This is the beginning of a series of interviews about the future of mankind. Today with Newton Lee.
Are we on our way to a new social class of superhumans? Will individual citizens be able to cure their own diseases and develop fantastic skills? What are the ethical implications? And is biohacking like the drug dealing of the future?
These and many more questions I discussed in Los Angeles with Newton Lee, Future Grind Hosts Ryan O´Shea and DIY Body Hacker Rich Lee in November 2018 on the Sequencer Tour of the Re:publica Conference.
Newton Lee is the author of The Transhumanism Handbook (2019). He was the founder of Disney Online Technology Forum, creator of AT&T Bell Labs‘ first-ever commercial artificial intelligence tool, and inventor of the world’s first annotated multimedia OPAC for the U.S. National Agricultural Library. He is chairman of the California Transhumanist Party.
Hi Newton, what is transhumanism to you and do you consider yourself a transhumanist?
Transhumanism enables the human species to transcend itself by realizing new possibilities of and for our human nature. Transhumanism is the next logical step in the evolution of humankind, and it is the existential solution to the long-term survival of the human race. I am not only a transhumanist but also a Christian transhumanist who believes that Jesus was the first-ever transhuman.
When did your interest in transhumanism awaken?
I have always believed in the power of science and technology in transcending humanity since I was small. I started promoting transhumanism in 2015 when I joined the U.S. Transhumanist Party that puts science, health, and technology at the forefront of American politics. I am now the chairman of the California Transhumanist Party.
How will human nature be changed by artificial enhancement?
Human nature cannot be changed by artificial enhancement. Ancient human tribes waged wars with stones and spears. Nowadays we have bombs and drones. Cyborg soldiers and killer robots are on the horizon. Human nature can only be changed for the better by Christian transhumanism.
Is privacy a concern as biothech data is connected?
There is no more privacy anymore. Privacy is an illusion in the connected world. The real question is who has access to your personal data and private information. Are they the good guys or the bad guys?
Who should develop body enhancement technology?
Anyone with an imagination can develop body enhancement technology. We cannot and should not stifle innovation by restricting who can do what, limiting the flow of information, or imposing unnecessary regulations as long as the technology is not harmful to other human beings in terms of safety and privacy.
Can we live forever by Tech? With an unlimited lifespan, how would we deal with the challenge that our resources like Food, Water, Energy etc are limited?
No one with an organic body can live forever. Even the immortal jellyfish can get eaten by predators. But we can live a very long time, say one thousand years, which is possible with transhumanism. Methuselah lived 969 years according to the Christian Bible.
Scarcity of resources is often manmade. About one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year – approximately 1.3 billion tons – gets lost or wasted. The United States has the largest food reserve in history, with a 2.5 billion pound surplus of chicken, turkey, pork, and beef in cold storage and 1.39 billion pound surplus of cheese. Yet, more than 13 million U.S. children are suffering from malnutrition. We really need to manage resources better, whether we live 100 years or 1,000 years.
Will we be bored to death?
Absolutely not. There are so much to do, to learn, to experience, and to create. It takes a lot of time to travel around the world, to write a bestselling novel, to compose a great song, and so on. In early 2016, bucketlist.org showcased more than 4 million life goals from over 300,000 members. I, for one, would love to read all 60 volumes of the Great Books of the Western World authored by Plato, William Shakespeare, Sir Isaac Newton, and many other wise men and women. Life is anything but boring.
How far is too far? Is there a line that you feel we should not cross?
We cannot become God. Transhumanists are essentially building the new Tower of Babel. Christian transhumanists make sure that the Tower of Babel is not meant to challenge God, but to better understand the universe and to realize the true potential of human beings created in the image of God.
Do you see any ethical concerns around Transhumanism or Singularity?
Ethical concerns are valid for any type of technology. Technology in and of itself is devoid of good and evil, but it seems that evil oftentimes accompanies good in every scientific discovery or engineering marvel. For instance, nuclear power for electrical energy and weapons of mass destruction, GPS for navigating automobiles as well as guided missiles, genetically-modified viruses for vaccines and bioweapons, and 3-D printing of human organs and handguns, just to name a few.
Christian evangelist Billy Graham spoke about technology and faith at TED, “You’ve seen people take beneficial technological advances, such as the Internet … and twist them into something corrupting. You’ve seen brilliant people devise computer viruses that bring down whole systems. The Oklahoma City bombing was simple technology, horribly used. The problem is not technology. The problem is the person or persons using it.“
Newton, you mentioned that life in the oceans can be a possible scenario for the future of human being. Could you specify?
If global warming becomes irreversible and the sea level keeps raising, we may have to build underwater habitats for humans. There are already floating homes in Seattle, Portland, and other coastal cities. In the future, some augmented human beings may be able to live underwater naturally by enhancing their lungs to breath in water, similar to lungfish.