Contributed by Muhammad Ahmad Tirmazi

Transhumanism

One of the goals of contemporary transhumanism is to automate tedious processes including manual labor, mass manufacture, record-keeping, surgery, engineering drawing etc. If all of these tasks are taken over by computers, what jobs will be left for humans? Things that only humans were thought to do – feats of creativity that make life worth living; Poetry, Literature, Art, Music. We, in our false notion of superiority, were under the impression that even though the electronic slaves we created could perform ‘mindless’ numerical calculations and repetitive functions better than us, they could never gain proficiency over the ‘higher arts’. They could never understand creativity and innovation.

deep-blue-iconThe first crack in this comforting little ideology appeared when IBM’s computer Deep Blue beat chess grand-master Garry Kasparov in a six-game chess match in 1997 (it lost its first match in 1996). Later, the same company created WATSON, a jeopardy-playing system, that could process natural language. In contemporary times, Google is making significant breakthroughs with neural networks. From simulating intelligent conversations reminiscent of ELIZA to using computers to creating surreal art. On top of that, researchers have developed techniques that may allow robots to perform complex motor tasks such as household chores using machine-learning algorithms that teach them reasoning through playing Minecraft. Similarly, a program called MarI/O uses an implementation of the NEAT algorithm to teach computers how to play Nintendo’s Super Mario World.

Recently, in fact, computers have even succeeded in independently formulating a scientific theory. This holds profound implications for science. One wonders whether one day algorithms can be designed that postulate possible grand unified theories of Physics.

The following is an interesting TED Talk by Computer Scientist Ray Kurzweil that adds some insight to this:

 

All of this leads one to conjecture that an era may come when computers compose sonnets that surpass the beauty and elegance of those written by Shakespeare; create paintings as profoundly mysterious as those of Pablo Picasso, and perhaps even write comprehensive short stories and novels. In other words, a time may come when our silicon masters surpass us at the one thing we thought we were better at: creativity. What, then, will become of our species? H.G Wells presents an interesting depiction of a dystopia where a future evolutionary descendent of the human race, the Eloi, are reduced to unintelligent childlike dependents and preys of their more-intelligent ‘slaves’ — the Morlocks; a horrifying end-result of failed transhumanism.

On the other hand, transhumanism may also lead to a world without poverty. A world with no life-threatening diseases, no human suffering, no tedious labour, a controlled population and perhaps even no aging; a world where humans finally achieve their idealistic dreams of social equality and basic human rights for everyone, along with plentiful resources. Only time can determine the end-result of handing over the reigns of labor and intelligence to our silicon masters.


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