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Technology has evolved to a point where humans have overridden natural selection. So what will our species become? Immortal interstellar travelers, perhaps.
Scientists are currently mapping the human brain in an effort to understand the connections that produce consciousness. If we can re-create consciousness, your mind can live on forever. You could even laser-port your consciousness to different planets at the speed of light, download your mind into a local avatar and explore those worlds.
But is this transhumanist vision of the future real or is it a pipedream? And if it is real, is it wise? Join theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, neuroscientist David Eagleman, human performance researcher Steven Kotler, skeptic Michael Shermer, cultural theorist Douglas Rushkoff and futurist Jason Silva.
Read Michio Kaku’s book “The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind” at https://amzn.to/3mjVGtA
JASON SILVA: Transhumanism is essentially the philosophical school of thought that says that human beings should use technology to transcend their limitations. That it’s perfectly natural for us to use our tools to overcome our boundaries, to extend our minds, to extend our mindware using these technological scaffoldings. The craziness here is that we’re finding more and more that our technological systems are mirroring some of the most advanced natural systems in nature. You know, the internet is wired like the neurons in our brain, which is wired like computer models of dark matter in the universe. They all share the same intertwingled filamental structure. What does this tell us? That there is no distinction between the born and the made. All of it is nature, all of it is us. So to be human is to be transhuman.
But the reason we’re at a pivotal point in history is because now we’ve decommissioned natural selection. You know, this notion that we are now the chief agents of evolution, right? We now get to decide who we become. We’re talking about software that writes its own hardware, life itself, the new canvas for the artist. Nanotechnology patterning matter, programmable matter. The whole world becomes computable, life itself, programmable, upgradable. What does this say about what it means to be human? It means that what it is to be human is to transform and transcend; we’ve always done it. We’re not the same species we were 100,000 years ago. We’re not going to be the same species tomorrow. Craig Venter recently said we’ve got to understand that we are a software-driven species. Change the software, changed the species. And why shouldn’t we?
DAVID EAGLEMAN: All the pieces and parts of your brain, this vastly complicated network of neurons—almost 100 billion neurons, each of which has 10,000 connections to its neighbors. So we’re talking a thousand trillion neurons. It’s a system of such complexity that it bankrupts our language but, fundamentally, it’s only three pounds and we’ve got it cornered and it’s right there and it’s a physical system. The computational hypothesis of brain function suggests that the physical wetware isn’t the stuff that matters. It’s what are the algorithms that are running on top of the wetware? In other words, what is the brain actually doing? What’s it implementing, software-wise? Hypothetically, we should be able to take the physical stuff of the brain and reproduce what it’s doing. In other words, reproduce its software on other substrates. So we could take your brain and reproduce it out of beer cans and tennis balls and it would still run just fine. And if we said, “Hey, how are you feeling in there?” This beer-can-tennis-ball machine would say, “Oh, I’m feeling fine, it’s a little cold,” or whatever.
It’s also hypothetically a possibility that we could copy your brain and reproduce it in silica, which means on a computer, in zeros and ones, actually run the simulation of your brain.
MICHIO KAKU: The initial steps are once again being made. At Caltech, for example, they’ve been able to take a mouse brain and look at a certain part of the brain where memories are processed. Memories are processed at the very center of our brain and they’ve been able to duplicate the functions of that with a chip. So, again, this does not mean that we can encode memories with a chip, but it does mean that we’ve been able to take the information storage of a mouse brain and have a silicon chip duplicate those functions. And so was mouse consciousness created in the process? I don’t know. I don’t know…
Read the full transcript at https://bigthink.com/videos/can-humans-be-immortal