Mike: Welcome to the Future Thinkers podcast, episode number seven. This is a special one, this is our first guest on the podcast. Today, we have Mr Jesse Lawler from the Smart Drugs Smarts podcast.
Mike: Jesse, why don’t you give us a rundown of who and what you are.
Jesse: [00:00:30] Gosh. What I am, even though we’re going to talk about transhumanism still, homo sapien at the moment. Yeah, I am a computer programmer for many, many years. I recently started a podcast on smart drugs and nootropics and have just always been a fan of science and psychology, thinking about the future and watching sci-fi movies, a lot of the same stuff that I know you guys are into and that dovetailed into my starting this podcast, which was basically a good excuse for me to call up folks that I didn’t really [00:01:00] have an otherwise good excuse to call up and ping them with questions. I started doing that about maybe a year and a half ago. It’s been pretty cool. Yeah, I have a little following of likeminded weirdos on the internet now. Yeah, it’s been good.
Mike: Yeah, speaking of likeminded weirdos. We’re surrounded by a lot of business owners here in Ho Chi Minh City, but you don’t always come around to people who are into the conspiracy theories and the future technology and the singularity type stuff. I’d be interested to hear your take on what [00:01:30] is going to happen in the future of transhumanism from your perspective with Smart Drugs Smarts.
Jesse: Yeah, gosh. First of all, I think that the kind of stuff that we’re looking at now with smart drugs and nootropics and pouring something into your bloodstream to get an effect is going to seem just absolutely barbaric within maybe, let’s say, 20, 30 years tops. The idea of putting something into your blood and hoping that it makes it to the cells that you actually want to get it to is just going to [00:02:00] seem ludicrous. It’s like the idea of… Okay, if you want to go into conspiracy theories, it’s like the idea of putting fluoride into the water supply for the reasons of reaching the tooth enamel of kids between the ages of 5 and 10. Meanwhile, they’re dosing everybody’s both drinking water and the water that goes in your swimming pool and all that with fluoride for this incredibly minute purpose.
I think that putting smart drugs into a pill that we take or something like that, so it can reach a couple of particular [00:02:30] brain cells, is going to seek just as ludicrous in the fairly near future when we’re going to be able to make much more targeted changes to our body.
Mike: Yeah. Now, we’ve got so many people following the Tim Ferriss Four Hour Work Week, Four Hour Body, Four Hour Chef kind of thing. He’s been a bit of a proponent of modafinil. Here, it’s just amazing how many people are talking about it and taking it and experimenting.
Jesse: I’ve been a modafinil fan for, gosh, probably about seven years. I was a pretty early user of it. [00:03:00] I remember reading, I guess, Provigil was the brand name that it first came out under and I think that’s still the official trade name. Yeah, I heard about Provigil I want to say 2006 and managed to get some from a Canadian pharmacy back then. Yeah, went a few years without having it. It definitely worked. It still does, as far as giving you a lot of extra wakeful hours. For some reason, I just never refilled my prescription. [00:03:30] Yeah, last year or two I’ve definitely been taking it with fair regularity. I’ve been trying to cycle other things into and out of my system, so I don’t build up a tolerance to any one thing.
Today, I had some armodafinil, which is slightly different than the regular modafinil and probably won’t have anything else for a couple of days that’s in the modafinil family, but then maybe take some piracetam, aniracetam, maybe some caffeine plus [inaudible [0:03:57], whatever it is, keep the daisy chain going. [00:04:00] There’s always some stimulant in the system, but it’s not the same one as I had yesterday or two days ago.
Mike: The human guinea pig.
Jesse: Hopefully not too much of a guinea pig. I don’t want to do anything that there isn’t at least some credible reasons to believe that it’s not going to be more disadvantageous than advantageous.
Euvie: Speaking of that, do you think that in the future we will evolve away from this arguably primitive biological system and incorporate more technological systems into our bodies?
Jesse: I sure don’t think [00:04:30] it’ll be evolution in that sense, in the biological sense of evolution. I feel like, at this point, if you think of human beings having 25-year reproductive cycle from when you’re born to when the average person might have their first child, that’s an incredibly long time compared to the pace of change of things like our technology now. I was talking with a friend recently about how… I’m not sure when this happened, or maybe it hasn’t happened yet, maybe this is something like peak oil but it seems like it’s probably going [00:05:00] to happen in the next decade or two, if it hasn’t happened in the last decade or two.
We’ve reached this point where the evolutionary pressures that are on you as an infant probably are not the same as evolutionary pressures that are you on when you’re 15 years old or when you’re 30 years old. Our world is really changing at such an accelerated rate versus what it was a couple hundred, or a couple thousand, or a couple whatever years ago. We don’t even have a consistent set of biological pressures [00:05:30] on us anymore. That’s almost never been true. I guess depending on the theories of punctuated equilibrium, maybe that actually is true, maybe we’re just in one of those punctuation points where things are changing really, really, really fast on planet earth.
Are we going to see, I think, essential changes to our biology? Yeah, from the incorporation of technology. Is it going to be based on our mating with one another? No, not at all. I think, if anything, I worry about the future of human mating because [00:06:00] I feel like with advances in sexual technologies, why would somebody want to mate with another imperfect human in 5 to 10 years when they could have whatever sexual experience they want to with this pre-program virtual reality thing, which would be just exactly what fires them up. It’ll be really interesting to see how procreation and sexuality between actual human [00:06:30] beings changes once we’re no longer the best thing that we have to offer one another.
Euvie: Have you seen the movie Her yet?
Jesse: I have not. In fact, I didn’t listen to the episode of your podcast about that because I still haven’t seen it. I just started listening to that episode and then I was like, “I haven’t seen the movie, I’ve got to wait this one out.”
Euvie: It’s pretty much about that.
Jesse: Okay, cool.
Mike: Now, we can’t go into it.
Jesse: Sorry, I ruined that one.
Euvie: Yeah, I think even today, with medicine, the things [00:07:00] that would have normally killed people in an early childhood now are not affecting them at all because we have vaccines and we have drugs to keep people alive. With plastic surgery, now you don’t know who’s actually ugly because it’s all messed up.
Jesse: Yeah, isn’t it crazy?
Euvie: Did you hear that thing about I think it was a man in China who actually sued his wife when he found out that she had a whole bunch of plastic surgeries, because she was very beautiful and then they had a baby and it was not quite too standard.
Jesse: Oh my gosh.
Euvie: [00:07:30] The hilarious thing is that he won.
Mike: Oh no.
Jesse: That’s amazing and awful. Can you imagine how terrible the kid would feel? Your dad hated you enough because of your looks to sue your mom as a result of that? Wow, you totally undercut your kid’s psychology for his entire life. Jesus.
Mike: That’s terrible. Did you see that recent episode of Cosmos? Neil deGrasse Tyson was talking about evolution and how the dog came to be through selective breeding.
Jesse: No, but tell me.
Mike: [00:08:00] It was such a cool episode, definitely my favourite one so far.
Mike: They talked about how over a very short period of time we just took over evolution for dogs, for wolves, and just started breeding whatever we wanted. Cuddly, protective, the guard dogs, or we want them to herd sheep. We just selectively bred them through generations. Now, we’re almost doing that with ourselves but it’s this whole other dynamic of us being able to genetically modify ourselves maybe in the next 10 years.
Jesse: [00:08:30] The whole idea of genetic engineering is one that’s so politically charged. People forget that with things like selective breeding, every living thing that humans interact with a bunch we have been genetically engineering the old fashion way for 10,000 years or more. It’s like apples now. We think, “Apple, it’s a natural thing. It grows on a tree.” But these big luscious, sugary apples are a total human creation that didn’t exist 10,000 years ago. [00:09:00] The archaic version of an apple is this little bitter crab apple thing, what we now call a crab apple. There’s just example after example after example of species that we think of as being normal that are anything but. Just within the last several generations, nobody’s seen anything other than what we’re used to, so we forget that it’s not a part of earth’s natural history.
Mike: Yeah, it’s interesting when people become opposed to that modification of our environment and modification of our food sources, because we’ve been doing that for [00:09:30] generations anyway.
Jesse: Yeah, it’s a silly argument from people that just don’t know any better. They don’t know the history behind it.
Euvie: I think a part of it is fear. People, when they don’t understand something, they just automatically are afraid of it.
Mike: I was going to move onto transhumanism from more of the modification perspective of, say, replacing limbs and doing that kind of thing. Maybe given the option, would you chop off a limb?
Jesse: [00:10:00] A hacksaw hand? That’s a really interesting one. There was a good Ted Talk about this recently, about some of the athletes that are participating in the Olympics that have, essentially, bionic parts. You still wouldn’t necessarily want to chop off a limb to make do with the best that science can currently offer, but year by year these things are getting better. It’s only a matter of time until the hydraulics and the transistor driven [00:10:30] reflexes, just all that stuff is going to be so good that, yeah, it’s going to be a really weird choice.
I feel like the Japanese will do it first. It seems like Japan as a culture, they’ve got money, they’ve got tech, and they don’t have this old fashion set of values that would prevent them from doing that. I feel like it’s not that they don’t have things that are sacred, but their things that are culturally sacred don’t prevent body modification [00:11:00]in the way that western world seems to think of that as a bad thing. As with anything, as new technologies become available, somebody’s going to do them. There will be the Amish, the Quakers, whatever it is, the slow adopters, but nobody’s going to say no forever.
It would be like the people that refused to get on the internet now. You can refuse to get on the internet but you’re going to be opting out of a large amount of society. If there’s one thing [00:11:30] that human beings are famous for is that we’re these innately social animals, we want to participate in society, we feel better when we do. I think, more and more, that participation in society is just going to be technologically modulated.
Mike: I always feel like I want to be one of the first people to try out a new bionic eye or do something like that.
Mike: I was watching a Shark Week thing the other day, they interviewed this girl who had lost her arm from getting attacked by a shark. I had this [00:12:00] in the back of my mind, I was like, “I’m a little bit jealous.” That’s terrible to say, but I’m like, “Man, that would be so experimenting with a prosthetic limb immediately from that position.” Fortunately and unfortunately for the people, but fortunately there are a lot of people who have disabilities that can be fixed or even improved upon the human body and they can be the experimenters with this, [00:12:30] like cancer trials for new cancer treatments, losing your limb and getting it replaced.
Jesse: Yeah, that’s one of the good things about being on a planet with eight billion people is just luck of the draw, we’re always going to get some people that have some horrible accidents befalling them. It’s going to be better to try out some of these new technologies on them versus the alternative of not having an arm or whatever. If you had the chance, what would be the first thing you would opt to get replaced? What are you yearning for? You want the built-in jetpack?
Mike: [00:13:00] No, I’m all about the virtual reality. The idea of Oculus Rift and Google Glass is really, really intriguing to me. Eventually, I think we’ll get to the contact lens point where I think we can have our augmented reality. Eventually, after that, I think we’ll start replacing our eyes. That’s probably the most interesting thing. I imagine, I don’t know, I can’t think of any movies but some of those movies where you’ve got your heads up display – or video games. I imagine a video game display where I’ve got my vital signs, [00:13:30] I’m monitoring my body, I’m able to monitor my environment in ways that we can’t even imagine.
Jesse: Yeah, it’s like the Terminator vision from the original Terminator movies, where you’re scanning people, seeing what clothing size they have.
Mike: Yeah, it pops up people’ Facebook profiles.
Jesse: Yeah, that would be nuts.
Euvie: Privacy is probably going to get wiped out in the very near future.
Jesse: I think privacy, that’s going to be one of these interesting anachronisms. I think that kids that are probably coming out nowadays, [00:14:00] they don’t have any expectation of privacy. They haven’t grown up in a world where they had a reason to expect that they would ever have privacy. I just think it’s going to be a weird quaint idea that we might be the last generation that remembers even thinking it was an important thing.
Mike: I totally agree.
Euvie: That’s a really interesting way to think about it, yeah.
Mike: I think we’re losing it and I think we’re the last people to really care that we’re losing it.
Jesse: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. Other people will just be like, “Hm, that was interesting that those people who lived in the [00:14:30] 20th century thought that that was important.
Mike: Your whole life is now catalogued. I can’t imagine going through adolescence now with Facebook and with all of these technologies around where the stupidest things that come out of my mouth have a permanent record. I already have a podcast and I’m a bit iffy about that. I’m 28. If I were 17 or 15 or 13 in front of a microphone or on Facebook, it would be the worst. It would be the worst.
Jesse: I think it’s going to be one of these things that [00:15:00] everybody realizes. Everybody’s realized that young people do stupid stuff. Young people do stupid stuff, everybody does stupid stuff. Emotional people do stupid stuff. It’s just going to be harder to oviscapte that, pretend that those things never happened to you, “Other people do stupid stuff but not me.” If anything, it’ll be a great equalizer I think.
Mike: It’s almost like I feel more untrusting of politicians who have that squeaky clean record, because there’s been some [00:15:30] scrubbing happening.
Jesse: Yeah. Anyone that purports to never have snickered at a sexist joke or something like that, it’s like who are you kidding? Come on.
Euvie: Or some of the priests who are like, “I have never had sex in my whole life.” I don’t know about that.
Mike: Major Rob Ford, what a hero. What a Canadian hero.
Euvie: Are you familiar?
Mike: Canadian major.
Euvie: Major of Toronto I think.
Mike: Yeah, he’s smoking [00:16:00] crack with prostitutes and he just cannot censor himself when he’s in the media. It’s a circus.
Euvie: It’s so funny.
Mike: Look him up, he’s ridiculous and embarrassing.
Jesse: I’ve taken the cutting myself off from the media advice for the last seven or eight years. Basically, anything that’s important makes it way to me eventually, somebody tells me. If my head was on fire, somebody would let me know.
Mike: It’s amazing how [00:16:30] none of it really matters, none of it’s urgent, is it?
Jesse: Exactly. If it is urgent, you’ll hear about from something other than the newspaper or the six o’ clock news.
Euvie: It’s essentially just entertainment.
Mike: Yeah, going back to the virtual reality thing, the augmented reality, I think that’s just one step towards making that brain to brain link. Imagine if you could just share your screen, your visual screen, with someone and work in Photoshop, for example, just from a work perspective. Co-design things using your hands, using touch, [00:17:00] using that sort of thing, but with that visual hub that you both share. That’s one step, I think, towards reading each other’s minds. We go to contact lenses, then we go, I don’t know, brain to brain link if that’s possible.
Jesse: Yeah. When I hear that… I mean, I concern myself a fairly pro-futurism person, but that sounds scary to me.
Jesse: It sounds scary to me because we’re such visual creatures, our visual world is our sense of context. [00:17:30] The moment that that visual world is coming less from reality and more from a system that somebody, in theory, could filter in any way they want to, or hack into it, or just give us a false prism that we’re looking through all the time, there’s just such opportunity for evildoers to control us through just bad input. I feel like [00:18:00] we already have the low-tech version of controlling the masses through bad inputs with things like the newspaper. We’ve had that forever. Yellow journalism in the 1890s, or whatever. The ability to do that… The more peoples inputs are coming through a digitally mediated source and less from good old fashion reality for what it’s worth, I just feel like the more potential there is for the abuse of that by whoever controls that [00:18:30] digital mediation.
Euvie: I think also, even right now, when we see something… The way that I see is it not necessarily the way you see it, because your brain is processing things based on your own past experience, on your own context and the things that you believe and the concepts that you have in your brain. There’s lots of studies on how remote African tribes or Papua New Guineans experience a picture differently [00:19:00] than westerners do, because of their context. In a sense, there’s already a muddled sense of what is real from what you’re seeing.
Jesse: Yeah. I think that’s totally true. There’s a muddled sense of what’s real but I feel like that’s a randomized thing. The colour red I see might not be the colour red you see might not be the colour red somebody else sees. Basically, it’s just going [00:19:30] to be like randomly determined from some sort of normalized version of what actual objective red is. Whereas, if my sense of red and your sense of red and everybody else’s sense of red is coming from Google or whatever and then Google decides what the normal standardized version of red is going to be. I don’t mind ceding that power to the universe or reality. I kind of do mind ceding it to Google or whoever the owner of that digital media [00:20:00] source is.
Mike: Actually, that’s a really good point. Obviously, if we are having that visual augmented reality built in, there’s going to be ways to tamper with that.
Euvie: Advertisers will want a piece of that.
Jesse: Yeah, yeah. It’s weird to think… Video games are so good now. I haven’t played video games in years, I pretty much tapped out during Tetris. I guess that would have been the mid-1990s. Every now and then I’ll see somebody [00:20:30] playing a video game and I’m just absolutely mesmerized by just how good the graphics are. It would be if I saw a heroin addict just really loving heroin. I’m like, “Wow, that looks like they’re having a great time. I’m glad I don’t do that.” I feel like we’ve got such smart people that are designing these video games and people that are studying how to make them as immersive and engrossing and addictive as possible.[00:21:00] It’s just very foreseeable to me that we’ll be able to come up with some virtual reality things in the near future that will be more attractive to people to participate in than actual bonafide reality is. That’s weird and scary. To me, I see more ways that can go wrong than it can go right. I don’t think the danger is that people will go into a bad virtual reality and not be able to get out. I think the danger is that they’ll go into a good virtual reality and never want to come out.
Mike: [00:21:30] Is that really a problem?
Jesse: Not necessarily. I guess it’s only a problem for the people that have a vested interest in the real world. Maybe I’m going to be one of these stodgy old curmudgeons that likes the real world.
Mike: “What do you mean you’re still in the real world?”
Jesse: Yeah. We’re going to quickly be aging ourselves. I don’t know, that’s just a weird philosophical question of, “Is there any reason to be a proponent of the real world or [00:22:00] actual physical world experiences when we’re going to have immersive alternatives that are not ‘real’?” It’s the same argument you could make about taking drugs or something now. Who’s to say that the person in the throws of a heroin rush isn’t just having a great, great, great time while they’re on that heroin? It’s like if they could stay in that state indefinitely, who’s to say that that’s a bad choice?
The reason that I think everybody would agree that heroin probably is a pretty bad choice is because [00:22:30] you can’t maintain that state of euphoria indefinitely. If you could, then it becomes a different argument.
Euvie: And you do still have to feed your body, clothe it, put it in some sort of shelter.
Mike: For now.
Jesse: Only because you’ll notice if you don’t. Eventually, you would notice your body giving out. If we’re looking however far into the future it would take until you really are almost a digitized persona [00:23:00] version of yourself that isn’t too tied to a physical being, that problem might go away. We might not have the meat package that you need to continually maintain.
Mike: Yeah. It’s interesting playing video games where you can turn on God mode and, all of a sudden, you’ve got this new plethora of options to experiment with. When those virtual realities become so real, you can’t tell the difference. Imagine if you could just click the button and you’re on God mode, you can just change your environment any way you want, change yourself, do anything that you can imagine [00:23:30] instantly.
Jesse: I was talking with, you guys know George, I was talking with him today. He was saying how he was in Kenya some years ago for a few months and one of the things he found interesting about that was he ran into a lot of people who would sit around and do nothing all day. They’d talk with their friends but they had very little input. He was amazed that they weren’t bored, that they didn’t seem bored. It was just because that was the environment they were used to, they didn’t have a heck of a lot of inputs. [00:24:00] Anyway, what you were saying just made me think if you really could turn on God mode, if you were in some virtual reality world where, essentially, everything was at your fingertips, it would be hard to stay challenged. It seems like that would be almost a bad thing, because advancing to the next level would always be something you could do, it’s like there wouldn’t be the challenges of reality to keep yourself motivated to push up against something.
Mike: Yeah. It is interesting when you stop cheating [00:24:30] and play a game for real, the way the parameters are meant to be set, how you do get more long-term enjoyment out of it. If we take the really out there suggestion that maybe this is just another extension of a virtual reality and that these parameters and pains that we go through are maybe part of that system. Without the struggle, do we have nothing to enjoy anymore? Do we have no contrast to compare it to?
Euvie: Are you familiar with the simulated reality hypothesis?
Jesse: Yeah, yeah. I just heard this. [00:25:00] As a computer programmer, the one thing that I feel he didn’t mention is that pretty much all computer programs have bugs. I’m not sure if your average reality simulation would necessarily be convincing to the people inside of it. It feels like that’s another potential option, like the whole idea of the glitch in the Matrix. In the Matrix movies, that’s what déjà vu was. I guess maybe there are things in reality [00:25:30] that, in our version of reality that we consider reality now, that maybe do feel like glitches in the Matrix. “If I was going to design a universe that made sense, particle physics wouldn’t work the way they do. The whole thing with the Schrödinger’s cat, that just doesn’t make any sense at all.” Maybe that is the glitch in the Matrix that should give us a clue that this is just an imperfectly designed computer program.
Euvie: Or when we forget something that somebody else remembers vividly, or people who [00:26:00] have schizophrenia or psychotic breaks, that could be glitches too. It’s broken, it just doesn’t work.
Jesse: I would love that to be true. I would love to find that out. It’s one of those things. I guess maybe if you’re lucky and you win the game, it would be what you find out when you die. The Christian ideal of Saint Peter would be the computer game saying, “Hey, congratulations, you advance to become a chimpanzee on planet Zenon in the next life,” or whatever.
Mike: [00:26:30] It’s interesting that people think that in order to create an artificial intelligence, we have to reverse engineer the brain. I think maybe there is an intelligence algorithm, a self-propagating algorithm that once you got the simple basic recipe it goes out into the environment and experiences and grows and responds. Maybe the code to reality, as well, would function the same way. It seems simplistic enough that the big bang would be that initial code and everything else is self-propagating. [00:27:00] There’s a lot of studies going into that, us having a code or a single equation for intelligence.
Euvie: We’ve talked about this, too, on a previous episode.
Mike: Yeah. We are trying to maximize our future options in everything that we do, so we’re always trying to maximize our future choice and not be confined. He’s made this simple algorithm that’s the equivalent of and you supplied it to different software situations, virtual reality situations. And the software, without being told what to do, [00:27:30] figures out what it needs to do in order to survive and maximize its future possibilities.
Jesse: Would that mean that committing suicide is like provably stupid? I feel like you could just prove that though, because, obviously if you’re committing suicide you would not be maximizing your future options, yet there are probably some situations where – the layman’s definition of intelligence – it would be a good idea to commit suicide. If you know there’s somebody outside the door that, when they capture you, they’re going to burn you alive [00:28:00] and you have the chance to just bite a cyanide capsule, hey, the cyanide capsule’s probably the more intelligent option but it certainly doesn’t open up your future possibilities.
Euvie: I think in that case you’re just trying to reduce suffering, not increase your future possibilities.
Jesse: Right, right.
Mike: I wonder if it’s maybe when you’re confined by your reality and confined by your environment, maybe that’s when you enter self-destruct mode. That’s most of the cases I think when suicide happens, is when your environment is confining you in some way and you don’t feel like you’re going to get [00:28:30] out of that situation.
Jesse: Or, at least, you interpret your environment as confining you in some way.
Jesse: I feel like there’s two ways – well, there’s more than two ways the future could go… There’s the we’ll have robots that become so powerful that we will become pets to them. Here’s something I do believe is true. I think that the homo sapien such as we are now, within our lifetimes or our natural lifetimes if you assume that [00:29:00] we should die at 75 or 80, I don’t think we necessarily will… Within our lifetimes, homo sapiens will no longer be the dominant species on the planet. I’m most assured of that. The question is will the dominant species be a robot subsequent species that we build, or will it be something that we opt into like a borg-ish, transhuman-ish, half-human-half-robot-ish type thing?
Selfishly, I’m [00:29:30] hoping it’s the latter so I can participate in the next dominant species, rather than just be a pet to them. I think both are probably equally viable options, and not necessarily mutually exclusive either. For a long time, homo sapiens and Neanderthals co-existed. They were around for hundreds of thousands of years together before Neanderthals finally died out and also interbred with humans quite a bit. Who knows, especially because… How many different varieties [00:30:00] of computers do we have now, how many different varieties of machines do we have now? Who’s to say that there will be one dominant robot species that comes out of this.
There could be a lot of competing species for a heck of a long time. That’ll be really interesting. I think the future of whatever the dominant species on earth is going to be is going to have a heck of a lot of variety. Everybody’s got a vested interest in it, too. It’s so weird to say. You can look at something like H. G. Wells’ [00:30:30] Time Machine and he had this vision of the Morlocks and I forget what the other species was, the Eloi and the Morlocks or something like that. The angelic humans that were all reading Plato to one another and lived above ground and walked around in Grecian robes, and then these other hobgoblin things that lived underground and made some machinery work and had IQs 50 points lower and stuff like that.
Part of me really looks around the world today and thinks that we’re kind of heading in that [00:31:00] weird direction, where there are some people that are really clued in, really technologically advanced, really curious about the future and forward looking. Being on the bleeding hedge can be a dangerous place to be, but I feel like it’s probably better than the alternative. The odds of having a good outcome being on the technological edge or better than being overly fearful and avoiding that. Then there are other people that I think are kind of so intimidated [00:31:30] by how fast things are changing that they’re opting out of it, or putting blinders on and pretending that things are basically going to be the same, “My life will be following the same path as my parents and grandparents.”
I feel like if people buy into that world view, it will probably be true for them, but it won’t necessarily be true for the other people that are more aggressively looking towards the future. I feel like [00:32:00] the potential marriage of people and technology is going to change a significant subset of the population. Whether it will change the whole population, I don’t know, but we could very reasonably look at some sort of speciation event – when animals of the same species… An island breaks off from the mainland or whatever and they have to go on parallel paths of evolution. You wind up with different species after a long enough [00:32:30] period of time. The same thing could happen, certainly, on a much more accelerated rate with humans, just based on what we choose to technologically opt into or not, or can afford to opt into or not.
Euvie: Then, on the other hand, technologies is always getting cheaper and faster and Moore’s law, if it keeps going at the same rate that it has been.
Mike: I feel like it’s more of an ability to scale. Can we scale education? Can we allow people to cover their basic needs [00:33:00] and then decide what they want to go into after? I think, potentially, we can do that for the entire planet in the future, in the near future, because, as you said, those technologies get cheaper and cheaper. There’s always going to be another generation coming after. I think we, and every generation, assume, “This is what the world’s like, this is what it’s going to be like and I’m going to teach my kids to be a certain way.”
That’s assuming the kid’s going to listen to you and it’s not going to be responding more to the environment than it is to its parent. I think if you are wanting to remain [00:33:30] in the Amish, don’t want to be part of technology, your kids might not. You can’t continue that mental framework. I don’t think it’s going to be possible to keep the blinders on.
Euvie: Right. I guess, like today, there are so few people that completely don’t use technology.
Mike: From the standpoint of look how fast we’re moving with technology, 100 years from now it’s going to be a blink of an eye really between the people that are kind of afraid of it and when it’s just the norm. [00:34:00] It’s just a short period of time where I think those people will cease to exist. There are too many benefits to join in the collective.
Jesse: Yeah, I’m sure when humans first mastered fire there were probably people for whom fire was too much technology. “I feel a lot better with my meat cold,” or whatever.
Euvie: Fire is from the devil.
Jesse: Yeah, exactly. These ideas sink in I think incrementally. Right now, people might be concerned about [00:34:30] genetically modified food being a bad idea and 30 years from now, when that’s absolutely just the norm and that argument is over, there will be something else for people to be concerned about. There’s always going to be the technological lag groups versus everybody else. I guess the question is will the people at the technological forefront reach some breakaway point where they’re pulling forward in what technology they’re saying yes to at such a speed where the bubble pulls into two bubbles [00:35:00] rather than dragging everybody else along with them?
Euvie: I guess that’s what the idea of singularity is is that you either join with the technology or you’re left behind, because it becomes too fast for you to even grasp. Given the option, would you upload your own brain to the network if that became an option in your lifetime?
Jesse: Yeah, I feel like this will be something that probably most people that grew up in around our team feel like – giving up an [00:35:30] individuality that I could call my own… It’s too akin to dying. If I felt like merging with the network was essentially the same as giving up my soul or whatever, the thing that is uniquely me, then I would essentially view that as like a death and entering an afterlife phase that I would be hesitant, reticent, whatever to say yes to. Unless I felt like, “Shucks, I’m already [00:36:00] 150 years old, I’ve done all the biologically interesting things that I have any interest in doing and it’s okay to shuffle off this mortal coil for this technological ‘afterlife,’” then that might be a reasonable choice. Would I do it now as a 37-year-old? No, I can’t say I would. I think it would be an interesting option. I would rather do that than die the old fashion way.
Euvie: You see it more of an alternative to dying, but not [00:36:30] just a choice that you would make?
Jesse: Okay, it’s the old Star Trek teleporter problem. I remember when I was a kid watching Star Trek, this always bothered me. It’s like, okay, the logic here is that the transporter thing looks at every atom in your body, figures out where it is, and then just recreates that same set of atoms somewhere else. I’m like, “Okay, they’re teleporting him but basically, the captain Kirk that was up there on the Enterprise just got fucking disintegrated. As far as he’s concerned, he’s dead. They might have made a perfect copy of him somewhere else, but that guy’s dead. [00:37:00] There’s no way. If I was captain Kirk, I wouldn’t step on one of those things, that guy’s crazy.”
I guess the idea of uploading your consciousness, to me, it’s the same thing. They might be able to copy it but the version that was you is getting killed. Or maybe not, if they can upload, I’d say, “Yeah, okay, go ahead upload me but keep the original me here, too,” right? Hedge your bets a little bit.
Mike: I feel like the only way I would want to do that, there would be two ways, is part by part [00:37:30] destructed and then recreated, so I don’t feel like any loss, the brain starts communicating with the network as if it was communicating with the brain that was just destroyed. If there was a gradual destructive uploading, I’d be okay with that. Or if there was an uploading and a copying process and then I just had this clone caretaker for the rest of my life. I think that would be a reasonable assumption. “Yeah, you’re copied, you have this God-like power. Take care of your original until they’re dead.”
Euvie: This is where [00:38:00] we become pets, essentially.
Jesse: It’s good to talk with other people who think the future’s going to be as weird as I do. Yeah, definitely, I feel like we’re so clearly on the lunatic fringe, and yet I look at it with the most rational eyes I can and I just don’t feel like any of it’s particularly wrong. I feel like more lunacy is to think that things aren’t going to change [00:38:30] in radical ways.
Mike: We’re analytical people and we’re looking at this and it’s not a straight line forward, predicting the future. It’s an exponential curve. We can see that. That’s why this looks so insane and possible at the same time. Just look at the way it’s gone the last 20 years, it’s picking up speed.
Jesse: Yeah. Honestly, the last 500 years. Look at the last 500 years versus the last 500,000 years before that. Dude, something’s going on here.
Euvie: It’s good to see that there [00:39:00] are fellow futurology geeks in random parts of the world.
Jesse: Yeah, there’s probably more of us hidden out there somewhere.
As humans, we have been modifying our environment, the organisms in it, and ourselves for millennia. Transhumanism, although a relatively new concept, has existed as a practice for thousands of years. It’s the idea of modifying ourselves beyond what nature gave us, and becoming more than human.
Transhumanism: Becoming More Than Human
Transhumanism is often associated with body modification, such as hi-tech implants or altering brain chemistry. But there is more to it than just transforming humans into cyborgs. Transhumanism is about becoming “more than human”, or “Human +”, in all aspects of our lives – body, mind, and spirit.
Yet it’s interesting how even in today’s modern world of rapid technological progress, there are still people who view the modification of organisms as barbaric or immoral. Someone who has elective surgery and gets hi-tech implants installed is considered crazy, and we’re all familiar with the multitude of campaigns against the genetic engineering of plants. Then these same people who protest these things go to the dentist (artificially modifying their body) or don’t think twice about eating a sweet juicy apple (which don’t exist in the wild – they were artificially bred that way).
So far, what these modifications have resulted in is significantly increased life spans and a drastic improvement in the quality of life.
When it comes to wild concepts like transhumanism, it’s important to be aware of the our past. Humans have resisted almost every paradigm shift in our history (from railroads to zippers to cell phones). Most of us are afraid of new things and uncharted territory. It’s always the minority that explores what is beyond the norm and then brings it to the wider population.
In this episode, Mike and I are joined by Jesse Lawler from the Smart Drugs Smarts podcast. We dive into a deeper discussion of transhumanism, how it will affect our society in the future, and what impact it will have on biological evolution.
We also talk about the possibility of the the human race no longer being the dominant species on our planet in the near future. We discuss collective consciousness, the nature of reality, as well as sexuality and privacy in the digital age.
In this episode of the Future Thinkers Podcast:
- Transhumanism and nootropics or smart drugs
- Biological evolution versus technological evolution
- How the human race and society will change through transhumanism
- Will privacy still be important to future generations?
- Human life as a virtual or augmented reality
- What will happen to the people not willing to embrace the technological singularity
- Uploading your brain or consciousness into the network and how it will affect individuality
Mentions & Resources:
- Jesse Lawler, Smart Drug Smarts podcast
- Modafinil / Provigil
- HER movie trailer
- Chinese man divorces and sues wife over plastic surgery (turns out this was a hoax)
- Cosmos with Neil deGrasse Tyson, Episode 2
- Oculus Rift, an immersive virtual reality headset
- Google Glass
- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, infamously known for substance abuse and use of prostitutes
- Simulated Reality Hypothesis
- The equation for intelligence
- How different cultures see color differently
- Star Trek Teleporter problem
- HER Movie and Artificial Intelligence (FTP004)
- Virtual Reality and Minecraft (FTP005)
- Individuality and The BORG (FTP006)
- Zoltan Istvan on Transhumanism (FTP015)
Question of the day:
If given the chance, what would be the first thing you would want replaced or added to your body? What kinds of technology do you think would make your body and your life better? Let us know in the comments below.
Mentioned & Recommended Books:
More by Future Thinkers:
- Cyborg Buddha – Transhuman Enlightenment with James Hughes (FTP025)
- Building Future Societies with Transparency and Freedom with David Brin (FTP024)
- Global Phase Shift with Daniel Schmachtenberger (FTP036)