Sunday, April 5, 2009

can wires be human?

I'm predicting an argument in a few minutes.

As part of a science book club, we've been reading The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil.  Some people consider Kurzweil a prophet of technological superiority, and some consider him to be a crank.  I'm somewhere in the middle.

Kurzweil predicts that most of us alive today will reach the point where we will modify ourselves enough to be considered "nonbiological" - we will have replaced some (or all) of our flesh and bone with synthetic and nanorobotic substitutes.

One of my friends (a biologist, natch) is horrified at the idea, saying we would lose our humanity.  She thinks there is something necessary about our messy biology.

I totally disagree.  To say that we stop being human if we become electronic, I think, assumes that there is something beyond our bodies and brains that makes us human.  I think that is one of the ways supernaturalism still sneaks into our thinking.  I mean, if humans are self-contained in their skin, then our humanity is also self-contained. We really just define human as "us".  Then we would still be human even if we replaced it all. 

Otherwise, where is the point at which we stop being human?  When we replace half of our internal organs?  Three-fourths?  The brain?

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