Why ‘upgrading’ humanity is a transhumanist myth | Douglas Rushkoff


I think we still know so little about what
it means to be human that the confidence with which we think we can upload ourselves to
silicon or recreate ourselves with algorithms is shocking to me. The only ones out there who think they know
what human consciousness is are computer engineers. If you talk to actual brain researchers and
neuroscientists, they say, we’re nowhere close. We don’t even know for sure what goes on in
a single square centimeter of soil. We’re still trying to teach agriculture companies
that the soil is alive, that it’s not just dirt that you can put chemicals on. It’s a living matrix. If we don’t even know what a single centimeter
of soil is, how do we know what the human brain is? We don’t. We don’t know what the source of consciousness
is. We don’t know where we come from. We don’t even know if there’s a meaning to
this universe or not. Yet, we think that we can make a simulation
that’s as valid as this? Every simulation we make misses something. Think about the difference between being in
a jazz club and listening to a great CD. There’s a difference, you know. And some of those differences, we understand,
and some of them, we don’t. So when I see people rushing off to upload
consciousness to a chip, it feels more like escape from humanity than it is a journey
forward. And I get it. Life is scary. I mean, women, real-life women, are scary. You know, the people are scary. The moisture is scary. Death is scary. Babies are scary. Other people who don’t speak the same language
or have the same customs, they’re scary. All sorts of stuff is scary. And I understand the idea of this kind of
having a Sim City perfected simulation that I can go into and not have to worry about
all that stuff I don’t know, where everything is discrete, everything is a yes/no, this/that,
all the choices have been made. There’s a certain attractiveness to that,
but that’s dead. It’s not alive. There’s no wonder. There’s no awe. There’s nothing strange and liminal and ambiguous
about it. I was on a panel with a famous transhumanist,
and he was arguing that it’s time that human beings come to accept that we will have to
pass the torch of evolution to our digital successors. And that once computers have the singularity
and they’re really thinking and better than us, then we should really only stick around
as long as the computers need us, you know, to keep the lights on and oil their little
circuits or whatever we have to do. And then, after that, fade into oblivion. And I said, hey, no, wait a minute. Human beings are still special. We’re weird. We’re quirky. We’ve got David Lynch movies and weird yoga
positions and stuff we don’t understand, and we’re ambiguous and weird and quirky. You know, we deserve a place in the digital
future. And he said, oh, Rushkoff, you’re just saying
that because you’re human. As if it’s hubris, right? Oh, I’m just defending my little team. And that’s where I got the idea, all right,
fine, I’m a human. I’m on Team Human. And it’s not Team Human against the algorithms
or against anything other than those who want to get rid of the humans. I think humans deserve a place. Certainly, until we understand what it is
we are, we shouldn’t get rid of us. And as far as I’m concerned, we’re cool. We’re still weird and funny and wonderful. And yeah, we destroyed the environment. We did really nasty things. But I would argue we do those things when
we’re less than human. We do those things when we can dehumanize
others. You can’t have slaves if you’re thinking of
those as people. You can only have slaves if you’re thinking
of them as something other than people. And this desire to transcend the human, I
feel like it’s excusing a whole lot of behaviors. It’s excusing a whole lot of dehumanization. It makes it easier to send kids into caves
to get rare earth metals for your phone. It makes it easier to create toxic waste everywhere. It makes it easier for you to think of the
human timeline as having a beginning, middle, and an end, because we’re going to transcend
it. And that’s a sick Western, neoliberal, growth-based,
apocalyptic myth that could very well end our species. But really, I would say to the detriment of
our little universe.

100 comments

  1. Apples and oranges argument in the beginning. Weirdness in the middle about fear. Incoherence at the end.
    #TeamLogic
    #TeamSingularity

  2. I get what he is trying to convey and I get you need clicks so you need short appealing titles but the title really is misleading when he's talking about consciousness and the concept of digitization of that, but we don't have to get anywhere close to conscience science to be able to augment biology with say artificial muscles, stronger lungs, stronger bones or anything other that has nothing to do with conscious brains. Physical augmentation is very much in our reality.

  3. Here is what people donot understand. There is difference between Biology and Technology. The truth is we are spiritual transcendent beings. We are just playing because we cannot stand still!. But everything that needs to be played, has already been repeated by all the rest of the earlier and present Species. Especially all species between monkeys and modern humans. You really wanna know whats next in human evolution? Its transcendence! Doing away with our Negative instincts which was once necessary for survival. And do what a transient species does when it can tune into larger form of consciousness. We are highly complicated beings! Almost like the job of the universe in forging the prototype to tune into higher consciousness is done. NOW we need to be done with playing and Transcend!
    Although Also, i think, we could be Bionic.

  4. What the fuck is this guy on about? He points to the absolute end goal of transhumanists, completely jumping over the million incremental steps that will take us to mind uploading. We are already transhuman, we carry a device in our pockets that increases our mental abilities. We have medicine that aids our immune system. We have implants for multiple medical issues. Hell, we regularly communicate through a hive mind type network and think nothing of it.

    The moment we said "fuck you" to nature and started building up systems around us (technology) to overcome the challenges of nature, we started on the path of transhumanism. This guy should really look up the definition before spouting bullshit

  5. We don't know everything about soil and we got David Lynch movies, so we can't ….? I don't even know what Rushkoff is saying we can't do? Upload our consciousnesses to a digital cloud? Sure, maybe not now. But we sure can get people better, more functioning prosthetic limbs. We might even be able to add new ones! We might be able to stimulate our brains with technology to be able to control our feelings better. Who knows? This guy doesn't. His argument IS one from hubris.

  6. But uploading your consciousness into a robot body is only on area of transhumanism. Transhumanists are those who believe and support the idea that we will be able to overcome our human limitations through technological augmentation. This doesn't have to be through just computer/robot technology
    This can be genetic engineering or some other method. Using technology to extend the life of humans is something we already do through modern medicine. Transhumanists just say we shall take that to a new level in the next coming decades and centuries.

    Plus just because you don't know how consciousness works yet doesn't mean we won't know in the next century or two or three. It's in our best interest that scientists keep looking for the answer, be it through AI research or neurobiology or both. Even if we aren't successful in recreating human consciousness or "transcending" our human for in the short term, we could gain knowledge and insight into the human mind that will be valuable to us in the long run.

    Perhaps we use the kowledge we gain from these projects to make "smarter" robots that can go mine rare earth metals for us so kids dont have to.

  7. I find his argument pretty weak and not well informed. It's my opinion that the human being is too complex to be reproduced by a machine, no matter how sofisticated this may be. However, I feel quite confident to say that the current society will come to a point where  mathematical models of any physical object, let it represent "external" reality or the human body, will be so accurate and technique so advanced that we'll find it difficult to discern between the real object and its reproduction.
    I think it's no harm to pursue these "transhumanist" ideologies, although given our inability to describe what it means to be human, I'd call them simply "transbodyist". It's clear that we increasingly rely on cybernetic prothesises that enhance our thinking (that is, computers), and the desire to stop this process seems to come from fear rather than understanding.
    I do sympathise with his point of view, but as many say here, I think he lacks of historical insight and speaks about things he doesn't seem to even know, let alone understand.

  8. As religious people invoke the ‘god of the gaps’ where god is whatever we can’t explain yet, apparently there’s a ‘humanity of the gaps’ for those parts of human intelligence that isn’t invented yet for AI, like giving meaning or consciousness. Basically his point is we’re not there yet…

  9. By 2022 Aurora 21 supercomputer will be finished being built. One of the Aurora 21 goals is to map out the Human brain. As computers
    and Ai advance will help science better understand many different things. Other
    example supercomputers are helping scientist understand the aging process by
    comparing young and old people genomes, to find the aging differences between
    them. The understanding of aging is growing fast and same will be so with the
    human brain in the near future.

  10. While I agree that we don't understand the brain very well, comparing one specific issue (understanding how a cubic inch of dirt operates) to another unrelated one (understanding how the human brain functions) is like saying that because we can't solve THIS particular math problem, this other, also hard math problem, can't be solved. Not a good place to start one's argumentation.

  11. I find that Rushkoff's arguments on this matter lack foresight. At the end of the The Martian movie, Mark Watney sais this in the astronaut candidates classroom: "You solve one problem, then another, and another; and if you solve enough problems, you get to come home". I don't think upgrading humanity will happen tomorrow—or even in our lifetime. But as we continue to learn about ourselves and solve problems as they arise, we will eventually get there. Upgrading humanity is NOT a transhumanist myth: Even today, the vast majority of us want to push back death and extend our lifetime indefinitely, therefore, upgrading ourselves is a goal. To achieve that goal, technology and science will be used. It is my experience that humanity is extremely resourceful and I strongly believe our descendants will succeed at some point in a not so distant future.

  12. The simulation is not the goal dumb ass. The goal is to make our current lives better using technology. Not to escape reality, but to make reality more enjoyable.

  13. this guy is an idiot, you don't need to know what goes on in a patch of dirt to grow enough crops to feed the entire world, your smartphone with internet access already makes you a low-level cyborg, cosmetic/surgical implants are next… Japanese culture has such a healthy and optimistic view on the relationship between man and machines, I wish more of that showed up here

  14. It would be ironic beyond anything if we would actually live in a digital simulation watching a simulated video someone talks about how impossible it is nd that we shouldn't do it ^o^

  15. Team human is a great podcast. I love Douglas he is a great guy. I recommend his books to anyone where he expands on the points he is touching on here!

  16. We are already transhuman. Parts of our memory are already uploaded to our smartphones. We have been tinkering with our biology using chemistry for a decade now. We are just beginning to understand how to do it on a biological level. We are actively evolving ourselves into something else. Bioligy and intelligence are a technology just like any other. Man will become machine. Don't call it uploading your mind if it doesn't let you sleep at night.

  17. I like how they all have black hair in the thumbnail until human stage where its ugly red hair. As if having red hair is a mark of superiority.

  18. I have a 0% desire to upload my consciousness to an alternative/artificial universe. I happen to like reality a lot and am always wanting to learn more about it.

    That being said, I do have a 100% desire to upgrade my body using robotics and nanotechnology so that I can increase my mental and physical abilities while at the same time increasing my life expectancy so that I can have more time to learn more about reality and experience life to the fullest.

    This old fart here in this video simply doesn’t get it. He can’t see what the near-future obviously has coming for us in regards to robotics and nanotechnology because he’s stuck in his past. He’s just like my grandparents who couldn’t figure out the new TV remotes of the 2000s and my father who still barely knows how to use the internet.

    When it comes to many things such as history, literature, and music, old people are a wealth of knowledge and wisdom that should undoubtedly be learned from. But when it comes to new technologies that they can barely use, we should not follow their lead that is based on fear and unknowing.

  19. At some point it's important to differentiate conscientious humans from abusers of our resources.
    Not all of us deserve the same treatment.
    Some cultures are known for being adaptive, friendly, lovers of nature. Those are worthy traits to support.

  20. Saying upgrading humanity in the title and then only talk about uploading to a computer is missing the point of an upgrade

    Why no talk of Neural Laces? Is the possibility of true Telepathy such a foreign concept?

  21. Dose is guy know what he’s talking about it sounds like he’s talking about him self he’s scared of woman and having baby and races and he’s projecting on to us

  22. Transhumanism isn’t one thing some don’t even want cybernetic and just want genetic engineering and some don’t want genetic modification and just want cybernetic and most want both you old wired man who’s scared of the future and your a joke who don’t understand what your even talking about

  23. We only need a richer understanding of consciousness if we're uploading conciseness from a brain to a computer.
    The in-between step is brains in jars.

  24. What I see is the gold rush to upload consciousness on a chip is because it's a #new #MARKET that's going to make a few people rich off weak-minded consumers basically the rest of the world

  25. Saying he opposes a fantasy and calls it a myth. Great job. For the record, as soon as you put on shoes to go outsise, the second you sit down and put on your glasses to read you are a transhumanist. Also, maybe check on that dirt fact one more time buddy… We understand dirt and consciousness is not magical. It is quantifiable.

  26. https://singularityhub.com/2019/02/04/neuroscientists-just-found-a-way-to-image-the-brain-1000-times-faster-than-ever-before/#sm.00001tnm8baqi5ct2xji5gtm2prxu

  27. His attack on Neo Liberals is bizarre. I'm no Neo Liberal, but how was it relevant? How does he get the idea that Transhumanists are Neo Liberls? Or that they think it's okay to send children into mines? Such a ridiculous argument, nothing but a strawman.

  28. this is really refreshing to hear this perspective,. i feel like we're all overwhelmed by technology. Its all been happening so fast, it can be a bit difficult to put into perspective. Hopefully we can see a utilization of resources and more engagement and sustainability in science in industry. Technology can bring us all closer together but it is leaving us oddly fragmented in social structures and relationship with the environment.

  29. This is a strawman.

    I'm sure SOMEONE thinks what he's describing, but I've never heard of them, and consciousness and AI are some of my favorite things.

    His conclusions are stupid.

  30. It won't be a classical computer probably more like a crystalline protein structure. This guy with all his answers looks very small and scared. He's very confused and ignorant. Here's a more accurate video.

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCWJPleQqBk

  31. Thiv vid has more dislikes than likes. Guess, transhumanist apologists can't take intelligent criticisms, or any criticisms for that matter.

  32. This entire video wasn’t intended to change the minds of anyone. It is full of false analogies and a sad attempt at being demeaning to those who he disagrees with; preaching to those who already agree with him.

    Comparing “we haven’t figured out a centimeter of dirt so how can we discover the brain” is as simple as “we’ve discovered deeper into space than our own oceans so we should discontinue oceanography programs. “

    Also, yes. Let’s all just reject the idea of transhumanism (which anyone who’s looked into it more than 5 mins will tell you it’s about a lot more than downloading your brain into a computer and in some cases has nothing to do with transhumanism at all) and go back to more realistic ideologies like the Bible or the Quaran, or sit around and listen to the REAL scientists; the Rabbi. 😉
    One could say that human longevity is just as much “an escape from reality” as any other religion.

    But really though. The downloading the brain thing is the far more extreme area in transhumanism. Anything rapidly changing human society through tech could be considered transhumanism. Organ transplants, cell phone apps, the Internet, pharmaceuticals, etc.

  33. Yes – women are indeed scary. On a side-note with the transhumanist apotheosis sorts – Dunning Kruger is a hell of a drug.

  34. I think this man basically knows nothing about what he is talking about. Neurological technology as related to the brain is a field of study that is more than 20 years old, and and has been on the process of breaking new grounds with neurological headsets AKA EEG's as related to neurological code.
    I been saying for a long time that it is pretty much expected that neurotechnology, cellular technology, virtual reality, and augmented reality will likely merge to makeneuro cellular headsets some time before 2035 give or take how the political landscape of the United States is and of the world.

  35. So you think the brain is magic? All that you said was we haven't figured it out yet. What does transhumanism have to do with justifying the terrible actions of humanity?

  36. People said the same thing about going to the moon 🌝, it’s impossible!
    It will never happen. Key 🔑 word exponential growth

  37. Still teaching farmers dirt is alive, huh.

    As a man born and raised in Arkansas, maybe YOU'RE having trouble with basic agriculture, but not everyone is.

    No, we don't know everything
    We never will.

    What we WILL do is understand more with experince.

    And that's…..

    stops typing as you a make an ass of yourself Wow. You went from kinda on point, till you started talking like we were stupid children who couldn't understand that life can't be perfect.

    So you really don't have points. You have feelings. And a deep need to be condescending to people who don't agree with you.

    If you're a proud example of "human", sign me up for what's next.

    Wait…"Growth based myth".
    So you DO have some good points.

  38. There is so much defensiveness, here, concerning transhumanism. I can only think that there is also a lot of vested interested. What do these people hope to gain by losing themselves? Do they really think that they would still be themselves after the big upload? How much freedom do they think they will have when someone else can so easily pull the plug on "those pesky dissidents?" Every thought will have to toe a line and there would be no freedom of action, it will all be controlled, not unlike what is already in existence right now. EVERYTHING on the internet can be deleted.

  39. This guy… just is using emotion and not reason. And wtf why are we afraid of women? I mean wtf. And why does us being quirky matter for our survival? I'm tired of being human we are very degenerate in our mind set and need to change it. And why does the change of our form mean the end of "humanity"

  40. "I" think "he is/may come of as a little negative. . ."And (counter-productive) cutting it short without offering an alternative to being idle and stagnant.

    As "we" (suggest) venture(-s) to the stars…" But "he isn't" ruling it out (to trancend the traditional primate (its limitations, genetic ancestry and tools) the representation of thought and language each individual(/group organization and nation, product) is and has been summerised to be the representative of." (…) "

    What if the idea is what seperated us to begin with… Didnt you see lucy stroke lucy finger at (+/-) 100 % universal(-ly-synchronous/(synchronised integrated) access-capacity and understanding. Within this (or more accurately that) quasu-simulated reality being projected "in a state" of "real-time"… "but also the past since it was a recording. "(…)"

    Do you think "she" found alien life… If not, how about in the/a sequal (who knows someone may be writing the fan fiction story/book or graphic novel right now, maybe it is already complete) as alternate hypothetical " possibilities of "neurons" process potential realities or variables as in machine learning. How many alternate turns could a story take. Bandersnatch huh. (…)

    Looking at "it" even aside from the franchise character meaning, the world, hierarchy of concepts or real life…

    Would "she" make it perhaps. Or just upgrade/enforce/deploy a godly league of fierce uber feminist amazons lurking in synch with all and everything at the same time, haunting the male(-s/species) foreva."

  41. Hate to tell you but they’ve already been doing it for decades. You don’t know shit.

    The shadow government is always 20-50 years ahead at minimum. It has been said we are roughly 50 years from the singularity. The shadow government IS the singularity. Do the math!

  42. There are a lot of things in human history we didnt fully understand and still did and it worked out well. Common examples most people know about being electricity and the atom bomb. Another being everything we know about medical science today at one point we didnt know. Do you think someone just woke up one day and knew everything about brain surgery or how to do do a quadruple heart by pass? no, it had to be figured out and before it was figured out we knew nothing about it. How would you feel if someone someone claimed to find a cure for cancer or aids and just needed time to figure out how to create it but I said "oh thats a myth, its not reality because we dont understand anything about it." then they said "ok" and completely abandoned the idea.

  43. "People are scary?" What a pathetic straw-man argument. My grandfather has a physically and mentally degenerative illness. If a neurological implant or generic engineering could save him, there's nothing wrong with that. I don't think it's "scary" to experience human life, I know that it comes with risks. I, like anyone else, hope to eliminate those risks.

  44. We don't have to know how the brain works. Let's assume it is a black box. But we know what it does. We will build a machine which will copy the properties of the brain.
    The main point of trans-humanism is to become immortal. None deserves to die. We can talk endlessly about the future. But there is no point in the future if we are not there.
    The only problem with mind uploading and cloning is that we don't know whether this will be the same person or another person with memories of the original person. In my opinion this will be the same person who exists in two different bodies at the same time. In fact the number of the bodies can be unlimited or no bodies at all, just pure virtual reality.

  45. A kilogram of programmable nanobots can lower the certainty of both death AND taxes.

    Call that transhumanism or not it IS the goal!

  46. This isn't just an over simplification of the philosophy of transhumanism, it focuses on only a single idea that stems from transhumanism. I'm a transhumanist and I know I'm not alone when I say this, but I'm highly skeptical of the idea of mind uploading, however I do subscribe to the transhumanist philosophy that we are morally obligated to improve the human condition through the means of science and technology. I think the most promising (and realistic) technologies that others have mention include genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and embedding in our bodies such as direct brain interfaces.

  47. It's egoism. "Humanity" is used as equivocation for self-worship. The
    question he needs to answer is not "What's so great about humanity?",
    but "Can there be nothing greater than humanity?". It's a scary question
    for him because we don't know how much of our self identity is tied to
    this meat package we are imprisoned in. To be frank, it's a quirky form
    of recidivism. The prisoner has no idea how to function outside the
    prison environment. Douglas Rushkoff is like some recidivist arguing
    that EVERYONE should stay in prison, that no one could possibly want to
    leave and explore the great outdoors.

  48. The whole thing about mind uploading is just rubish for idiots to wank with. It's stupid and nonsensical on many levels

  49. I think Transhumanism is more about becoming the robots, rather than being replaced by them. I mean, what's the point of the indefinite lifespan part if you're just gonna give up to machines anyway…

  50. I actually thought he made a lot of good points. Feel like the amount of shade people are throwing is indicative of him poking some tender spots.

  51. "It's more like an escape from humanity." That's because it is. Being human, for the grand majority of mankind, fucking sucks. It's nasty, brutish and short with most of us dying horribly without a chance of ever succeeding. Transhumanism gives us a chance to shed the concerns that make us treat each other so despicably and someday reach a post-scarcity future.

  52. You dont have to know how something works at base level to make use of it. Agriculture has been a thing for millennia but as you said we are just now learning whats happening at a base level.

    And a algorithim(AI) doesnt have to know how a human thinks to replicate human behavior or emotions, it doesnt have to even think the same way as long as it is reacting how a human would react in the same situation, its good enough and may even be better.

    Its would probably be easier for a algorithim to replicate human behavior by observation that to make an algorithim that able to convert the a map of humans brain into a computer algorithm. There are similar things that do this today like there are algorithims that turn FSA/FSMs(finite state automata/machines) into a computer algorithm.

  53. Human beings know little to nothing about their actual history. Because of this group of people that control this world

  54. this guys hung up on the judeochristian nonsense that the only way to find meaning in this world is to flagellate ourselves.

  55. This dude is missing the point entirely. It's not a race to produce an exact replica of a human in one shot. It will begin happening in stages…..slowly…..and eventually transforming into wherever genetics and computer and nanotechnologies take it. Ultimately whatever is brought into existence wont be just like a human being. Those who are working on such products have no intention of doing this. What they want is military functionality…..above what humans are capable of…..and building capabilities. They dont want free thinkers with a conscience. They want non questioning beings capable of hunting down and killing thousands of real humans quickly and efficiently. Or…..they want non thinking giant fast strong beings with low brain power…..capable of building massive structures in 100th the time that real humans can. It's that simple. They want giant biological robot slaves who have no ability to question or think freely.

  56. This guy doesn't really understand transhumanist Theory. We already have been upgrading our cells with technology ever since the dawn of Agriculture and human civilization. And not all transhumanists like the idea of uploading Consciousness into a computer.

  57. I can tell in the first 30 seconds that this person doesnt grasp the idea due to philosophical disposition.

    You don't have to completely understand and master all forms of music to improve music.
    Infact, nothing works that way.

    Actually yes, everything can be broken down into a yes or no, into binary.

    No. Fear has nothing to do with it.. fear is a feeling and it's entirely subjective.

    Yes. I do sense alot of hubris.

  58. First thing is evolution and a narrowing of the gene pool , so swallow the progressive morality , and die. Next up its not just computers its technology as a whole . That at 1 point we may be able to replace organic matter with inorganic matter cell by cell. Never mind my own personal favorite the construction of new organic machines made through genetic manipulation . This guy dumbs it down to the level of a pocket calculator from the 80s because he cant grasp anything beyond that . He says sick western neo liberal , First let me say western civilization is the greatest civilization to ever exist . Then the use of neo liberal is totally unwarranted or founded. Maybe some critical thinking is in order on his part .

  59. Also, for all the hate this guy is getting, nobody seems to address the point that something is always left out of the simulation. Heidegger and Baudrillard ruin most of these defensive comments.

  60. How are we not transhuman already (as I type on my computer while dialed on to the internet? And what is this notion of how transcendence would create human child slaves working in a mine?
    How is this in the category of education? This is uneducated opinion– blog worthy at best. If anything thing this is the seed of a new kind of prejudice. "Kill all robots!"

    Please, go ahead an fade into obsoletion, Douglas Cuny.

  61. Lets just make what we, can but truth of the matter is we do not the origin of the universe but we can use it to study the laws of science and the cosmos.. It is mind boggling.. Let us use technology to set up new human settlements in other planets much as send humanoids and cyborgs and robots to the planets to set up new systems.. Let us make Star Trek A Reality Now,.. Viva Transhumanism

  62. Disgusting meat bag.

    You cannot even give a definition of consciousness.
    Stop spreading miss information about transhumanism.

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