[*This article was first published in the September 2017 issue of Paradigm Explorer: The Journal of the Scientific and Medical Network (Established 1973). The article was drawn from the author’s original work in her book: The Future: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2017), especially from Chapters 4 & 5.]
We are at a critical point today in research into human futures. Two divergent streams show up in the human futures conversations. Which direction we choose will also decide the fate of earth futures in the sense of Earth’s dual role as home for humans, and habitat for life. I choose to deliberately oversimplify here to make a vital point.
The two approaches I discuss here are informed by Oliver Markley and Willis Harman’s two contrasting future images of human development: ‘evolutionary transformational’ and ‘technological extrapolationist’ in Changing Images of Man (Markley & Harman, 1982). This has historical precedents in two types of utopian human futures distinguished by Fred Polak in The Image of the Future (Polak, 1973) and C. P. Snow’s ‘Two Cultures’ (the humanities and the sciences) (Snow, 1959).
What I call ‘human-centred futures’ is humanitarian, philosophical, and ecological. It is based on a view of humans as kind, fair, consciously evolving, peaceful agents of change with a responsibility to maintain the ecological balance between humans, Earth, and cosmos. This is an active path of conscious evolution involving ongoing psychological, socio-cultural, aesthetic, and spiritual development, and a commitment to the betterment of earthly conditions for all humanity through education, cultural diversity, greater economic and resource parity, and respect for future generations.
By contrast, what I call ‘technotopian futures’ is dehumanising, scientistic, and atomistic. It is based on a mechanistic, behaviourist model of the human being, with a thin cybernetic view of intelligence. The transhumanist ambition to create future techno-humans is anti-human and anti-evolutionary. It involves technological, biological, and genetic enhancement of humans and artificial machine ‘intelligence’. Some technotopians have transcendental dreams of abandoning Earth to build a fantasised techno-heaven on Mars or in satellite cities in outer space.
Interestingly, this contest for the control of human futures has been waged intermittently since at least the European Enlightenment. Over a fifty-year time span in the second half of the 18th century, a power struggle for human futures emerged, between human-centred values and the dehumanisation of the Industrial Revolution.
The German philosophical stream included the idealists and romantics, such as Herder, Novalis, Goethe, Hegel, and Schelling. They took their lineage from Leibniz and his 17th-century integral, spiritually-based evolutionary work. These German philosophers, along with romantic poets such as Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge (who helped introduce German idealism to Britain) seeded a spiritual-evolutionary humanism that underpins the human-centred futures approach (Gidley, 2007).
The French philosophical influence included La Mettrie’s mechanistic man and René Descartes’s early 17th-century split between mind and body, forming the basis of French (or Cartesian) Rationalism. These French philosophers, La Mettrie and Descartes, along with the theorists of progress such as Turgot and de Condorcet, were secular humanists. Secular humanism is one lineage of technotopian futures. Scientific positivism is another (Gidley, 2017).
Transhumanism, Posthumanism and the Superman Trope
Transhumanism in the popular sense today is inextricably linked with technological enhancement or extensions of human capacities through technology. This is a technological appropriation of the original idea of transhumanism, which began as a philosophical concept grounded in the evolutionary humanism of Teilhard de Chardin, Julian Huxley, and others in the mid-20th century, as we shall see below.
In 2005, the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford founded The Future of Humanity Institute and appointed Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom as its Chair. Bostrom makes a further distinction between secular humanism, concerned with human progress and improvement through education and cultural refinement, and transhumanism, involving ‘direct application of medicine and technology to overcome some of our basic biological limits.’
Bostrom’s transhumanism can enhance human performance through existing technologies, such as genetic engineering and information technologies, as well as emerging technologies, such as molecular nanotechnology and intelligence. It does not entail technological optimism, in that he regularly points to the risks of potential harm, including the ‘extreme possibility of intelligent life becoming extinct’ (Bostrom, 2014). In support of Bostrom’s concerns, renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, and billionaire entrepreneur and engineer Elon Musk have issued serious warnings about the potential existential threats to humanity that advances in ‘artificial super-intelligence’ (ASI) may release.
Not all transhumanists are in agreement, nor do they all share Bostrom’s, Hawking’s and Musk’s circumspect views. In David Pearce’s book The Hedonistic Imperative he argues for a biological programme involving genetic engineering and nanotechnology that will ‘eliminate all forms of cruelty, suffering, and malaise’ (Pearce, 1995/2015). Like the shadow side of the ‘progress narrative’ that has been used as an ideology to support racism and ethnic genocide, this sounds frighteningly like a reinvention of Comte and Spencer’s 19th century Social Darwinism. Along similar lines Byron Reese claims in his book Infinite Progress that the Internet and technology will end ‘Ignorance, Disease, Poverty, Hunger and War’ and we will colonise outer space with a billion other planets each populated with a billion people (Reese, 2013). What happens in the meantime to Earth seems of little concern to them.
One of the most extreme forms of transhumanism is posthumanism: a concept connected with the high-tech movement to create so-called machine super-intelligence. Because posthumanism requires technological intervention, posthumans are essentially a new, or hybrid, species, including the cyborg and the android. The movie character Terminator is a cyborg.
The most vocal of high-tech transhumanists have ambitions that seem to have grown out of the superman trope so dominant in early to mid-20th-century North America. Their version of transhumanism includes the idea that human functioning can be technologically enhanced exponentially, until the eventual convergence of human and machine into the singularity (another term for posthumanism). To popularise this concept Google engineer Ray Kurzweil co-founded the Singularity University in Silicon Valley in 2009. While the espoused mission of Singularity University is to use accelerating technologies to address ‘humanity’s hardest problems’, Kurzweil’s own vision is pure science fiction. In another twist, there is a striking resemblance between the Singularity University logo (below upper) and the Superman logo (below lower).
When unleashing accelerating technologies, we need to ask ourselves, how should we distinguish between authentic projects to aid humanity, and highly resourced messianic hubris? A key insight is that propositions put forward by techno-transhumanists are based on an ideology of technological determinism. This means that the development of society and its cultural values are driven by that society’s technology, not by humanity itself.
In an interesting counter-intuitive development, Bostrom points out that since the 1950s there have been periods of hype and high expectations about the prospect of AI (1950s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s) each followed by a period of setback and disappointment that he calls an ‘AI winter’. The surge of hype and enthusiasm about the coming singularity surrounding Kurzweil’s naïve and simplistic beliefs about replicating human consciousness may be about to experience a fifth AI winter.
The Dehumanization Critique
The strongest critiques of the overextension of technology involve claims of dehumanisation, and these arguments are not new. Canadian philosopher of the electronic age Marshall McLuhan cautioned decades ago against too much human extension into technology. McLuhan famously claimed that every media extension of man is an amputation. Once we have a car, we don’t walk to the shops anymore; once we have a computer hard-drive we don’t have to remember things; and with personal GPS on our cell phones no one can find their way without it. In these instances, we are already surrendering human faculties that we have developed over millennia. It is likely that further extending human faculties through techno- and bio-enhancement will lead to arrested development in the natural evolution of higher human faculties.
From the perspective of psychology of intelligence the term artificial intelligence is an oxymoron. Intelligence, by nature, cannot be artificial and its inestimable complexity defies any notion of artificiality. We need the courage to name the notion of ‘machine intelligence’ for what it really is: anthropomorphism. Until AI researchers can define what they mean by intelligence, and explain how it relates to consciousness, the term artificial intelligence must remain a word without universal meaning. At best, so-called artificial intelligence can mean little more than machine capability, which will always be limited by the design and programming of its inventors. As for machine super-intelligence it is difficult not to read this as Silicon Valley hubris.
Furthermore, much of the transhumanist discourse of the 21st century reflects a historical and sociological naïveté. Other than Bostrom, transhumanist writers seem oblivious to the 3,000-year history of humanity’s attempts to predict, control, and understand the future (Gidley, 2017). Although many transhumanists sit squarely within a cornucopian narrative, they seem unaware of the alternating historical waves of techno-utopianism (or Cornucopianism) and techno-dystopianism (or Malthusianism). This is especially evident in their appropriation and hijacking of the term ‘transhumanism’ with little apparent knowledge or regard for its origins.
Origins of a Humanistic Transhumanism
In 1950, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) published the essay From the Pre-Human to the Ultra-Human: The Phases of a Living Planet, in which he speaks of ‘some sort of Trans-Human at the ultimate heart of things’. Teilhard de Chardin’s Ultra-Human and Trans-Human were evolutionary concepts linked with spiritual/human futures. These concepts inspired his friend Sir Julian Huxley to write about transhumanism, which he did in 1957 as follows [Huxley’s italics]:
The human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself—not just sporadically, an individual here in one way, an individual there in another way—but in its entirety, as humanity. We need a name for this new belief. Perhaps transhumanism will serve: man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realising new possibilities of and for his human nature (Huxley, 1957).
Ironically, this quote is used by techno-transhumanists to attribute to Huxley the coining of the term transhumanism. And yet, their use of the term is in direct contradiction to Huxley’s use. Huxley, a biologist and humanitarian, was the first Director-General of UNESCO in 1946, and the first President of the British Humanist Association. His transhumanism was more humanistic and spiritual than technological, inspired by Teilhard de Chardin’s spiritually evolved human. These two collaborators promoted the idea of conscious evolution, which originated with the German romantic philosopher Schelling.
The evolutionary ideas that were in discussion the century before Darwin were focused on consciousness and theories of human progress as a cultural, aesthetic, and spiritual ideal. Late 18th-century German philosophers foreshadowed the 20th-century human potential and positive psychology movements. To support their evolutionary ideals for society they created a universal education system, the aim of which was to develop the whole person (Bildung in German) (Gidley, 2016).
After Darwin, two notable European philosophers began to explore the impact of Darwinian evolution on human futures, in other ways than Spencer’s social Darwinism. Friedrich Nietzsche’s ideas about the higher person (Übermensch) were informed by Darwin’s biological evolution, the German idealist writings on evolution of consciousness, and were deeply connected to his ideas on freedom.
French philosopher Henri Bergson’s contribution to the superhuman discourse first appeared in Creative Evolution (Bergson, 1907/1944). Like Nietzsche, Bergson saw the superman arising out of the human being, in much the same way that humans have arisen from animals. In parallel with the efforts of Nietzsche and Bergson, Rudolf Steiner articulated his own ideas on evolving human-centred futures, with concepts such as spirit self and spirit man (between 1904 and 1925) (Steiner, 1926/1966). During the same period Indian political activist Sri Aurobindo wrote about the Overman who was a type of consciously evolving future human being (Aurobindo, 1914/2000). Both Steiner and Sri Aurobindo founded education systems after the German bildung style of holistic human development.
Consciously Evolving Human-Centred Futures
There are three major bodies of research offering counterpoints to the techno-transhumanist claim that superhuman powers can only be reached through technological, biological, or genetic enhancement. Extensive research shows that humans have far greater capacities across many domains than we realise. In brief, these themes are the future of the body, cultural evolution and futures of thinking.
Michael Murphy’s book The Future of the Body documents ‘superhuman powers’ unrelated to technological or biological enhancement (Murphy, 1992). For forty years Murphy, founder of Esalen Institute, has been researching what he calls a Natural History of Supernormal Attributes. He has developed an archive of 10,000 studies of individual humans, throughout history, who have demonstrated supernormal experiences across twelve groups of attributes. In almost 800 pages Murphy documents the supernormal capacities of Catholic mystics, Sufi ecstatics, Hindi-Buddhist siddhis, martial arts practitioners, and elite athletes. Murphy concludes that these extreme examples are the ‘developing limbs and organs of our evolving human nature’. We also know from the examples of savants, extreme sport and adventure, and narratives of mystics and saints from the vast literature from the perennial philosophies, that we humans have always extended ourselves—often using little more than the power of our minds.
Regarding cultural evolution, numerous 20th century scholars and writers have put forward ideas about human cultural futures. Ervin László links evolution of consciousness with global planetary shifts (László, 2006). Richard Tarnas in The Passion of the Western Mind traces socio-cultural developments over the last 2,000 years, pointing to emergent changes (Tarnas, 1991). Jürgen Habermas suggests a similar developmental pattern in his book Communication and the Evolution of Society (Habermas, 1979). In the late 1990s Duane Elgin and Coleen LeDrew undertook a forty-three-nation World Values Survey, including Scandinavia, Switzerland, Britain, Canada, and the United States. They concluded, ‘a new global culture and consciousness have taken root and are beginning to grow in the world’. They called it the postmodern shift and described it as having two qualities: an ecological perspective and a self-reflexive ability (Elgin & LeDrew, 1997).
In relation to futures of thinking, adult developmental psychologists have built on positive psychology, and the human potential movement beginning with Abraham Maslow’s book Further Reaches of Human Nature (Maslow, 1971). In combination with transpersonal psychology the research is rich with extended views of human futures in cognitive, emotional, and spiritual domains. For four decades, adult developmental psychology researchers such as Michael Commons, Jan Sinnott, and Lawrence Kohlberg have been researching the systematic, pluralistic, complex, and integrated thinking of mature adults (Commons & Ross, 2008; Kohlberg, 1990; Sinnott, 1998). They call this mature thought ‘postformal reasoning’ and their research provides valuable insights into higher modes of reasoning that are central to the discourse on futures of thinking. Features they identify include complex paradoxical thinking, creativity and imagination, relativism and pluralism, self-reflection and ability to dialogue, and intuition. Ken Wilber’s integral psychology research complements his cultural history research to build a significantly enhanced image of the potential for consciously evolving human futures (Wilber, 2000).
I apply these findings to education in my book Postformal Education: A Philosophy for Complex Futures (Gidley, 2016).
Can AI ever cross the Consciousness Threshold?
Given the breadth and subtlety of postformal reasoning, how likely is it that machines could ever acquire such higher functioning human features? The technotopians discussing artificial superhuman intelligence carefully avoid the consciousness question. Bostrom explains that all the machine intelligence systems currently in use operate in a very narrow range of human cognitive capacity (weak AI). Even at its most ambitious, it is limited to trying to replicate ‘abstract reasoning and general problem-solving skills’ (strong AI). In spite of all the hype around AI and ASI, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI)’s own website states that even ‘human-equivalent general intelligence is still largely relegated to the science fiction shelf.’ Regardless of who writes about posthumanism, and whether they are Oxford philosophers, MIT scientists, or Google engineers, they do not yet appear to be aware that there are higher forms of human reasoning than their own. Nor do they have the scientific and technological means to deliver on their high-budget fantasies. Machine super-intelligence is not only an oxymoron, but a science fiction concept.
Even if techno-developers were to succeed in replicating general intelligence (strong AI), it would only function at the level of Piaget’s formal operations. Yet adult developmental psychologists have shown that mature, high-functioning adults are capable of very complex, imaginative, integrative, paradoxical, spiritual, intuitive wisdom—just to name a few of the qualities we humans can consciously evolve. These complex postformal logics go far beyond the binary logic used in coding and programming machines, and it seems also far beyond the conceptual parameters of the AI programmers themselves. I find no evidence in the literature that anyone working with AI is aware of either the limits of formal reasoning or the vast potential of higher stages of postformal reasoning. In short, ASI proponents are entrapped in their thin cybernetic view of intelligence. As such they are oblivious to the research on evolution of consciousness, metaphysics of mind, multiple intelligences, philosophy and psychology of consciousness, transpersonal psychology and wisdom studies, all providing ample evidence that human intelligence is highly complex and evolving.
When all of this research is taken together it indicates that we humans are already capable of far greater powers of mind, emotion, body, and spirit than previously imagined. If we seriously want to develop superhuman intelligence and powers in the 21st century and beyond we have a choice. We can continue to invest heavily in naïve technotopian dreams of creating machines that can operate better than humans. Or we can invest more of our consciousness, energy, and resources on educating and consciously evolving human futures with all the wisdom that would entail.
About Professor Jennifer M. Gidley PhD
Author, psychologist, educator and futurist, Jennifer is a global thought leader and advocate for human-centred futures in an era of hi-tech hype and hubris. She is Adjunct Professor at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS, Sydney and author of The Future: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2017) and Postformal Education: A Philosophy for Complex Futures (Springer, 2016). As former President of the World Futures Studies Federation (2009−2017), a UNESCO and UN ECOSOC partner and global peak body for futures studies, Jennifer led a network of hundreds of the world’s leading futures scholars and researchers from over 60 countries for eight years.
[To check references please go to original article in Paradigm Explorer, p. 15–18]
This film was compiled from audio of a discussion futurist FM-2030 held at the University of California on February 6th, 1994. In this discussion 2030 laid out an overview of his ‘transhuman’ philosophy and held a back and forth with other people present in the discussion. Discussion and debate included items such as the value of researching ‘indefinite lifespan’ technologies directly as opposed to (or in addition to) more traditional approaches, such as researching cures for specific diseases.
The excerpts in this archive file present a sort of thesis of FM 2030’s transhuman ideas.
About FM 2030: FM 2030 was at various points in his life, an Iranian Olympic basketball player, a diplomat, a university teacher, and a corporate consultant. He developed his views on transhumanism in the 1960s and evolved them over the next thirty-something years. He was placed in cryonic suspension July 8th, 2000. For more information about FM 2030, view the GPA Archive File: ‘Introduction to FM 2030′ or visit some of the following links:
Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies:
The New York Times:
Superlubricity nano-structured self-assembling coating repairs surface wear, decreases emissions and increases HP and gas mileage.
Globally about 15 percent of manmade carbon dioxide comes from vehicles. In more developed countries, cars, trucks, airplanes, ships and other vehicles account for a third of emissions related to climate change. Emissions standards are fueling the lubricant additives market with innovation.
Up to 33% of fuel energy in vehicles is used to overcome friction. Tribology is the science of interacting surfaces in relative motion inclusive of friction, wear and lubrication. This is where TriboTEX, a nanotechnology startup is changing the game of friction modification and wear resilience with a lubricant additive that forms a nano-structured coating on metal alloys.
This nano-structured coating increases operating efficiency and component longevity. It is comprised of synthetic magnesium silicon hydroxide nanoparticles that self-assemble as an ultralow friction layer, 1/10 of the original friction resistance. The coating is self-repairing during operation, environmentally inert and extracts carbon from the oil. The carbon diamond-like nano-particle lowers the friction budget of the motor, improving fuel economy and emissions in parallel while increasing the power and longevity of the motor.
TriboTEX has a Kickstarter campaign that has just surpassed $100,000 in funding. The early bird round has just closed that offered the product at one half the cost of its retail. The final round offers the lubricant system self-forming coating at 75 percent and is ending shortly. The founder Dr. Pavlo Rudenko, Ph.D. is a graduate of Singularity University GSP11 program.
Fox 29 — Good Day Philadelphia
NBC TV 10
CNN en Espanol
Bioquark, Inc., (http://www.bioquark.com) a company focused on the development of novel biologics for complex regeneration and disease reversion, and Revita Life Sciences, (http://revitalife.co.in) a biotechnology company focused on translational therapeutic applications of autologous stem cells, have announced that they have received IRB approval for a study focusing on a novel combinatorial approach to clinical intervention in the state of brain death in humans.
This first trial, within the portfolio of Bioquark’s Reanima Project (http://www.reanima.tech) is entitled “Non-randomized, Open-labeled, Interventional, Single Group, Proof of Concept Study With Multi-modality Approach in Cases of Brain Death Due to Traumatic Brain Injury Having Diffuse Axonal Injury” (https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02742857?term=bioquark&rank=1), will enroll an initial 20 subjects, and be conducted at Anupam Hospital in Rudrapur, Uttarakhand India.
“We are very excited about the approval of our protocol,” said Ira S. Pastor, CEO, Bioquark Inc. “With the convergence of the disciplines of regenerative biology, cognitive neuroscience, and clinical resuscitation, we are poised to delve into an area of scientific understanding previously inaccessible with existing technologies.”
Death is defined as the termination of all biological functions that sustain a living organism. Brain death, the complete and irreversible loss of brain function (including involuntary activity necessary to sustain life) as defined in the 1968 report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Harvard Medical School, is the legal definition of human death in most countries around the world. Either directly through trauma, or indirectly through secondary disease indications, brain death is the final pathological state that over 60 million people globally transfer through each year.
While human beings lack substantial regenerative capabilities in the CNS, many non-human species, such as amphibians, planarians, and certain fish, can repair, regenerate and remodel substantial portions of their brain and brain stem even after critical life-threatening trauma.
Additionally, recent studies on complex brain regeneration in these organisms, have highlighted unique findings in relation to the storage of memories following destruction of the entire brain, which may have wide ranging implications for our understanding of consciousness and the stability of memory persistence.
“Through our study, we will gain unique insights into the state of human brain death, which will have important connections to future therapeutic development for other severe disorders of consciousness, such as coma, and the vegetative and minimally conscious states, as well as a range of degenerative CNS conditions, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr. Sergei Paylian, Founder, President, and Chief Science Officer of Bioquark Inc.
Over the years, clinical science has focused heavily on preventing such life and death transitions and made some initial progress with suspended animation technologies, such as therapeutic hypothermia. However, once humans transition through the brain death window, currently defined by the medical establishment as “irreversible”, they are technically no longer alive, despite the fact that human bodies can still circulate blood, digest food, excrete waste, balance hormones, grow, sexually mature, heal wounds, spike a fever, and gestate and deliver a baby. It is even acknowledged by thought leaders that recently brain dead humans still may have residual blood flow and electrical nests of activity in their brains, just not enough to allow for an integrated functioning of the organism as a whole.
“We look forward to working closely with Bioquark Inc. on this cutting edge clinical initiative,” said Dr. Himanshu Bansal, Managing Director of Revita Life Sciences.
About Bioquark, Inc.
Bioquark Inc. is focused on the development of natural biologic based products, services, and technologies, with the goal of curing a wide range of diseases, as well as effecting complex regeneration. Bioquark is developing both biological pharmaceutical candidates, as well as products for the global consumer health and wellness market segments.
About Revita Life Sciences
Revita Life Sciences is a biotechnology company focused on the development of stem cell therapies that target areas of significant unmet medical need. Revita is led by Dr. Himanshu Bansal MD, PhD. who has spent over two decades developing novel MRI based classifications of spinal cord injuries as well as comprehensive treatment protocols with autologous tissues including bone marrow stem cells, dural nerve grafts, nasal olfactory tissues, and omental transposition.
I have spent the last 30 years in various aspects of the biopharmaceutical industry, which for the most part has been a very rewarding experience.
However, during this time period, having been immersed many different components of therapeutic development and commercialization, one thing has always bothered me: a wide array of promising research never makes it off the bench to see the translational light of day, and gets lost in the historical scientific archives.
I always believed that scientific progress happened in a very linear narrative, with each new discovery supporting the next, resulting ultimately in an eventual stairway of scientific enlightenment.
What the reality turned out to be was much more of a fragmented, research “evolutionary tree”, with dozens of potential pathways, only very few branches of which ever resulted in scientific maturity, and not always the most fruitful ones by any means.
The premature extinction of these promising discovery pathways were the result of a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, funding priorities, competing industrial interests, “out of vogue” concepts, lack of intellectual properties, non-existent regulatory models, conflicted legislative initiatives, and even religious implications.
In 2016, as in previous years, we continue to see these “valleys of death” swallow up pathways of scientific possibility, with few popular segments attracting the majority of attention and support.
The preponderance of resources focused on the somatic mutation model of carcinogenesis, despite an endless range of research highlighting that the disease is extremely heterogenic and rarely ever follows such a clonal model, is one example that continues to be inappropriately manifested in the oncology system, decades into the “war on cancer”.
On a similar plane, the jettisoning of most studies of the biophysical aspects of human genetics, despite the gross incompleteness offered by the central dogma to explain higher biological form and function, is another example that has become all too pervasive in the research community.
And then there are the areas of human consciousness, memory, and information processing / storage, where in many ways we are still operating in the dark ages, with materialists and dualists battling it out for centuries.
One topic that I have written quite a bit about is that of death, specifically that of the death of the human brain — http://www.singularityweblog.com/is-death-reversible/
While I am a staunch supporter and advocate of the life-extension / anti-aging movement, I am equally vocal about our need to develop technologies, products, and services that can actually reverse our ultimate transition between the living and dead states, a transition that occurs annually for 60 million humans around the globe.
Death, however, is unfortunately seen by many as a natural, biological progression for human beings, and in many circles, deemed an unnecessary area of scientific research and exploration.
I beg to differ.
Far too often, death arrives too early and too unexpectedly for many of us and our loved ones. And the best modern medicine has to offer today is “Sorry. There is nothing else we can do.”
But what if there was?
There are a variety of species across the natural world that are capable of regenerating and repairing themselves from forms of severe CNS damage that bring them to the transitional grey zone between life and death. Along the evolutionary timeline however, this ability gradually disappeared hundreds of millions of years ago and does not manifest in higher species.
Now, in the 21st century, with the convergence of the disciplines of regenerative biology, cognitive neuroscience, and clinical resuscitation, we may finally be poised to take back these capabilities for humans.
Over the years, clinical science has focused heavily on preventing such life and death transitions and made some initial progress with suspended animation technologies, such as therapeutic hypothermia. But once we transition through the brain death window, currently defined by the medical establishment as “irreversible” (per the 1968 Ad Hoc Committee of the Harvard Medical School definition), we are technically no longer alive.
To add insult to injury, a human can be declared dead, even while our bodies can still circulate blood, digest food, excrete waste, balance hormones, grow, sexually mature, heal wounds, spike a fever, and gestate and deliver a baby. It is even acknowledged by thought leaders that recently brain dead humans still may have residual blood flow and electrical nests of activity in their brains, just not enough to allow for an integrated functioning of the organism as a whole.
Several prominent cases in the media over the past few years have further served to highlight the current situation, as well as the substantial anatomical and functional differences between the state known as brain death, and other severe disorders of consciousness, such as coma, and the vegetative and minimally conscious states.
It is now time to take the necessary steps to provide new possibilities of hope, in order to counter the pain, sorrow, and grief that is all too pervasive in the world when we experience a loved one’s unexpected or untimely death, due to lesions which might be potentially reversible with the application of promising neuro-regeneration and neuro-reanimation technologies and therapies.
It is time to undertake the required research, based on 2016 technological knowledge, in order to bring about such transformational change.
My name is Ira S. Pastor and I am the CEO of the biotechnology company Bioquark Inc.
Welcome to the unveiling of the Reanima project.
This archive file was compiled from an interview conducted at the Googleplex in Mountain View, California, 2013. In the discussion, Amit Singhal, a key figure in the evolution of Google’s search engine, broadly outlined the significant hurdles that stood in the way of achieving one of his long-held dreams — creating a true ‘conversational’ search engine. He also sketched out a vision of how the initial versions of such a system would, and also importantly, would not attempt to assist the individuals that it interacted with.
Though the vision was by design more limited and focused than a system capable of passing the famous Turing test, it nonetheless raised stimulating questions about the future relationships of humans and their ‘artificial’ assistants.
More about Amit Singhal: