What is Techno Sapiens?
In this post I provide a definition for Techno sapiens, the namesake for this blog. I define Techno sapiens as a new intelligent species resulting from Homo sapiens’ integration with technology. Alternatively, the term Homo Technologicus has been used by others in a similar context meaning “technological man”.
Techno sapiens are physically different from previous human groups through the use technology assisted genetic and physical modification. Techno sapiens evolution is technology driven and its genome will be different from Homo sapiens’ genome in ways never before imagined possible through natural evolution.
The concept of the Techno sapiens as a new species is associated with the concept of transhumanism (TH). TH is a movement that espouses that humans are a transitional form of a species intent on transcending itself through developments in various disciplinary sectors, such as nanotechnology, genetics, information technology, and cognitive science, all of which converge towards making human modification possible.
Transhumanism points out that the mental, emotional and sensory capacities of humans are limited by their biological condition. Our bodies limit our ability to interact with technology. We can’t yet control cars with our thoughts or store unlimited amounts of information as our brains do not operate as an infallible memory systems. However, TH refuses to accept these limitations as fate. Proponents argue that we already possess the techniques and technologies, such as genetic engineering, neurosurgery, and nanotechnology, to alter our bodies.
By harnessing the convergence of technological capacity, humans can begin to re-invent their own natures into states of being that “low-tech” approaches of self-discipline, hard-work, and patience could never really make possible. The ultimate goal of TH is to eliminate aging, illnesses, and death and achieve biological or cybernetic immortality.
The desire for immortality is as old as humanity itself. Religions have proposed a solution to our finite existence by providing an everlasting after life or by means of re-incarnation. At the same time, religion tells us that life is sacred and not to be tampered with. Furthermore, we grow up with the notion that when man tries to go against nature chaos ensues. Stories such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are a clear reminder that men should not attempt to cheat death.
But death we cheat, everyday in hospitals worldwide, where life is extended by means of life-saving medicine, electronic implants such as pace makers, and cancer killing radio isotopes. Lost senses are restored by means of auricular and ocular implants. The blind can see and the deaf can hear once again. Medicine has only recently evolved from the ineffective and pseudo-scientific protocols of the past, into a truly life preserving science. The life span of people in developed countries has increased by 30 years this past century.
Diseases that once scoured humanity have been defeated. The plague, polio, small, pox, diphtheria and many others remain at bay. Others, such as diabetes, aids, and cancer, still remain. But if treated early on can become treatable chronic conditions instead of death sentences. Few argue that science should not seek to heal human maladies, but when it comes to enhancing the human condition, opinions diverge.
The 2010 Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded to Dr. Robert Edwards for his breakthrough work in developing in vitro fertilization (IVF), which led to the birth of the first “test-tube baby,” Louise Brown, in 1978. Some consider that this advance gave humanity the power to create and manipulate human life.
Harnessing this power from nature might sound ominous and religious figures have called all assisted reproductive technologies inappropriate and going against the will of god. But, for the 4 million couples that have been able to conceive a child since 1978 thanks to IVF, this development is one of the most important achievements in all of human history.
The techniques developed by Dr. Edwards have played a significant role in subsequent controversial life-manipulating developments, such as the 1996 cloning of Dolly the sheep from an adult cell, a procedure that could be attempted on humans some day. Techniques such as Cloning and IVF were initially considered controversial, only to later become widely adopted and understood.
The possibility of fundamentally changing humanity as we understand it today is within our grasp. This frightens a lot of people. Others embrace it. Change is always a cause for anxiety. The development of these technologies necessarily means changes in human society, just like agriculture, the industrial revolution, automobiles and the internet have brought about.
Some groups will resist the changes, on moral or religious grounds, and will chose not to adopt new technologies (i.e. The Amish). Technology is opening so many avenues and possibilities that they are hard to appreciate from our present vantage point. Only time will tell the true impact of these developments. But if history is any lesson, technology will be used to facilitate and enhance the life of humans, albeit not everyone.
Technology is not inherently good or bad. It is neutral to human existence. Unfortunately, access to technology is not equitable as access to it is based on power, money, and the level of economical development of a nation. Access to technology will continue to widen the gap between the haves and the have nots, between rich countries and poor countries.
The real discourse in our society must not be on whether technology is good or bad but on how to best deploy it so as to provide the widest benefits possible to society. Whether it is IVF or stem cell research, technology is frequently blamed for changing long held notions of family and society, as it is also for global warming, population explosion (or control), obesity, pollution etc., but these are all problems not inherent to technology but to poor human planning and irresponsibility. Techno–progressivism is an ideology that espouses that notions of human progress should focus not only on technical and scientific measures but also on ethical and social ones. An analysis of the cost, benefits, and risks of new technologies should accompany their deployment. This is a position the Techno sapiens blog supports.
Will uneven access to technology result in variations on our genome based on the level of access by peoples and nations? It might. The discussions on how to best use our technology should transpire away from the profit motive. Instead, it should take place in a holistic social context, as the march of science can hardly be stopped. Arround 1609 Galileo Galilei wrote that his telescopic observations supported Copernicus idea that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the solar system. This went against the religious beliefs of the time and he spent the rest of his life as a prisoner of the church. Almost four hundred years later, Pope John Paul II apologized for his trial after men have been to the moon and back six times.
The progression of science and technology should not be feared or stopped but discussed openly in order to best use it for the betterment of human kind. It is the purpose of this blog to explore the possibilities that technologies offer as they come of age in an ever accelerating technological world. A world inhabited by the Techno sapiens.
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