Cyborg, android – where are we headed

I was born in 1969 – the year of the moon landing. My parents bought their first black and white television set at the time and they still had it when I went to school.

The moon landing was accidentally happening in the most important year on my timeline. But ever since I was a little boy I wondered about everything.

A young boy I imagined how it must be if I knew everything there is to know and for some months I even set out on the ridiculous task of mapping all man’s knowledge just to find (to my very frustration) that it was impossible. Or so I thought at the time.

Because time has changed, the world has changed and we have changed without even noticing it. I two decades we developed from typewriters and fixed line telephones, from Telex messages and copious snail mail with grubby fax for the urgent stuff to the smartphone totting, iPad wielding know it all’s we are today.

We had become Fyborgs – that is a functional Cyborg. Alexander Chislenko invented the term in 1995 with his self-test. The Fyborg is a human that has appended technology on his exterior that enhances and extends his natural capabilities.

This technology comes off if you want to so different from Cyborgs; it is easy to go back to all natural human without any enhancements. Just take it off.

By that definition, most of us are Fyborgs – at least with the advent of the smartphone.

However, we are not far from developing devices that will mimic most essential functions of the human body. Artificial bladders, joints and heart valves are being tested today – hearts, kidneys and livers come soon after that. Over the next 20 years, no part of the body is going to be left out. And this is going to go far.

Because as long as the artificial implant is inferior in function, design, efficiency, throughput or simple wearers comfort there is not much to discuss. You want your natural stuff inside you.

However, as soon as implants will give you a distinct advantage over those without them, the race is open. As there will always be those who want to try them out – followed by the early adopters – followed by those who fear, they will suffer a competitive disadvantage if they do not walk that walk. And those things happen quick these days.

Just imagine an artificial kidney that can be implanted and is way more performant than your natural equipment. Or a liver. Or a heart. Soon some with healthy organs will want to try out the upgrades and if there is a will, there is a way.

Those artificial organs must not necessarily look like their natural examples. They would soon become smaller and more powerful freeing up scarce space for more. And more, there will be.

But where does the journey end? Will we all become robots some time down the line? For the moment, we are at the cyborg stage. There are cyborgs today. An artificial hip makes you a cyborg. Artificial heart valves as well. That is consumed.

But some time down the line our natural legacy will become a liability. After countless rounds of improvement of the natural thing, at some moment in time we will want to become wholly artificial. A bit like Lieutenant Colonel Data in Star Trek. But instead of wanting to become more human we will be human from the onset.

There is no reason on earth why a sufficiently sophisticated artificial android body should look and feel any different from today’s bodies. It could be so real that even if you used such a body, it would not feel different than your biological body now. You would simply forget that you are other than biological.

And you would still be you – minus all your diseases and physical defects. Minus pain if you did not want it or exhaustion or sensitivity to cold, heat, radiation, deep vacuum or pressures. You would be close to some kind of superman depiction, as it exists in Marvels databases.

However, how will it happen. Will there be a single, high risk, grizzly surgical intervention in order to get it done? Would there be some kind of spiritual download to get the mind to the new self?

None of this. It will come almost imperceptible to you. In a series of small, almost insignificant things and events.

Artificial organs will be the first crude step. Soon, tiny nano machines will enter our bodies and start modifying it at the cellular level.

This also is nothing new to us. Molecular machines are at work in us for hundreds of millions of years. They are called viruses. Most viruses never do us any harm and peacefully coexist. Some are deadly.

But all of them are complex molecular machines and we are not even sure if they are alive. Those viruses will be the blueprints for first nano-machines that will enter our bodies to do specific things. Imagine a nano device that is programed to attach to cancer cells in order to mark them for destruction and another one that is programed to enter market cells and once inside release a substance toxic to only the cancer cell killing it.

Today’s vaccines are crude predecessors of what those nano machines are going to be like.  A simple shot in the arm – it is not going to get any more grizzly.

At some point in time, those machines will become more versatile and you will be able to direct their actions more appropriately doing specific things at specific times. The cancer killing nano device might develop other capabilities like settling in a knee joint in order to produce new cartilage and on and on.

There is no good reason why at some point in time those machines should not be able to replace entire cells with devices far more powerful and far less sensible to external influences.

At a certain rate, those replacements will take away anything biological in you. Now, you are synthetic but you it did not occur to you that you have fundamentally changed. If you chose to remain human like, you will look like a young version of you minus anything, you did never actually like on yourself plus a couple of enhancements that you had always craved.

You could make love to a full biological human and your partner would have no way to figure that you are not biological.

Bit with a synthetic body, you have become immortal. Is that the end of the road – immortal synthetic beings everywhere.

No way.

Data could still be destroyed and had lots of physical limitations. He could only be at one place and even if he could resist great cold and heat and other things deadly to biological humans, he would die in a big explosion or if dropped into molten iron or simply be hacked apart.

A swarm projection would not have this problem. Imagine a cloud of zillions of tiny machines, each particle like, each airborne. They can configure and reconfigure in endless morphing’s becoming like the T-1000 terminator. You sure remember that liquid metal thing.

Instead, such a swarm projection would not be a liquid but a swarm of zillions of machines. We would be able to morph into anything we like. And as also our minds would be projected into the swarm as it would exist on a cloud like network, it would be free to travel at lights speed using swarms to take physical shape when needed.

And when not needed, well then it’s a matrix you control. A matrix in which you are god much like Neo in the famous movie, omnipotent as it’s some form of virtual reality created just for you.

I know I am getting spiritual here but one day we are going to merge with the universe.

Let us assume it all happens as I said here – will we see any of this? Will a 1969 born human like me get there? This is for another post.

About the Author

Rudolf Huber
Since my tender youth I aspired to be a Homo Universalis better known today as a Polymath (a person who excels in a wide variety of subjects or fields - but not everything). Later in life I joined the Transhumanist movement under Ray Kurzweil. LNG came into my life as a leftover nobody wanted. My former employer EconGas wanted to get into the LNG trade but nobody wanted to go for the hard work of digging deep into it. So it was mine for the taking. I innately knew that this stuff would shatter the way we find, produce, transport and consume energy and fuel one day. It just made sense to me to put it into a tank and propel a vehicle replacing diesel in the process. So here I am – pushing the boundaries and aspiring to be the first real Methanist.

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