Not that I’m expecting many animals to be reading through my posts but looking at the way my cat behaves, you never can tell.
I’m closing in fast on the end of the current book I’m writing and I’ve already started doing some preliminary work for the third but my mind keeps wandering back to another idea I’ve had for a while. This one deals with the nature of what it is that makes us human.
I’m going to be having knee surgery in the next week and a half (just a keyhole clear out of damaged cartilage) but this is the third time I’ve had to have the same procedure. Small piece by small piece, bits of me are being removed. If the problem persists and the arthritis continues, I’ve got to face the fact that a knee replacement is in my future. My grandfather had both his knees replaced and my mother is on the waiting list to have one of hers done as well so it looks like my genes have it in them for my joints to wear out.
So. If I have my knee replaced, does that make me less human?
I’m a fan of Cyperpunk and the whole idea of melding man and machine is a darkly compelling thought. Characters uploading their consciousness to computers, replacing and upgrading limbs or organs and the cross over between technology and humanity is a wide open expanse where all kinds of things could be explored.
So what makes us human? If you’ve had the need of a replacement limb or organ, you’re still a human being, maybe even a human ‘plus’ but how much would need to be replaced or upgraded before, like Darth Vader, we end up as more machine than man? If you keep going, changing and replacing, until you cross the 50% line of flesh and bone, do you end up being a machine with human parts instead of a human with machine parts?
If there isn’t a ‘flesh’ value to the humanity we all share, is it something to do with the mind? Surely all of our minds are just a collection of information. Electrical impulses which ping around our brains are the reality of our memories and thoughts so, as features regularly brought out in books and films, uploading those impulses to a synthetic system is potentially a possibility. We could, supposedly, send the mind of a person to a machine if all we are is patterns of wiring and electricity.
As technology develops and advances in science spread the scope of what we as a race can do, the human race will have to become more than we all are now. Machines will improve and we’re going to have more and more advanced robotics, along with AI looming on the horizon as an almost mythical prize. Upgrading our bodies should they wear out or even for fashion depending on how these societal changes take place, will mean that the line separating humans and machines will become blurred. This will mean that we’ll have to examine who we are as times change so we can change with everything else.
Changes to how we view ourselves doesn’t mean that the end will be a horror story of mechanised control or war with an uprising of machines. Maybe this will be the first pointed act of evolution? Rather than our systems changing due to natural selection maybe we’re going to do it ourselves? Acts of ‘unnatural selection’.
Then where does that leave us? This doesn’t even consider the fuzziness which floats around thoughts of the soul and religion.
No matter what happens to the human race as the world turns, we’ll just have to sort it all out when we get there.
Resistance is futile.