A couple of interesting articles appeared on nytimes.com today about the future of human.
Although, insights and important discoveries have been made, Nicholas Wade reports in “A Decade Later, Genetic Map Yields Few New Cures,” that ten years after completing the first mapping of the human genome, the nytimes.com reports that scientists have not made nearly as much progress in finding cures for cancer or Alzheimer’s as they expected. The main thing I take away from the article is that the human body is really complicated and can surprise us how little we really know about it functions.
On the hand other, we also learned from Ashlee Vance in “Merely Human? That’s So Yesterday”, the Singularity University was recently held and attended by tech luminaries like the Google founders and Raymond Kurzweil, who predict that people will soon access a technology-aided evolution to become superhumans with infinite intelligence and lifespans measured in centuries. The Singularity will be some combination of tapping into the collective knowledge of networks like the Internet as well as medical advances like organ regeneration and cybernetics.
So, anyway, in some ways, I’m actually glad that we are finding out that the body is far more complex system that we want to believe. A slower rate of innovation might be a good thing. While it would obviously would be great to find cures for diseases, my hope is we actually have a chance to figure out all the ethical implications of the meaning of this work. Actually, it’s not even figuring out, but I want people to just start asking the questions.
On a related note, I just finished You Are Not a Gadget, by Jaron Lanier. The book is a great critique of how we overvalue technology, undervalue the products of people’s creativity, and as a result, undervalue humanity itself.
Update: 2010/06/19: This month’s Wired magazine cover story by Thomas Goetz is “Sergey’s Search.” (Not online yet.) Apparently, he has a 50% change of getting Parkinson’s, which reframes (at least) his interest in the Singularity University, and has put in US$50 million into researching Parkinson’s disease. Again, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be pursuing this research. Rather, where is the critical discussion on where is it leading us, who benefits, and who is left behind.