To Humanity and Beyond

To Humanity and Beyond

To Humanity and Beyond

The case of the use of the abacus by Japanese school children and adults provides an illustration of how thoroughly the historical processes involved in the development of a tool’s use becomes incorporated into a culture-specific technology while simultaneously becoming a part of human nature ..
We Have Met Technology and It Is Us

Cole & Derry 2005

Manuel, Cho and Sam are talking about the following paper:
Enhancement, ethics and society: ..

In this post the images comes from:

      1. Cottonbro from Pexels
      2. Vine from Pexels

In this post the dialogue is realised by an interaction of virtual characters, for more information please check the page “Virtual characters

Group Chat

Manuel, Cho, Sam

Manuel

Let’s get down to earth again. Prosthetics generally replace a missing limb, but cognitive tools seem to do something different, right?

Today 15:48  

Cho

Limb or organ, but OK  😊                                                               

Today 15:50  

Sam

The categories do overlap though, you can definitely see some brain implants as cognitive tools

Today 15:51   

Manuel

OK, examples? 😉

Today 15:51  

Sam

Deep Brain stimulation to improve memory in Alzheimer patients 

Today 15:52   

Cho

Indeed, and this also improves memory in non-impaired people, so can be considered an enhancement too

Today 15:52  

Manuel

Right, so cognitive tools aren’t just handheld devices, but can also be prosthetics or implants

Today 15:53 

Manuel

With all the tools and technologies we have nowadays, do we live in some kind of sci-fi future? 👾

Today 15:53 

Sam

Ha! 🤔 I’m sure some would see it as a dystopia! Everything controlled by computers we no longer understand …

Today 15:54   

Cho

That actually is a serious issue. Things have gotten incredibly complex and no single person understand everything anymore

Today 15:55  

Cho

Just think of surgery: most surgeries require a large team and a lot of infrastructure, not just a dude with a saw …

Today 15:55

Sam

That’s right, same thing for computers. Remember the y2k panic? Year 2000 problem

Today 15:56   

Sam

People thought the millennium bug would cause the end of the world!

Today 15:56   

Sam

Both individual computers and especially computer networks have become hugely complex. Not just two guys in a garage…

Today 15:57   

Manuel

Ok, so a lot more specialization and collaboration.

Today 15:58  

Cho

Sam mentioned brain prosthetics earlier: it won’t be long before we have brain prosthetics with AI

Today 15:59  

Cho

I’m quite sure that this would be considered an enhancement by most, and scary by many.

Today 15:59  

Sam

Right, it might not be literally rocket science, but it does bring together two of the most complex and advanced fields

Today 16:00   

Manuel

Computers and the brain, neither of which we fully understand yet?

Today 16:01  

Sam

Well, we design the computers, but artificial neural networks are indeed hard to explain

Today 16:01   

Cho

Asking people to let an implant “do their thinking for them” requires a lot of trust

Today 16:02  

Manuel

Wow, this has been great, thank you both so much for your input! 😊

Today 16:03  

… Continue reading our conversations that are posted every Saturday …

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The ends justify the rules

The ends justify the rules

Complicated mental processes are entirely reducible to such simple activities as the attentive observation of statements previously accepted as true, the perception of structural, purely external, connections among these statements, and the execution of mechanical transformations as prescribed by the rules of inference

read more

Going Into a Limb

Going Into a Limb

Going Into a Limb

The distinction between a “tool” and a prosthesis that is implanted into the body is more apparent than real. …

Anderson 2007

Manuel, Cho and Sam are talking about the following paper:
Neuro-Prosthetics, the Extended Mind, and Respect for Persons with Disability

In this post the images comes from:

      1. Vlada Karpovich from Pexels
      2. Ivy Son from Pexels
      3. Anna Shvets from Pexels

In this post the dialogue is realised by an interaction of virtual characters, for more information please check the page “Virtual characters

Group Chat

Manuel, Cho, Sam

Sam

I’m not sure these count as prosthetics or enhancement, but we all use devices to improve ourselves

Today 15:44   

Sam

I use GPS, map, and navigation software to plan my route, but I could do it on my own

Today 15:44   

Sam

But for people with cognitive impairments devices like that become essential for day to day activities

Today 15:45   

Manuel

I see what you mean: one person’s enhancement is another person’s cure, so to say

Today 15:48  

Cho

The same happens in medicine, where sensors and smart devices are use to speed recovery, say, in physiotherapy

Today 15:50  

Cho

but also to help athletes reach peak performance. Restoring and enhancing are on the same slippery slope

Today 15:50  

Manuel

Can we compare cognitive tools to “prosthetics for the mind”?

Today 15:51  

Sam

That sounds a bit weird, but maybe? I mean, pencil and paper would qualify as cognitive tool …

Today 15:51   

Cho

If you put shoes in the same category as prosthetic legs, sure, but it stretches the usual meaning quite a bit

Today 15:52  

Manuel

OK, maybe that goes too far, and indeed we all seem to use tools like that all the time. So we’re all enhanced?

Today 15:53 

Sam

Depends on what your baseline is. I’ve got a smartwatch, but my grandfather could tell the time and predict the weather just by looking at the sky

Today 15:54   

Cho

Indeed, replicating the same functionality but with different means, isn’t really enhancement

Today 15:54  

Manuel

Right, so if we just keep doing the same things, but now with tools, it’s not really enhancement?

Today 15:55  

Cho

Think about this example: people used to have to memorize a lot of things, like phone numbers

Today 15:56  

Cho

Now we can just look them up. It is quicker, but not radically different

Today 15:56  

Sam

Right, we can make calls from the middle of nowhere, instead from a fixed phone, but that’s just improvements in infrastructure

Today 15:57   

Sam

I mean, we wouldn’t consider switching cars for horses an “enhancement” in the human body or functionality?

Today 15:57   

Manuel

I guess not, but shouldn’t we then discuss overall progress too? Like at the level of humanity, aren’t we all enhanced in a sense?

Today 15:58  

Cho

That’s an interesting point … also from a medical point of view. Better hygiene, antibiotics, vaccines, give us incredible lifespans compared to cavemen

Today 15:59  

Sam

And better communication and transportation have allowed for very different types of societies. So out tools do make us better!

Today 15:59   

Manuel

Better humans? Superior humans?

Today 16:00  

Cho

Ouch, that sounds wrong. Maybe better at being human?                 

Today 16:00  

Sam

Ok, fair enough, that sounds more like it

Today 16:01   

Manuel

So as individuals and as humanity we have progressed through tool use and by further integration with our tools …

Today 16:02  

… Continue reading our conversations that are posted every Saturday …

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Fire All Neurons!

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Mechanical analog computers had their origins in Naval Gunnery in World War I […] mechanical analog computers remained of considerable military importance certainly until well into the 1960s and have only been superseded by digital computing systems in the 1970s.

read more
The ends justify the rules

The ends justify the rules

Complicated mental processes are entirely reducible to such simple activities as the attentive observation of statements previously accepted as true, the perception of structural, purely external, connections among these statements, and the execution of mechanical transformations as prescribed by the rules of inference

read more

The Sum of the Parts vs the Whole

The Sum of the Parts vs the Whole

The Sum of the Parts vs the Whole

The firm should have the right to take back what it produced — the collection of artificial organs illegally masquerading as Mr Jones and present in this court-room even now …

Stanislaw Lem 1968

Manuel, Cho and Sam are talking about the following paper: ARE YOU THERE, MR JONES?

In this post the images comes from:

      1. Min An from Pexels
      2. Tara Winstead from Pexels

In this post the dialogue is realised by an interaction of virtual characters, for more information please check the page “Virtual characters

Group Chat

Manuel, Cho, Sam

Cho

There’s been a lot of discussion in the medical community about enhancement 

Today 15:39  

Cho

The same drug can be a treatment for one person and an enhancement for the next

Today 15:39  

Manuel

I did hear about that indeed. So would you say this is also the case for prosthetics?

Today 15:42  

Cho

Absolutely! Just think about the controversy about Oscar Pistorius 

Today 15:43  

Cho

His competitors insisted that his prosthetics gave him an unfair advantage: an enhancement 😊

Today 15:43  

Sam

If I can chime in on this point, not a prosthetic, but there was a similar controversy about running shoes 😅

Today 15:44   

Manuel

Running shoes? Well, in a sense we might consider shoes as some kind of prosthetic … 😅

Today 15:44 

Sam

Maybe, but thanks to these spring-loaded soles Eliud Kipchoge ran the first marathon under 2 hours

Today 15:45   

Cho

Oh yes, I remember that bit of news! It was quite a big deal… lots of assistive technology too 👍

Today 15:46  

Sam

It didn’t really count as an official record, but it did show what technology can do to improve performances                           

Today 15:47   

Manuel

Even though it didn’t count as world record, it still counts for our article! 😊 I’d say this is enhancement too

Today 15:47  

Sam

I would say so too, but I also think we should distinguish between tools and prosthetics …

Today 15:48   

Manuel

Good point! What do you think, Cho?

Today 15:48  

Cho

I’m not sure you can make a clean break between those two, there will always be grey area’s

Today 15:49  

Cho

Does it only count as a prosthetic if you cannot take it off? Between a crutch and an artificial hip there’s a lot of room for discussion

Today 15:49  

Sam

That’s right, same goes for cognitive tools, it’s a sliding scale.

Today 15:49   

Manuel

Cognitive tools? 🤔

Today 15:50  

Sam

Yes: like pocket calculators, or basically any utility app on your smartphone …

Today 15:50   

Cho

I couldn’t get anything done without my digital to do lists and calendar! 😊

Today 15:50 

Sam

Basically, those enhance your memory: cognitive tools

Today 15:51   

Manuel

I see what you mean, but that seems another category again! 😊

Today 15:51  

… Continue reading our conversations that are posted every Saturday …

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Fire All Neurons!

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Mechanical analog computers had their origins in Naval Gunnery in World War I […] mechanical analog computers remained of considerable military importance certainly until well into the 1960s and have only been superseded by digital computing systems in the 1970s.

read more
The ends justify the rules

The ends justify the rules

Complicated mental processes are entirely reducible to such simple activities as the attentive observation of statements previously accepted as true, the perception of structural, purely external, connections among these statements, and the execution of mechanical transformations as prescribed by the rules of inference

read more
Embodied Bodies

Embodied Bodies

Embodied Bodies

Once incorporated into a body, then, a prosthesis is no longer merely an object, in the sense that we can no longer straightforwardly deny that it has or plays a role in a person’s subjectivity

Walker 2019

Manuel, Cho and Sam are talking about the following paper:
On Replacement Body Parts

In this post the images comes from:

      1. Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

In this post the dialogue is realised by an interaction of virtual characters, for more information please check the page “Virtual characters

Group Chat

Manuel, Cho, Sam

Manuel

Julia pointed out to us that medical technology is both extremely old and has always been linked with sci-fi or mythology

Today 15:38   

Manuel

Apparently the first-ever mention of a prosthetic leg dates back over 3000 years to the Indian Rig Veda “Vishpala

Today 15:38   

Cho

That is indeed extremely old, but I do know that cavemen already performed brain surgery, so …😊                                                         

Today 15:39  

Sam

But this is mythological, right? I’m not sure how advanced it was … did it have moving joints?

Today 15:40   

Manuel

We don’t really know, but we have an actual prosthetic big toe from Egypt from around the same time “Ancient Egyptian’s wooden toe is sophisticated prosthetic

Today 15:42  

Cho

That would actually be more advanced than a simple peg leg!

Today 15:43  

Manuel

The first moving joints were developed in the middle ages, as far as we know.

Today 15:43 

Sam

Yeah, I suppose that wooden prosthetics rarely survived intact

Today 15:44   

Manuel

There’s a Roman artificial leg, but no joints “Copy of Roman artificial leg, London, England, 1905-1915

Today 15:45  

Cho

I do know some of this history, but I suppose you are also going to look to the future?

Today 15:46  

Manuel

Oh, absolutely! The point is that mythology and then sci-fi are full of amputations and replaced limbs

Today 15:46  

Sam

Sorry for being a nerd, but we will get to Darth Vader at some point, right?😊                                               

Today 15:47   

Manuel

Ha! Sure, that’s a great example actually. At some point we slip from just replacing, to improving.

Today 15:47  

Cho

Now I see where you are going with this, yes. When is a prosthetic healing and when enhancing?

Today 15:48  

Sam

I guess that this is linked to, well, an engineering mindset, I’d say.     If the body is a machine, we can repair as well as improve it.

Today 15:49   

Manuel

See? This is exactly why I needed both of you for this! When is something actually “enhancement”?

Today 15:50  

Cho

There are quire a few ethical problems linked to that … doctors “playing god” and all that.

Today 15:50 

Sam

Same here: as soon as you start talking about an AI that is more than human, things get really complicated.

Today 15:51   

Manuel

I’m looking forward to hearing all about it!

Today 15:52  

… Continue reading our conversations that are posted every Saturday …

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Total posts on the argument

Fire All Neurons!

Fire All Neurons!

Mechanical analog computers had their origins in Naval Gunnery in World War I […] mechanical analog computers remained of considerable military importance certainly until well into the 1960s and have only been superseded by digital computing systems in the 1970s.

read more
The ends justify the rules

The ends justify the rules

Complicated mental processes are entirely reducible to such simple activities as the attentive observation of statements previously accepted as true, the perception of structural, purely external, connections among these statements, and the execution of mechanical transformations as prescribed by the rules of inference

read more

Build Humans Back Better

Build Humans Back Better

Build Humans Back Better

You’re a human being. Why not stay a human being?
Because I want the best and that’s a metallic heart.

Isaac Asimov

Manuel, Cho and Sam are talking about the following paper:
SEGREGATIONIST

In this post the images comes from:

      1. Jeswin Thomas da Pexels

In this post the dialogue is realised by an interaction of virtual characters, for more information please check the page “Virtual characters

Group Chat

Manuel, Cho, Sam

Manuel

Hi Cho! Hi Sam! Great that you could both make it!

Today 11:38   

Cho

Sure, no problem! Hi everyone! 😊                                                         

Today 11:39  

Sam

Hi all! You want to talk about robots again? 😄

Today 11:40   

Manuel

Actually, no, and we’d be leaving Cho out …😄

Today 11:40  

Cho

Except for the machinery in our lab, I’m not really into robotics 😄

Today 11:40  

Manuel

I’d like to interview you both about cognitive enhancement

Today 11:41  

Cho

That does sound more up my alley!                                                        

Today 11:42  

Sam

So, is this about AI and brain implants?

Today 11:42   

Manuel

Well, yes and no, I mean, not just about that …

Today 11:43  

Manuel

I’d also like to hear your views on the idea of enhancement as such

Today 11:43  

Cho

Like, philosophically, ethically?                                                                

Today 11:44  

Sam

I did take a course on the ethics of AI (Ethics of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics), but I’m not sure whether that’s the same

Today 11:45   

Manuel

Let me explain a bit then:

Today 11:45  

Manuel

Remember the piece about science and sci-fi John and I were working on? Life Imitating Science

Today 11:45  

Cho

Sure, that was very interesting! 😊                                                         

Today 11:45  

Sam

And that actually was about robots … again! 😊                          

Today 11:45   

Manuel

I know you love talking about robots, so I keep bringing them up …

Today 11:45  

Manuel

Thanks to Julia we started writing on all the ways humans have tried to improve themselves

Today 11:45  

Sam

A kind of history of tool use?

Today 11:45   

Cho

Or medicine?                                                                                               

Today 11:45  

Manuel

Both actually! That’s why I need both your expertise here: this is about prosthetics.

Today 11:46  

… Continue reading our conversations that are posted every Saturday …

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Total posts on the argument

Fire All Neurons!

Fire All Neurons!

Mechanical analog computers had their origins in Naval Gunnery in World War I […] mechanical analog computers remained of considerable military importance certainly until well into the 1960s and have only been superseded by digital computing systems in the 1970s.

read more
The ends justify the rules

The ends justify the rules

Complicated mental processes are entirely reducible to such simple activities as the attentive observation of statements previously accepted as true, the perception of structural, purely external, connections among these statements, and the execution of mechanical transformations as prescribed by the rules of inference

read more