The Schism

From Schismatrix Plus: SFBC 50th Anniversary Collection Cover Artist: Jim Burns

Even in this day of global change and universal paradigm shifts, the technologies that will evolve us beyond our previous states will soon become a reality for everyone. As this may be, there will be one element that will not change. That element is hostility, the very element that has been with us throughout history. In the posthuman era, hostility will still continue to exist and divide us into factions. This time, it will be our choice in form that will cause intolerance and hostility. As one chooses to become part of posthumanity, they will choose to either upload their minds into computers to become one with machinery or evolve their current form using genetic manipulation. It is this choice that will make them part of the Schism.

Our increasing competency in biointegration and mechatronics along with cognitive enhancement technologies will allow us to understand the human mind and merge the body with electro-mechanical systems. However, this cyborg approach will eventually become abandoned for mind uploading, which is seen by some as the more logical choice. After all, who wants to continually replace organs when you can bypass such redundancies by replacing the whole body?

At the same time, we would have become adept at robot design so all menial tasks would be left to cheap and dispensable robots. This would grant us the time and numbers to work on more pressing issues, like ethics and more abstract concepts.  Since the people who chose to upload their minds will become immortal, they are given infinite time to fulfill any desires or dreams that they see fit to indulge in. With their form, synthetic posthumans would never have to worry about disease or the need for sustenance. As long as enough power is provided to keep them connected, they would never require anything for survival. Even though this can be seen as ideal, one major drawback is the lack of a body. Spatial mobility is not an option for an uploaded mind, but one can circumvent this issue by uploading themselves into advanced forms that exceed human capabilities in orders of magnitude. In a society dominated by such technologies, a synthetic posthuman can either explore the upload world or the material world at the individual’s discretion. This would mirror the choices we have today where a person can either go outside or stay connected to the Internet.

While uploading and synthetic bodies are one option, the other option for posthumanity lies within the genetic code itself.

With our understanding of genetics becoming complete and genomic research coming to this eventual end, we will begin manipulating the very organic compounds we are made of. Genetic engineering will allow for the birth of genetically perfect babies with the option of giving them abilities that the normal human cannot have. By splicing a specific set of genetic material into a developing fetus, the newborn will be granted abilities as simple as accelerated regeneration, or more profound like extra extremities. Even with this capability, the posthuman has not been freed from its mortal coil. With extensive work in rejuvenative medicine, the posthuman is made immortal by lengthening telomeres and the usage of cellular safeguards. Since some of these techniques can be applied during gestation, there are other methods that cannot be done this way. If certain organs fail or become riddled with disease, they can easily be replaced through bioprinting genetically identical replacements with the option of being better than their predecessors. These techniques will allow an individual to live indefinitely.

With synthetic posthumans and genetic posthumans living together, they will not always agree with each other. Due to human nature, one side may create pockets of intolerance and distrust towards the other because of their choice in form. These pockets will lead to the founding of hate groups and will incite violence towards another. This in turn will result in the “Schism”, or the division of posthumans based on preference in immortal form. This is proven by the precedence left by humans and their habit of hating each other because of petty differences. The most common two being sexism and racism. Since these two will become phased out, the posthuman society will be divided by their choice of living. This Schism could become a temporary issue that only emerges during times of sociological stress, or result in a war between those who augment the flesh or reject it altogether. If war becomes a result, then it will be fought by means of attrition and resources. Once one side has lost enough resources to concede, the war will be won by the other side and may result in the suppression of the losing side.

As this sequence of events may become a possibility, this can easily be prevented by actions taken now. For posthumans to not become violent towards each other, transhumanists must resist intolerance by each other and the rest of humanity. Since intolerance is more often taught than inherited, the future generations can be taught about the acceptance of understanding difference and the negative attributes of intolerance. To do this properly, we must accept the differences in every human being regardless of their view of you. By becoming an example of tolerance and taking every step to remove such intolerances from the minds of the more youthful generations, the Schism will become a hypothetical situation and not a reality.


Editor’s note: See also


2 Responses

  1. Nicholas says:

    Definitely. There are many vitriol aspects of transhumanist community. Though I think the intolerant views on religion are the biggest concern I suspect the division of uploading is mostly a less vocal one since its not an immediate issue. Division is an eventuality. Honestly I doubt this division itself will even be the issue. Like many wars intolerance is just a way for humans to justify killing each other.

    I digress. We do need to worry about this now. Transhumanism opens up so many possibilities not even limited to the two presented. Personally I feel we also need to extend tolerance also upward and downwards. A good start is to understand the bioconservatives. If we can respect the wishes and views of those that fundamentally disagree, and at times actively work against us than compared to that working within our own movement will be easy.

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