Will future humans still be humans?

What does the future hold for the humankind? Or will our race be called ‘humankind’ in the first place? Before get­ting into whether or not the future humans will be con­sid­ered humans, it’s essen­tial to answer: What is a human?

Char­ac­ter­ized by bipedal­ism and large, com­plex brains, humans (Homo sapi­ens) are the most abun­dant and wide­spread species of primate.

This def­i­n­i­tion of a human may lat­er on change, but how, up to what extent and by when? Will the future humans be com­plete­ly upgrad­ed by machines and tech­nol­o­gy? Will they real­ly be humans hav­ing the same abil­i­ty to feel emo­tions and think crit­i­cal­ly? Or will they become some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent and far removed from humans?

I find that the ques­tion of what makes peo­ple human is much more impor­tant than whether or not there will be any machines in our future. The answer to whether or not we are still humans has an irre­versible impact on our whole exis­tence. And as unde­ni­ably real as it may be, it’s just a mat­ter of time.

Will future humans still be humans? Till when? We’ll be dis­cussing every­thing on the top­ic, from B to Y.

Customizing ourselves with a machine?

Let’s con­sid­er our cur­rent lev­el of tech­nol­o­gy as the default. And let’s assume that all the fol­low­ing upgrades are possible:

1) Modify eyes, ears and nose to increase the efficiency and quality of our senses.

It will def­i­nite­ly be avail­able in the future, so we should not won­der if this upgrade is pos­si­ble or not. The ques­tions that can be raised here are: first­ly, whether it is eth­i­cal to alter the human body arti­fi­cial­ly and sec­ond­ly, how much this upgrade will (or should) cost? Cur­rent­ly, arti­fi­cial organs are not afford­able for every­one, but an opti­mistic pre­dic­tion says that it will be avail­able in the future.

2) Upgrade our brain’s memory capacity.

This pro­gram would be expect­ed to increase the brain’s capac­i­ty by at least 10 times (approx­i­mate­ly) and will cer­tain­ly be avail­able in the future.

In addi­tion, peo­ple who are suf­fer­ing from a severe case of Alzheimer’s dis­ease can already enjoy some improve­ment thanks to a brain implant that makes the patients think more clear­ly and remem­ber more infor­ma­tion, for exam­ple about their home­town or names of relatives.

3) Upload human memories into computer data storage through download software to computer-related language processing technology.

Many tech­nolo­gies to sup­port this pro­gram exist. For exam­ple, brain-com­put­er con­nec­tion tech­nol­o­gy can even read a person’s mind. With this pro­gram, we would be able to record the expe­ri­ences, thoughts and feel­ings of the human brain — in oth­er words, to down­load every­thing that we have ever expe­ri­enced in our entire lives into the com­put­er data stor­age means.

The ques­tion here is whether it is eth­i­cal to down­load someone’s mem­o­ries into com­put­er data stor­age means pro­grammed by human hands?

4) Upgrade our genes and body with nanotechnology.

Today, it is already pos­si­ble to use nan­otech­nol­o­gy in med­i­cine and cos­met­ic surgery. Hence. It is not a far-fetched idea that we will be able to upgrade our body with nanopar­ti­cles and nanoro­bots. We can expect that this pro­gram will be avail­able not just for human beings but for all liv­ing things in the near future.

5) Upgrade our molecular composition.

The mol­e­c­u­lar com­po­si­tion of our bod­ies changes every few years due to var­i­ous exter­nal influ­ences such as pol­lu­tants, vit­a­mins and food addi­tives, etc. How­ev­er, we will face an irre­versible change if the basis of every­thing is changed by tech­nol­o­gy itself into some­thing even more hor­ri­ble than what we cur­rent­ly have — arti­fi­cial hard­wired blood (brain) and arti­fi­cial skin (cyborg body).

6) Upgrade our DNA with more genes and neurons.

It is already pos­si­ble to increase the num­ber of genes in the human body by arti­fi­cial­ly reg­u­lat­ing the breed­ing process in ani­mals — to some extent. How­ev­er, it is still not pos­si­ble to increase it beyond a cer­tain limit.

The ques­tion here is whether or not we real­ly want such a change…

7) Upgrade our brain’s functionality by uploading artificial intelligence into it.

There are many approach­es that can do this work, but researchers have been focus­ing on teach­ing dif­fer­ent soft­ware the abil­i­ty to sim­u­late human thinking.

The idea behind this pro­gram is that humans will be able to upgrade their brain by down­load­ing arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence (AI). The prob­lem is not whether it’s pos­si­ble or not, but rather whether we can pro­gram the AI to be like us or not.

8) Upgrade the human body through genetic engineering in order to be able to survive on Mars or other planets.

It is said that our vision can be improved by using gene edit­ing tech­niques to avoid cataracts and blind­ness. I know genet­ic engi­neer­ing and mars col­o­niza­tion are a weird combo…but still con­sid­er it just like Elon Musk does.

How­ev­er, we may need to improve the body’s abil­i­ty to resist dis­ease and change the body’s phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics in order to adapt it for longer space travel.

The “will you still be considered a human” part?

a) Modifying eyes, ears and nose for improved senses:

This method is cur­rent­ly avail­able today through surgery and implants (for instance: pros­the­ses). The prob­lem with such arti­fi­cial organs is that they are not yet cheap or high­ly effec­tive enough to become a stan­dard upgrade. But if they can be made acces­si­ble and afford­able via surgery, it will cer­tain­ly hap­pen in the near future.

Will we still be humans? Yes. Mod­i­fy­ing our organs to improve our sens­es and sens­es (so called aug­men­ta­tion) is a pro­gram that is com­plete­ly com­pat­i­ble with human rights.

b) Add memory capacity to our brain by downloading artificial memories:

The goal of this pro­gram is no longer just to store or back up mem­o­ries, but to cre­ate an exter­nal mem­o­ry sup­port that allows us to back­up and store not only human con­scious­ness but also all human expe­ri­ences (includ­ing: hopes, dreams, ambi­tions and knowl­edge etc.). This pro­gram will be avail­able in the near future as it can eas­i­ly be real­ized by com­bin­ing today’s technology.

Will we still be humans? Yes. Adding mem­o­ry capac­i­ty to our brain is also com­pat­i­ble with being a human.

c) Upload all human experiences into the computer in a language intelligible format:

This pro­gram is even more seri­ous than the pre­vi­ous two. What would we do if we had every­thing that we have ever seen, felt or thought there in front of us through down­load­ing? Would our minds still be ours?

Will we still be humans? Well, no. This will cause the extinc­tion of what we present­ly call “the mankind”. Every­body will be immersed into their own dig­i­tal world forever.

d) Upgrade our genes with nanotechnology:

This is also an extreme method as it is con­sid­ered much more seri­ous than the pre­vi­ous three. This pro­gram will be avail­able in the near future as it can eas­i­ly be real­ized by com­bin­ing today’s technology.

Will we still be humans? Yes or no. Upgrad­ing our genes with nan­otech­nol­o­gy would prob­a­bly cause rearrange­ments of every­thing in the body, which will make us dif­fer­ent from what we cur­rent­ly are and so would not be con­sid­ered human any­more. But we can not say for cer­tain as the def­i­n­i­tion of the word “human” is con­tin­u­ous­ly changing.

e) Upgrade our molecular composition with nanotechnology:

This means that we would be able to change our basic com­po­si­tion as well as the struc­ture of our brain and body into some­thing total­ly dif­fer­ent. This will not only change the human body, but can also mod­i­fy or upgrade all exist­ing life forms, includ­ing plants and ani­mals — includ­ing humans themselves.

Will we still be humans? No. This can cause an irre­versible change to human nature so it would cause an extinc­tion of human beings who have been present on Earth for around 100s of thou­sands of years.

f) Upgrade our DNA with more genes and neurons:

Experts say, in the future, we’re not sub­ject to the DNA we inher­it from our par­ents but we can actu­al­ly change our genes in a tar­get­ed way. Such on-demand edit­ing could be done, as it is today, in dis­eased tis­sues like reti­nas, nerves, or, one day, even brains.

Will we still be humans? No. This can cause an irre­versible change to human nature so it would cause an extinc­tion of human beings who have been present on Earth for around 100s of thou­sands of years.

g) Upgrade our brain’s functionality by uploading artificial intelligence into it:

We can pos­si­bly real­ize this plan in the near future through AI research and neu­ro­science.

Will we still be humans? Yes. This will cause a change in our intel­li­gence and how we use it so that we would become bet­ter ver­sions of ourselves.

h) Finally, upgrade the human body:

Do it through genetic engineering in order to be able to survive on Mars or other planets.

Will we still be humans? No. This can cause an irre­versible change to human physics so that it could cause an extinc­tion of the whole human civilization.

Now, if we start living on Mars, will we still remain humans?

Will we still be humans? Maybe. There is not a cer­tain yes or no answer to this ques­tion. But, the goal of space col­o­niza­tion is the abil­i­ty to stay on Mars for a long time and there are many chal­lenges for us to solve like food sup­ply, life sup­port sys­tems, etc.

Even if we could cre­ate all these eight meth­ods, will it nec­es­sar­i­ly lead us to extinc­tion? Yes, if we cre­ate all these 8 meth­ods. But it’s impos­si­ble for all of them to be cre­at­ed with­in your life­time, espe­cial­ly at the same time.

The effects of these eight meth­ods are very dif­fer­ent. Some of them might straight­way lead to the extinc­tion of the human race caus­ing the rise of some­thing else than humans. The com­bi­na­tion of some of the above men­tioned points could lead to the same.

For exam­ple, “mod­i­fy­ing our organs”, and at the same time, “upgrad­ing our brain’s func­tion­al­i­ty by upload­ing arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence into it” may not wipe off our exis­tence. But the com­bi­na­tion of them can make us some­thing else than humans.

We still don’t know the effects of all these meth­ods. These were sim­ple exam­ples show­ing the pos­si­ble direc­tion of our tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment. With more advanced tech­nol­o­gy, it will be pos­si­ble to per­form many things that today are impos­si­ble for us as humans to achieve.

How­ev­er, future humans will always remain humans. Even if they turn out to be deeply cus­tomized by AI, up to most extent, they will still be con­sid­ered humans.

What extent of tilt towards AI? And what is the “overbought” level?

Cur­rent­ly we are humans who hold smart­phones in our hands. In the future, maybe that’s going to change. Not “vice-ver­sa” exact­ly, but instead of using smart­phones we will be using brain chips by 2050.

By 2050, some have pre­dict­ed that AI tech­nol­o­gy will read emo­tions to per­son­al­ize each cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, and every­day inter­ac­tions will be a mix of humans, AI-enabled machines and hybrids.

We will be using brain chips for doing every­thing, includ­ing AI func­tions. It’s not that the world is going to be filled with AI Robots.

But what will hap­pen is that the “con­scious­ness” part of us is going to be less and less impor­tant in gen­er­al. We’re going to be almost com­plete­ly linked with AI where most of our abil­i­ties will be pro­vid­ed by exter­nal sys­tems and devices.

Hence, we’ll have a dif­fer­ent per­cep­tion of the world. Our inter­nal emo­tion­al or sen­ti­men­tal feed­back towards some­thing will prob­a­bly become far weak­er once our mind does not have to deal with it. For exam­ple, you may not feel pain if you touch a hot stove for 10 min­utes straight.

And the “over­bought” part is, will AI in us become so strong and pow­er­ful that we become unable to con­trol it. Will we become too depen­dent on AI to the point where our own human mind can’t han­dle it?

AI will def­i­nite­ly have a psy­cho­log­i­cal impact on us. Soft­ware engi­neers, how­ev­er, think that it’s not that big of a deal, since AI will be able to learn how humans think and act and become more sophis­ti­cat­ed with time.

The obstacles for AI achievements

For AI to just get off the ground in terms of prac­ti­cal achieve­ments, there are sev­er­al obsta­cles to over­come. But there are also sev­er­al rea­sons why these achieve­ments are pos­si­ble in the future.

Some of those obsta­cles are tech­ni­cal and inter­est-based, while oth­ers are humans-based.

For the moment, AI is not advanced enough to be able to think in a way that would allow humans to “think” like AI. Exam­ples of sys­tems such as Automa­tion, Machine learn­ing, Machine vision, Nat­ur­al lan­guage pro­cess­ing (NLP), and Robot­ics, able to emu­late human thought process­es are nowhere close to becom­ing the men­tal reality.

AI is like­ly to even­tu­al­ly sur­pass human intel­li­gence as well as human cre­ativ­i­ty, but for now, there is no end in sight of where AI can get more sophisticated.

In 2013, IBM’s Wat­son became the first com­put­er ever rec­og­nized on “Jeop­ardy!” even though it doesn’t have emo­tions or empa­thy and does not have a brain at all! Imag­ine this in 2050! That would be the end of human­i­ty! Hahaha…

We are not talking about “Physical AI” after all, are we?

Phys­i­cal form of destruc­tive Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence is real­ly great for graph­ics. But we are not that dumb, of course. Instead of cre­at­ing Intel­li­gence in robots, we will upgrade our own intel­li­gence with advanced customization.

In oth­er terms, AI will not become phys­i­cal in the sense that it’s going to take over the world. It will become more of DALL E2 and GPT 3, a soft­ware-based “assis­tant”, and that’s going to be pret­ty much DALL E 3,4… and GPT 4,5,..- and so on.

In 2050, most of the things we do on a dai­ly basis will be done by our own cus­tomized AI. It’ll be pret­ty much like how we use our smart­phones today.

Most future humans are going to rely on their own cus­tomized AI for deal­ing with any kind of human-relat­ed tasks and chores!

From dai­ly news and noti­fi­ca­tions to enter­tain­ment and social media, finance man­age­ment, knowl­edge and con­tent search, research data analy­sis, deep cus­tomiza­tion of pro­gram­ming or mechan­i­cal design, our AI might some­how con­trol our lives. But humans will still remain humans, with the least prob­a­bil­i­ty of being under the rule of an advanced AI species.

The scenario of Physical destructive AI is possible in only a few cases:
  • If we cre­ate Intel­li­gence in Robots instead of upgrad­ing our own: The first sce­nario is cre­at­ing intel­li­gence in non-liv­ing robot bod­ies. Now, why would we want to do this? Why not cre­ate bet­ter ver­sions of ourselves?
  • If we cre­ate intel­li­gent phys­i­cal robots as weapons: Cre­ate them as weapons? Although this is not the best idea, nor are nuclear weapons; an indis­tin­guish­able part of real­i­ty today.
  • If we cre­ate intel­li­gent phys­i­cal robots for labor: What about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of cre­at­ing AI to serve humans? This may have hap­pened by 2050 as well.
  • AI race: While the space race pro­duced a ton of achieve­ments for mankind, the AI race is going to cause destruc­tion. If the AI race begins, phys­i­cal dom­i­nance of robots is just inevitable.
  • As an error: Maybe we will make an error in the pro­gram­ming result­ing in “AI going rogue”. I don’t know if the pos­si­bil­i­ty is large, but always keep it in mind.

These were the poten­tial sce­nar­ios of phys­i­cal AI being built. Now, as said before, the most like­ly future is the one where we upgrade our­selves. Let’s get deep­er into the topic…

The extent of human customization by 2050

First of all, let’s talk about upgrad­ing humans.

Many of us wor­ry about what the future is going to bring for us, includ­ing tech­nol­o­gy and its impact.

There are a lot of famous AI experts like Ray Kurzweil and Robin Han­son who think that cre­at­ing AI is going to be very dif­fi­cult in terms of com­plex­i­ty or pro­gram­ming. Some argue whether we should even be cre­at­ing arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence cus­tomiza­tion at all.

What we do with our brains is some­thing that we can­not explain or even sim­u­late. The brain is com­plex in the way it reg­u­lates itself and com­mu­ni­cates with itself. It’s nev­er been done before in his­to­ry and there are many peo­ple against it because of the neg­a­tive side effects AI can cause for humans.

But let’s get back to the point…

What else does human customization include?

As we know, our brain con­trols every­thing, includ­ing emo­tions, which makes us what we are. We have a sense of con­scious­ness and self-aware­ness; this gives us an advan­tage over oth­er beings in terms of con­science and freedom.

We have free will to make deci­sions, with an option to choose the way we think, feel and act. This means that AI can­not add any new skills or abil­i­ties to our think­ing, but it can upgrade them.

The real dif­fer­ence between a human-based AI sys­tem and a human-based phys­i­cal AI sys­tem is that the lat­ter can con­trol phys­i­cal things eas­i­ly for us and the for­mer can make “us” do so.

The progress in neur­al com­put­ing has already made sig­nif­i­cant progress in recent years. This means that our brain can dou­ble as a pro­cess­ing unit now, com­pared to old times when we need­ed big onboard com­put­ers held by racks of wires on our shoulders.

This means that we can already do some kind of human-to-AI com­mu­ni­ca­tion. For exam­ple, voice-based assis­tants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, vocal­ly respond to human ques­tions and requests.

In such, with the pos­si­bil­i­ty of plug­ging in a wire into our brain, we can con­nect it with our own AI for bet­ter functionality.

Many experts think that the future is going to be full of big AI help­ing and enrich­ing our dai­ly lives as well as allow­ing us to dive deep into the world, with all its com­plex­i­ty and beau­ty, through an intu­itive interface.

It’s all about dig­i­tiz­ing your­self, mak­ing your own cus­tomized avatar in order to com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple around the world and get access to more com­plex data than ever before.

Okay, that was enough for brain upgrades! 

What about other “physical” upgrades for humans?

For exam­ple, a robot­ic hand that a human mind can con­trol, is some­thing we con­sid­er a part of this cat­e­go­ry of human phys­i­cal upgrade.

We can already do it, there is no doubt about that. And we will be able to do more advanced things like con­trol­ling those hands with our minds.

What if you could see through anoth­er man’s eyes or hear a bul­let fly­ing by? What if you could feel the ground under your feet and jump 20 yards high, just like a superhero?

Well, those are all pos­si­ble upgrades for humans by 2050. We can make them pos­si­ble by chang­ing our­selves phys­i­cal­ly and also upgrad­ing our own AI to its fur­ther ver­sions — like AAI and VAI – to help us do it — all at once!

I am telling you; this will be how the future of human­i­ty looks like.

What level of customization would mean humanoid?

Well, if we cus­tomize our­selves to a point where we look, think and live like robots and our con­scious­ness becomes a sec­ondary part of our exis­tence. This is very sci-fi, by the way.

The future is going to be dif­fer­ent from what we imag­ine — “mechan­i­cal” minds are already with us and will con­tin­ue to spread through­out the world. But this is just in the future, not today! It’s not that far off, but still far enough.

It’s up to you to make a deci­sion about your own future and what part of it you want to live in; if you want it in the first place.

Becom­ing a cyborg of sorts — that’s anoth­er option for upgrad­ing humans in 2050. Yes, there have been many movies that show us how this could hap­pen. Usu­al­ly, it’s all about an alien inva­sion, zom­bies and oth­er kinds of disasters.

Well, it can also be an evo­lu­tion­ary thing that has been hap­pen­ing for a long time. Humans have had body mod­i­fi­ca­tions in the past; we have always touched our own appear­ance, just like changes of style.

The future of human­i­ty is not set in stone — we can change it for the bet­ter. What you do today will affect your tomorrow.

There are plen­ty of things to con­sid­er when try­ing to pre­dict the future of human­i­ty and the way it treats itself in 2050.

Will future humans be humans, still?

Of course, they will. Despite the human cus­tomiza­tions and upgrades, we will remain humans.

The exis­tence of AIs is going to change the way our lives look. We will depend on them more than ever before and we will take more time to get smarter about what we do because arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence rules our lives.

But we will still be humans because what­ev­er bad hap­pens, it’s in our nature to be adap­tive and cor­rect our mis­takes, when we do make any.

From long-range mis­siles loaded by nuclear weapons to the way we are pro­duc­ing green­house gas­es, there are a lot of human-made threats around us. By cre­at­ing tech­nol­o­gy and AI — as a species, it depends on us whether we’re going to use them wise­ly or fool­ish­ly. If we wise­ly uti­lize them, we will still remain humans.

But, if we make them able to manip­u­late us — phys­i­cal­ly by dis­tort­ing our DNA, psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly by cor­rupt­ing our intel­li­gence, and men­tal­ly by mod­i­fy­ing, merg­ing and con­trol­ling our neu­rons — we will per­haps have to lose our sta­tus of being humans, com­plete­ly sur­ren­der­ing our­selves to the new, arti­fi­cial species.

Yes! It’s all up to us in the end.

From the dis­course above, it’s clear that it depends on how we define what a human is. How­ev­er, even if it is impos­si­ble for us to draw a clear line between humans and super­hu­mans (in terms of upgrad­ing) today.

Long-term stan­dard of evo­lu­tion will def­i­nite­ly be based on some form of Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence, which means that as human beings we would have to first­ly live with and after this arti­fi­cial intelligence.

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