Futurist: Humanity's Nowruz in 21st Century
Variant to Meet Human Needs
آینده نگر: نوروز بشریت در قرن بیست و یکم
واریانت جدید برای تأمین نیازهای بشر
P.S. Nowruz 2020: In this new print still the appendices at the end have not been incorporated in the main text, and hopefully will be done in the next edition. This book has been written from a futurist perspective and suggests some kind of a renewal or Nowruz of human life in realms of biology, economics, social relations and politics.
P.S. 9/25/19: New related articles were added to the end of the book.
My thanks to Ray Kurzweil for taking the time to review this electronic book which was first published under the title of 'New Variant to Meet Human Needs.' Mr. Kurzweil also sent me the following comment which is published here with his permission.
Ray Kurzweil's Comment of November 1, 2016: Looks good, Sam. I appreciate the comments.
Social gathering of six bonobos at San Diego Zoo, 2006.
Table of Contents
Chapter One-New Human Variant is Needed
Chapter Two-Why Kurzweil was right
Chapter Three-A Question from Kurzweil
Chapter Four-Next Stage of Self-Consciousness
If the issues of the needs of the growing human population can be addressed by a variant whose needs could be modified, rather than trying to modify the socioeconomic reality to fit the existing needs, as has been the case for the last 10,000 years, in effect, we are solving the economic issue without really trying to come up with an economic model.
Most of the content of this book were published as separate articles in the past. I need to mention that especially in the area of biology and genetics I owe a lot to a young scientist who has asked me not to mention his name, otherwise, rightfully this writing should have borne the name of two authors. And I would like to express my appreciation to Ray Kurzweil. The comments of Ray Kurzweil about the first chapter of this book were written when it was published five years ago as an article, and also Kurzweil's other comments about a collection of articles published between 2011 and 2013 helped me to continue this project (1). Finally I need to remind everyone that republishing this book, just like all my other writings is free on the condition that the reprint of this material is done with no change.
Chapter One-New Human Variant is Needed
In the industrial society of the last three centuries, the visionaries of both capitalism and socialism focused their attention on economics. Adam Smith was the economist for capitalism and Karl Marx was for socialism. The modern futurists such as Ossip Flechtheim (2) and Bertrand De Jouvenel (3), after the end of WW2, came to the conclusion that neither capitalism nor socialism provide the framework to solve the issues of freedom and economic justice, and focused on the need to go beyond the industrial society itself; nonetheless, they had their focus on *economics*. And later, Daniel Bell, the prominent theorist of Information Society, in his book The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, still had his focus on economics and in fact considered his work as the next volume of Marx's Capital. Also, for futurists like F.M. Esfandiary (4), FM-2030, who discussed human engineering, still such changes were seen as long term factors impacting current social development, and the global change was still viewed as the development of the information society.
Ray Kurzweil has shown us the imminence of major changes in human body and mind in his seminal work The Singularity is Near (5), where he predicts the Singularity to be around 2045. For my own part, in 1985, viewed Intelligent Tools to be imminent to be the cornerstone of production both with respect to what the tools had been and also what humans had done as tools (6). Nonetheless today, thanks to the eye opening work of Kurzweil, I see that the human, as far as its needs are concerned, must become a new variant in order to achieve a just and free world.
It is interesting that all pre-Kurzweil futurists including FM-2030 focused on economic theory, whereas Kurzweil has made his mission not only to predict the *nearness* of Singularity but actually to try to play a major role in how this change will usher in. Although he does not say that he is being an agent of the new upcoming mutations for a new human variant, it seems inevitable to me to conclude from his work that this is what he sees as imminent.
Hitherto, all mutations were basically errors at the genetic level, and viable mutants survived, whether their predecessors vanished or continued to live in parallel (7). Formerly, humans have artificially started new species, such as by grafting trees or making new dog species, which hardly differ from their predecessors in terms of basic needs, but instead differ in some traits such as fur color or facial features. But now we have the advent of new genetic modification by gene therapy and site-directed mutagenesis (8)to make mutants that can be significantly different from existing species. Using these methods, a new human variant should be significantly different in its *basic needs* from its predecessor exactly because of the economic factor in the global reality, which is talked about the least by those who correctly see this evolutionary change in the horizon.
All the focus of economic, social and political thinkers in industrial society, and even before that, going back to the ancient thinkers, had been the issue of humans' basic needs. In other words, food, clothing and shelter are central to any social or political thought, because any sociopolitical model has to be able to provide the basic needs for the humans it is being proposed to manage. This factor even is at the heart of systems like slavery that required slave masters to be able to provide the minimum basic needs for more than themselves in order to own a slave. Now if the issues of the needs of the growing human population can be addressed by a variant whose needs could be modified, rather than trying to modify the socioeconomic reality to fit the existing needs, as has been the case for the last 10,000 years, in effect, we are solving the economic issue without really trying to come up with an economic model. In other words, rather than focusing on envisioning an economic model which can provide social justice for humans as they are, we will focus on envisioning a new variant whose needs can be addressed with the current state of technology and natural resources in the world.
This proposal is not an exercise in science fiction but instead the real futurism for our time. What has remained of modern futurism of the turn of the 20th Century is nothing more than analytic forecasting, and there is hardly anything visionary in it. This is why Alvin Toffler himself ends up supporting Newt Gingrich for his vision of future US economy and social change (9), because frankly, forecasting about information society can hardly come up with any novel solution to the old structures of the industrial society, which in both its capitalist and socialist forms has long been nonfunctional. Even in the largest economy in the world -- the U.S. -- poverty can be seen in the homeless sleeping in snow a few blocks from the White House in DC, and 48 million people without even basic healthcare were living in the U.S. in 2012. And Europe with all its socialist tradition is not in any better shape either. European countries are even cutting retirement benefits when more people are living longer lives -- which is becoming bad news rather than good news -- because human needs are not changing although humans are able to live longer.
Not all mutations are good. Many mutations are deleterious or neutral. And we cannot wait for a specific desirable mutation to happen over the course of time (10) and in response to what Kurzweil calls *accelerated change*, humanity needs to work for *accelerated evolution* (11). Thus, we should not wait for inducing the desirable mutation. Any ethical system that considers such action as unethical will leave humanity vulnerable to the worst conditions, while we witness the accelerated growth of Information Society. Obsolete ethics cannot provide the answer to the current dilemma of the human species, no matter how much it calls itself spiritual. We need to change our ethical views, which are more of an obstacle, than our economic theory.
The centrality of needs rather than work is the major difference between what futurists are facing today and what the leading thinkers faced in 19th Century.
Planning for a new human variant is not limited to discussions for or against trans-humanism. Ray Kurzweil believes that we will not have trans-humans, but rather it will be the humans who will make the leap as Homo sapiens sapiens have done many times in the course of evolution. Others want to refer to this change as trans-humans. The point is not about traits as much as the needs. A new variant with suitable needs for the global reality is the epochal change that can make a just and free society feasible for humanity.
An example of an animal species with radically different basic needs from most other animals may be found in the Tardigrades, also known as water bears (12). Tardigrades are able to survive and reproduce in extreme temperatures, radiation, and space vacuums.
The discourse regarding a new human variant involves a mechanism for this transition. One would need to induce mutations in the human genome in order to create changes in phenotype and develop new human traits, but how would one know what to mutate, especially if these mutations are hitherto unobserved? Another issue is how to run experiments using accurate models and overcome any ethical barrier in order to observe the effects of various mutations on phenotype in humans.
Once this variant is developed, would it be a species (13) or subspecies (14)? In order to qualify as a new species, the variant must not be able to reproduce naturally and make fertile offspring with a typical human. We should research this, because if the new variant is able to do so, then it might be a new subspecies instead of a species.
Chapter Two-Why Kurzweil was right
In the first chapter, discussing Ray Kurzweil's vision of Singularity, it was argued why a new human variant is needed in order to achieve the ideals of freedom and economic justice.
The reality is that humans being biological will be limited by Darwinian survival of the fittest. Darwin himself was a liberal and the most liberal Social Democratic governments of Western Europe, or the leftist Communist states of Eastern Bloc at the time of Soviet Era, were not able to escape this predicament of human biological foundation (15). Also in 1989, discussing economic scarcity, when reviewing "Theory of Uniqueness Value" (16), Daniel Bell in a letter to me noted that the issue was also known to Karl Marx who thought it would go away with abundance (17).
As noted in the first chapter, already the rudimentary increase of the average human life span is creating a lot more problems than solutions for human societies when a developed country like the US is afraid of running out of Social Security money and European nations are making huge cuts to their social welfare. It is true that we need to see how self-awareness will evolve once we advance beyond our current biological existence (18), but this should not be a cause to remain biological. Biological progress is extremely slow for present epochal changes. The alternative is for humans to evolve nonbiologically.
On July 24, 2012, Ray Kurzweil in a comment on my
article entitled "Two Paths Beyond Singularity," wrote: "I agree that hardware
alone is not sufficient but my key point is that we are making exponential gains
in mastering the software of life and intelligence as well. I disagree that
biological intelligence will be better than nonbiological intelligence at
anything come the 2030s" (19).
Now four years later, I have come to the conclusion that Ray was right and I was wrong. In the above article, I had written that "biological entities are much more capable than non-biological intelligent tools in their self-learning of the external world (and using) Kant’s terminology, the former is better at *synthetic* truth whereas the latter is better at *analytic* truth." The recent announcement of scientists of IBM Research in Zurich shows that I was wrong (20).
In other words, as Kurzweil had put it at that time, the "key point is that we are making exponential gains" with nonbiological intelligence, whereas for biological processes including biological intelligence, we are limited by barrier of speed of biological life itself that even modifying the genes by gene therapy, GMO or other methods will not be able to make up for the fundamental slow gains of biological processes as compared to exponential gains of nonbiological artificial intelligence.
Sensors of internet of things enabled by the artificial neurons noted by the IBM scientists could beat any human or biological intelligence in self-learning the external world and discovering what Kant called *synthetic* truth, not to mention that they will bypass us for what Kant called *analytic* truth which we have already reached with our current computers-- orders of magnitude beyond any biological intelligence.
In reality, We are results of desired errors. If we
look at human DNA we see that it continuously makes errors when copying itself
and has a mechanism to delete the bad copies. Sometimes a bad copy is not
deleted such as when we get cancer. But that is not all. There may also be times
when a bad copy ends up in a desired new evolutionary change, which is what
happened when animal kingdom branched out or when mammalian life started or when
human species separated from other primates.
Therefore, on one hand we do not like the errors in the DNA replication which are the basis of deadly diseases like cancer but at the same time we cherish the inception of human species as the greatest achievement of the evolutionary life on Earth. It is definitely a paradox of our life.
Changes of inanimate objects in the universe do not seem to suffer from the same mechanism and seems like this paradox is specific to biological life. In nonbiological sphere of physics, all events are explained by the laws of physics. True that quantum physics has introduced indeterminism into the science as well but we would not consider one quantum scenario versus the other as an "erroneous" versus a "correct" event. It seems like this phenomena of desired errors is particular to biological life and perhaps it has to do with "purpose" which is again something particular to biological entities, which not only we see all throughout the biological life but sometimes we even attribute purpose to inanimate world as "final" causes (21)!
Maybe with human beings evolving beyond biological life, we may be able to still have purpose but not be limited by the double-edged mechanism of DNA which has brought both catastrophe of deadly diseases like cancer as well as monumental evolutionary changes from the time of early bacteria to our current human existence.
Chapter Three-A Question from Kurzweil
In the second chapter I pointed out my error, and correctness of Ray's view about the two paths beyond Singularity and concluded that biological progress is extremely slow for present epochal changes and the alternative is for humans mainly to evolve nonbiologically.
I would like to ask a question hoping Ray Kurzweil to answer it. Let's first reiterate what we know. Basically humans by using their understanding of laws of nature, introduce events in the world which would not otherwise happen if the Earth was only housed by inanimate objects. But it is not just humans that create such effects, animals, plants or even bacteria make similar impacts on the world by using their perception of how things work to achieve their basic needs and even intentions. Of course humans, thanks to tool-making, have made their impact stand out more than other species and the effect is currently immensely enhanced by the invention of intelligent tools.
Of course, all intelligent tools used by humans or when becoming part of human enhancement will still make such impact in the world based on needs and intentions of humans. Otherwise, just left to themselves, non-intelligent tools or intelligent tools such as computers are objects that are not self-driven. In other words a sliding door of Walmart can work better than any human operated door but if it is not programmed for the goals of its human owners, it is like any other inanimate object.
Now my question is that logically there is nothing to stop other species to use the new intelligent tools for their goals. Even in nature, we see some animals using tools or even using other animals as tools the same way humans used dogs or messenger pigeons as intelligent tools. So if we have this evolution or merger with machines of other species in the post-Singularity world, the same way we have the merger of human and machine, what makes us so sure that the latter will still hold the superiority? In other words, why wouldn't for example the merger of tardigrades and machine not make a superior species? The only reason humans evolving from primates became a superior species was because they were first to achieve a critical mass in the evolution of their senses and intelligence thanks to tool-making. Otherwise, their basic needs and intentions were not necessarily much superior to many other biological species.
Chapter Four-Next Stage of Self-Consciousness
In the third chapter, the significance of merger of other biological species and computers was discussed, noting it may result in a more advanced species on Earth than the merger of humans and computers. Let us now discuss the next stage of self-consciousness. In November 2010, the following dialogue with Ray Kurzweil about the next stage of human consciousness was published in KurzweilAI:
I wrote: "Hello Ray, In the last few years I have been basically writing in Persian and hardly anything in English. One thing I’ve been recently discussing that I thought may be of interest to you is that it seems to me the next stage of human consciousness will be about being self-aware of ourselves in a different body. Maybe recognizing ourselves in the mirror after plastic surgery is the first in a series of steps that with augmenting human body artificially and with possibility of upload and download of the brain will continue. Just as we are amused when we look at the smarter monkeys who can recognize themselves in the mirror. Maybe future humans will have a much different sense of self-awareness than we do and will be amused to watch us. Especially recognizing music tunes as part of one’s identity or self-”finger”-print!" Ray Kurzweil responded: "Dear Sam, It is remarkable how much people identify with their visual appearance. When I changed myself into Ramona for my 2001 TED presentation, even though the technology was fairly crude by today’s standards, it did give me the idea that my true identity is not my visual appearance, that we can and will change that. We need deeper mirrors." And I replied: "Thank you, Ray, In Persian there is an expression that says if you do not like what you see in the mirror, break yourself — not the mirror. Apparently our self image in our internal mirror is something worth investigating" (22).
The above started with researching the reason of why secularism failed in half of the world (23), but analysis continued to delve into human self-awareness as we advance towards Singularity (24). It seems like the next stage of self-consciousness is intertwined with the merger of humans and other species with the computers. This could be humbling for humans as we may see other species to contribute to our self-consciousness in significant ways thanks to intelligent tools. Therefore getting closer to Singularity and beyond, as noted in 2010, the next stage of human consciousness will be about being self-aware of ourselves in a different body, biological or non-biological, but how we will see ourselves may not be as much anthropocentric when other species are also merging with the computers.
Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher
November 1, 2016
1. Ray Kurzweil's comment of Feb 6, 2011 about the first article entitled "New Human Variant is Needed" was: "Thanks, well done, Sam."
Singularity Topics with Kurzweil's Comments
مباحث سینگولاریته با کامنت های
2. Ossip K. Flechtheim-
3. Bertrand de
Jouvenel-Nature 0f Future
Transhumanism and a Tribute to Fereidoun FM Esfandiary
ترانس-هومانیسم و یادی از فریدون اسفندیاری
Singularity and Us
یکتائی انفصالی و ما
Intelligent Tools: The Cornerstone of a New Civilization
ابزار هوشمند: شالوده تمدنی نوین
7. Evolution by mistake: Major driving
force comes from how organisms cope with errors at cellular level
8. Site-directed mutagenesis
About Tofflers, newt Gingrich, Republican party, etc
بحثی در مورد حمایت الوین تافلر از نوت گینگریچ
Political Alternative in 21st Century
آلترناتیو سیاسی در قرن بیست و یکم
Number of mutations per human per generation=
6.4mutations per individual.
Number of mutations per population per generation=
So the one-half of DNA one inherits from his/her father or mother differs from theirs by 3 mutations.
For chromosomal mutations versus point mutations (a nucleotide changes)
11. Accelerated evolution used to develop enzymes that provide
protection against nerve gas
12. Tardigrade or water bear
15. Marxism and Futurism
مارکسیسم و آینده نگری
16. A Theory of Uniqueness Value
یک تئوری ارزش ویژه
17. Daniel Bell's Letter to Sam Ghandchi dated September 5, 1989
18. Understanding Self-consciousness: Differentiating
Humans from other Sentient Beings
گفتگویی با ری کرزوایل در مورد خودآگاهی
19. Two Paths beyond Singularity
دو راه در فراسوی نقطه انفصالی
20. IBM scientists emulate neurons with phase-change technology
Spinoza's Refutation of Teleology
اسپینوزا در رد علت غائی
22. Ask Ray, The future of human
self-awareness, deeper mirrors November 15, 2010
23. Why Secularism Failed in Half of the World
چرا سکولاریسم در نیمی از جهان
24. Understanding Self-consciousness: Differentiating Humans from other Sentient
درک خودآگاهی: تفکیک انسان از دیگر موجودات متفکر
Ray Kurzweil, Singularity is
The following article was written 31 years ago in the Fall 1985 issue of the scientific journal of Artificial Intelligence
Intelligent Tools: The Cornerstone of a New Civilization
ابزار هوشمند: شالوده تمدنی نوین
Why Gene Therapy is Not Making
Progress and a Solution
چرا "جین تراپی" پیشرفت نمی کند و یک راه حل
Ray Kurzweil's Response to
Genetics and Death Topic
پاسخ کرزوایل به بحث ژنتیک و مرگ
Are Hawking and Musk Right about
آیا دیدگاه هاوکینگ و ماسک درباره خطر هوش مصنوعی درست است
Futurism: What I have Learned
from Daniel Bell and Ray Kurzweil
آینده نگری: آنچه از دانیل بل و ری کرزوایل آموختم
Futurist Party Aims for What Marx Deferred to
حزب آینده نگر در پی هدفی که مارکس به آینده دور
موکول می کرد
Many Paths Beyond Singularity as Proposed by
چندین راه در فراسوی سینگولاریته طرح شده کرزوایل
Can Human Maximum Age be Increased
آیا عمر حداکثر بشر قابل افزایش است
Predictive Analytics of Gene-Editing Side-Effects
Beats Cancer, but!
پیش بینی عوارض جانبیِ تغییر ژنی، سرطان را شکست
خواهد داد، اما!
Ray Kurzweil's Response about Impact of Law of
Accelerating Returns on Housing, Clothing and Food
پاسخ ری کرزوایل درباره قانون بازگشت پرشتاب در عرصه
مسکن، پوشاک و خوراک
Kurzweil and Problem of Common Sense
ری کرزوایل و مسأله عقل سلیم
My Thanks to Ray Kurzweil
سپاسگزاری از ری کرزوایل
Nanobots or Humanoids
نانوباتها یا انسان نماها
Modern Futurist Visions in Retrospect
بازنگری ویزیونهای آینده نگری مدرن
Kurzweil and Biological Path in Vicinity of
کرزوایل و مسیر بیولوژیک در حوالی سینگولاریته
Kurzweil's Response about the Next Step in Making
of an Artificial Sentient Being
پاسخ ری کرزوایل درباره گام بعدی در ساختن موجود متفکر مصنوعی
Futurist Alert: Kurzweil's Exponential Growth
آگهباش آینده نگر: رشد پرشتاب کرزوایل، عوارض جانبی را تکثیر می کند
Is Kurzweil's Singularity Disruptive
آیا سینگولاریته ی کرزوایل دیسراپتیو است
Danielle: Kurzweil Paints Futurism
in a Children's Novel
دَنیِل: کرزوایل آینده نگری را در یک رمان کودکانه به تصویر می کشد
Popper, Kurzweil, Self, and
پوپر، کرزوایل، سلف و کامپیوترها
Futurism Suffered a Major Setback
due to Wrong Expectations from Genetics
عقبگرد عمده ی آینده نگری به دلیل انتظارات غلط از ژنتیک
Root Cause of People's Uprisings is
علت ریشه ای خیزش های مردمی بی عدالتی فراصنعتی است
Secularism: Main Problem of Former
Religious People is not Superstition
سکولاریسم: مشکل اصلی دینداران پیشین خرافات نیست
Civilization, Secular Democracy and
تمدن، سکولار دموکراسی و سینگولاریته
Ray Kurzweil, Futurists, US Election and IslamicKKK
ری کرزوایل، آینده نگرها، انتخابات آمریکا، و کوکلاکس کلانهای اسلامی
Sanders and Biden: Progressives
Need a Kurzweilian Futurist Platform
سندرز و بایدن: پروگرسیوها یا ترقی خواهان به پلاتفرمِ کرزوایلیِ آینده نگر نیاز دارند
About Margaret Warren Ending 2020 Presidential Run
درباره پایان رقابت انتخاباتی مارگارت وارن برای ریاست جمهوری دو هزار و بیست
Mr. Sanders, Kurzweil is Antidote to Ferguson and
آقای سندرز، کرزوایل پادزهر فرگوسن و خمینی است
Dialectical Materialism: Marxist Mystification of
ماتریالیسم دیالکتیک: سحرآمیزی مارکسیستی جهان بینی علمی
Bill Gates and Why Futurists did not Predict Corona
بیل گیتس و اینکه چرا آینده نگرها پاندمی کرونا را پیش بینی نکردند
Not Just a Futurist: Living in the Age of
نه فقط یک آینده نگر: زندگی در عصر سینگولاریته
Camaraderie and Modern Futurist Movement
کمارادری و جنبش آینده نگری مدرن
Corona, China and Globalization
کرونا، چین و گلوبالیسم
Corona, Work, and Alternative Income
کرونا، کار و درآمد آلترناتیو
For a Secular Democratic & Futurist Republican Party in Iran