Recently, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking have again warned of the dangers posed by AI (artificial intelligence). As a species, we seem unwilling to challenge scientists when they offer us technologies meant to make decisions for us. Such challenges needed to happen long ago.
While not of the same eminence as the three men above, I would like to draw attention to another challenge scientists are preparing for us. Within the next 20 to 30 years, scientists will create a revolution in bio-enhancement – from drugs that boost your memory, to brain implants that enable you to drive your car using only your mind, to artificial arms and legs that are far faster and stronger than real ones.
But this coming “Age of Enhancement” will present troubling ethical questions. When parents were asked if they would give their child a brain-boosting pill guaranteeing straight As, most said no. But if you tell them that all the other kids in their child’s class will be taking the pill, almost all will say yes. Clearly, these kinds of bio-improvements will quickly become not just desirable but irresistible. And what then?
We might see the wealthy with a permanent physical, genetic or bionic advantage – say, superhuman eyesight, or incredible strength. Surgeons, pilots, even presidents might be expected to get neural implants to “optimise” their job performance. How about police and fire officers? How might a company of cyborgs, that is, terminators, transform the Barbados Defence Force?
As bionic enhancements become a reality, they will challenge our assumptions about what it means to be human. Is this the road we wish to travel?
The discussion, and any necessary challenge, needs to begin soon.
– CHARLES KNIGHTON