Whether it’s obesity or global warming, political polarisation or health issues, there are many problems that can seemingly only be solved by a change in lifestyle.
And as anyone with any knowledge of human culture knows, getting people to change how they live is not an easy task. Whether it’s trying to get someone to start a diet or to live in a more ecologically friendly way, it’s generally not happening without either a lot of patience or ridiculously over the top incentives. People are conservative by nature, and change doesn’t come easily to them.
But perhaps there is still an answer here. An answer to many of society’s problems that will let us keep our existing culture and lifestyle.
Namely, transhumanism. Perhaps the answer is not to edit how we live, but to edit ourselves?
Yeah, I know. I know that this kind of thing has been done a million times in fiction and its caused massive problems every time. The Daleks and Cybermen in Doctor Who, the Borg in Star Trek, maybe Darth Vader in Star Wars… all are examples of people or species using advanced technology to replace their bodies for various purposes, and all ended up being homicidal maniacs.
I should also probably be aware of this given I just watched the season finale for the tenth season of the Doctor Who ‘reboot’ recently. You know, the one where the two versions of the Master end up guiding the Mondasians aboard a colony ship trapped in a black hole into upgrading themselves into Cybermen for whatever reason.
But still, there’s no evidence that sort of thing is the case in real life. As much as TV Tropes likes to talk about it, Cybernetics doesn’t necessarily eat your ‘soul’ or make you into an inhuman monster. And at a smaller scale, I do wonder whether it could be the fix for most of the world’s health problems.
For example, look at obesity. It’s a huge problem at the moment, with its effects being extremely common in ‘developed’ countries and getting worse in developing ones as we speak. And it’s caused by the fact people at eating unhealthy diets and not getting enough exercise due to their lifestyles.
And we’ve seen a dozen attempted ‘fixes’ because of it. We’ve seen governments increasing taxes on fatty foods or sugars, we’ve seen rules introduced about takeaways near schools and we’ve seen a few dozen attempts to fix school cafeterias to serve healthier food. Fair enough, and I hope these succeed.
Yet here’s the thing:
These are all band aids, because the problem is biological rather than social. People are hardwired to seek out such foods because they were less common in nature, and were a good deal when meals were scarce and you didn’t know when your next dinner was coming. In other words, they’re problems caused by civilisation making resources easier to come by, not by any one person’s actions or ‘laziness’.
So what if… we just engineered the issue out of humanity?
There are tons of ways we could do that, or at least minimise the effects. We could send chemical signals to stop the brain craving food once an algorithm determines we’ve eaten enough. We could program in our own biological clock like a computer, which could have all kinds of effects on our schedule and diet (more on that later).
Or heck, we could even outright ‘edit’ the food we eat before it reaches the stomach. Remember, taste isn’t based on how something works once it’s being absorbed or what not, it’s based on what it tastes and smells like in the mouth. So what if we fixed our diet by exploiting that? Give or take enough technology, we could literally edit the things we eat into something healthy while they’re on the way down, and basically ‘trick’ our bodies into acting like we ate a healthy salad when we actually ate a chocolate cake. Or just filter out the food altogether. Maybe the machinery could be set up to have anything deemed ‘unhealthy’ dissolved and set to bypass the entire digestive system. Doing that would make eating something fatty no more dangerous than breathing.
And the benefits of transhumanism don’t stop with preventing obesity or weight gain either. No, we’ve found out that various chemicals and related signals affect things like our moods and biological clock too.
Which means that in theory, we could allow people to edit those on demand as well. Imagine if our body had an app for our circadian rhythm or whatever it’s called. Imagine we could literally type in the hours we wanted to feel hungry at and the times our body needed to sleep.
That would revolutionise society, and fix dozens of problems. It’d help night shift workers since they could program their body to feel tired in the day and awake at night. It’d help kids and teens, since they could program their body to get up bright and bushy tailed for school/college each day and go to sleep at a reasonable time. And it’d help people who were fasting or on a diet, simply by letting them shut off the feeling of ‘hunger’.
We could also give ourselves ‘back’ free will too. What do I mean by this? Well at the moment, it often feels like our subconscious tries to take control of our actions, and habits end up replacing what we actually want to do.
But what if it didn’t have to be this way? If I could somehow ‘brainwash’ myself on command to do what I want, biology be damned?
That would be a revolution, and something that outright ‘fix’ dangerous habits. Imagine the alcoholic for instance wanting to go dry, but then desperately wanting a beer. They could press one button in an app, then bam. No more craving for alcohol, as their body instead decides it wants water or orange juice.
And that could go even further too. Perhaps you could decide before a night out that you aren’t going to have too many drinks, and literally type in the maximum number you’ll ever want. Then, when the night comes around and say, you’ve drunk the maximum 3 beers for the day, your body will start craving water or lemonade instead, and be immune to any and all forms of addictions, peer pressure or biological incentives to the contrary.
Again, it’d be a revolution for society, and give people back the level of control they’ve always deserved.
Then there’s another idea I’ve considered for transhumanism too. Auto pilot.
What do I mean by this?
Well, have you ever watched the series 4 Doctor Who story ‘Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead’?
Cause if you have, you’ll remember how once Donna Noble was caught in the simulation, she ended up ‘instantly’ travelling to wherever she thought about without experiencing the journey in between. It was like being in a TV show (oh hey, meta humour) and noticing the cuts between scenes.
Either way, imagine if humanity could do that. Or at least, humanity could do something like that.
If they could suddenly ‘disable’ their mind for portions of the day they disliked, and have the robotic system run their actions in the ‘cut’ time?
That would let people completely cut out parts of their life they don’t like altogether. Just set the system off, tell it to get you to a certain location and have the feeling of being instantly transported there rather than having to be conscious the entire way.
And switching yourself off for convenience isn’t where that idea ends. Oh no, you know what else could be a neat, related feature there?
As in, the ability to do an action in real life, and have it replay on command like a computer program. Think about it for a minute. Imagine if you wanted to watch TV or read a book but had some tedious work to do at the same time. Wouldn’t it be neat to just do the latter via auto pilot?
You could just sit back, outsource the boring stuff to a machine and enjoy doing what you want to do at your leisure. It’d finally be ‘real’ multitasking, of the kind many psychologists believe humans can’t do very well right now.
And the possibilities don’t just end there. No, they could kill off stage fright too. Imagine going up for a big presentation and simply pressing ‘play’ to watch your body repeat the test version you recorded yesterday at home. You’d have no more issues with nerves ever again, and could talk to the company boss just as easily as you could your friends at the local pub.
Or how about its use for video game streaming/lets plays/speedruns? We’ve all had situations where we’ve pulled off some insanely hard glitch/trick at home and fell apart when it came time to record, but with something like this, that’d be a thing of the past. Just plug in your recording after booting up Camtasia/Elgato/whatever and get the dream YouTube video you want without worrying about how hard something is to reproduce regularly.
Above: This glitch would be far more enjoyable to use with real life macros. Doing the same thing 175 times in a row cause the game hasn’t been reverse engineered enough to reprogram it yet is boring.
The list just goes on and on. It’d be almost like Mario Kart esque ghost recording for reality!
And really, the list of things transhumanism could be used for just continues endlessly too. Did the above article not give you enough ideas? Well, how about a future where:
- Weaponry can be defended against not by laws or police, but by humans becoming tough enough that guns and knives become ineffective.
- Accidents are far less dangerous, since car/train/plane/whatever crashes are survivable even at 100mph+
- Rising temperatures are meaningless, and global warming could raise world temperatures to 100+ degrees Celsius without humanity feeling a thing.
- Oxygen isn’t needed for survival
- Brains can work with the internet and download information in seconds (or less)
- Genetics do not dictate someone’s skills or limitations
- Anyone can learn a new skill by downloading it to the mind, Matrix style
- The effects of alcohol and all forms of drugs can be turned on and off at the flick of a switch
That’s the future of humanity, and one everyone should be striving to achieve. It’s not going back to ‘nature’ and the days of old, and it’s too late for a ‘sustainable’ lifestyle to work. So, it’s time to accept it and embrace the future. Times change, and humanity needs to do likewise.
It’s time to fix our future.