Beyond Human: What You Must Know About the Transhumanist Tech-Fueled Future
Kay Walker Featured in ELLE Magazine
Issue: November 2017
READ THE TRANSCRIPT FROM THE ORIGINAL INTERVIEW BELOW
[To read the full 3-page article interviewing Kay Walker on her book “Super You: How Technology is Revolutionizing What it Means To Be Human” download the MySubs App using the link below. Select the ELLE Magazine November 2017 issue. https://www.mysubs.co.za/AboutUs ]
ELLE Reporter: Where does your interest in the field come from?
Kay Walker: Ever since I can remember I’ve had an insatiable curiosity for why people do what they do and how we can be better. I always ask myself: How can I expand my capabilities? How can I do and be better? What resources and tools are available to me that will help me be a better person?
This curiosity drove me to formally study multiple fields that explore human development such as psychology and neuroscience. Which, naturally drove me to more and more concepts around the field of technology.
People often think of technology as separate from us. This is a major misconception. Humans are biologically built however since the time of cavemen we’ve been using technology to be better humans. We built shelters to survive. We created clothes to keep us warm. We developed tools to cut our food and fire to cook it. We’ve been using technology to live better and longer for centuries.
Ultimately, humans are the creators of technology. We create tools to better our existence. To live better lives. And, we’ve been doing this for millions of years. It’s a beautiful and natural relationship.
Being ignorant about the technology available to us and around us limits our possibilities for living our best life. So, my interest in technology comes from my interest to live a better life. And to teach others how they can live their best lives too.
ELLE Reporter: Does transhumanism exist to preserve consciousness beyond the limits and decay of the human body, or to edit the body’s dysfunction/decay process?
Kay Walker: The answer to this question is: A bit of both.
The aim of the transhumanism movement is to use technology to be the best humans we can be and live up to our greatest potential, personally and collectively. This means there is a continued progression. We are always seeking to use what we have now to create new and better tools for the future. So, the possibilities are endless.
Currently, there are research efforts happening around the world to develop new technology to edit the body’s dysfunction and decay process. These efforts are twofold: 1) To make aging less painful so we can live healthier and longer. (Because who doesn’t want that?!) and also, 2) to eradicate aging entirely.
Researchers such as Dr. David Sinclair of Harvard University are currently studying the aging process. Sinclair’s most exciting discovery was that resveratrol, a compound found in grape skins slows down the aging process and extends life. Resveratrol can be taken in capsule form and many longevity experts recommend this is one thing everyone can do today to live longer and healthier lives.
With regards to eradicating aging entirely, the SENS foundation is an organization heading this research pursuit. SENS brings together the greatest minds of science and technology in the world. There are currently research efforts to develop new technologies that would at the most radical level allow us to live forever.
According to longevity experts such as Dr. Aubrey De Grey (a founder of SENS) a cure for aging is possible. Aging is a preventable decay process where the cells of the body fill up with garbage and deteriorate. What stands in the way of technologies to treat aging is: Funding and policy. It’s simply a matter of money and time.
When it comes to preserving consciousness it’s tough to say whether we’ll be able to preserve this aspect of a person beyond decay of their body. Currently the field of neuroscience has come far but still knows little about the brain. What creates consciousness is still a topic up for debate. There are theories but no hard science on what makes us conscious. So creating technology to preserve consciousness after the body dies is certainly possible but it’s uncertain what that looks like.
However, there are currently processes you can opt for such as cryonics. Anyone can elect to freeze their body or brain when they die. This could be used as a triage process, a precaution to preserve yourself until technology has advanced enough to revive you. Sounds a bit far out but cryonics centers are currently providing this service.
Transhumanism is about using technology to be our best. What that looks like will depend on how things develop. But it’s likely we will get to a day where we can preserve our consciousness and/or end aging entirely.
ELLE Reporter: How do you see it changing society?
Most people are walking around using various technologies – like their cell phones, laptops, stoves and laundry machines – every day without considering its impact, the role it plays in our lives and where the field is heading in the near future. Scientists project that we are on the cusp of a major event that will revolutionize the way we live, called: The Technology Singularity.
It’s the moment where machine intelligence becomes so sophisticated that it exceeds the intelligence of man. Originally, this was set to happen by 2045 by Google director of engineering, inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil. More recently, he’s predicted that this will happen as soon as 2029.
At this point, humans will have come so far in developing various efforts in technology that we build systems that can run like a human (are conscious) and will eventually supercede us.
It may sound scary but that’s only because we are looking at this future from a limited view by thinking about it from where we are today. Consider that before any technology becomes part of the fabric of our lives it seems unfathomable and scary. 25 years ago the idea of us walking around with little devices in our pockets that could access all the information in the world with a click of a button was in the realm of science fiction. Now most people have access to smart cell phones.
Since we are heading towards the Singularity we are on the cusp of a major acceleration in the progression of technology. What most people don’t consider about technology is that it grows exponentially. When we develop a system we use that system to develop better systems. So technology grows incredibly fast. It doesn’t just grow linearly.
ELLE Reporter: Are there any recent (exciting) developments you expect to become available to the public through mainstream channels in the near future?
Kay Walker: There are four fields of technology that are rapidly advancing and will change our lives in very exciting ways, they are:
Within the next 5 to 10 years some exciting things we can expect…
An increase of personalized medicine. Dr. Bertalan Mesko, medical futurist projects that babies will soon be born with their genome sequenced at birth.
Medical technology hits home. People are already using devices to track their health and understand what’s going on with their bodies. Devices such as fitness trackers (ie. Fitbit), smart clothing, brain wearables (ie. Muse) and health apps will only continue to grow and become more invasive.
Using the Internet to globally share information and provide global support to third world countries will make a massive difference to the field of medicine. Within the next five years the world of medicine will improve drastically. Doctors will have more information at their fingertips and more automated systems to support them.
Genetically engineering our babies so we can ensure they are born healthy will be popular. Companies like GenePeeks are already making this a possibility. Also, gender selection is happening today and will continue to grow. Jeffrey Steinberg runs the Fertility Institute in Los Angeles where you can pay to have a boy or girl. Selecting other traits such as eye color and hair texture is possibility. Currently, policy makers are what stand in the way of this.
Bioprinting. Creating replacement organs is already possible and will continue to grow. We can print bladders and simple structures like blood vessels, so we’ll be able to print livers, hearts etc.
Conscious food engineering will increase. Our food will get healthier. Eating more supplements/ meal replacement shakes will be a major trend. Soylent is leading the charge in this realm.
Stem cells. Once stem cell technology is perfected (which will likely happen in the next 5 years) this will be a gamechanger. We will be able to use stem cells to treat and cure major diseases. We will use stem cells to regrow limbs and organs. We will use stems cells for cosmetic treatments to grow our own tissue versus requiring the use of synthetic materials. For instance, if a woman wanted larger breasts she could get a stem cell injection that would allow her breast tissue to grow versus requiring implants.
In the field of neuroscience/brain health…
Virtual reality and using games to enhance and repair cognitive abilities will be massive. Dr. Gazzaley is a leader in the field. People will have access to games and systems they can play at home that will allow them to experience multiple versions of reality or learn new skills or improve their cognitive ability.
Connecting our brains to the cloud and to computer systems. Elon Musk and Ray Kurzweil of Google are currently involved in developing these research efforts. Kurzweil is currently working at Google to develop a synthetic neocortex that would allow humans to access the cloud simply by thinking a thought.
Plus, more and better brain treatments for mental illness and greater understanding of these illnesses – More brain training at-home and mobile technologies too!
In the field of artificial intelligence…
More automation in the workplace and robots taking jobs. AI systems have been in place since the Industrialization era but AI system will become more advanced, invasive and will continue to progress rapidly. Information based jobs and ones that require less conscious thinking process will be replaced with robots. Already this is happening. Check out QC bot.
The implementation of solid drone delivery systems. Companies like Amazon are leading the charge.
Self-driving cars. Are currently being tested and the technology is being perfected.
At home AI support systems. Imagine your fridge telling you you’ve eaten enough today and locking down so you maintain your diet. Or a more advanced housekeeping bot.
ELLE Reporter: What hope is there for our natural biology? Can it be ‘hacked’ to fix its flaws? What about the recent breakthroughs in DNA modification?
Kay Walker: We are already hacking our biology to fix its flaws and have been for thousands of years. For instance, my father had a heart attack last year and replaced two of his values with man-made materials. Hacking the human body will only continue and become more invasive.
Today there are groups like the Grinders operating on themselves to make themselves superhuman. They experiment by putting RFID tags under their arms or magnets under their fingers. And companies that have microchipped their employees.
ELLE Reporter: Does any idea of spirituality fit into transhumanism?
Kay Walker: Spirituality and transhumanism are separate. You can be a transhumanism, be pro technology and use it to live your best life, and still believe in a religion. Where the two concepts intersect and contradict each other is around the topic of living forever.
Personally, I see spirituality, as a personal choice where transhumanism is not. It’s a choice to follow the transhumanism movement but regardless of what an individual believes it’s happening. Technology will progress. It’s inevitable.
So the best thing to do is to stay informed, to learn how to use new technology to your personal advantage. And to remember that technology came from and is driven by man. It’s not such as black and white relationship. When you can appreciate and be grateful for technology that’s when you notice it’s role and importance and how you can use it to live your best life.