General Question

Hobbes's avatar

Would you "upgrade" yourself?

Asked by Hobbes (7355points) July 13th, 2008

Assuming that technology advanced far enough to provide vastly increased longevity, increased sensory and physical abilities, brain-computer interfacing, increased intelligence, elimination of the need to eat/sleep/breathe, etc. and assuming that these technologies would be freely available to everyone, would you take advantage of them?

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68 Answers

ninjaxmarc's avatar

No, I’d like to stay as human and natural as possible.

Too artificial and you are just not yourself.

iwamoto's avatar

i’d eliminate the need for sleep, and i’d love it if i could hook my optic system onto my mac, although it would be a bit scary, haha

nikipedia's avatar

Isn’t most of that basically the point of medicine?

Hobbes's avatar

@ninjaxmarc – But what is “you”? And what is the line where artificiality becomes too much? Clothes are essentially “skin upgrades”, after all. And glasses are “eye upgrades”. Even writing can be seen as a “memory upgrade”, as it allows us to externally store information.

@nikipedia – you mean the longevity bit?

nikipedia's avatar

Longevity is the easy one, so yes there. I took your “etc” to mean “would you, in general, do stuff to make your life longer and better”, which I would consider very close to (identical to?) the definition of medicine.

I can address the specific instances you raised instead if I was reading too much between the lines and you really want to talk about those items.

Hobbes's avatar

Ah, I see what you mean now. I did generally mean “would you make your life longer and better”, but more specifically “would you alter your biology to make your life longer and better”.

Hobbes's avatar

@klass4 – may I ask why not?

tinyfaery's avatar

I definitely see the attraction, but no. Humans are already so removed from the “natural state” (I realize this is a very charged word). I’m not interested in advancing myself through technology; I’m more interested in improving myself through my thoughts and actions, by learning and growing, and by making a positive impact on the world.

Hobbes's avatar

@tinyfaery – I think the problem is, as you pointed out, the idea of a “natural state”. It is a fallacy to think of nature as something ordered and balanced. We perceive it as such because we can only observe it in terms of a few decades, but if you look at the history of life, you do not see order and stability – you see chaos and constant change. Everything is fluid on an evolutionary timescale.

Of course, I think that advancing oneself through thoughts and actions is very valuable, but I don’t think it’s either-or. Why not do both? Why not make yourself more able to learn and grow through perceptual or mental enhancements? Why not lengthen the amount of time you have to make a positive impact on the world through life-extension?

tinyfaery's avatar

First of all, I think we can agree that such technological enhancements could not occur by means of evolution; it comes from man’s creations. These upgrades wouldn’t come from my actions, but from someone/something else doing something to me.

Hobbes's avatar

Well, in one sense they would result from evolution – our ability to create technology is evolved, after all. But really I was trying to demonstrate that our biology will be altered one way or the other – that humans change, and that there are no constants in any case.

Do you only use things that you make yourself? I’d wager that you didn’t make that computer you’re typing on. In any case, you enhance yourself with external devices all the time (clothes, forks, lawnmowers, etc), increasing your abilities beyond their “natural” state. Why is it such a leap to alter your biology?

ninjaxmarc's avatar

@hobbes, me is unique in every way.

Everything else you brought up are technological advances that don’t change me but express it. You can choose your clothes if you wear them, you can choose a unique pair of glasses and you can write to express yourself.

Artificial is fake.

tinyfaery's avatar

My computer sits on my desk. I don’t have wires and metal in place of a brain, that evolved over millions of years. Something foreign would have to be placed in my body for this to happen. That’s what I mean by evolve.

I don’t see how a fork is enhancing me; it just serves a purpose; its a tool. I’d be enhanced by a fork if I had one surgically attached in place of a finger.

But these are all technicalities. I love to sleep, and eat, and I love to breathe in fresh air. I’d never give that up to be some type of character in a William Gibson novel.

Hobbes's avatar

@ninjaxmarc – most technological advances up until now have not changed people’s biology, but they certainly change people. A computer or a cell phone is not simply an “expression” of you – it fundamentally alters the way you think about and act in the world. Also, what do you mean by “fake”? Is, someone able to, say, perceive ultraviolet light less “real” than someone not able to?

@tinyfaery – Your brain did evolve over millions of years, yes, and was changing the entire time. Why is it wrong to change it with intention, rather than through reliance on the blind, slow, amoral process of evolution and selection?

Here’s a better example: antibiotics. Antibiotics increase your body’s ability to fight infection by placing something foreign in your body, by altering your biology. And yet you still (I assume) use them.

The point is that the fork is increasing your abilities beyond those you were born with. Life extension technology, cybernetic limbs, etc would be tools that did the same thing, only tools interfacing more directly with your body.

Also, the idea was that you could eat or sleep or breathe if you wanted to, you just wouldn’t die if you didn’t.

nikipedia's avatar

I’ll see you antibiotics and raise you pacemakers, organ transplants, synthetic insulin, and, well, the rest of medicine.

And while we’re at it, what is learning and education other than modifying your existing brain structure to accommodate information that wasn’t “naturally” there?

Hobbes's avatar

Good point, nikipedia – I didn’t even think about those.

Also, I’d like to quote Sam Harris:

“While the process of natural selection has sculpted our genome to its present state, it has not acted to maximize human happiness; nor has it necessarily conferred any advantage upon us beyond the capacity raise the next generation to child-bearing age. In fact, there may be nothing about human life after the age of forty (the average lifespan until the 20th century) that has been selected by evolution at all.”

tinyfaery's avatar

Ok, ok, ok, I get you. But still no. :)

susanc's avatar

Hobbes, I’d say I would, except for two things.
1. bunches of my friends would have to be doing it too, or I would have this wonderful youthful body and brain when everyone I loved was gone – it would be lonesome. My gran outlived her friends and really didn’t enjoy it.
2. they already have plastic surgery but I haven’t availed myself of it, even though certain kinds of it would improve my life a LOT; so I can’t say I trust my own intuitive response to your interesting question.

klaas4's avatar

See us as a product, like a computer. We have specifications:

- We have storage/memory: braincells.
– We have a processor: the brain.
– We have a case: our body.

We are created with those specifications, and, unlike computers, you shouldn’t tamper with those specifications.

If the human race would have to be better, God or whoever created us already did such modifications, like better brains (so you remember everything), faster brains (like the processor), but forget not that we are here to learn, not to get all of our knowledge from computers. We must get better, but we shouldn’t use computers to do it.

I hope it makes sense, it’s very hard for me to translate this.

benseven's avatar

I’m a massive nerd, and advances in science and tech are fascinating and inspiring.

There’s a line though, and messing with our minds and bodies any further than the healing properties of modern medicine is a little beyond the pale…

Maverick's avatar

Yes, bring it all on. I want the works. Vision upgrades (night vision would be handy), longevity, memory, removing the sleep requirement (I’ve largely done this already – Thanks Apple!)... I have no particular attachment to my body, so long as any changes I would perceive as “improvement” – whatever that is. I’ve always thought that the process for deriving energy from food is incredibly inefficient and could maybe be replaced by some nuclear power plant or something.

chaosrob's avatar

I’d have a “live” network connection, more storage and a coprocessor to handle basic mathematics. Also, enhanced vision, higher throughput on my central nervous system and some preprogrammed “safety” reflexes (like automatically holding on to the edge of a ledge, even if I’m rendered unconscious by a fall). I pretty much get all of this through external tech now. I just want it to be easier to carry.

Also, I’d like to be able to make a backup of my brain somewhere.

ninjaxmarc's avatar

@ Hobbes
but in your question you state change the being from needing to eat, sleep, breath. If not needing that wouldn’t you call that artificial (fake) being?

right now I’m using my phone/computer to express myself on this thread.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Yes. I want to be harder, better, faster, stronger!

Vincentt's avatar

If it’s perfectly safe (i.e. very well-tested with a very low risk of something happening), then: yeah, why not?

@klaas4 – you say “you shouldn’t tamper with those specifications”, but you give no argument whatsoever why not. So: why not?

Oh, I wouldn’t want to be bound to a specific company for those improvements, by the way ^.^

klaas4's avatar

Why would you? Nature created you: be proud of what you are. You will become better, but don’t use computers to do it. What if the computers run Windows and your brain chrashes? (based upon the fact that you’d eliminate sleep, which partially happens in your brain)

Seriously, though: Why aren’t you proud with what you are? Do you always have to be better than others?

If we all upgrade ourselves, we would all have the same specialities, and no one would be unique (regarding specialities).

@all who would upgrade: Are you lazy or something? Don’t you want to achieve something what you’ve done yourself, not with the help of your computer? Well, I wouldn’t.

And maybe now you’re sayin’: “But now he thinks we want to upgrade our specialities? Silly teenager!” Maybe not when the technology is introduced, but we, humans, have such a stupid habit of wanting to get better without doing anything for it. That’s my problem.

Am I talking rubbish now? Hmm, I hope, in any case, this message comes through:
Think very hard why we’re here. Does that include the word ‘computer’?

Davey.

Hobbes's avatar

@ninjamarx – No, I would call it a “different” being, perhaps an “altered” being. I still don’t understand in what way do you think of someone who has modified their biology as “fake”.

@Klass4 – Nature “creates” nothing. It is a blind force with no forethought and no concern for human well-being. It is also extremely slow, taking billions of years to do what could be done in a few decades. Also, there are very few selection pressures operating on modern humans, so our physical, “natural” evolution has slowed to a crawl.

I am, in some ways, proud of my humanity. That is, I am proud of the bits worth being proud of – compassion, kindness, curiosity, adaptability, imagination, etc. I do not, however, imagine that we are perfect. One look at the world will tell you that. For me, at least, it’s not a matter of trying to be superior – it’s about widening my experience, making myself a better person, and making my life happier.

I use a lawnmower to mow my lawn. Am I “lazy” because I don’t get down on my knees and trim each blade of grass myself? I use clothes I buy at stores. Am I “lazy” because I don’t make them myself? To be less contrary – I think that enhancing our minds and bodies with organic and synthetic upgrades would widen the scope of our achievements, not cheapen them. I would also like to point out that whatever upgrades we were able to use would come as the result of a great deal of hard work on the part of engineers and scientists.

Finally – the reason we are here is that we evolved over billions of years, imperfectly adapting to life in the paleolithic era. There is no predestined, prewritten purpose for us beyond reproduction, and thus no law that says we can not use computers or whatever other means we have at our disposal to better our lot.

tinyfaery's avatar

@hobbes Okay you asked everyone what they thought, but now it seems you’re trying to prove to everybody that answered “no” that they are wrong. Didn’t you just want to know if we would?

Vincentt's avatar

@Klaas4 – of course I wouldn’t do it if I’d then be running Windows. As I said, I’d want it to be very well tested.

In cars, nowadays, computers do a lot of the work. Your life does depend on the correct functioning of those. However, you’re taking the risk because those computers are very well tested so the risk of anything happening isn’t that big. (That said, I wouldn’t be an early adopter of those cars, but when a lot of people have safely used those cars, I’d be happy to drive them)

And of course I’m happy with who I am (to a certain extent, of course :P). Yet, I’m wearing lenses. Why? Because I like to be able to see even better than I naturally can.

Just because I’m supported by a computer doesn’t mean I can’t achieve anything by myself. For example, when I’m writing a story, is that less of an accomplishment when OpenOffice autocompletes most of my words, saving me a lot of typing? I wouldn’t think so.

So why do you think we’re here? I don’t know.

ninjaxmarc's avatar

@ Hobbes
because nature did not want us to live beyond our own good.

If not everyone did, people around you that you cared for started to die around you would you not be lonely?

This is like the movie biicenntenial man, a robot who is artificial becomes as humanly as possible and eventually dies naturally.

You could see where the world is going, experience the years but do you really want to see the end of the world?

klaas4's avatar

OK, you want to be better, but why so fast. Let nature do it’s thing and you will get better automatically.

scamp's avatar

I think this will help us understand what Hobbes is talking about. This isn’t to say I agree, just that I saw the term transhumanism in the profile, so I googled it.

Vincentt's avatar

@Klaas4 – I can’t wait until humanity has evolved eyes that never decline in quality, or that can zoom in. That’s why I use lenses and binoculars. Wouldn’t you do the same?

Hobbes's avatar

@tinyfaery – I’m sorry if I’m being overbearing, but I do like to debate interesting subjects, and I think there are a number of fluther questions that have resulted in some pretty heated discussion.

To that end… : )

@ninjamarx – As I’ve said before, nature is not our friend – she does not have our best interests in mind. Moreover, “she” is not a person – she does not “want” anything.

I had assumed that such technology would be freely available to everyone. Even if those I knew began to die, however, going to oblivion myself would not honor their lives or make mine any happier.

@klaas4 – Evolution (which is what I assume you mean) operates over many, many generations, so even if I lived to be a billion, I would never “naturally” evolve.

@scamp – Thanks! I’ve never seen that article before. I’ve only skimmed it, but it looks very good.

benseven's avatar

@ninjamarx – As I’ve said before, nature is not our friend – she does not have our best interests in mind. Moreover, “she” is not a person – she does not “want” anything.

If find this interesting, as to where your proof comes from?
Does nature exist as a force? A spirit? Does God?
There’s no conclusive way to answer any of those questions, so why are you defining what nature is?

nikipedia's avatar

@benseven: The rest of the world has a pretty good definition of nature, although you can choose to ignore that definition or redefine it at will. Most people know what the other person is talking about when one of them says “nature”. And nature, as it is commonly understood, is comprised of a lot of chaos, randomness, and a mortality rate of 100%.

klaas4's avatar

@Hobbes: Really not? What do you understand as ‘naturally’?

Hobbes's avatar

@benseven and klass4 – When I refer to “nature”, I refer to the physical universe and its phenomena. In regards to life, I’m referring to evolution, that is, the change in allele frequency across generations. Neither of these things are our enemy, but they are not our friends either, as I have said. This is because they are not conscious (I am proceeding fro the assumption that “God” does not exist). The “purpose” of evolution is to increase the frequency of genes that code for desirable phenotypes, not to make human life better or more fulfilling.

benseven's avatar

@nikipedia – you make a valid point, but perhaps misreading what I intended by my response. I was merely questioning whether someone can define nature itself not having any kind of persona or spiritual essence as hard fact, when we simply don’t know?
Of course we can define what nature is, but it’s harder when it comes to more abstract terminology to define for certain what nature is not.

Sounds pretty kooky. Might stop thinking for today!

benseven's avatar

@Hobbes, the essence of my point is, can you prove nature is not conscious?

steelmarket's avatar

I underwent 17 years of highly structured upgrading. They called it formal education. Did it make me unique – or just another cookie from the cutter? We could discuss that topic all day…

Hobbes's avatar

@benseven – Attempting to prove that nature is not conscious is as futile as attempting to prove any negative. Occam’s Razor (Entities are not to be multiplied without necessity) cuts a conscious nature cleanly away, however. All natural phenomenon can be explained without needing to suppose the existence of another entity (a conscious nature), thus, we should not assume that it exists, unless facts present themselves which cannot be explained any other way.

Furthermore, the idea of a moral nature with a human-like consciousness does not fit the evidence. Human-like consciousness requires a human-like brain, and nature (that is, the universe) has no such thing. Also, when we examine evolution and the universe in general, what emerges is not the hand of a designer, but a process free of both human morality and any forethought whatsoever. If the universe is conscious and “planned” the evolution of life, why are there so many dead-end species, why do we have several useless organs? Why is 95% of our DNA unused junk? If the universe is moral, why is the process of evolution so cruel and utterly pitiless?

@steelmarket – I definitely have a bone to pick with the public school system myself… : )

tinyfaery's avatar

@hobbes You are also postulating something that can not be proven, beyond all shadow of doubt. Nobody said it had to be a human-like consciousness; it could be something even greater. I think I read that almost 1/2 of Americans believe there is some sort of “intelligent design” (not just the fundis either).

Hobbes's avatar

The point, though, was that nature has some sort of intention or plan for humankind, one which we shouldn’t violate by upgrading ourselves. This supposes in turn that the universe has our best interests in mind, which requires it to have morals and goals comparable or at least compatible with those of humans, and thus if such a being existed, it would have a consciousness that is at least close enough to a human’s that it can understand us.

The point, though, is that I’m not postulating anything. I’m saying that the postulation “the universe is conscious” is not useful when thinking about things, because it doesn’t fit with the evidence nor is it needed to explain the phenomena of the natural world.

In any case, I think we’ve strayed a bit from the topic.

tinyfaery's avatar

A plan does not equal having good intentions. Yes, off topic, but we’ve been straying from that for some while.

Hobbes's avatar

Maybe nature has bad intentions for us. Maybe she has good intentions for us. Maybe she secretly wants us all to wear little pink hats and play croquet for all eternity. When trying to make decisions about the real world like “should I upgrade myself”, taking into account the possibility that nature is conscious and has some plan for us is about as useful as taking into account the possibility that an Invisible Pink Unicorn or Yaweh or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Thor has some plan for us.

klaas4's avatar

Why would nature do that? Just to amuse itself? And btw you said that “she does not ‘want’ anything”... You are making me a bit confused about your opinion, but maybe that’s just the age. :)

Hobbes's avatar

I’m using the female pronoun to refer to nature because that’s usually how it is referred to (“mother” nature and all that). Sorry for any confusion.

I’m getting wary of the direction the conversation is going. I would really rather it not turn into another “does god exist” question, which is what has essentially happened.

Vincentt's avatar

But even if nature has some kind of “plan” – why would that be a reason not to upgrade yourself? It’s not like nature will turn you into some kind of supercreature by itself :)

klaas4's avatar

Yes it will, Vincent, but that takes time…

benseven's avatar

I think the point I was trying to get across, Hobbes, is that you don’t know. You’re clearly a very reasonable person, and logical thinker, but man still can’t answer all the mysteries of the Universe, and I don’t see why your beliefs need to be stated so matter-of-factly when others around you probably have different ideas entirely? Yes, science can prove or disprove a number of things, but I don’t see why you pose like you have all the answers, when none of us can see the bigger picture of the entire universe from anything other than our own limited perspective.

Vincentt's avatar

@Klaas4 – so you’ll be a supercreature someday?

klaas4's avatar

Someday we’ll all be supercreatures, because we’re always evolving. But when you’ve learned everything, there’s no way you can evolve further. I see it as the ultimate goal: knowing everything. And when you do that on your own, without upgrading, that gives a great feeling.

Hobbes's avatar

@benseven – Yes, there are a multitude of things we do not know, and perhaps cannot know (with un-upgraded brains, at least). However, I assume that nature is not conscious, or that there is no God because those things are unnecessary to explain the world around us. A conscious nature is possible, certainly, but so is the existence of Odin, and I doubt that you regularly make sacrifices to him on the off chance.

@klass4 – individaul organisms do not evolve. Evolution takes place over generations and across a species. You personally will not evolve naturally because your DNA will not change naturally. Here’s another question – would you upgrade yourself to extend the limits of what you can know? For instance, would you upgrade your senses so that you could perceive previously invisible wavelengths? Would you increase your intelligence so that you can comprehend things we currently can’t? There are definite limits to human knowledge, and I see no way of “naturally” pushing past them.

klaas4's avatar

@Hobbes Where do you base that on? And why would you perceive previously invisible wavelengths? To make you feel more powerful? “Look at me! I have super-hearing!” Why? That’s useless. You can use a standalone computer to do that. Why would you have that in yourself?

Vincentt's avatar

@klaas4 – I’m quite certain I won’t naturally grow into a supercreature. I’d like to be able to perceive previously inisible wavelengths – if that’s useless, why is being able to perceive the wavelengths we currently can perceive useful? (Though then again, when talking about “upgrading ourselves” we probably mean “paying for those upgrades”, which I wouldn’t do for the wavelength-thingy. However, if I’d be able to run to places faster than I can currently drive, that’d be awesome)

klaas4's avatar

We are just people. Scientists may find it useful but give me a good reason why we should have that ability.

btw I’m completely into Toad’s right now. They’re sooo cute!

Hobbes's avatar

Well, scientists are “just people” too, you know. As for reasons – perhaps it would make it easier to close the gap between scientists and “people” that you see. Also, because it would be interesting? Because it would widen the amount of knowledge we could gain personally? Because it would be fun? Because we could perceive previously invisible things directly, rather than having to use a microscope?

klaas4's avatar

No, I don’t mean that personally, I mean that they need more scientific stuff…

But eh, you two are going to continue talking ‘till I change my mind or something? You seem so confident in your opinion that you’re right…

Hobbes's avatar

Sorry – it’s just that the gap between scientists and everyone else is kind of a pet peeve of mine. : )

Sensory expansion could be very practically useful, though, beyond being mind expanding. Imagine how much easier it would be for toxic waste cleanup crews to work if they would simply see the radiation hot-spots, rather than having to carry around a geiger counter. Imagine how much more easily police could catch criminals if they could see their body heat. Imagine if you could search for a missing person with a nose as sensitive as a dog’s, or see in the dark.

Vincentt's avatar

Aren’t you doing the same continuing? :) I just like discussions :)

Anyway, name one reasonable objection against making your legs more powerful so I no longer need a car to get to the other side of the Netherlands? Or against Hobbes’ use cases?

Hobbes's avatar

@kIaas4 – I keep debating because I want to hear the arguments against me, and see if there’s something about my position that I haven’t considered. And because it’s fun : )
I also extend Vincentt’s challenge.

scamp's avatar

Sorry – it’s just that the gap between scientists and everyone else is kind of a pet peeve of mine. : )

Wow, someone thinks alot of themself! Sorry, I just had to chime in with that. Carry on.

Hobbes's avatar

Sorry – I can see how that might have been misinterpreted. I meant that it bothers me that so many people (particularly in the US) see science as something distant and cryptic. I just wish that science was more transparent and that science education was better. I didn’t mean to seem like I was trying to be superior.

scamp's avatar

No need to apologize. I was just ribbing you a little. I hope you weren’t ofended.

bodyhead's avatar

I have already upgraded myself. I underwent lasik eye surgery. It’s an artificial upgrade and not at all within the natural order of things. I also have seen shows about amputees where they are using very high tech prostheses. Should they have been made to struggle on their own in the ‘natural’ way? The natural way is continually redefined by society every generation.

I don’t believe it will be as cut and dry as most of you make it. Small things will change a little at a time and there will be no drastic procedure to make you into a cyborg. Each generation will have just a little less prejudice about robotic implants and within 300 years, you might be less hire-able with no implant.

Anjohl's avatar

I would not, for the simple reason that the human body and mind are complicated things, built layer upon layer (many of which are redundancies, redundant redundancies even!), and the human THOUGHT process tends to formulate much more thematic and logically straightforward answers. IE, if the human body worked the way many people THINK it does, which is very machine-like, than I would upgrade away.

My philosophy is one of accountability. Let the other fools jump at the novelty, and only dip in if it is PROVEN safe. Spiritually though, I would avoid it unless my life depended on it, which is to say that we lived in a Ray Kurzweillian future where un-upgraded people would be marginalized.

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