For those who subscribe to Charles Darwin’s theory, evolution has transformed us continuously over time to adapt to the environment in which we live in. This is apparently evident in the variation of the human species, otherwise known as races, which happen to inhabit particular geo climatic regions.
With the urge to explore hostile environments like space, ocean floors and the underground, coupled with the need rectify medical complications; evolution is too slow to be relied upon (Homsen, Wamberg and Rasmussen 7). We resort to exploiting the potential of artificial enhancement, something that has come to be denoted as cyborg. Clines and Kline (1999) describe a cyborg as a person, or a hypothetical person, whose physical capabilities are artificially enhanced beyond that of a normal human being (27). These enhancements, they say, do not only involve incorporating machines into/onto the human body and the use of virtual reality, but also adjusting the body’s homeostasis without tampering with heredity. The enhancement addresses either subjectivity or physically or both; and the people physically augmented may or may not have a form of disability (Cromby 3). Physicality is achieved by the use of physical prosthetics, while subjectivity is a subject of communication.
The idea of a cyborg closely associates with the notion of the post human. The post human refers to the theoretical and practical intervention of biotechnology in a human body, intended to transform the human being into something superior than what human beings are currently (Homsen, Wamberg and Rasmussen 7). The difference between a cyborg and a post-human is that a post-man arises from a genetic manipulation. I start with the cyborg.
As seen earlier, the cyborg comprises both physicality and subjectivity aspects, where physicality entails physical prosthetics while subjectivity entails communication enhancement. I outline the usefulness of implementation of cyborg technology as arguments for advocating it.
One of the opportunities offered by the possibility of a cyborg is that it has helped people with disability in terms of motion. These people have now been able to do things they had been physically limited from achieving. These technologies are available. The most recent one is robotic exoskeletons. Dollar and Herr define an exoskeleton as “a device that augments the performance of an able-bodied wearer” (144). The purpose of an exoskeleton is to enable humans overcome their physical limitations. This enables humans carry out very physically demanding tasks with ease. The tasks involve lifting heavy objects with ease and running faster than any other normal human being would.
The use of wheelchairs is another application that has allowed disabled people to move with ease. Moreover, it has not only accomplished this materially but also ideologically. A woman in her early twenties who switched from the calipers and crutch- which used to actually make her exercise but she did not like the effect it had on her body and shape- to a wheelchair, was interviewed by Lonsdale and she answered that “she felt she could glide quietly and gracefully into a room without feeling distorted” (4). Besides just being able to move, she felt protected from the society’s pressure on women as regards sexual, physical and behavioral stereotypes.
Besides correcting for disability, cyborg technology has been applied in medicine as well. The application involves implants of artificial objects as a replacement for faulty organs. Some of the implants that are commonly done in include hip replacements, heart pacemakers and cochlea implants. Each of this and many more represents corrections intended to compensate for the faultiness (Warwick 131). Such interventions are intended to save lives; it would be insane not to advocate them.
There is also an urge for space study. However, the conditions in space and on extraterrestrial bodies are too harsh for human survival. Human beings have evolved to adapt to the earth, whose conditions are remotely different from those of the outer space. It would be very difficult, if possible at all, to carry our earth environment around us on space missions. An alternative has to be created. One potential avenue of surmounting this problem is making us cyborgs. The different physical conditions: temperature, pressure, gravity, magnetic fields and others call for a man-machine who can respond both physically and in a homeostatic way without involving consciousness (Clines and Kline 27). These are challenges that can only be solved by making cyborgs of human beings. Space exploration is more far more significant than not having cyborgs in existence.
Another dimension of the cyborg is the idea of virtual reality, which is a technology aimed at revolutionizing our interaction with computers. Virtual reality is the effect materialized through the generation of a non-real replica of a real world environment, usually on a stereoscopic display and a three dimensional effect generated by a computer, giving the effect of immersion (Powell 4).
Virtual reality is already part the military technology being used in the in the armies of advanced nations. While this might seem like a potentially harmful use of technology, it should be remembered that military development has been a major contributor to global peace. An immediate analogy is that of nuclear weaponry. The reality is that there have been feather ruffling around the world but no one has executed a military action as a response. The fear is that if one nation attacks another, it can be assured of retaliation in equal proportions, something that has been named MAD or mutually assured destruction. In a nutshell, the incorporation of virtual reality into the military is actually an indirect way of promoting peace.
A more positive application of virtual reality is that it will lead to the development of more powerful computers. The optimism that the utility and accessibility of virtual reality technology is likely to increase will encourage the pouring of money into research in an endeavor to develop these systems and encourage deeper studies into the human sensory systems. The result will be very fast computer processing speed, which will find applications in other areas of life. All these would be missed if negative attitudes towards virtual reality, or cyborg technology, are not abandoned.
In addition to cyborgs, another way of changing humans is through the concept of post-human, which actually, as described earlier, involves a biotechnological intervention, theoretical or practical, intended to enhance or transform a human being. Bostrom (2009) defines a post-human as a human being who is in possession of at least one post-human capacity, and goes on to describe a post human capacity as a capacity that is by far greater than is achievable than any other current human being without technological assistance (107). The capacities involve being in very good health and high activeness and productivity, both mentally and physically; a very high intellectual capacity, such as memory, reasoning, and unusually long attention span; the capacity to see enjoyment in life and the presence of mind to respond appropriately to life situations and other people, among other capacities (Bostrom 107). While there are those that are for post humanism, others strongly oppose it. People have expressed ethical concerns about attempts to develop post-humans. I argue against these ethical ‘concerns’ in defense of post humanism.
Like many bioethicists, Kass (2003) ethically argues that nature has given cockroaches and humans different natures, and that to turn a man into more than a man would be as dehumanizing as to turn a man into a cockroach (23). He goes on to back it up by asserting his need for us to regard and respect a ‘gift’ that is our own nature. Nevertheless, are nature’s gifts always gifts. There are many things that occur naturally, that do not suit humans, for instance, diseases, calamities, famines, suffering, cognitive challenges and many others, which are the ‘gifts’ of nature we don’t approve of. The horrors and nightmares of nature are so overwhelming and horrendous. On what grounds should we pay respect to it? To reject something that would catapult human beings in the trajectory of progress, on the grounds of honoring nature, would be ignorant and naïve.
Another ethical fear is that of the claimed potential of eruption of conflict between humans and post humans. Annas, Andrews and Isasi (2002) argue that human cloning and genetic adjustments that can be passed on to the next generations should be construed as “crimes against humanity” in order to curb the potential arrival of post humans, who would subject human beings to a possible complete eradication (151). On the one hand, they argue, the post human would exploit the normal humans’ inferiority- they would either enslave or slaughter them; on the other hand, the normal humans would perceive a threat in post humans and implement methods to exterminate them in order to safeguard themselves. This, they continue, would accelerate the production of weapons of mass destruction, and consequently brew genocide. Aren’t there weapons of mass destruction already? Nations are always in a competition to develop more powerful weapons than others are. It can hardly be denied that each of the countries seeking military prowess has stretched themselves to the limit. To argue that post-humans would instigate an acceleration of military research does not seem plausible. On the part of superiority, it is true that already the human species is multiracial, and that there are races that consider themselves superior to others. While there are a few incidences that happened in history, the intellectual and moral development at this point in time is such that the possibility of conflicts based on perceived superiority or inferiority are close to zero. One does not encounter such incidences in the modern times.
On dignity, people like Fukuyama consider dignity, as being exclusively a normal human being’s quality, that post humans would not posses it (7). As many others would, Fukuyama’s worry seems to be that post humans would not be capable of dignity and thus, due to their superiority, would deny normal humans dignity; that the effect is that post-humans would make individuals lose their moral status, thus amounting to a violation of the principle of equal dignity for all. A counter argument is that there exists a set of people upon whom moral status has been bestowed has increased: women, poor people and non-white people to name but a few. To say that perceive superiority has something to do with one’s moral status being taken away is baseless. Well, it might be so in the short run but in the end, with emotional and intellectual maturity, normality is obtained.
A quality possessed by post humans-or rather that which is extrapolated that they will posses-is an enhanced cognitive ability. There are drugs that have been tested, although still at their infancy, unconfirmed that they appreciably enhance the cognitive ability of the user. While it might be feared that such cognitive enhancements might give users who are in a position to access, acquire and use them an unfair competitive edge, the reality is that while it is true things might turn out so, it is only a short term thing. With time, there is going to be a proliferation of such drugs and therapies in the market, and accessibility, both physically and financially, will be available. The demand will be high and entrepreneurial instincts would orient opportunistically. In the end what will be is that with the drugs being available to everyone, there will be no change in relative intelligence. Only the baselines will have been raised.
Still dwelling on the cognitive sense, studies have shown that people with higher cognitive capacities are able to escape an array of social and economic misfortunes and are most likely to enjoy good health (Bostrom and Sandberg 317). Every person’s cognitive ability is a variable in the equation that dictates the key outcomes in their lives. Intelligence is part of the prerequisite for an individual’s expression of a culturally desired character; that may play a role in their ascension up the social and economic ladder. The skills considered positive, that are closely associated with improved cognitive ability include the ability to appreciate art, the ability to digest the complexities of philosophical reasoning and the ability to be conscious about the evolution of events in the globe.
A nourished cognitive ability can also be instrumental in the solution of the plethora of problems that surround us every day. The problems come in different forms: engineering, mathematic, physics, legal issues, financial matters, computation, the list is endless. There is no good reason why humans should not raise themselves to post-humans by allowing themselves the cognitive ability necessary to surmount these challenges.
Another problem that could be overcome is memory lapses. While simple incidences like inability to remember where one placed one’s bunch of keys may seem a simple matter, many people may find it disruptive and frustrating, and this effects may have long-term physiological drawbacks. This reinforces the need to acceptant to cognitive enhancement.
It is evident that the arguments that are for post humans and cyborgs are strong enough to counter any other that would be against them. It is obvious. The task is now to pedal in the right direction in order to achieve a more fulfilling life for all human beings.
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