Let's open this blog by looking at a definition:
Transhumanism – the belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology.
Now, let's move along to the subject of this posting. At the centre of a new global order, a highly influential figure by the name of Karl Schwab, founder and current head of the World Economic Forum, has made it quite clear what he believes lies ahead for humanity as technology and Homo Sapiens merge. Fortunately, (or unfortunately depending on your viewpoint), he has made his roadmap for the future of humanity through the implementation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution very clear in three of his books; The Fourth Industrial Revolution (2016), Shaping the Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (2018) and Covid-19: The Great Reset (2020). Let's look at some quotes from his second book published in 2018 that outline his vision for all of us. Please note that all bolds are mine.
Here is the cover of Schwab's second missive:
Now, let's look at some key excerpts:
1.) Klaus Schwab. “Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Preface
“Public trust in business, government, the media and even civil society has fallen to the point where more than half of the world feels the current system is failing them. The widening gap in trust between those in their country’s top income quartile and the rest of the population indicates that social cohesion is fragile at best, and very close to breaking down at worst.
It is in this precarious political and social context that we face both the opportunities and the challenges of a range of powerful, emerging technologies—from artificial intelligence, to biotechnologies, advanced materials to quantum computing—that will drive radical shifts in the way we live, and which I have described as comprising the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
These emerging technologies are not merely incremental advances on today’s digital technologies. Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies are truly disruptive—they upend existing ways of sensing, calculating, organizing, acting and delivering. They represent entirely new ways of creating value for organizations and citizens. They will, over time, transform all the systems we take for granted today—from the way we produce and transport goods and services, to the way we communicate, the way we collaborate, and the way we “experience the world around us. Already, advances in neurotechnologies and biotechnologies are forcing us to question what it means to be human.”
2.) Klaus Schwab. “Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Section 1 The Fourth Industrial Revolution – Chapter 2
“Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies will not stop at becoming part of the physical world around us—they will become part of us. Indeed, some of us already feel that our smartphones have become an extension of ourselves. Today’s external devices—from wearable computers to virtual reality headsets—will almost certainly become implantable in our bodies and brains. Exoskeletons and prosthetics will increase our physical power, while advances in neurotechnology enhance our cognitive abilities. We will become better able to manipulate our own genes, and those of our children. These developments raise profound questions: Where do we draw “the line between human and machine? What does it mean to be human?”
3.) Klaus Schwab. “Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Section 2.3 Altering the Human Being – Chapter 11
“Biotechnologies will change the future, and they will change us. Firms are already engineering bacteria to produce everything from resins to personal care products, and Chinese scientists have used CRISPR to combat cancer. Mitochondrial replacement therapy, otherwise known as three-parent in vitro fertilization, is facing regulatory decisions in several countries, and scientists are preparing for a gene-drive against malaria by targeting mosquitos in Africa. This is just the science present. The future will challenge our understanding of what it means to be human, from both a biological and a social standpoint. Emerging biotechnology agendas promise to improve and augment human lifespans and to enhance physical and mental health. The opportunity for the integration of digital technologies with biological tissues is also growing, and what that portends for the next decades is inspiring a range of emotions, from hope to wonder to fear.”
4.) Klaus Schwab. “Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Section 2.3 Altering the Human Being – Introduction
“The lines between technologies and beings are becoming blurred, and not just by the ability to create lifelike robots or synthetic organisms. Instead, it is about the ability of new technologies to literally become part of us. Technologies already influence how we understand ourselves, how we think about each other, and how we determine our realities. As the technologies in this section give us deeper access to parts of ourselves, we may begin to integrate digital technologies into our bodies. The metaphor of the “cyborg” may seem to have lost its ability to shock, but the future may see curious mixes of digital-and-analog life that will redefine our very natures. The chapters here cover biotechnologies, neurotechnologies and brain science, and virtual and augmented reality devices. Perhaps more than any other set of technologies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, these will challenge us ethically. These technologies will operate within our own biology and change how we interface with the world. They are capable of crossing the boundaries of body and mind, enhancing our physical abilities, and even having a lasting impact on life itself. They are more than mere tools, and demand special “consideration for their ability to augment or intrude upon human beings, human behaviors and human rights.”
How will this new reality take place? Of course, more and more technology!
5.) Klaus Schwab. “Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Chapter 5 – New Computing Technologies
“Computers are also physically becoming part of us. External wearable devices, such as smart watches, intelligent earbuds and augmented reality glasses, are giving way to active implantable microchips that break the skin barrier of our bodies, creating intriguing possibilities that range from integrated treatment systems to opportunities for human enhancement.
Biological computing could soon allow us to replace specialized microchips with custom-designed organisms, a key aspect of a new cultural form of expression and consumption called “biohacking.”Researchers at MIT have demonstrated that sensors, memory switches and circuits can be encoded in common human gut bacteria, indicating that our biomes could, for example, be purposefully designed to detect and treat inflammatory bowel disease or colon cancer.
Such potential benefits come, however, with challenges and risks. The increase in possibilities for the two-way flow of information between us and our environment highlights the challenge of continually expanding bandwidth, as well as improving compression technology. The vast amounts of data created in a digitally driven world require new approaches that offer dense, long-term storage. One solution is using DNA to store information. In 2012, Harvard’s George Church demonstrated the possibility of storing data on DNA at more than 100,000 times the density of the best flash memory options available. It was also stable at a wide range of temperatures: according to Church, “You can drop it wherever you want, in the desert or your backyard, and it will be there 400,000 years later.”
Let's close this posting with a final thought from Klaus Schwab. According to Schwab's Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we all have a role to play in shaping our new post-human reality and, of course, we will all benefit from his vision:
“Given that many disruptive technologies are only just emerging from laboratories, garages, and research and development departments around the world, and that related regulations are in the process of being written and updated, there is a window of opportunity for citizens and leaders from all sectors to work together to shape the systems of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We must seize that opportunity. If we succeed, the benefits include spreading prosperity more widely, reducing inequality and reversing the loss of trust that is dividing societies and polarizing politics. The Fourth Industrial Revolution could produce systems that support healthier, longer-lived populations with higher levels of economic and physical security, happily engaged in meaningful and fulfilling activities in a sustainable environmental context.”
One thing that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is certain to produce is a small group of very wealthy technoplutocrats (think Bill Gates et al) who will benefit massively from their investments in the technologies required to merge humanity and technology. While Schwab touts the reduction in inequality as a benefit of his Fourth Industrial Revolution, my suggestion is that the vast majority of the world's most impoverished will see only marginal improvements in their lives, if that.
In Part 2 of this posting, we will look at the World Economic Forum's views on the Internet of Bodies, a key part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and what concerns it should raise with all of us.
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