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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Humans Will Become Cybermen and Borg by 2045?


Well, to be fair, Doctor Who, Star Trek: The Next Generation and The X-Files did try and warn us about this sort of thing.

The featured article in the February 24, 2011 edition of Time magazine is "2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal" by Lev Grossman, which examines the evolution of technology to the point where it merges with humanity and becomes impossible to predict, an event commonly dubbed the Singularity.  Grossman focuses the article on inventor and futurist Raymond "Ray" Kurzweil, author of such books as The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, who sees all kinds of potential implications from such exponential growth.

"In Kurzweil's future," writes Grossman, "biotechnology and nanotechnology give us the power to manipulate our bodies and the world around us at will, at the molecular level. Progress hyperaccelerates, and every hour brings a century's worth of scientific breakthroughs. We ditch Darwin and take charge of our own evolution. The human genome becomes just so much code to be bug-tested and optimized and, if necessary, rewritten. Indefinite life extension becomes a reality; people die only if they choose to. Death loses its sting once and for all. Kurzweil hopes to bring his dead father back to life."

Definitely some intriguing and disturbing stuff that you could easily shrug off as wishful science-fiction, whose fans are already used to such concepts.  The world's longest-running science-fiction series, Doctor Who, introduced the villainous Cybermen in 1966, cyborgs from the planet Mondas who gradually replaced their humanoid forms with artificial parts as a means of self-preservation and became emotionless and devoid of morality in the process.  They add to their numbers by forcing others to undergo a conversion process that replaces their bodies with Cybermen parts, claiming "You will become like us."

Star Trek: The Next Generation took the Cybermen and gave them an upgrade in 1989 with the creation of the Borg.  Another group of cyborgs, the Borg are made up of multiple species augmented with cybernetic enhancements and organized into a collective hive mind.  Their sole purpose is to travel from world to world, assimilating others in order to "add the biological and technological distinctiveness of other species to (their) own" in the pursuit of perfection.

Another classic science-fiction series, The X-Files, explored the idea in 1998 in an episode titled "Kill Switch," written by science-fiction authors William Gibson and Tom Maddox.  Involving a murderous artificial intelligence, the episode focused on such themes as the evolution of artifical intelligence, virtual reality and transferring one's consciousness into cyberspace.

So there it is, Humanity.  You've got about 34 years left, so you'd better enjoy your remaining Fleshtime while you still can.

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