In my previous article, I explored the ramifications and applications of AI implementation in the medical and healthcare industries . We discussed the global impact there might be upon the way healthcare is administered and the ever-evolving role of doctors and other medical personnel. This leads us to consider a slightly more controversial topic that major healthcare systems around the world have not yet grappled with, principally the transhumanism movement. The importance of the concept, the ways it will change humanity, along with the ethical, moral and legal hurdles it is very much an academic debate at the moment – but it’s something I think should involve everyone around the world regardless of their stance. This is because Transhumanism has been viewed by many as the synthetic form of evolution to help humanity and indeed the planet survive many of the existential risks, we face in the coming decades such as climate change, extinction of important species, an increasingly dependent elderly population and scarcity of resources.
What is the current stance on transhumanism
Generally speaking, transhumanism is about the way in which the human race can become better by integrating with technologies. However, this remains a highly dynamic and puzzling area which is largely undefined. On that note let's start with a definition – with many arguing that it should be viewed as a movement that “advocates for the transformation of the human condition” by means of enhancement via the adoption of sophisticated but safe technologies which in effect improve our lives. Some transhumanists argue that this will greatly increase the bandwith human intellect and resislience to cope with the pressures our planet is under, whilst other simply want to improve the human condition by enabling a better, longer quality of life with regards to the health of our person and in a wider context society at large.
For now, (biohackers who are implementing their own solution as we speak may disagree with me) it is largely an academic or philosophical debate. Critics of transhumanism which include religious leaders, academics and conservatives believe that this shouldn't be allowed to happen ever. I would like to consider myself as part of the democratic transhumanism movement, those who think science should rule above all other considerations if it improves the lives of people around the world and doesn’t create further inequality. There is a far more radical wing , often referred to Biohackers and Bio-anarchists — a group within the transhumanists spectrum who believe we should be implementing the hybridisation of human and machine technologies today. This group often experiment outside the jurisdiction of legal or ethical controls which often gets many people worried. So what are the hurdles and considerations that humanity faces in this intriguing field?
The biggest problem today is informed consent — the process by which to allow somebody to upgrade their own body in a well understood manner. It’s similar to the way adults are allowed to have tattoos, piercings, etc. When you're talking about a data receiving device inside ahuman being, the barrier now is that nobody has figured out who actually owns the data and how will it be used – the recipient, the device manufacturer or the software developer? In my opinion, we are a long, long away from actually implants and similar mechanisms of transhumanism becoming regulated. But what we cannot afford is another “wild west” that we saw with the crypto bubble in 2018 – because after all we are dealing with human lives here not cash being invested in failing ICOs.
Just attempting to answer the simple questions is very hard indeed. Who owns the intellectual property? Who owns the data and what will be done with that data? It is just the similar problem to GAFA cases right now — nobody is saying to Facebook and to Google that "you hold people's data, that data belongs to the people, it shouldn't belong to a corporation." Given the number of scandals we have seen when our personal information is stored on external machines – it is little wonder that medical regulators feel reluctant to stick their necks out in this field. Meanwhile, the activists, biohackers and pioneers are circumventing “the big state” or “corporate control” by devising their own solutions. Many say that if they can find a way where¶
the actual value of that data belongs to a human being who has an implant, that would be a huge step forward for transhumanism movement. So they continue to devise all manner of implants or bionic devices themselves – outside of the well-controlled and regulated environments academic research and scientific laboratories bring.
A rational approach for a better future for all?
In 1950’s, J.B.S. HALDANE and Julian HUXLEY, two famous academics in this field, came up with the argument that one must allow the natural progression of adoption of such technologies. But since, this statement did not become a guideline at all – people seem to have drifted away from the organised development of what they meant and taken their interpretations forwards. On the thematic transhumanist websites, there are examples where the enthusiasts feel that they may be a bridge between what is legally possible and what is illegal, taking development into their own hands - that movement is called the biohacking. Right now the internet has seen a proliferation of “biopunk” level forums— being performed by people who are not medical practitioners in unregulated environment and becoming pioneers “in their bedroom” by themselves. There is nothing on a public sector level in major economies where such behaviour is deemed legal. The area is grey and based on sheer enthusiasm alone – I think now is the time to bring these pioneers closer to the academic and healthcare practitioners who can propel development forwards.
If you like me have been in heated debates from both sides of the fence you will hear bio conservatives say that interruption with the body shouldn't happen – that we are akin to Frankenstein’s monster, transhumanists say: "Ok, look – we can’t trust big corporates. This is the future, if we can make people healthier we will do it ourselves by any means." And there is a rational point here where everyone involved could turn this conflict into what I call a “greenhouse for techno-human evolution” in a safe and regulated manner. Let’s take the diabetes treatment as an example.
Diabetes is a big problem in the West, especially those who migrate and over a course of time switch from diets which are not of high-calorie — like from Africa or South Asian diets, etc. In the UK we have seen the incidence of diabetes rise extraordinary. Patients must constantly monitor their blood sugar levels and at the moment 99.9 % of all treatment is either based around very difficult dietary control or having to prick their finger and analyse it with pocket blood glucose meter, so to take action and have insulin injected. Fitbits and similar devices have the sensor which are touching the top of the skin, and it can only have information, such as heart rate, sweat level, etc.
It doesn't give enough detailed Information for the user or a healthcare practitioner to know the whole story. But there can be an under-the skin implants in the future, analysing the constant stream of blood flowing underneath it, and it can constantly monitor 24-7 — looking for chemical compositions, blood compositions, anomalies etc. That obtained data can be presented in an automated way given live to person's home, relatives, local hospital.
So, if somebody is having hypoglycaemia attack, the alarm goes off and many people are informed to act. Take this a step further and think about intelligent nano-structures acting immediately from the implant to diffuse medicine throughout the body – or a small robotic device that can travel around the circulatory system to identify and eat away clots. Think of the possibilities if we had robotic paramedics to act within a few minutes on those who are having a heart attack or a super intelligent Ai which can reassure someone with mental health problems and prevent incidents in the future. At the moment we are very much at the R&D phase, but many research groups and companies are involved in this area already.
The availability of technical tools is increasing sharply from basic diabetes control and treatment tools, to the most advanced artificial replacements of human organs or tissues: corneas, pancreas, lungs, heart etc. There is the growing number of health apps and wearable devices to keep better track of our health status, mitigate major risks, get early diagnosis, and intervene immediately when something goes wrong, says Mirko DE MALDè, president at Government Blockchain Association Italy and TEDxSpeaker. “Health apps are capable of monitoring heart functions, allowing a patient to understand when there is atrial fibrillation, thus making it possible to ask for help before is too late. AI-based decision support systems providing clinicians with incredible insight and much better understanding of both the individual patients and of the most suitable and effective treatment options, being able to stay completely updated on the latest discoveries and publications, as well as being able to ingest the complete patient’s history.”
Joanne PRANSKY is world's first robotic psychiatrist and an advisor to robotics industry from San Francisco, started her R&D mission in 1986, to prepare the world for a symbiosis of humans and robots on a daily basis.
According to her, one of the main tasks lies in informing the public about the new developments within this field so that people would be more adaptable to an exponent of human-to-machine technical evolution. She explains the opportunity of symbiosis of the biological and technical forms referring to the words of Ray KURZWEIL — that the future, which we will enter in the nearest 20-30 years, is about us merging with the technologies. An example of which may be medical nano-bots becoming “clever” blood cells or micro-apparatus that can internalised to find and treat diseases. She is one of the leading figures that believes we will be able to upgrade our own intellectual capacity with the use of artificial influences: “Ray says we can be something close to superhumans in the next few decades. The machines will reach human intellect — and overcome it. It doesn’t mean they will take control over us. Its evolution and what’s really true, is that humanity will definitely change. I agree with him totally.” Although I agree that it is exciting, as I am active in this area of research myself – I must issue what I feel are words of caution, as noted by Max TEGMARK, (who was probably the guy who inspired me to get into Machine Learning) and his ASILOMAR AI principles. That humanity must be able to control our development (up to the assumed point of artificial general intelligence) in a manner which is ethical, reduces inequality in the world and conserves our planet. Transhumanism and Machine Learning development in whatever guise it takes should not conflict with our movement towards environmentalism and progressivism. Perhaps this is a good point to invite other thought leaders to come together to create the ASILOMAR equivalent for transhumanism?
Right now, with new technological developments, it is possible to reduce human errors in diagnosis and treatment. Technical challenges are not trivial and major uncertainties still need to be overcome, but it is exciting to dream about: a future where we will be increasingly able to stay healthier for much longer to enjoy life and maximise our positive social impacts on those who need our help in society the most. Are the described above, transhumanism has a lot of challenges to face in the coming years — but it is the natural way of things. when humanity is faced with technological cross-roads.
Amardeep Singh (UK) is the Co-founder and CEO of an International R&D Institution focussing on Quantum Technologies, Software Development and Experimentation in the UK, India, UAE, Russia and Singapore – he is a scientist and ambassador in International Technology Innovation and is also a PhD candidate in Quantum Machine Learning and DLT technologies.
Amardeep Singh,Scientist & Co-founder - Machine Learning, Blockchain & Ethereum backer - PhD candidate in Ai use in Ethereum