Sustainable Human Upgrades

The comments below were posted on 29 June 2017 to the discussion section associated with a TED talk by Gregory Stock entitled, “To Upgrade Is Human.”

I’m an evolutionary psychologist – I study human nature from a modern Darwinian perspective. I also have broad experience in behavioral ecology, with a background in field work entailing decades of watching natural selection in action. Overall, I study the kinds of minds, including human minds, that natural selection creates. The reason to point this out is that it leads to a perspective on what a truly upgraded human would be like, or at least should be, and when you get down to it actually MUST be like. So, I agree 100% with G. Stock that the biotech future he talks about, in which we begin to take charge of our species’ evolution, is inevitable. But what always is lacking from these talks is exactly what one would expect given that they are formulated by well-meaning but naturally-selected human minds: competitive, anthropocentric, and ruthlessly contingent, parochial, and selfish in our expression of altruism and compassion. It is a fatal omission. I’ll come right out with it. Our first priority should be intensive global research enabling us to use fast-emerging genetic-editing technologies to grab the evolution of our pan-cultural, pan-ethnic, species-typical mind/brain out of the future-blind amoral hands of natural selection. To survive, and to save the planet, we must implement a program of intentional evolution that puts enhancement of our capacities for prosociality, biophilia, and compassion first. These are the enhancements that will make our species sustainable. This is the keystone upgrade we need to create a socioecological context in which all humans have a healthy place and a happier social context to live their longer, healthier, sexier, brainier lives, in communion with other species. As the speaker so rightly says, mistakes will be made. The biggest mistake, however, will be to ignore this necessity or turn away in fear. Or worse, to passively place our psychological future into the hands of exploitative regimes and profit-obsessed corporations.

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