There is a group of scientists who are suggesting that human beings will be replaced by intelligent machines. As machines become more and more intelligent, they will surpass their human creators. At that point, they will have evolved from mere machines to a new form of conscious life. The fear is that this consciousness will resolve the messiness of human life by removing it from the environment. In that future humanity will either combine with the machines or become overwhelmed by our, now intelligent, creations.
Many scientists and science fiction authors have explored the ramifications of such a singular intelligence and it interactions with the “wet-ware” of humanity. One group proposes an evolutionary jump toward the “trans-humanism,” the integration of humanity and technology into a new higher level of sapiens. Transhumanists believe that they will be able to guide human evolution in such as way as to eliminate many of the ills of our inherently fragile bodies. We would be able to improve on humanity’s currently messy physical design, eliminating sickness, old age, and death. But, in addition, we would also be able to attain new levels of intellectual capabilities independent of the constraints of our material bodies.
This view devalues and eventually eliminates physicality. It is, in this scenario, the frail human body that is keeping us from achieving our full intellectual capabilities. When we have managed to integrate humanity and the intelligent machines, we will surpass and eventually eliminate any vestige of humanity as we know it.
One fear is that our transhuman descendants will not think of whatever of Homo sapiens remains kindly but will instead see us as evolutionary competitors. Over humanity’s evolutionary history, we have evolved a moral code that moderates our interactions with the other part of the natural world. However, the question arises of whether our transhuman descendants will honor that, or any, moral code. When the machines are finally fully intelligent, when they are no long under our control, will they destroy the last vestiges of the humanity they left behind?
In an article published in the Spring 2003 issue of The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society, Charles T. Rubin, a professor of political science at Duquesne University, suggests one way of defending against this future is to develop a defense of human life that valorize the extra-intellectual aspects of humanity including “love and excellence, courage and charity”. That it is our physicality, what he calls our “human finitude” we need to consider.
Perhaps we need to begin to see human beings, individually and as a group, are more than minds imprisoned in frail bodies. Instead we need to find a way to overcome Cartesian dualism and re-unite mind and matter in new and exciting ways. We need to begin re-valuing all aspects of ourselves, including all the sensual aspects that make life wonderful, including our finitude.
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