I am pleased to have had my thoughts included in “Cyborgs: The truth about human augmentation” – an excellent new article by Frank Swain on BBC Future. Mr. Swain had previously interviewed me about my illustrated children’s book Death is Wrong, which led to his article “How to live forever” being published by BBC Future in April 2014.
This time Mr. Swain asked me to help debunk common myths about human augmentation, and here is an excerpt from the article that conveys my reply.
“Some would express fear that emerging augmentations would create an arms race, that threatens to leave behind those who choose not to be augmented,” agrees Gennady Stolyarov, who told me in April that death was not inevitable. “But this assumes everyone will seek to compete with everyone else.”
Stolyarov foresees a different outcome. Instead of relentlessly optimising ourselves to a model of perfection, he predicts an explosion of diversity. “Different people would choose to augment themselves in different ways, stretching their abilities in different directions. We will not see a monolithic hierarchy of some augmented humans at the top, while the non-augmented humans get relegated to the bottom,” he reasons. “Rather, widespread acceptance of emerging technologies would create a future where a thousand augmented flowers will bloom.”
I prefer Stolyarov’s vision of the future, and it’s one I subscribe to. Mass literacy didn’t result in everyone competing to read the same books, it created a market for everything from pulpy romance novels to weighty tomes on ancient history. People explored the ideas they felt expressed themselves. There’s no reason to think future human technologies won’t play out in the same way.
Read Mr. Swain’s insightful article for an account of his own experiences as a cyborg living today, and for a great discussion of the potential that technological augmentation offers for humans to overcome current limitations and extend their abilities beyond historical boundaries.