Extracts from ‘On the Future’ by Martin Rees
Today's young people can expect to live to the end of the century. So how can they ensure that ever more powerful technologies — bio, cyber, and AI—can open up a benign future, without threatening catastrophic downsides? The stakes are higher than ever before; what happens this century will resonate for thousands of years.
…. three measures that could mitigate climate change seem politically realistic—indeed, almost 'win-
Often, technical advances make appliances more efficient. It would then make sense to scrap the old ones, but only if the efficiency gain is at least enough to compensate for the extra cost of manufacturing the updated version. Appliances and vehicles could be designed in a more modular way so that they could be readily upgraded by replacing parts rather than by being thrown away. …. Effective action needs a change in mind-
A second 'win-
But the third measure is the most crucial. Nations should expand Research and Development (R&D) into all forms of low-
Extracts from ‘Origin’ by Dan Brown (Fiction based on fact)
"These are just the primitive beginnings of this symbiosis. We are now starting to embed computer chips directly into our brains, inject our blood with tiny cholesterol-
"Human beings are evolving into something differen. We are becoming a hybrid species—a fusion of biology and technology. The same tools that today live outside our bodies—smartphones, hearing aids, reading glasses, most pharmaceuticals—in fifty years will be incorporated into our bodies to such an extent that we will no longer be able to consider ourselves Homo sapiens."
…. New technologies like cybernetics, synthetic intelligence, cryonics, molecular engineering, and virtual reality will forever change what it means to be human. ….
…. a future where technology had become so inexpensive and ubiquitous that it erased the gap between the haves and the have-
“As we move into an undefined tomorrow we will transform ourselves into something greater than we can yet imagine with power beyond our wildest dreams. And as we do, may we never forget the wisdom of Churchill. who warned us: “The price of greatness …. is responsibility.
Extracts from ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari
What would happen, for example, if we developed a cure for Alzheimer's disease that, as a side benefit, could dramatically improve the memories of healthy people? Would anyone be able to halt the relevant research? And when the cure is developed, could any law enforcement agency limit it to Alzheimer's patients and prevent healthy people from using it to acquire super-
….There is another new technology which could change the laws of life: cyborg engineering. Cyborgs are beings which combine organic and inorganic parts, such as a human with bionic hands. In a sense, nearly all of us are bionic these days, since our natural senses and functions are supplemented by devices such as eyeglasses, pacemakers, orthotics, and even computers and mobile phones (which relieve our brains of some of their data storage and processing burdens). We stand poised on the brink of becoming true cyborgs, of having inorganic features that are inseparable from our bodies, features that modify our abilities, desires, personalities and identities.
… Sapiens, too, are being turned into cyborgs. The newest generation of hearing aids are sometimes referred to as 'bionic ears'. The device consists of an implant that absorbs sound through a microphone located in the outer part of the ear. The implant filters the sounds, identifies human voices, and translates them into electric signals that are sent directly to the central auditory nerve and from there to the brain.
Retina Implant, a government-
Presently, only a tiny fraction of these new opportunities have been realised. Yet the world of 2014 is already a world in which culture is releasing itself from the shackles of biology. Our ability to engineer not merely the world around us, but above all the world inside our bodies and minds, is developing at breakneck speed. More and more spheres of activity are being shaken out of their complacent ways. Lawyers need to rethink issues of privacy and identity; governments are faced with rethinking matters of health care and equality; sports associations and educational institutions need to redefine fair play and achievement; pension funds and labour markets should readjust to a world in which sixty might be the new thirty. They must all deal with the conundrums of bioengineering, cyborgs and inorganic life.
Mapping the first human genome required fifteen years and $3 billion. Today you can map a person's DNA within a few weeks and at the cost of a few hundred dollars.-
Ethicists and legal experts are already wrestling with the thorny issue of privacy as it relates to DNA. Would insurance companies be entitled to ask for our DNA scans and to raise premiums if they discover a genetic tendency to reckless behaviour? Would we be required to fax our DNA, rather than our CV, to potential employers? Could an employer favour a candidate because his DNA looks better? Or could we sue in such cases for 'genetic discrimination'? Could a company that develops a new creature or a new organ register a patent on its DNA sequences? It is obvious that one can own a particular chicken, but can one own an entire species?
Such dilemmas are dwarfed by the ethical, social and political implications of the Gilgamesh Project and of our potential new abilities to create superhumans. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, government medical programmes throughout the world, national health insurance programmes and national constitutions worldwide recognise that a humane society ought to give all its members fair medical treatment and keep them in relatively good health. That was all well and good as long as medicine was chiefly concerned with preventing illness and healing the sick. What might happen once medicine becomes preoccupied with enhancing human abilities? Would all humans be entitled to such enhanced abilities, or would there be a new superhuman elite?
Our late modern world prides itself on recognising, for the first time in history, the basic equality of all humans, yet it might be poised to create the most unequal of all societies. Throughout history, the upper classes always claimed to be smarter, stronger and generally better than the underclass. They were usually deluding themselves. A baby born to a poor peasant family was likely to be as intelligent as the crown prince. With the help of new medical capabilities, the pretensions of the upper classes might soon become an objective realm: This is not science fiction.
Science fiction rarely describes such a future, because an accurate description is by definition incomprehensible. Producing a film about the life of some super-
Physicists define the Big Bang as a singularity. It is a point at which all the known laws of nature did not exist. Time too did not exist. It is thus meaningless to say that anything existed 'before' the Big Bang. We may be fast approaching a new singularity, when all the concepts that give meaning to our world — me, you, men, women, love and hate — will become irrelevant. Anything happening beyond that point is meaningless to us.
A Final Extract from ‘On the Future’ by Martin Rees
Over the years the Tapestry Pages have covered a variety of mixtures and specific subjects but we realise we have never covered the boundaries of science before. For impact we have included just three sources that possibly speculatively gaze into a scary future. This page is not for the faint-