Ideas in Motion

Homo-Futuris: The Species that Waited for Technology

Dec 27, 2021 6:00:00 AM

The evolution of the human species is accelerating at a pace never before seen in history. We have gone from being hunter-gatherers to farmers, to factory workers, and now we are on our way to becoming cyborgs by connecting not just our anatomy directly with our machines, but our minds.

At what point will a new human species be declared? Homo-Futuris, or "man who waits for technology." The question humanity needs to ask itself is how much augmentation is required for a new species and do the enhancements need to be inherited by our children?

There is no consensus in the scientific community, but there are strong arguments for both sides. The first group argues that we already have our "cyborg part" with prosthetics and pacemakers, which make up about 15% of all implant surgeries worldwide today. But as advances allow for mental augmentation the argument becomes that integrating the mind with hardware and software is a different level of evolution and that it must be viewed with a different measure.

Both Elon Musk's company Neuralink, and a competitor Synchron were granted approval in 2021 by the FDA to implant microchips in humans. Both companies have already demonstrated their technology works, what remains are viable procedures to introduce the chips into the brain and to protect the minds of individuals from outside intrusion and even hacking.

The advancement has vast implications for what it means to be human. Both companies tout incredible benefits to individuals who have disabilities, such as individuals who have spinal cord injuries and are paraplegic. Implants have already demonstrated the potential for curing paralysis or allowing an individual to control cyborg parts, directly with their minds and regaining mobility.

The concern goes deeper when one considers the implication of directly connecting the mind with cyber links and the internet itself. There are many, potential unintended consequences, some of which may have a benefit to humanity, but many could be seen as damaging to the species or even dangerous.

There is a growing concern that as technology continues to connect physically with the human mind, we must introduce safeguards of the mind. In an age of ever-increasing cyber hacking, it may be possible for hostile technologies to attack individual minds directly and take control of them against their will.

Imagine a world where "cyber-slavery" becomes real? It is not as farfetched as one might imagine. The mind controls the body through personal will and thought, but if outside thoughts are mechanically introduced, it is farfetched to imagine those thoughts overriding our own free will.

Another issue is that the internet exists beyond time. It is a platform that is always functioning, individuals will connect and stay connected. As more minds connect to the internet and interact in real-time the more likely it will be that they cannot turn off the connection. Additional safeguards will need to be introduced to protect individuals from overwhelm.

And there is the potential for awareness beyond human comprehension. As technology evolves it may be possible that individuals' minds will form something larger than themselves. Something unanticipated. The change could affect the motivation and drive of individuals. If the fundamentals of human urges change, would we still be Homo-Sapiens, or something different?

Ray Kurzweil, the head of Google engineering and machine learning, has posited that the human race will achieve the Singularity around 2045. The Singularity, for Kurzweil, is defined as “a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed.”

Kurzweil is predicting full integration between man and machines. An irreversible melding of biological and cyber intelligence that will forever transform Homo-Sapiens.

But what we don't know is what is beyond the Singularity? What happens to humanity after we achieve a completely integrated, cybernetic society? Is it a dystopian ending for Homo-Sapiens or a bright new beginning for Homo-Futuris?

Anthony Butler

Written by Anthony Butler