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Opinion on bio-augmentation?

  1. Feb 27, 2004 #1
    I'm curious as to everyone's opinion on bio-augmentation? This is a field that I've been strongly interested in ever since playing the game Deus Ex (and its equally-enlightening sequel). For those who have not played this game, but are interested in the idea of combining computers and humans into one entity, I highly recommend it. Yes, I know, it's just a game, but the plot is deeply thought-provoking and absolutely applicable to real-life.

    Anyway, in the interest of not spoiling the game, I'll try to keep my references obfuscated. The basic idea is that genetics are flawed. Genetics are a system through which evolution is achieved through brute force. A mutation is created, and the mutation is propogated only if the mutant is able to propogate his genes. As a result, every being is born with differing potential, the classic problem of upper and lower class. As evolution continues, but natural selection does not (due to programs like Welfare, Medicare, Social Security), humans will slowly evolve away from what used to be considered "human." Some facets of society will degrade, via bad mutations that are not eliminated from the gene pool, and some will advance, via good mutations that lead to success and propogation of genes.

    However, if we use technology to augment our biological beings, we can equal the playing field, so to speak. Anyone who can augment themselves can improve their ability to perform tasks, regardless of what genetics they were born with. Suddenly genetics is no longer an issue, and evolution is no longer a concern! The rich and poor may finally be considered equal in all senses and there will be no upper or lower class!

    The question is: Is this right? It could be argued that our flaws are what makes us unique. If everyone has the same processing power available to their conscious mind, given adequate information, it's possible that every person will come to the same conclusion when faced with a particular decision. Therefore, everyone will for all intents and purposes be identical. The only thing differing between us would be our memories, and even that could be done away with (although I don't think people would want to).

    Is society destined to become a race of people who think and act alike, making technological progress but not truly interacting in the sense that we interact today?
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2004
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  3. Feb 28, 2004 #2


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    I would contend that diversity is indeed a necessity. So regardnig the question of the pro's and con's of becomnig a uniform species, I think it would be desaterous in the long run. However, regarding the probability of such a scenario, I don't think it's a very realistic concern. As you mentioned, the memories and life-expeiences of each individual will still be unique. Unless we choose to have these deleted (and I can see no motive for that), but people will still be, for the most part, people. Even given the erasure of memory, individuals will continue to have unique experiences. From these, individuality must naturally arise.
  4. Mar 1, 2004 #3
    While I tend to agree that diversity is a necessity, I cannot explain the logic behind it. Perhaps its wishful thinking, or perhaps it truly would be disasterous if everyone were the same. Then again, perhaps it would be paradise.

    I think that individuality under the current sense encompasses more than just the act of being unique in some way, but having your own Tao, your own way of thinking. What one person thinks is right, you think is wrong. Where one person would've chosen #1, you chose #2.

    It seems to me that as a society develops, interaction becomes more and more necessary in order to maintain structure. This is because the diverse opinions, combined into a whole, create the 'public mind.' The better the interaction within the society, the more accurate the public mind represents society. E.G. Murder is wrong, touching is usually ok, assault is wrong, etc. However, in using technology to augment the human being, it's possible that all people could be brought up to a less diverse level of logical comprehension, such that we no longer perceive the world from such different perspectives.

    To put it another way, think of your interaction with a person who you've known a long time and spend a lot of time with. You know that feeling you get when the person seems to know you better than you do? Like they know exactly what you're going to say before you say it? That's how I envision a future of bio-augmentation. You could walk down the street and encounter someone and aside from story-telling or the latest news, there likely wouldn't be anything else to discuss, because they are so similar to yourself. Debates and arguments would be swift, along the lines of:
    "Did you know ____?"
    "No, I didn't! Doesn't that contradict ____?"
    "No, because ____."
    "Who would've thought?"
    The only thing to be shared is knowledge, opinion becomes less significant. Social interaction has therefore become less essential for creating an accurate public mind.

    Those who watch the TV series Stargate SG-1 are also familiar with this idea, as every race more advanced than our own behaves in a similar fashion in that show. In such cases, interaction is usually limited to a sharing of information, a quick brainstorming session, a decision, and execution of that decision often without even sharing the knowledge. This is because they have reached a conclusion, and so it seems logical that any other being capable of advanced logical thought would come to the same conclusion.
  5. Apr 30, 2004 #4

    First a caution.
    I'd REALLY be careful about reading anything at all into notions like all the advanced species in SG-1 behaving the same.
    "The rules" laid out by any TV show for how an "alien species" will behave (even in the exceptionally rare instances that any "rules" are even considered during development, let alone written down for use by the writing staff) come STRICKLY out of the rules of dramaturgy, as opposed to any thoughts at all as to how "realistic" those rules of behavior are.
    Trust me. The idea that all the advanced species in SG-1 behave the same as other members of their species isn't something your going to find in SG-1's "writer's bible". Things just start to look that way because writers working on TV shows have only 4 to 6 weeks to complete a story assignment, and as a result they never have to time to think of what kinds of cultural differences would be present in an "alien species" unless those cultural differences form the basis of a critical plot point required to tell the tale.

    That said...

    I seriously doubt that bio-augmentation would lead to increasing levels of uniformity between individuals.
    In fact I'd expect just the opposite.
    As a culture and its needs become more and more complex, I could easily see where not only might bio-diversity increase, but the various types of bio-augmentation available to and/or adopted by any given individuals within such a culture would also increase, in order to fulfill an ever increasing number of specialized jobs that require specialized augmentation.
    Think Toffler's THE THIRD WAVE.

    My two cents anywho
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2004
  6. May 1, 2004 #5


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    I do; if we were all alike, then the moment we encountered a problem one of us couldn't solve, we would all be stumped!
  7. May 3, 2004 #6
    Diversity driving?

    That's a hell of a good point Lurch, especially if you expand the idea of problem solving to include solving the many challenges of survival any organism faces.
    More diversity = more chances of having a particular key ability to survive squirreled away within an individual that can then use that ability to survive and reproduce more individuals able to use a similar strategy to survive the challenge faced.
  8. May 11, 2004 #7


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    Actually the Asgard had Loki which acted differently than Thor and the Gua'ould had the Tok'ra who acted differently. Even the Nox had a child which was different than their elders. As to why they all speak or pick up English so efficiently, I dunno. :smile:
  9. May 14, 2004 #8
    Ok don't read too much into the Stargate analogy. I wasn't using it to further my point, only to clarify it with an example of what I think is a very possible future for society. :wink:

    I'm talking about well into the future when resources are so abundant and production is so easy that society is essentially a utopia whereupon almost anything can be manufactured at almost zero cost. Autonomous entities (not sentient) produce the resources necessary for us to continue living, and the only resources that require conscious effort are the creation of new things and improvement of old things. In such a scenario, if our technology allows people to attain X level of consciousness through bio-augmentation, then there is no reason for anyone not to attain that level of consciousness. Why would you settle for less?

    Of course, as Lurch points out:

    Some people might have huge mechanical arms, and some people may have laser beams shooting out of their eyes. So in the sense of appearances and function everyone will still be unique. Thankfully due to the differences in taste, experience, and purpose, we will never be truly alike unless we attempt to converge into the standard "singularity" scenario. I'm not going to speculate on what direction the species might take with regard to those types of philosophical questions. However, what I'm asking is, if everyone has the same level of logical comprehension, the same mathematical and linguistic limitations, then how different would we truly be? Would we think the same? Given the same facts, would we all come to the same conclusion?
  10. May 14, 2004 #9


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    You are assuming there is only one kind of goal, one form of supreme cognition. But why would there be? The minds of say Shelley, Byron and Keats, or Einstein, Dirac, and Feynmann, just to take some examples, are utterly different. I mean these men all thought differently, and they were the tops in their fields in their time. So why wouldn't there be skillions of ways to be mentally supreme?
  11. May 21, 2004 #10
    Hmm... good point. Perhaps you're right, I suppose as we get closer and closer to "perfection of the conscious mind" (whatever that means) through bio-augmentation we will likely discover that, like all things, it's a matter of compromise. For example, by having a higher level of logical comprehension we humans have sacrificed our animal-like reflexes. Otherwise, the human brain would've naturally evolved to a state of higher intelligence on its own. We'd all have night-vision eyes, super-sensitive ears, huge brains, etc. Nature has a way of balancing such compromises, and if we attempt to improve upon it we will likely sacrifice a great deal in areas which are deemed "not as important" anymore. As we continue to learn more and more about the human brain, such compromises will likely become more and more evident and plentiful.

    This begs the question "What aspects of the human mind can we afford to forfeit or reduce"? What improved abilities would result in a decrease in another measure of performance? Is the brain understood well enough at this point to attempt to determine what must be sacrificed in order to enable a particular gain? This is all rhetoric as I'm by no means a neurologist, I guess at this point I'm just trying to plant a seed to stimulate ongoing thought rather than a drop-off at the end of my thread. :)
  12. Jun 26, 2004 #11


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    It all depends on what environment our descendents will struggle in. If smarts are favored they'll get smarter, if reflexes are the key, they'll evolve toward dumb superjocks. And if the selection pressures are too subtle and nuanced for us to describe in words, variation can handle that too.
  13. Jun 27, 2004 #12


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    your genetics dont predestine you into upper or lower class. take paris hilton for example.

    your intellectual abilities are affected by your brain's capacity, by your experiences and environment. everyone, and i mean everyone, can become a Ph.D and make wonderful discoveries if you give them 20 years to study (from 1st grade to Ph.D)

    The only limiting factor would be your imagination (part of brain's capacity for creative thinking). Einstein was a visionary with great imagination. Something Feynman was not. He (Feynman) was baffled how Einstein came up with his General Relativity. Subsequently Feynman falls under that (give them 20 years) category. While Einstein is your average 'C+ student' with a great imagination and insight. Same applies to Heisenberg.

    'Mutation' you speak of, is part of Meiosis. In crossing over, the genes exchange genetic material between non-sister homologous chromosomes. Thus you get a blend of a father and a mother. Every new generation becomes more and more improved.
  14. Jun 27, 2004 #13
    IQ tests and the general learning factor

    • when the correlations among a large number of learning tasks are factor analyzed, a general factor common to all of the learning tasks is revealed. This common factor could be called "general learning ability."

      The important point is that this general learning ability factor is highly correlated with the g factor extracted from psychometric tests, and seems to be essentially nothing other than g. When a number of learning tasks and a number of psychometric tests of mental abilities are all entered into the same correlation matrix and factor analyzed, they are found to share a large common factor which is indistinguishable from psychometric g. In fact, there is no general learning factor (that is, a factor common to all learning tasks) that is independent of psychometric g. The general factor of each domain--learning and psychometric abilities--is essentially one and the same g.

      Certain kinds of learning tasks, of course, are more g loaded than others. Concept learning and the acquisition of learning sets (i.e., generalized learning-to-learn), for example, are more g loaded than rote learning, trial-and-error learning, and perceptual-motor skills learning. Attempts to devise tests of "learning potential" in which the subject is first tested on some task (or set of tasks), then given some standard instruction, coaching, or practice on the same or a similar task, and then retested to obtain a measure of the gain in task performance resulting from the interpolated coaching have proved to be a poor substitute for ordinary IQ tests. Standard IQ has higher validity for predicting scholastic achievement. [8] The existing tests of "learning potential," when used in conjunction with an IQ test, add virtually nothing to the predictive validity of the IQ when it is used alone, probably because the chief active ingredient in predictive validity is g, and tests of learning potential have not proved to be as good measures of g as conventional IQ tests.
    Arthur Jensen. The g Factor. p276.
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