Genetic editing, neuroprostheses, and the very high risk of becoming zombies.

Note: edited and augmented 1 April 2018.

… or at least zombiesque.

First, I still do not hear anybody talking about genetic editing or neuro-electronic strategies for making us compassionate, prosocial, and biophilic enough to render us a sustainable species. At least this is arguably necessary, i.e., to take the maintenance and future construction of the relevent aspects our brain circuitry out of the hands of natural selection. See my previous entries.

Pondering what is coming down the pike in connection with revolutionary advances in genetic editing and neuroprostheses…

Right now: Other people are naturally evolved to hack into my unconscious and influence me. But, I have pretty well matched evolved defenses against maladaptive manipulation, and nonconsciously controlled circuitry that renders me more or less susceptible to adaptive manipulation. My nonconscious is good at looking out for my interests, at least (actually JUST) in ways that make me a good gene replicator.

But, also right now, just minimally foreshadowing what is coming in the next few decades: What poisons are in this piece of “wild-caught” salmon? What is my computer security software really doing? What really is happening with my social media data? What’s in this software or firmware update? How am I already being manipulated in powerful, evolutionarily novel ways just through my computer and internet usage that my current, evolved psychological defenses cannot fully deal with?

Soon: What really is in this memory-enhancing chip going into my head? What is really in this genetic editing cocktail that is supposed to just decrease my genetic or epigenetic risk factors for hundreds of diseases? We’ll never know for sure, before or after its done to us.

Whatever changes the corporations or governments make in us, however we are hacked biologically and electronically, however our concerns and preferences are tweaked or radically changed, we won’t even be aware of it. Or we’ll like it. Love it. That will be part of the hack, obviously.

And nobody, not even the most rich and powerful will be immune. Everyone will be bio-electronically hacked, including any appointed “regulatory personnel.” (They’ll be the first targets!) We’ll all unwittingly just be things, helplessly and often gleefully sucked into the larger internet-of-things. Hell, eventually, we can even be hacked by a little chip added to an artificial limb. Genetic editing cocktails can be put in our fish oil pill, our flu vaccine, our soup or wine.

Soon, everyone will be augmented, diminished, and otherwise altered. In combination. There will be no defenses. How will that play out? It seems unavoidable to me, given existing deep human nature. Its going to be an enormous train wreck.

Maybe some people will avoid it all, for some time, by becoming highly disciplined, ascetic, contemplative hermits, very far from population centers, very hidden, using traditional, cultural, completely “organic” means of self-study, continuing the possible struggle to gain some freedom from our natural, evolved slavery to nonconscious neural regulatory system. Short of that? Everyone else will be more or less happy zombies.

— Paul (for now?)

Added 1 April 2018:

A reader asks:  “But wouldn’t any genetic editing for the so-called biophilia, etc., be susceptible to same?”

Answer: Yes, it would.

But, at least it would be a more limited and exclusively genetic-editing or epigenetic engineering enterprise, aiming for relatively subtle, potentially adequate changes in people’s attitudes. So, possibly subject to successful, extreme multi-layered regulation. Plus, this gene editing goal has the unique justification going for it that it probably is our species’ only hope for survival. The only way of making it through our technological adolescence. It’s actually required. My living to be 115 years old, or beyond, is not.

I reject electronic neural prostheses except for very limited medical use (such as those paralyzed in accidents, those suffering abnormal memory loss in old age). These electronic neuroprotheses will be much easier to use for precise and extreme manipulation of recipients than genetic-editing, I predict. Since few people would receive these, no opportunity for governments and corporations to create ideological, military, or various slave armies.

New realization (for me): Even if a corporation generates widespread trust by installing “clean” neuro-enhancing chips in people’s body-minds, aren’t we going to want those chips to be capable of non-invasive upgrades via the web? Like never-ending computer program updates of today, and firmware updates?

At the right time and place, when many “users” (recipients) are out there, imagine what kind of stuff could be included in an update. Or a “fake” update originating outside the “ethical, well-regulated” company that supplied and services the chips. — PJW


One thought on “Genetic editing, neuroprostheses, and the very high risk of becoming zombies.

  1. The conversation around “strategies for making us compassionate, prosocial, and biophilic” is critical. We are going to modify ourselves far beyond what natural selection would do. Shouldn’t we be strategic about it? Should we leave our programming to marketing psychologists and, possibly, inscrutable future AIs? Do we have any leverage in this?


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