letter to IDDFOSJune 4, 2007
It’s been a while since I’ve written in. I can’t believe I went this long, but this topic is just too juicy.
I include the Great Wiki’s approach to this, because it seems pretty comprehensive, and covers a barrage of topics that I won’t even touch in this letter. But to kick that article off, the route word is Humanism, as in the philosophical movement from the Renaissance.
But onto my ideas:
I had quite a few thoughts bubbling around in my head when I woke up this morning. It occured to me that if the practice of scientifically improving the human body started anywhere, it would probably begin in the medical field. In fact, we have it already to some extent. Bypass surgeries, metal alloy attached to bones, dialysis, insulin injections, etc. These all seem like absolutely perfect examples of basic transhuman modifications. However, to take it one step further into the realm we normally would think about, due to all our science-fiction training, think about internal dialysis implants, solid alloy bones, metabolism adjusters, and even whole synthetic organs. What about mental retardation? Gone. And it would originate by some doctor deciding that such and such surgery or procedure wasn’t cutting the mustard any more, so improves upon it. This first step is based out of necessity, if not a couple other things. And as they say, whoever they are, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
From here, I see two possible routes: Let’s start with supposed military tag-along behavior, where some big break through is made, and the military contracts it. We’re talking super-soldier types. Imagine fully implanted flak jackets, increased endurance and stamina through brain and muscle enhancement, specialization implants, or possibly even temporary neuro-web implants that would only adjust one or two things, such as aim accuracy. Imagine mass units of soldiers being fully equipped to handle days of combat, days of patrol without rest or need of food. The best soldiers are machines after all.
The second route we might take from medical advancement would be commerical uses. We already have some of that with stomach stapling, plastic surgery and liposuction. These are modifications to remove the “unnecessary and useless” parts of our bodies, no? Slimmer, prettier, more tanned, more fit, more tight, more desireable. All of these would be part and parcel of commercial advancement. And think of the money it would rake in. Here in a few years, when the cosmetic industries biggest expenses become more and more common, they will be the biggest sellers. Who needs to diet when you can just suck it out for just as much money? Why go to the gym when you can get a thirty minute procedure to shock your muscles into the perfect shape for years to come. And who needs all that senseless body hair when you already can afford as much clothing as will keep you warm? Completely remove all but the valence hairs from your body to produce the naturally sleek texture that is approved by the industry. And if it’s too cold where you live, you’ll simply have wet-ware installed to heat the blood to a desireable temperature.
The last example I could think of would be in the entertainment industry. Singers who don’t need microphones anymore or who have constantly perfect pitch. Footballers who don’t have to use steroids because they have league-sanctioned muscle replacements and endurance implants. Marathons extended to hundreds of miles as the runners are all equipped with muscles that don’t tire and bodies that don’t hunger. Days of endless activity, constant motion, constant participation. Climb Everest with your family over the weekend. Hell, make it a day-trip.
The only thing I’ll say regarding the ethics of all of this is that humanity has a precious problem: We love ourselves and we love ourselves to be at our best. I think our desires, at least in capitalist countries, to be the best in a wide number of fields, on a majority level, will be the reason we go to these lengths.
As far as idiosyncrasies, I think it will even become a part of all of this. Eventually, when we’re more synthetic than human, or when we’re being catered to and neighbored by robotic constructs, they will start to put in quirks. What a selling point? “Fumbles and fidgets like a real human.” I can even imagine them throwing in my own oddness, such as my need to click my teeth together as I drive past a light pole, or my tap my fingers together in a 1-3-4-2 pattern against my thumb. I feel like the Rainman. Definitely feel like the Rainman.
And by the way, have you seen Bicentennial Man?