Technology thought-leader Elon Musk argues in a 2017 speech that artificially enhancing people is the only way to match the incredible intelligence of AI. Many people agree with Musk that turning ourselves into cyborgs, or cybernetic organism, is the only plausible way to preserve the human race in the age of AI.
However, this shift involves intangible aspects like religion, philosophy and an actual redefining of who we are. It boils down to a fundamental dilemma of where we draw the boundary between being human and being an advanced thinking machine with a human core. Is it possible to be a cyborg and still lay claim to being human?
Are we Cyborgs?
A cyborg is a person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body’. Within this definition, we have produced cyborgs since the first implantation of a pacemaker in a heart-patient in 1958.
At the other end of the spectrum is a brain or head in a jar that is attached with a brain interface to external sensors, like one would see in the cartoon Futurama.
A second, probably even more essential distinction is which part of us is replaced with artificial functions. ‘Replacement of ‘executive’ parts of our body like hips and a heart, or even an entire arm or an eye, do not alter our human essence at the core. If the goal is enhanced health or prolonged life, then most of us would agree that this is an organic extension of our technology.
Ethics of Artificial Body Extensions
The moral slope becomes more slippery to navigate when we start to replace body parts to enhance healthy parts to become a better version of ourselves. We could to replace functioning eyes or ears with superior versions or artificial muscles that would give us superhuman strength. These ‘improvements’ are neither necessary for healthy functioning in our society nor natural or acceptable. Theyse quests for perfection merely take away the human-ness of our population and turn us into perfect, but soulless, cyborgs.
We really go down a questionable road, if we hook our brain up to an outside computer to enhance our memory and analytical performance, so we can match the astonishing processing speed of AI. Elon Musk believes so much in this idea, that he founded a start-up (Neuralink), to develop the “neural lace” technology – implanting tiny electrodes into the brain for direct computing capabilities.
God created us with extraordinary capabilities – but with certain limitations in physical and mental reach, buoyed by a human soul and with a finite span to our lives. We must not assume the role of our Creator.
Even the non-believers of religion and soul will hold value for our innate human nature and characteristics. If we change essential parts of our body, which our brain definitely is, then we stop being human and morph into a thing quite different.
Inequality at every level of society is increasing. The development of genetic human engineering and cyborgs enhances this trend. Most of us will be wary of messing with our genes and brain implants, and for a good reason. It will create an ugly society! But the few individuals and countries that do so will overtake the rest. The immoral will outperform the prudent.
Still, Elon Musk is right to argue that we have to do something to stay ahead of the rash development of AI. We only disagree that becoming cyborgs is the solution.
If not Cyborgs, then What?
A more logical and proactive alternative to turning ourselves into cyborgs is put forward by the ‘tamingtheaibeast.org’ movement.
This movement is at a nascent stage, and needs the support of life-minded visionaries. We offer a credible alternative to controlling AI without radical measures like transforming humanity into cyborgs. Instead, we want to put the safety of AI in a carefully balanced society, in the spirit of the Trias Politica of Montesquieu:
– No countries powerful enough to control the rest, but strong international institutions.
– Strict separation of power with democracy.
– Restrictions and communalization of natural tech-monopolies.
– Only allow cyborgs and human genetic engineering approved by international bodies.
– Sharing of advance AI between nations and branches of government.
Turning ourselves into cyborgs is a possible survival strategy, but at the same time it is the end of our human existence as we know it. This is a tragic outcome, both for people with a religious view and atheists that value our human nature.
This is an existential question that concerns us all, and that we must answer together with a degree of urgency.
You may also read our blog on this subject, the one-way nature of a shift or the articles on the other five aftermath scenarios Rogue Malware, First Intelligence Explosion, Necessary Rescue, Ethnic Cleansing or Lonely Dictator.