at the Ear-Gate with the introduction of Mr. Ill-Pause, another of the diabolical army that visits Mansoul:
Satan has many mysterious angels who are ready to second their master’s temptations and to commend his wily overtures. Thus Ill-Pause persuades the men of Mansoul; and, lo! to the temptation from without (which was utterly powerless in itself), there answers the yielding from within. This is the fatal act; and is straightaway followed by another grave disaster—the death of Innocency, one of the chiefest and most honorable townsmen. His sensitive soul was poisoned by the contact of the breath of the lost.[vii]
The Holy War continues with civil war raging within Mansoul and the defeat of the giant Diabolus and his demonic army by the son of Shaddai, Emmanuel, but the allegory perhaps finds more direct application in the twenty-first century than earlier. This is because, more than any other time in history, the seduction of high-tech has taken firm root—and among the most vulnerable of the population. Culturally adrift, this high risk generation, most of whom have never heard the exquisite truths of John Bunyan, has been denied spiritual cultivation through an educational system which values tolerance above absolutes and through social training that elevates technology above heritage.
TO BE CONTINUED…
[i] Robert Jeffress, The Divine Defense: Six Simple Strategies for Winning Your Greatest Battles (Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook, 2006) 78.
[ii] John Horgon, “We’re Cracking the Neural Code, the Brain’s Secret Language,” Adbusters (1/25/06) https://www.adbusters.org/the_magazine/63/Were_Cracking_the_Neural_Code_the_Brains_Secret_Language.html.
[iii] “Brain-Computer Interface Allows Person-to-Person Communication Through Power Of Thought,” ScienceDaily (10/6/09) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091006102637.htm.
[iv] Charles Ostman, The Internet as an Organism: Emergent Human / Internet Symbiosis (Vienna, Austria: Thirteenth European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research at the University of Vienna, April 9–12, 1996) emphasis added.
[v] Sounding the Codes (2007) http://www.thecenteroflight.net.
[vi] Robert Maguire, Charles J. Doe, Commentary on John Bunyan’s The Holy War (2009) 11.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In the countdown to the release of the highly anticipated documentary “INHUMAN: THE NEXT AND FINAL PHASE OF MAN IS HERE”(scheduled for release around August 15), SkyWatch TV is running this exclusive online series on transhumanism and the dawn of the Human Hybrid Age.
While positive advances either already have been or will come from some of the science and technology fields we examine in the upcoming documentary INHUMAN, learned men like Prof. Francis Fukuyama, in his book, Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, warn that unintended consequences resulting from what mankind has now set in motion represents the most dangerous time in earth’s history, a period when exotic technology in the hands of transhumanist ambitions could forever alter what it means to be human. To those who would engineer a transhuman future, Fukuyama warns of a dehumanized “hell scenario” in which we “no longer struggle, aspire, love, feel pain, make difficult moral choices, have families, or do any of the things that we traditionally associate with being human.” In this ultimate identity crisis, we would “no longer have the characteristics that give us human dignity” because, for one thing, “people dehumanized à la Brave New World¼don’t know that they are dehumanized, and, what is worse, would not care if they knew. They are, indeed, happy slaves with a slavish happiness.”[i] The “hell scenario” envisioned by Fukuyama is but a beginning to what other intelligent thinkers believe could go wrong.
On the other end of the spectrum and diametrically opposed to Fukuyama’s conclusions is an equally energetic crowd that subscribes to a form of technological utopianism we will call the “heaven scenario.” Among this group, a “who’s who” of transhumansist evangelists such as Ray Kurzweil, James Hughes, Natasha Vita More (both Hughes and More are in the upcoming documentary INHUMAN), Nick Bostrom, and Gregory Stock see the dawn of a new Age of Enlightenment arriving as a result of the accelerating pace of GRINS (Genetics, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Nanotechnology, Synthetic Biology), technologies. As with the eighteenth-century Enlightenment in which intellectual and scientific reason elevated the authority of scientists over priests, techno-utopians believe they will triumph over prophets of doom by “stealing fire from the gods, breathing life into inert matter, and gaining immortality. Our efforts to become something more than human have a long and distinguished genealogy. Tracing the history of those efforts illuminates human nature. In every civilization, in every era, we have given the gods no peace.”[ii] Such men and women are joined in their quest for godlike constitutions by a growing list of official U.S. departments that dole out hundreds of millions of dollars each year for science and technology research. The National Science Foundation and the United States Department of Commerce anticipated this development over a decade ago, publishing the government report Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance—complete with diagrams and bullet points—to lay out the blueprint for the radical evolution of man and machine. Their vision imagined that, following the year 2012, the “heaven scenario” would begin to be manifested and quickly result in (among other things):
The transhuman body being “more durable, healthy, energetic, easier to repair, and resistant to many kinds of stress, biological threats, and aging processes.”
Brain-machine interfacing that will “transform work in factories, control automobiles, ensure military superiority, and enable new sports, art forms and modes of interaction between people.
“Engineers, artists, architects, and designers will experience tremendously expanded creative abilities,” in part through “improved understanding of the wellspring of human creativity.”
“Average persons, as well as policymakers, will have a vastly improved awareness of the cognitive, social, and biological forces operating their lives, enabling far better adjustment, creativity, and daily decision making.
“Factories of tomorrow will be organized” around “increased human-machine capabilities.”[iii]
Beyond how human augmentation and biological reinvention would spread into the wider culture following 2012 (the same date former counter-terrorism czar, Richard Clark, in his book, Breakpoint, predicted serious GRINS rollout), the government report detailed the especially important global and economic aspects of genetically superior humans acting in superior ways, offering how, as a result of GRINS leading to techno-sapien dna upgrading, brain-to-brain interaction, human-machine interfaces, personal sensory device interfaces, and biological war fighting systems, “The twenty-first century could end in world peace, universal prosperity, and evolution to a higher level [as] humanity become[s] like a single, transcendent nervous system, an interconnected ‘brain’ based in new core pathways of society.” The first version of the government’s report asserted that the only real roadblock to this “heaven scenario” would be the “catastrophe” that would be unleashed if society fails to employ the technological opportunities available to us now. “We may not have the luxury of delay, because the remarkable economic, political and even violent turmoil of recent years implies that the world system is unstable. If we fail to chart the direction of change boldly, we may become the victims of unpredictable catastrophe.”[iv] This argument parallels what is currently echoed in military corridors, where sentiments hold that failure to commit resources to develop GRINS as the next step in human and technological evolution will only lead to others doing so ahead of us and using it for global domination.
Not everybody likes the “heaven scenario” imperative, 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 government report 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 consciousness¼a different sort of catastrophe is nearer at hand. Without honestly and seriously assessing the consequences associated with these powerful new [GRINS] technologies, we are certain, in our enthusiasm and fantasy and pride, to rush headlong into disaster.”[v]
Few people would be more qualified than computer scientist Bill Joy to annunciate these dangers, or to outline the “hell scenario” that could unfold as a result of GRINS. 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,” arguing how GRINS would threaten in the very near future to obliterate mankind. 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 very 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 twenty-first 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 manuscript for The Age of Spiritual Machines 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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Over the weeks and months following the hotel conversation, Joy puzzled over Kurzweil’s vision of the future until finally it 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 twentieth 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 twenty-first-century technologies—genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics¼are 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.[vi]
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 not long ago with the creation of J. Craig 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, 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.” 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 GRINS developments would be initiated by national laboratories and governments. But 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. A growing list of such 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 the world is racing toward what Joel Garreau was first to call the “hell scenario”—a moment in which human-driven GRINS technologies place earth and all 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 GRINS. At the global interdisciplinary institute Metanexus, 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.¼
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.¼ 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 twenty-first–century technologies.[vii]
The producers of the upcoming documentary INHUMAN believe the “brighter and more virtuous beings” Professor Walker and others are arguing for possess supernatural elements and that the spirit behind the transhumanist nightmare will put the “hell” in the “hell scenario” sooner than most comprehend.
TO BE CONTINUED…
[i] Francis Fukuyama, Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution (New York: Picador, 2002) 6.
[iv] “Carried Away with Convergence,” New Atlantis (Summer 2003) 102–105, http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/carried-away-with-convergence.
[v] (Summer 2003 issue of The New Atlantis, http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/carried-away-with-convergence)
[vi] Bill Joy, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us,” Wired (April 2000) http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy.html), emphasis added.
[vii] Mark Walker, “Ship of Fools: Why Transhumanism is the Best Bet to Prevent the Extinction of Civilization,” Metanexus Institute (2/5/09) http://www.metanexus.net/magazine/tabid/68/id/10682/Default.aspx.
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