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Blog 4: Hacking Our Way to the Future

Here comes another philosophical rant about how our species decides to careen into the next stage of our existence. We will start with cognitive and physical enhancement.

"The marriage of humans with technology is what made us the masters of other species" - Tim O'Reilley

I start by acknowledging the fact that here I am, a biological being using an extremely complex machine to communicate my thoughts. That I wouldn't be here for various advancements and augmentations that have kept me alive and well. As we know, humans are not dominant for their physical prowess (besides thumbs) but for our ability to manipulate our surroundings for survival and benefit.

As Silicon Valley develops, and as our technological challenges become more and more complex, we will have to continue to adapt our methodologies, and maybe our minds. I'm sure effective, non-invasive and ethical means of cognitive enhancement will arrive soon enough - there has been great progress made in BCI research and big names like Elon Musk have arrived to push the ball forward. BCI's will be a great friend to the disabled community (if they can afford it) and also help those at the cutting edge of technology to continue our slug to smarter devices and research. This all sounds great, but I want to leave you with a few points to ponder.

A fun example of corporate ethics

1. Who deserves cognitive enhancement?

If we push for cognitive enhancement, we have to have a crystal-clear vision of the user. Do the disabled get most of the benefits? Do we allow scientists to use cognitive enhancement to develop AI and advanced research? Do corporations get to use cognitive enhancement to reduce the number of employees required further? Do bad people deserve cognitive enhancement? Soldiers?

2. How will the balance of power shift?

If we know anything about our collective history, just as users use products in unpredictable ways, humans tend to suck at using power without malice. What's stopping the cognitive enhanced from enslaving the rest of us, putting us out of work, or simply killing us all (sound familiar to another futurism worry?) How can we guarantee that the rich and powerful break their tendency to hold onto their privilege by any means necessary? How can we guarantee that cognitive enhancement is egalitarian and balanced?

3. Will it be affordable?

Back to accessibility, given that the United States has somehow avoided treating poverty and healthcare seriously, how can we assure that cognitive enhancement gets to the people that want/need it? As I alluded to, I have no faith that those in power want the less-fortunate to rise up and have any sort of advantage over them. Even a cognitively enhanced congress would most likely use their superior minds to change the system to benefit themselves over others.

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