2 min readIs human augmentation inevitable?

The following article was written by Frank Swain and was published by the BBC last September 24, 2014.

Swain, a well-known deaf journalist who is known for creating a tool that allows him to listen in to invisible networks[efn_note]https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2832933/The-man-HEARS-Wi-Fi-Deaf-man-uses-hearing-aid-listen-invisible-networks.html[/efn_note], tries to debunk misconceptions about human augmentation.

He says, “There’s a big gulf between the fantasy vision of cyborgs and the current reality of being dependent on an implant or a prosthetic in day-to-day life.”

He says that augmentation does not essentially mean that all those who are not augmented will be “left behind”. On the contrary, he says, this augmentation could lead to an explosion of diversity as every person will choose to augment in different ways.

Towards the end of his article, Swain tries to address one of the most compelling issues about human augmentation which defines what humanity is. He cites Neil Harbisson who says, “Some might think that we might become less human if we modify ourselves but I believe there is nothing more human than doing that… strongly disagree with those who think that our union with technology will alienate ourselves from reality, from nature or from other livings. In my case, becoming technology doesn’t make me feel closer to machines, or to robots, but quite the opposite. Having an antenna makes me feel closer to insects and other creatures that have antennae, hearing through bone conduction makes me feel closer to dolphins and other marine species that perceive sound through their bones, having ultraviolet and infrared perception makes me feel closer to insects and mammals that perceive these colors. I feel a stronger connection with nature now than I ever did before. Technology can bring us back to nature.”

Editor’s Note: While this article was written in 2014, it has become even more relevant today as our current technologies are now at a point where the military is considering the widescale use of human augmentation [Read GERMAN AND UK DEFENSE DEPARTMENT PARTNER TO STUDY THE STRATEGIC IMPLICATIONS OF HUMAN AUGMENTATION, AI AND THE EVOLUTION OF WARFARE].

We agree with Swain that augmentation can help those who are suffering from medical conditions that prevent them from attaining their full potential. However, we question his naive assumption that this is the only way that augmentation will be used [see HUMAN AUGMENTATION: MAKING YOUR BRAIN HACKABLE, EXPERT REPORT FORECASTS POSSIBLE MALICIOUS USE OF AI].

Will human augmentation change who we are as human beings? The current evidence available to us says that yes, it could further degrade the human condition and our communities [see HOW BIOHACKING IS CHANGING HUMAN NATURE, TECHNOLOGY WILL DEHUMANIZE ALL HUMANS INTO DIGITAL ASSETS].

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