Augmented Man, the end of humanity?
Augmented man: what are we talking about?
What are we talking about, when we approach the subject of augmented man? If we take the definition of the Larousse on the verb to increase, it is to make something bigger, more considerable, thus to increase its initial capacities. If we apply it to man, the objective would be to make him stronger? More intelligent ? More resistant? For Wikipedia, This notion refers to temporary or permanent attempts to overcome the current limits of the human body, by natural or artificial means.
However, we cannot discuss this notion without talking about this particular ideology carried in particular by the leaders of the American digital giants, the transhumanism. For this particular ideology, sells the dream that the human could “become more than human” thanks to technology, to have a longer life, to be more intelligent, to have more creativity to be more successful (Transhumanism). This ideology wants to be the next evolution of humanity Homo Deus, with consequences that are far from positive and sometimes flirt with eugenics (L. Alexandre)…
This notion established, we will be able to put in perspective two elements, the increase of the man is it bad in itself and which role the technology and in particular the digital can have.
To be increased, so what?
If we go back to the definition given by Wikipedia, it is a temporary or permanent modification of the human body. We can therefore consider that the use of drugs, in the case of sports doping, is a form of augmentation. In this particular context, the search for performance at all costs is problematic and poses serious moral problems. This can be found to some extent in the use of drugs by various leaders in order to increase their intellectual capacities or resistance. If we see the gains, we see the ethical limits, but also the risks taken by those who use them in terms of health.
However, there is another field where “human augmentation” is relevant. This is the treatment of pathologies or handicaps. In this case, augmentation aims to repair a dysfunction linked to a situation that has made the individual less able to cope with a situation characterized as “normal”. And in this case, we understand that it is a real progress of quality of life for the affected persons.
As is often the case, a concept is neither good nor bad in itself and depends very much on the objective sought and the intrinsic motivations for using these possibilities. However, in view of the societal changes that we have seen with the invasion of digital technology in all our activities and in the social body, I think it is important to question the direction we are taking.
The digital revolution does not have only positive impacts, on the contrary. The proliferation of screens, social networks and the proliferation of information to which we have access (infobesity) mean that we are solicited from all sides (messages, notifications), thus impairing our ability to concentrate (ça m’intéresse – Les conséquences désastreuses du digital sur notre cerveau). Moreover, the access to information anywhere, anytime makes us use our memory less and less and we lose our critical analysis capacities. Immediacy makes us lose the ability to step back and process information and analyze it.
We can also deplore the fact that from a very young age, screens and keyboards replace manual writing and reading, which are powerful tools for building our thinking and our ability to stand back and analyze.
What are the promises of human augmentation by technology? There are different kinds of promises. Indeed, biotechnologies make the promise of a prolonged life and who knows, in better physical condition, even if this needs to be confirmed in reality. It is true that life expectancy has increased, but the appearance/generalization of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s does not make the end of life particularly attractive.…
We have other promises, which I find even more worrying by the proponents of transhumanism, where digital technologies would allow a more complete integration Man/Machine. You probably think that I am fantasizing! However, look at the investments made in particular by this brilliant entrepreneur Elon Musk, on brain chip technologies (Futura – Le Projet Neuralink d’Elon Musk inquiète beaucoup les scientifiques). If we can understand the interest of these neural interfaces, it raises many questions. These subjects have abounded in Science-Fiction literature, a literary domain largely dominated by Anglo-Saxons and Americans in particular, a tendency which could be explained by the progressive imperialism carried by the United States. Is it a question of a conception of the human destiny radically different between the new world and the old continent and more particularly France, difficult to say. Would the proponents of the philosophy of the Enlightenment have been influenced by J.J. Rousseau to have a different relationship to nature than the Anglo-Saxon vision of philosophy? This is a question to which I would like to have the beginning of an answer.
What fundamental impacts ?
But let’s stop dwelling on the philosophical dimension of the question and let’s focus on evaluating the obstacles and risks inherent in the implementation of such human “augmentations”. If one of the options of human augmentation is linked to digital technology (hardware and software) several concrete questions arise.
How long will the implants (neural interface) last in the human body, what are the risks of biological rejection?
If we are in a hybrid human-digital mode, how can we be sure of the intrinsic cyber security of these implants? Indeed, if these implants were ever hacked, what risks would the individual equipped with them run?
The use of waves (Blue Tooth or Wifi), what are the biological impacts when the implants are in a biological environment?
How will the human mind react to multiple artificial stimuli, how to sort out what our biological sensors are transmitting to us, and the information transmitted by possible foreign sensors?
My concern in front of these vertiginous questionings, what will become of Man, who was since the origins an inherent part of nature? Will he become one of the multiple components in a technicized world where nature will no longer need to be? How could our senses evolve? Which functionalities, until now specific to humans, will be abandoned?
Faced with unlimited progressism, with the reconsideration of what our evolution has been, should we not take a step back and allow philosophers and intellectuals to think about the society towards which we want to go, and not be puppets carried away by progress, without any history or future?