21 December 2017, 18h28:
Summer Solstice for the Southern Hemisphere
Today is the summer solstice – it is the day of the year where we experience lengthened daylight hours and have shortened night hours. In the Southern Hemisphere we are at the peak of summer with high temperatures and frequent rainfall, which means an abundance of food and cherished time with the family.
The summer solstice is aligned with Fire, an element equally capable of creation and as it is destruction. The element of fire is often associated with the mind, which is able to come up with wondrous ideas that assist humanity (light aspect), but it can just as easily come up with many cruel ways to harm another (shadow aspect). Here I also link Fire with Earth, where a mental idea born from fire manifests as a physical entity; perceived in its solid form, like the earth. Thus, this leads to the main theme of today’s article.
What is the future of humanity? Many debates between citizens and scientists alike have led to interesting and disturbing predictions, from single toed-feet to uploading our brains into computer networks. However, one key point is somewhat over-looked in many of these predictions; the one where evolution and natural selection mostly operate in a ‘natural’ environment.
“Everything is everywhere nature selects” as well as “Survival of the fittest” generally rule the progression of a species throughout their interaction with nature. So, the question becomes: Does evolution in this sense still apply when we start to add the advances of technology as an ‘environmental factor’ in an ever-increasing synthetic life..? Because, we are living in a world, and living our lives more removed from nature than ever before and closer to technology – so much so that technology becomes the new environment. Thus, nothing natural would exist anymore for evolution to select upon. Therefore, should we not be more concerned rather with our self-imposed artificial selection? Whether-or-not some of us are more optimised towards the initial integration, and later the creation, of wholly synthetic humans…? Human-computer integration in the form of robotic bodies to brain networks seem more likely, especially if we live on a harsher Earth where resources become increasingly scarce, genetic modification would likely be vastly unreliable/irreproducible due to the complexity of DNA and its interaction with cellular mechanisms, and additionally, if we have not yet developed the ability to become space-faring. Genetics as the bases of Evolution becomes nearly obsolete.
Several films, such as Transcendence, Ghost in the Shell as well as TV series such as Pure Genius already touch upon this topic of blurring the line between natural and synthetic, whereas the movie Arrival and the video game trilogy of Mass Effect even ventures towards alien-contact as a means of improving humanity. When one starts to replace the physical body with synthetic material, the physical identity becomes blunted even to a point of non-existence, since customisation of our entire outer appearance (such as eye or skin colour, hair type, length of limbs and body shape) could become just as easy as applying make-up or pressing a button. We also see a scenario where genetics starts to become less important, in the sense that disease-resistance or healthy physique becomes unnecessary, because a ‘robotic’ body would surpass all of that. Only those who are mentally (and emotionally) strong enough would be able to survive (and become templates for new human life). When I refer to strength here, it is in the sense of having enough willpower and enough sense of identity without a ‘fixed’ natural body to be able to live as a synthetic. Whether we obtain our body through brain-transplantation (as in Ghost in the Shell) or get modified as we go (similar to Pure Genius), it leaves one thing in question – what about our souls? The part of us that guides our identity, our morals and ethical values, our capacity for compassion and humanity – when we are not even ‘human’ anymore…
We already see individuals in our societies with no regard for human life, including their own life regardless of the fact that we are all so very mortal. Existing as synthetic life would be in effect the ‘Fountain of Youth’ situation where robotic bodies do not age or become diseased and when damaged, can be repaired. Effectively we become immortal. I am assuming that some human-like activity would still be necessary in robotic bodies, such as supplying the brain with nutrition (through eating in some way) as well as sleeping (for the brain to process information). But, if the brain itself also becomes synthetic and we simply upload our consciousness into these bodies or even discard bodies entirely, opting for life in a digital network. How do you retain your sense of self and soul? What about of perception of time? How does our value of life change and would things like emotion still be possible? Or would we simply be reduced to electrical signals as our minds become stored as digital information? It would be far easier to be space-faring as digital signal rather than physical bodies. Maybe it would be possible to seed other planets with physical life through the transportation of ourselves in digital code, much like DNA travelling on meteorites. Could this be the salvation or the extinction of ‘The Human Identity & Soul’? Is evolution towards the digital our new path for survival?
Would you be able to live as a synthetic, without physical identity? Where you essentially become raceless, even genderless – would you retain enough identity to preserve your uniqueness and expand your perspective as digital code? How would this type of change influence the socio-economic state of our communities? When we no longer fight over land that has oil or water/food for sustenance? When discrimination based on physical appearance falls away – no more bureaucratic tick boxes of gender, race and nationality, not even religion or culture! No comparisons of physical prowess, beauty or age! Everybody becomes physically equal, since the body is stripped from the human experience. When physical actions, such as eat, sleep, run, swim, get married and even the bearing of children ceases to exist as our lives become converted to alternate universes based on digital constructions? How would your morals and ethics change?
Are you able to create an identity representative of yourself without the purely physical? Would you be able to retain your soul, grow and thrive as a person without a physical world? I think this is an important point to consider and it will dramatically change the way in which we presently view the world, ourselves and others. We start to identify with ourselves and others beyond the physical, to truly appreciate each other as people, not just as bodies. Since, we are more than just our bodies and to truly understand or love someone is to realize that they have the potential to exist without a body. To ultimately see and cherish people as they are; precious lives with unique souls.