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Worzel's world - Transhumanism and digital dependency


In my youth I went through a stage of reading science fiction. It was imaginative stuff and a little scary. Scarier still is that much of what I read has moved from science fiction to science fact and is scary still. 

I recently observed several of todays youth gathered together. They sat gazing entranced at the screens of electronic devices. They were exercising what is termed digital dependency. They were not chattering amongst themselves or to anyone else present. They were more surely hooked up to their devices than any dialysis patient to their mechanical kidney. The formerly fictional cyborg – part man, part machine – has become a reality. I have lived to see the first cyborg generation. 

In a world long ago and far away where people read books rather than screens, Isaac Asimov outlined three laws of robotics: A robot cannot enter into a human being or through an action allow a human being to come to harm; A robot must obey orders given by human beings except where such orders conflict with the first law; A robot must protect its own existence except where this conflicts with the first two laws. 

Asimov's view of the future has turned out to be overly optimistic. His three laws of robotics have not been applied. The laws are broken daily by workaday robots. Remote controlled robot drones routinely kill suspected miscreants all over the world without affording them the benefit of a trial or the longstanding legal process of facing their accuser. It’s not so much a dog-eat-dog world as a robot-eat-people one. It is hardly news that governments, the military industrial complex, corporate business and manufacturing entities are far less morally scrupulous than science fiction writers and prophets.

That robots as depicted by Asimov should possess the power that he portrayed was considered frightening when his work was published. Now non-human technological entities have much greater power than Asimov ever envisaged.

In Dubai they have recently commissioned robot police. Humanoid robot Sophia produced by Hansen Robotics has been granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia. There are electronic and mechanical inserts that transform humans into transhumanoid cyborgs. Call any major corporation or government department you will talk to a robot, which will advise you of your options. 

You can argue with these robots but there is little point. Right or wrong they don't care. They stick to their programming no matter what you say. This though may be changing as artificial intelligence becomes enhanced to surpass the capacity of human intelligence. Recently a robot operating with artificial intelligence taught itself how to play the Chinese game of Go and became a master. It took a while but now robot chess players routinely beat the best in the world. 

We have been seduced into accepting technology into our lives under the dubious justification that it will make things easier and thereby improve our lives. This has always been a falsehood. Lives led without challenges are less than they could be. Because something can be done doesn’t mean that it should be done. But human history shows that what can be done will be done.

There is no doubt that modern robots and artificial intelligence has advanced beyond the wildest nightmares of science fiction writers like Clarke, Heinlein and Asimov. They are intelligent but it is intelligence without soul and if there is a ghost in the machine then it is, without doubt, a dark and malevolent one.

In spite of the obvious pitfalls of existing technology its use grows unchecked, and for all of our technological progress there is no evidence that we have advanced morally or socially. The human race has discovered much about electrons, semiconductors, chemistry and physics but has not made any significant inroads in understanding our own condition, our limitations, our weaknesses, our essentially flawed human nature. 

We are not perfect. My computers memory is superior to my own, its processing speed faster, its propensity for error less. It needs no food and can work 24 hours a day, seven days a week without rest. The robot has potential to become, in many ways, superior to its creator. But unlike mankind they are not created in the image of God. For the robot, no mater how intelligent that robot may be, faith, hope, love, hate, empathy, altruism can never be any more than words in its dictionary. 

History unequivocally shows than mans inventions invariably fail. They have been and always will be the instruments not of peace and understanding but of chaos and confusion. Transhumanism is fast becoming a new religion for the hybrid age. I for one reject its dogma and prefer a more human creed professing the need for a divine and supernatural redemption above and beyond the scope of mans invention. 

 Feedback? Email prof_worzel@hotmail.com

The human race has discovered much about electrons, semiconductors, chemistry and physics but has not made any significant inroads in understanding our own condition, our limitations, our weaknesses, our essentially flawed human nature.

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