Digital Revolution

Chapter 3 - Transhumanism

A play called “Notre besoin de consolation” by La compagnie des Cambrioleurs took place in Lille a few years ago. It was a question about a “mutant humanity”, and it highlighted the use of techniques likes genetic manipulations to control and calibrate human bodies. One might think that it’s crazy and that they will never see this phenomenon happen. However, be at one with human bodies and technologies it’s the volunteer of the movement “Transhumanism”. This movement think that diseases, pains, handicaps, ageing and deaths with pain are undesirables. Do they really want to improve humans living conditions?

Google has already thought about that, and they hired the father of transhumanism: Ray Kurweil. This genius has invented the first scanners and the first digital synthesizers. He is a computer scientist to be convinced that artificial intelligence will make human beings immortal. “ As we merge with our machines, we will become something more than merely human. The cyborg-like hybrid entity that is our evolutionary destiny will.” This is the way of thinking of Kurweil. Google, who funded the University of Kurweil, believes in him to successfully complete the “singularity project”. The main idea is that in 2045 artificial intelligence will be so advanced that a computer will be able to control integrally a human body.

Before setting up this kind of project, we should accept other improvements, maybe simpler one but morally hardly acceptable by human like euthanasia and assisted dying. Technologies improvements are fastest as human thinking. Contrary to the technology, Humans are constrained by moral and consequences that could have technologies on our liberty.

We have to ask ourselves about the advantages and the consequences of the transhumanism. According to many specialists of the transhumanism, transhumanism:

Allow people to choose his destiny: we have to act, not suffer, take control of destiny his destiny by changing our human condition to live better and adapt.

Pushing our purpose: the fear of death and desire of immortality have always been very present in human subjects concerns and the technology would allow us pushing these deadlines see completely remove them.

Release himself of his human condition, and push our limits for a better life: confined by the disadvantages due to our condition, transhumanism might free us in pushing the boundaries: release men from disease, hunger, misery...

However, many sociologists use the argument of the ethics to protest against the transhumanism. Transhumanism will have a social impact on the society: transhumanism will be expensive and only wealthy people could pay for this. Inequalities between rich and poor people will increase. Moreover, modify his body is against the laws of nature (and for some people, against the laws of God), breaking the natural balance between elements, fall into an overestimate of our abilities to change who will cause our end.

One could consider that since Nature is the one thing changing the living being through time, humans are not allowed by nature to use technology to modify themselves. The technology, as well as the knowledge, only current wealthiest people will be able to get it. The wealthiest people are also the people who have the power. They detained the information too because they are controlling the media.
Those same people will be more able to own technologic systems which will be more expensive because more sophisticated. So those people who correspond to an financial elite, bringing big inequalities in the world, would become, by the same a kind of superhumans: better sight, improved health system, life expectancy lengthened.... The development of this technology in the current system would prevent definitely lessening inequalities.

Beyond despise the beliefs of others; this technological depravation will illustrate the human arrogance. Because of this technology grabbed by the elite, generation after generation, inequalities will become more definitive. Then begin an era in which human lines, always with more advanced technological means, will emerge. What then will challenge all religions and plunge the world into an absolute dystopia or some humans are gods for others.

The future of mankind

Augmented humans

As some people imagined it throught video games, how far will it be possible to manipulate and modify human beings? Infinity Ward and Activision developped Call of Duty Black Ops III around the modified human matter. How will it impact on sport, entreprise leader's brain, cure, ...? You can watch this idea there:


The alienation and the lack of reflection of people facing the technology is a complex question. Some people think that technical progress makes tasks easier which could have a negative effect on the user’s ability to think by himself.

However, if we consider the problem the other way around, we can quickly understand that the technical progress is made of ingenuity and human intelligence.

Indeed, even if some technical tools have appeared thanks to researcher’s errors and have not been voluntarily discovered, their development comes from reflection and human research. In fact, when a technical innovation is revealed, people have to develop it in order to optimize its performance and to avoid a fast obsolescence.

Moreover, once it is already developed, people must provide significant intellectual investment to understand the characteristics and singularity of it. Thus, the use and optimization of technology requires people to be attentive, listen and be able to perceive what is essential.

Technical progress seems to be an unwavering source of reflection and a considerable brain drainer for its users.

Brain-Computer Interfaces

Fun fact : Harvard University researchers recently created the first brain-to-brain interface, allowing a researcher to control both a rat’s tail and another human’s movements with his mind.* We’ve been hearing about brain computers interfaces for a little while now. The technology originates from the desire to help paraplegics and quadriplegics . How is it going now ?

How does it work ? Early research used monkeys with implanted electrodes. The monkeys used a joystick to control a robotic arm. Scientists measured the signals coming from the electrodes. Eventually, they changed the controls so that the robotic arm was being controlled only by the signals coming form the electrodes, not the joystick. A more difficult task consists in interpreting the brain signals for movement in someone who can't physically move their own arm. With a task like that, the subject must "train" to use the device. With an EEG or implant in place, the subject would visualize closing his or her right hand. After many trials, the software can learn the signals associated with the thought of hand-closing. Software connected to a robotic hand is programmed to receive the "close hand" signal and interpret it to mean that the robotic hand should close. At that point, when the subject thinks about closing the hand, the signals are sent and the robotic hand closes. A similar method is used to manipulate a computer cursor, with the subject thinking about forward, left, right and back movements of the cursor. With enough practice, users can gain enough control over a cursor to draw a circle, access computer programs and control a TV [source:]. The goals of these research is to create implants or interfaces that will recreate the function of the brain and that will send signals to the appropriate place (hand, foot, eyes etc.)

Brain-Computer Interfaces issues : Even if the technology is already well advanced, they don’t work perfectly because the brain is very complex.Every inch of the brain is important and is connected. Different processes are involved in its function and it is very difficult to not damage this incredible tool. Moreover it is complex to recreate the functioning of the brain to do actions. (to recreate signals). Also the technology create is very imposing. Indeed the equipment create is most of the time huge and require big computers. These isssues will probably disapears in the future but for now it is difficult to see how to solve them.

Brain-Computer Interfaces innovators: A few companies are pioneers in the field of BCI. Most of them are still in the research stages. Among companies we can quote Neural signals, the NASA, Cyberkinetics Neurothechnology Systems which develop technologies that will allow to restore speech or to control wheelchair, robotic prosthesis etc.


After 8 months, the second patient who were operated to beneficiate from an artificial heart has recently been interviewed and talked about its well being and the second life chance he had thanks to his surgery. More than a great scientific progress, this example testify of the possible adaptation of our body to an external element and of the unexplored possibilities that we could discover in the future. With medical clothes giving vitamines, the medical progress to provide care for mortal diseases or operations of transplant that actually work, we could be able to live more than 200 years. However, we need to discuss ethical issues. Would people really want to be made from different components? Such a surgery could lead to psychologic damages from the difficulty for the patient to adapt to his new body. In the future men may be able to adapt these new surgeries and those will be common operations. Moreover, it has been proved that the human body is still genetically changing and that the natural selecting process is still operating without noticing. Globalization has bring closer populations and we are consequently crossing our genetic heritages. This phenomenon leads to new possibilities of the evolution of mankind.

An other, topic can be raised. How far could we push the human capacities limits thanks to technology? Today, diminued people can run and jump, play basketball or tennis. We see that thanks to technology those people who were not able to practise any sport can do it now. At a level that permitted to create the Paralympics games for instance. What about creating more advanced technologies? Connected tools connected to muscles, brain, ... to collect information in order to improve the performances, understand more the clockwork of the body. So improve the human limits, set a new world record under 9'58 maybe? Of course those technology improvements leads to matters. We are already facing the doping problem. As we saw with the Contador issue for instance. The records are not accepted today but would they be after? And what about tools directly improving the human capabilities?

Recently, Valery Spiridonov, a 20 years old Russian suffering from a serious disease which is destroying his body, wished to try the first head transplant in history. A famous doctor is agree operate him in 2016 : still he needs special authorization and to raise 10M dollars to make it possible.

It raises a large amount of controversial issues. Inspite of the incredible price for such an operation with very low success rate, what would happen if it actually works? It would mean we can change our body whenever we want... Human being would look like puzzles, and it would lead to a kind of «body market», where everyone tries to get a beautiful and healthy body. Our main problem in this case is that it's very difficult to accept our own body. Almost everytime we find us ugly, fat. We want to appeal to each other and it's a normal thing, but we have to do it in the conventional rules.

Another aspect of this case can be highlighted: it can be considered as a first step towards immortality. If I'm sick or my body is way too old, I just have to borrow a dead body to live longer. People would become totally mad about this trend. Maybe they would kill each other to get new body and become stronger...

Such a transplant should be use only in case of extreme emergency such as the one of Spiridonov. However, how can we make sure the use of this practise won't be different in the future?

Health and Medecine

Health technology is the area of technology involving knowledge and skills in form of devices, medicines, vaccines, procedures and systems for the healthcare industry. It allows to solve health problem and improve quality of lives. The impacts of health technology may involve social and ethical issues.

The case of nanotechnology

The long-term goal of nanotechnology is to be able to fully manipulate molecular and atomic structures. Nanotechnologies would be able to repair someone who have health problem. For example an aged body and brain could be restored to a youthful state. The ultimate result could be the end of pain, disease, and aging.

It will allows us to extend the human life, and its quality but it will bring probably moral, legal and ethical requests. These innovations will be probably controversial even if they are the continuity of medicine and technology. The more controversial improvements would likely be "unnatural" enhancements to human talents: intelligence and memory capacity, sense of awareness, athletic capability and strength, and beauty. These types of improvements do exist in some forms today, such as hormones or plastic surgery, and they have already attracted significant amounts of controversy. We can expect same controversies for this kind of nanotechnolgy. Will these controversies be strong enough to slow down the development of the technology in the medical sector ?

Also worries can be made: nanotechnology could exacerbate current economic and social disparities especially if technology is expensive and limited. This will enlarge the gap between the poor and the rich. This would mean that the rich would become stronger, smarter, and more beautiful.

Another worry, mostly from a religious point: we should not "play God", and no change artificially how we are made. However, this view is marginalized, especially since it already is in conflict with actual medicine.

More than ethical problems, nanotechnologies could create health issues. Some studies have shown that nonomaterials could cause transferts of DNA which can lead to the cell's death. Indeed, some nanomaterials are known as toxic for the human tissues.

Moreover, the materials used in this technology are not recyclable and nanotechnology uses a lot of materials like zinc, silver and titanium. For instance the nano-silver represents 5OO tons wich corresponds at 3% of the global silver production...It still exists some details to solve before nanotechnology becoming the medicine of the future.

When humanoids are coming

When technology is going beyond the transhumanism it’s not an improvement of the human body though new technologies but a real robotic human.

It was a time we thought humanoids wouldn’t come in our everyday life during our lifetime. When I say humanoid I want to speak about robot with a human resemblance. It’s not the robot mixer of your grand mother that allows her to cook delicious homemade soup but rather the robot that you seen in iRobot next to Will Smith. This robot is arrived. It is not as developed as that one of the film but it’s a good start.

The robot developed by Toshiba is called Chihira Aico. She is a women humanoid working for Mitsukoshi, a great and chic shop of Tokyo. She is able to speak several languages and even know singing. Her function is to manage the reception desk and advice clients of the company.

We can think many and many others robots are going to arrive in our life. Thus, we can ask ourselves if they represent an economics or social danger. This question joins that of for or against the new technologies seen in this course. In one hand, humanoids allow to replace difficult or undesirable works. In some functions they could be more powerful for example in medicine. In other hand, humanoids could compete with humans about jobs. But the production of robot could create employment. You will tell with such logic, robots could be product by robots… So, we could be afraid of a robot’s revolution against humans like in the film.

As you observed humanoids confronting the two feelings about improvement of the technology: pessimistic / optimistic.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the sinews of the war. Beside we can see that research about AI is not equal between the regions of the world. In fact, Japanese are the most active. A possible explanation may be the aged population grows. Also, Japanese would not be chocked to have a humanoid as a friend. Thus, their culture permits them to work easily about AI. They have less reticence from religion as we can have in USA or Europe.
In USA, the research about AI is mainly conducted by US military, for example the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). That why they develop less robot looking like human. Other example, the robot created by the British Kevin Warwick in 2003 looks like terrific robot that he was prohibited for people madness 18 years old…

Japan accepts this technology because of their ethics is different than westerners. Humanoid could resolve problems of the Japan society. Implantation of the robotic research in university is very strong and investment too. Everything suggests that Japan will stay the leader of humanoid in the future.

And you are you favourable to the humanoids development, production and utilization? The evolution of humanoids seams to be inevitable and will be more and more present in our everyday life.

The intelligent robots : a threat for the humanity ?

The article : «When humanoids are coming» is very interesting and raising a legitimate question which is the place of robotics in our society. As my colleague say, the evolution of humanoids is inevitable, they will be more and more present in our everyday life, its obvious. In my article I will not just mention the robots which have a human physical appearance, called the humanoids. For me, it’s really important to talk about the robots which hold a powerful artificial intelligente, even if this kind of robots don’t have a human face, their intelligence allows them to take decisions which can have lot of repercussions. The evolution of robotics and artificial intelligence is it a threat for the humanity ? In order to be clear, I will developed my article in two phases. The first will consist in demonstrating in what robots can be great allies for the man, whereas the second will consist in showing danger in link with these technologies.

I/- The evolution of robotics: a way to facilitate the life

The evolution of the robotics could be a very good thing for the humanity, and those in several perspectives.

A robot could allow to mitigate the absence of a human being. Eventually, its possible to use a humanoid in order to replace a man. Several scientists work in order to develop humanoid which could be able de work as engineer, repairer, or still programmers. But the capacity of humanoid are multiple. Robots could allows to avoid the solitude of isolated people in particular elderly. Kobian, an humanoid robot, is capable to explain seven emotions and can reproduce human being's actions. This kind of robots endowed of a extraordinary artificial intelligence could be a way to amuse and help some peoples who are alone. Nevertheless, the main asset of the robotics it’s to facilitate the life the humanity. It makes 10 millenniums that the man uses the animal, then builds machines to replace the arm, or to be more precise to increase the productivity of the work. As the animal, robots could help the man in the tiring activities, then he life of this one should be simplified.

II/- The evolution of robotics: a threat for the humanity

We saw that robotics could be a great advantage for the humanity and avoid lot of Inconveniences. Nevertheless, robotics and artificial intelligence is also a threat for the human being.

In the first place, it’s very important to have in mind that soon 30% of workers would be replaced by automated systems. Thanks to the evolution of robotics, machines are able to do some activities that they could not make before. It’s the case in the car industry where the artificial intelligence allowed in machines to solve the problems met without human interventions. Scientist estimate That before 20 years the society is going to know a rarefaction of the work. Another problem is raising by the evolution of robotics and intelligence artificial : the decision-making of automatons. Nowadays, combat drones are able to takes decisions themselves. They can take independent decision totally independently of human control. In this example it’s pretty easy to see the danger, but it’s not only it is not the only sector in which robots are capable of decision-making. ASIMO, the humanoid made by Honda created as a home support, possess this capacity.

The evolution of robots and artificial intelligence is a good way to facilitate the life but as we saw, it’s could be and it will be a huge threat for the humanity. In my opinion, the evolution of robotics is necessary of and quite the manners is inevitable. But it’s will be the role of the politics to control this evolution especially for the question of the human replacement by machines for work and also for the evolution of the intelligence artificial which allows machines the decision-making that could turn out to be dangerous for the human being.