February 10, 2005

Humanity: The final frontier

Is it me, or are a number of public intellectuals starting to actually get what the 21st century is going to be all about? A recent Guardian article has me thinking that transhumanistic memes are starting to enroach into the popular consciousness, though not necessarily by name.

The Guardian asked a number of prominent thinkers: "So what's next? What will be the [next] revolution? And will it, like those before, force us to question once more what it means to be human?" Their answers may surprise you--everything from parallel universes to genetic engineering and collective intelligences.

Here's a quick synopsis of the answers:

'We will invent our successors'
Seth Shostak, senior astronomer, Seti Institute, California

'We will understand the human mind'
John Sulston, founder of the Sanger Institute, Cambridge

'The existence of parallel universes'
Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist, the City University of New York

'We will change our genetic makeup'
Norbert Gleicher, director of the Centre for Human Reproduction, Chicago

We will find out if we are alone'

Colin Pillinger, head of planetary and space sciences, Open University

'Humans become a collective intelligence'
John Barrow, professor of mathematical sciences and author of The Infinite Book, Cambridge University

'We'll understand thoughts and feelings'
Steven Pinker, professor of psychology, Harvard University

'The end of the individual'
Susan Greenfield, neuroscientist, Oxford University

'What if God lives in a part of our brain?'
Nancy Rothwell, neuroscientist at Manchester University

'What it means to be a person'
V S Ramachandran, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California at San Diego

'Conscious machines'
Igor Aleksander, professor of neural systems engineering at Imperial College London

'Higher dimensions'

Lisa Randall, theoretical physicist, Harvard University

'Humans are less miraculous than we thought'
Stephen Wolfram, creator of Mathematica and author of A New Kind of Science

1 comment:

Mark Plus said...

I'm looking forward to the day when it's commonly accepted that "Of course scientists can creat life. What do you think life is -- some kind of miracle?"

Ironically I think the Intelligent Design cranks are paving the way. I consider their outlook a kind of kooky materialist heresy that is helping to legitimize the case for treating biochemistry as potentially improvable engineering.