Human Augmentation: Navigating the Risks of Devolution and Decency in Our Evolutionary Path

I have not posted on my blog since I moved to Dallas, and Covid hit us hard. I gave in Montreal and Dallas presentations on the augmented human - a topic that has fascinated me for years as a technologist and was always well-received by the audience.  

In light of the acceleration in AI, Covid, and the dramatic turn our planet's climate is taking, I have rekindled my desire to share my thoughts in what I consider to be a more thoughtful reflection. 

It starts with this thought: "We are forcing humanity to become the architect of its evolution."

Human augmentation through technology has long been a topic of fascination and speculation, fueling our imaginations with visions of enhanced capabilities and a potential leap forward in our evolutionary journey. However, as we embark on this path of technological advancement, it is essential to critically examine the potential risks involved. While augmentation holds the promise of progress, there is a growing concern that it could inadvertently lead us toward devolution, erode our resilience, and force us to become the architects of our evolutionary survival.

As we rely more on external technologies to augment our abilities, we may become overly dependent on them, leading to the deterioration of innate human qualities. For instance, relying heavily on cognitive augmentation devices may result in diminished critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Over time, this erosion of core human abilities could undermine our capacity to adapt and thrive without external aid.

The pursuit of physical augmentation also leads to an imbalance between our natural bodies and artificially enhanced aspects. While enhanced physical attributes can provide short-term benefits, they may come at the cost of losing our natural biological functions. Over-reliance on artificial enhancements could weaken our natural immune systems or even reduce lifespan due to unforeseen consequences. This potential devolutionary trajectory raises concerns about our species' long-term sustainability and resilience.

However, our augmentation could inadvertently reduce our resilience by creating a false sense of invincibility or narrowing our skill sets. By relying heavily on augmentation, we may become less adaptable to unforeseen challenges that cannot be addressed by our technological enhancements. In a world where technology evolves at a rapid pace, relying too heavily on specific augmentations could render us vulnerable when faced with unfamiliar scenarios or unanticipated changes.

I am also concerned that the potential for inequality arising from differential access to augmentation technologies could further diminish societal resilience. If only a select few have access to the benefits of augmentation, it may exacerbate existing disparities and lead to a divided society. In such a scenario, the majority would lack the necessary resilience to thrive in an increasingly augmented world, further widening the gap between the augmented and the non-augmented, thus undermining the cohesion and stability of our societies. As the risks of devolution and reduced resilience loom, it becomes unavoidable for humanity to actively shape its evolutionary path to ensure survival and prosperity. Rather than passively accepting the consequences of unguided technological augmentation, we must adopt a thoughtful and intentional approach. This is even more evident today as we face a threatening existential climate change. 

We must invest in education and critical thinking to mitigate the risks of devolution and promote the responsible use of augmentation technologies. Cultivating a deep understanding of both the potential benefits and pitfalls of augmentation will empower individuals to make informed decisions and actively participate in shaping their own evolutionary path.

I deeply believe that our augmentation through technology holds immense potential for enhancing our capabilities and pushing the boundaries of our existence. However, we must tread carefully to avoid unintended consequences that lead to devolution, reduced resilience, and societal divisions. By recognizing the risks and taking proactive measures to address them, we can navigate this transformative phase and ensure that human augmentation becomes a force for positive evolution, empowering us to shape our destiny while preserving our essential humanity. Unfortunately, should the necessity for our self-imposed evolution be unavoidable to our survival, it is likely to lead us to lose our humanity as we dissociate ourselves from the increasingly hostile natural world and seek both artificial substance and reasoning.


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