Chapter Thirteen: Reinventing People – Robots, Cloning, Downloading

I. Introduction

If the speculations in previous chapters turn out to be at all accurate, by 2107 humans may inhabit forms which will not look very much like people in 2007, even if their legacy bodies remain in carefully controlled storage. But humanity, in the sense of human nature and the human psyche will probably be preserved, however accommodated in electronic or material terms. Thus, the set of group-oriented social skills and behaviours which evolved in the early history of hominids, and which this book has constantly insisted lie at the core of our existence, will also be preserved.

In the last chapter some of the possibilities of expanded cognition were explored, making use of the fact that wireless (or magnetic or cable) communication will allow the human brain to work with external sensory inputs and cognitive settings in a seamless fashion. At the outside edge of such developments was posited the emergence of RCCs – Remote Cognitive Collectives, in which the boundaries between individuals are beginning to dissolve, allowing groups of individuals to function together in a way which would be orders of magnitude more effective (faster, more accurate, more intelligent) than one human brain on its own can achieve.

We also noted that by assisting introspection bionically or by gene therapy or manipulation, it might be possible to 'improve' the human psyche from an ethical perspective, to make it less dishonest, less aggressive and less individualistic. Related ethical issues have been largely ducked so far, and even more serious issues are raised by the fact that, at least in technical terms, humans will be able to reinvent themselves in a number of different ways.

These agendas will have been fairly thoroughly explored by about 2070 in terms of technological feasibility. That is also the timetable for the emergence of a stable, globalized 'new world order' as sketched out in previous chapters. Attention will therefore have begun to turn to our longer term prospects.

The purpose of this chapter is to delineate some of the further-out possibilities for re-engineering of the human mind, and to elaborate to some extent the ethical dimensions of such changes.