May 26, 2010

Cyborg Buddha: Is what we are born with enough or could we use a little help?

cybog buddha, genetice engineering, buddha, realizationSuzuki Roshi once said something to the effect of, "You're perfect as you are—and you could use a little work."

Transhumanist, bioethicist, and former Buddhist monk James Hughes would agree. And that's an understatement: there's virtually nothing about us, he thinks, that can't be enhanced to improve our chances at realization:

"I think the next couple of decades will probably be determined by our growing ability to control matter at the molecular level, by genetic engineering, and by advances in chemistry and tissue-engineering" he says. "Life expectancy will increase in almost all countries as we slow down the aging process and eliminate many diseases.” Not squeamish about the prospect of enhancing—or, plainly put, overhauling— the human being, Hughes thinks our lives may be changed most by neurotechnologies—stimulant drugs, “smart” drugs, and psychoactive substances that suppress mental illness.

Read Huffingtonpost blogger Richard Eskow's interview with Hughes here—and keep an eye out for a  discussion with James Hughes coming soon to the Tricycle Community.

Art (c) 2010 by Jonathon Rosen

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Tricycle » The Singularity and Buddhism's picture

[...] Hughes Tricycle interview with Richard Eskow “Cyborg Buddha,” blogged about previously here. To me, the idea of further merging with technology to transcend human limitations feels somehow [...]

Tom's picture

I'm not that enthusiastic that any of this will be that easy. We are not talking about a few decades but a few hundred years.

To be very precise on that point: whenever someone tries to "overhaul" the human body by "improving" one single aspect, it comes up with a strong tendency to balance this out by steadily reverting the changes. And if it can't, it is likely to develop an unexpected illness of some sort while trying to cope with the changes made.

This is not just about DNA but also about nature rejecting all that is not necessary as a waste of energy. Even if you might build up muscles using drugs or nano machines, nature will revert this within a reasonable time if you don't use them (even if you trick the DNA in saying that it's fine).

I'm pretty sure you might wipe out some illnesses this way, like cancer, by supported natural processes that are already there and are just malfunctioning.
But you probably won't add brains to a dump person or muscles to a weak one. So you better don't expect miracles.