Darren Weeks

Commander Data and the Extropians

In the epic series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew are aboard the starship, U.S.S. Enterprise. Their expressed purpose is to "explore strange new worlds, to seek out new civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before".

The series paints a futuristic world in which mankind attempts to use technology for the betterment of all. The crew of The Enterprise do not work for their own gain. They draw no paycheck, nor have personal bank accounts. Rather, they work for the gain of the whole, equally — an idea which parallels the ideologies of every modern-day socialist.

They take their assignments from the United Federation of Planets, an entity that would be the next logical evolution of the United Nations. Even the logo for the organization resembles that of the U.N.'s.

In the show, there is a species of creatures known as the "Borg". The Borg are a diabolical group who are part biological, and part technological. They attempt to take over planets and populations by assimilating biological beings — humans and other species — into their collective conscious.

Once successfully assimilated, the individual is then integrated with technology and becomes a part of the Borg collective. The Borg are required to remain attached to a "grid" of collectivism, with each individual's mind being connected to that of the group. They are, therefore, incapable of individual thought or deed. If one member has an idea, it becomes the idea of the whole. The mind, will, and actions of the individual are made subordinate to that of the group, and its controllers. Thus, thoughts are hence controlled and dissention is impossible.

It seems that the science fictions of yesterday are quickly becoming the realities of today. And the technology that was portrayed in Star Trek and shows like it, is emerging before our eyes.

There is indeed a movement which is gaining momentum across the developed world — the merging of human beings with technology. One group that is at the forefront of the push is called the Extropy Institute.

This group of elite, rich "transhumanists" believe that mankind evolved, and must continue in that state of evolution. They think that it is up to mankind to evolve itself to the next level — a level they refer to as "posthuman". In order to accomplish this, they contend, man must integrate technology with the human body, therefore enabling him to surpass the limitations of the brain and other physical, biological organs.

The Extropy Institute describes what the term "transhuman" means to them. They say:

"A transhuman is a human in transition. We are transhuman to the extent that we seek to become posthuman and take action to prepare for a posthuman future. This involves learning about and making use of new technologies that can increase our capacities and life expectancy, questioning common assumptions, and transforming ourselves ready for the future, rising above outmoded human beliefs and behaviors."

And who gets to decide which human beliefs and behaviors are outmoded?

They continue by explaining what achieving their goal of being "posthuman" would mean:
"'Posthuman' is a term used by transhumanists to refer to what humans could become if we succeed in using technology to remove the limitations of the human condition. No one can be certain exactly what posthumans would be like (there may be many differing types, and they may continuing changing) but we can understand the term by contrasting it with 'human': Posthumans would be those who have overcome the biological, neurological, and psychological constraints built into humans by the evolutionary process. Posthumans would have a far greater ability to reconfigure and sculpt their physical form and function; they would have an expanded range of refined emotional responses, and would possess intellectual and perceptual abilities enhanced beyond the purely human range. Posthumans would not be subject to biological aging or degeneration. It would be unrealistic to expect posthumans to be 'perfect' by our standards. What we can reasonably say is that posthumans would have greater potential for good or bad, just as humans have greater potential than other primate species.

"Transhumanists believe that the best strategy for attaining posthumanity to be a combination of technology, personal responsibility, and determination, rather than looking for it through psychic contacts, or extraterrestrial or divine gift.

"Since 'posthuman' is characterized primarily by contrasting with the limitations of 'human' we can only speculate about the particular forms that posthumans might take. Posthumans may be partly or mostly biological in form although, by definition, they would have overcome most of the constraints of the genetic structure of homo sapiens. Many transhumanists find it highly plausible that posthumans would be partly or wholly postbiological ? the personalities of biological humans having been transferred 'into' (or gradually replaced by) more durable, modifiable, faster, and more powerful bodies and thinking hardware. Some of the disciplines that transhumanists currently expect to play a role in allowing us to become posthuman include genetic engineering, neural-computer integration, biomedicine and nanobiotechnology, regenerative medicine, and the cognitive sciences."

It isn't difficult to imagine how integrating technology with the human body could provide limitless possibilities for government to control and abuse the entire population. Already, we see plans for a microchip, to be placed under one's skin, being developed. If the extropists have their way, carrying cell phones could become unnecessary, as telepathy — again, portrayed as yesterday's science fiction — could become a reality.

But in today's world, sensors could be placed next to the brain, and could detect what a person was thinking, and relay it to the individual to whom it was meant to be transmitted. Of course, there would always be the probability that the wrong thoughts would be intercepted and dealt with by the "thought police".

Government experimentation with mind control, through the usage of drugs and other means, has been done exhaustively as far back as the 1960's, through Project MK-Ultra. Integrating technology with the human body would bring mind control into a whole new realm.

Extropians, however, refuse to see the negative ramifications of their cries for convergence. Rather, their movement is one which is characterized by unmitigated enthusiasm and optimism. For them, the perils of government intrusion into our lives doesn't exist. Or if it does, it can only be for our own good.

Take, for instance, one of the more influential Extropians. He is a man by the name of Robin Hanson. Hanson is a professor of economics at George Mason University, and has taught at Berkeley and the California Institute of Technology. Hanson also has ties to government. He has worked for NASA's Ames Research Center.

Perhaps Hanson is most known for his headline-grabbing work with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Prior to the beginning of combat operations in Iraq, DARPA gave a group of economists $1 million to develop a futures trading market for "predicting" terrorism and other events. Essentially, money could be made from accurate predictions.

Naturally, it wouldn't take a NASA rocket-scientist — or an economics professor working there — to see what a racket a terrorism futures market would be. Given the fact that it can be proven that much of today's terrorism is orchestrated by the very people who say they are fighting it — those in government — a futures market would give the insiders a perfect opportunity to capitalize further on the deaths of innocent American citizens.

But this isn't the only "brilliant" idea with which Hanson has been associated.

On his personal website, Hanson suggested that the tax system of the "Entropians" — a pejorative for the uneducated, poor masses that are not a part of his elite — should be modified based upon the time spent making money and not just the amount of wages earned. He believes the government should be able to spy on you about ten times a year to see if you are working. If you're not working at the times they make contact, then you should be categorized in a higher income tax bracket than if you had been working. Forgetting the privacy issues raised by such a proposal for a moment, such an idea amounts to taxation of a person's leisure time. Under such a system, taking a vacation could become a thing of the past, as it would have the potential of throwing workers into a higher tax bracket.

The fact that Hanson could seriously make such a proposal, speaks volumes about who this man is, and the principles for which he and the Extropists stand.

There are other very prominent individuals who have jumped on board with the Extropist ideology. For instance, Larry Page, founder of Google, promoted the idea of technology integration into the mind in an interview with C-Net.
"On the more exciting front, you can imagine your brain being augmented by Google. For example, you think about something and your cell phone could whisper the answer into your ear."

Andrew Orlowski of the Register, commenting on Page's idea said,
"The 'Internet' promised us so much when it was touted to us ten years ago. The world's body of knowledge would be at our fingertrips [sic]. Now we're being told that we need body modification to make it work. Ten years ago we thought that all we needed was an ISP. Now, all we need is a brain surgeon!"

And the brain surgeons are already on the job.

In 2004, Cyberkinetics Incorporated, a company which bills itself as "a leader in the rapidly emerging field of brain computer interfaces", received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to implant chips beneath the skulls of paralyzed patients. According to the Associated Press, the intent of the experiment is to enable the patient "to command a computer to act – merely by thinking about the instructions they wish to send".

Naturally, the potential benefits of the technology are always touted by the controlled media to condition the public toward acceptance. In this case, Americans are told that the brain implants are "to improve the quality of life for victims of strokes and debilitating diseases like Cerebral Palsy or Lou Gehrig's Disease."

It may be for those purposes now, but it won't be tomorrow.

As technology continues to evolve, so does the means of misusing it by those in high positions of power. The implantable microchip could reduce credit card theft, but would make every financial transaction traceable. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is already being promoted as a way to keep your children safe at amusement parks, the obvious end of which, is to keep all of us "safe" from each other.

The Pentagon has long been researching ways to build the perfect soldier. One who can survive without sleep, endure long periods without water, etc. Much experimentation is being done in the area of robotics. Yet machines have creative and logical reasoning limitations. Human minds possess the capacity for innovation and reason, which is a formidable programming challenge for software engineers. By combining biological and technological means, hopes are high that the perfect person can be built, which can outperform, outlast, outwit, and outlive any biological being, lacking technological enhancement.

But at what point do we cease to be human? When do we cross the threshold from humanity to "post-humanity"? When does the soul forsake the body, which has become a sophisticated labyrinth of wires, circuitry, and processors? Will future generations be marked by the spawning of souless zombies, efficient in their assigned duties, but incapable of independent thought or revolutionary ideas? Will the personality of an individual consist of a deviation in the placement of a series of ones and zeros?

In the society of their making, where would be the beauty of a genuine smile? What of love? Laughter, and for that matter all emotions, might only be a sub-routine to be run at the appropriate moment, and only if an engineer's criteria are met. Spontaneity would give way to strict order. And revolution to adherence to the rule of tyrants.


Welcome to Hell.



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